Your First Novel Will Stink! True or False?

Dragon Tree Cover5aaMonths ago I wrote a post talking about why I deliberately stayed away from how-to-write advice, until I got the first draft of my novel written. It was an advantageous decision, as I was able to write without doubts, shoulds and too much technique being stuck in my head. Since then, I have been reading the advice which is available and it’s been a buzzkill.

It’s incredibly hard to finish the last edits on The Dragon Tree, with people yelling “first novels always stink, shelve them and forget it.” Isn’t it funny how you never notice advice like that, until you are in the position where it may apply to you? Then the words appear to be attacking you from all directions.

As much as I love these coaches, I am surprised that I am being told that I’ll be useless at mastering the craft of fiction, until I’ve written a million words, or a few more books. Of course our writing improves over time. Authors should not presume that they will be perfect on their first trip around the sun. However, there is no written rule that first time novelists are inevitably destined to be utter failures, or mediocre shelf-fillers. Leave us with some sense of hope!

I’ve conceived ten books, seven courses, many appalling pieces of poetry, a number of short stories and many articles. I’ve been published and plagiarised all over the globe. Does that count? Apparently not. They are non-fiction. This will be my first novel. The words are jammed in my head. #1 novel = garbage!

Being me, I decided to rebel and look at the other side of the argument. There are many successful first novels which are best sellers, Pulitzer Prize winners and have been made into movies. Here’s a short list:

  • Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights
  • Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason’s The Rule of Four.
  • Agatha Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles
  • Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man
  • Janet Fitch’s White Oleander
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise
  • Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe
  • Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain
  • Do I bother or not?

    To bother or not to bother? That is my question.

    David Guterson’s Snow Fall on Cedars

  • Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
  • Melinda Hayes’s Mother of Pearl
  • Marjorie Kellogg’s Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon
  • Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees
  • Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Interpreter of Maladies
  • Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Jay McInernay’s Bright Lights, Big City
  • Brad Meltzer’s The Tenth Justice
  • Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind
  • Laurie Notaro’s Idiot Girls Action Adventure Club
  • Boris Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago
  • Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar
  • Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things
  • Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones
  • Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty
  • Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep
  • Nicholas Sparks’s The Notebook
  • John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces
  • Lauren Weisberger’s The Devil Wears Prada
  • Rebecca Well’s Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
  • Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • To Kill A Mockingbird
  • Catcher in the Rye
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
  • Gone with the Wind
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • Doctor Zhivago
  • Wuthering Heights
  • The Help
  • The Devil Wears Prada

So what’s your stand on the issue? What success did you have with your first novel? I’d like to hear your answers.


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The book lists in this post come from several sources, including Book Market.com and Stylist Magazine.

This article / blog post is Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2014. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without Cate’s prior written permission. That includes images and text usage in forms such as print, audio and digital imaging including pdf, jpg, png etc. A fee may be requested for re-using her work if it is for a commercial venture. 

Link sharing and Pinterest pins are most welcome as long as Cate is the attributed Author.

Become a Story Weaver, NOT a Story Mechanic!

I think we’ll all wholeheartedly agree with the truths presented here and be inspired by this video. It’s overflowing with practical advice. If you have a Youtube log in, this is a great channel to follow.


I see myself


Alternative Words to Said and Physical Characteristic Descriptions ~ Resource List

Finding alternatives to words like said, replied, answered and all the usual cliches has become my current life’s work… as has writing effective place and character descriptions. I have trolled the Internet for inspiration and while these goodies are in my head, I will share them with you.

Alternatives to said:

  • frdgtge3438fwefhSPW books has a great list in a table form and also
    links to other useful materials in the side navigation bar.
    Raid the list at: http://www.spwickstrom.com/said/

I seem to be writing in waves, adding in layers over the plot and characterisation. Right now I am into description, including body language. Some of the most helpful resources found are listed below. There are also dozens on my Pinterest board for all genres of writers, so I’ll place that link here as well.


Physical characteristic descriptions:

  • Angela Ackerman’s blog also has brilliant information on skills and talents and why your character needs them. http://writershelpingwriters.net/author/angela/ Her books, The Emotional Thesaurus, The Positive Traits Thesaurus and the Negative Traits Thesaurus are a goldmine for authors. I have never heard a negative word about them. Angela’s work is well written and researched. (No, she hasn’t asked me to say a word, I’m just a fan.)

Please add your suggestions in the comments. I highly recommend chasing resources like this down, they have blossomed out my word count! After too many years writing non-fiction, I have learnt to write too tight. This new venture is doing me good.

Happy hunting!

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This blog post by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. You are free to share and adapt it.

All clipart used here is from Openclipart.com

Eye Strain Reducing Editing for Writers – #amediting #amwriting

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The amount of time we spend hunched over computers, tablet devices and ebook readers isn’t good for our eyes, necks, shoulders or wrists, but it’s essential. I have noticed a steady increase in the number of migraine sufferers I have met, who are writers. I am wondering if this is an occupational hazard, rather than an accident.

In writing and editing the first drafts of The Dragon Tree, while trying to cope with my frequent migraines, I stumbled across a few tips which may also help you, whether electronic screens give you headaches or not. These methods have given me much more writing time.

The biggest problem is the harsh contrast between black text and a white page. Of course, turning down screen brightness helps, but that is not enough. I found that a soft green or a blue text colour, was much easier on my vision. Also, changing colours between drafts gave my brain a shock. I was able to pick up many hidden errors, such as ‘or’ not ‘of’, ‘become’ not ‘became’… all those things that the spell checker misses. For more information on tricking your brain into helping you edit  efficiently, see this post: The Best Kept Editing Secret.

The examples shown here are deliberately fuzzy as this is my WIP, but you can see how the colours affect your own eyes. When you are staring at text for hours, a simple select all and font colour change can help you enormously.

format edit exampleI got to a point where I had messed up my formatting with so many edits, that I needed to turn on the dreaded show all characters. I have always found this savage on my sight. I needed just the markers, not text and on experimenting, found that changing the text colour so the contrast was high, made the character marks pop out. One less headache… yes!

Another hint I picked up from a web site was to never edit with justified text. The extra spaces between the words make proof reading impossibly hard. Double spacing is critical for proof reading, or you wind up reading one sentence on top of the other! For a great post on the difference between proofreading and editing, please visit the Writers in the Storm blog.

For ease, I began writing on my iPad, as I was able to get hold of a word processor app with a darker background. It helped, but the sheer number of spelling mistakes generated lost me masses of time in needless correction. This is all the space I had to work with and it drove me crazy. Most tablet word processors are similar, so in the end, I abandoned their use, except on the worst days.

Update: thanks to Patricia de Hemricourt ( @epublishabook)  for sending me to this post on Computer Vision Syndrome. It’s exceptionally helpful.

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Textkraft EN is available through iTunes.

 

 

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Creative Commons License
This work, created and Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2014 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Word Count Meters and Tight Writing Resources

2014-06-03_10-15-03A few people have been asking me where I source my pretty word count meter from. They are available in multiple colours and come from this blog: http://svenjaliv.com/resources/wordmeter/ Svenja also has themed, word count spreadsheets you can download, which cover all of 2014. She’s a talented lady! Each year, she updates her spreadsheets, so her site is always bookmarked.

Thank you to everyone who weighed in on the word count debate. It’s been interesting to see that nearly everyone said, “do it your way,” or “when it’s finished, it’s finished.” I have nearly hit the 71,000 word mark, which was quite unexpected. On rewriting, I had one of those moments that is more a flash of lightning hitting me, than a lightbulb moment.

Over the years I have worked as a freelance feature writer, course writer and editor. It was drummed into me with each one: write tight. Do not waffle, remove absolutely every extraneous word or sentence and cut everything back to the bone; to the marrow if you can. I can cut and slash pieces written, to get them down to a word limit with cold, hard malice. (Resources on how to do that are below.) The ebooks which I currently sell are very brief. They get straight to the point, because that is how I have been told to write. My blog posts come in under the recommended work limit. Essentially, I have boxed myself in out of habit and I am now learning to be free.

2014-06-03_10-33-42Over the last week I have been reading Victoria Grefer’s book, Writing for You. I have followed Victoria’s blog for a long time and have been enjoying the relaxed, conversational style of her book. It is nothing like mine. All my writing ebooks are quick-read, start from any chapter, writer’s companions. Standing next to other books in their category, they may look anorexic, but they are designed to save the reader time. You can put your finger on the topic: task accomplished! That is beneficial for some, but it is not the best way to write a novel. While we need to write with excellence, dot point detail novels are not good reads.

There is definitely a place for writing tight, by this I mean corset strength tight, not just writing well. To be able to edit your work down to the wire and say what needs saying in a succinct, precise form is a valuable skill, however, don’t let it limit you as I did. I love Kristen Lamb’s Warrior Writers blog posts, they break every blog rule on length, but I don’t care how long they are. They make me feel good and strengthen my craft. If something is worth reading, regardless of how long or short it is, it will be read and appreciated.

This has been a great lesson in breaking free of my self-imposed boxes. I didn’t even know I was in them. I’m enthusiastic about seeing what old habits I can break out of next.



3hi91daojioResources on how to write tight and cut out word, or phrase, redundancies:

 



Quick-read, writer’s companions.

These ebooks are available at the lowest prices I was able to set. You can purchase them through my web site as a .pdf or through Amazon Kindle. Please click on the cover for contents and ordering information.

conflict_in_fiction.html    Building Emotionally Realistic Characters Cover    conquering_writing_stress.html        

You don’t have to own a Kindle device to enjoy Amazon’s Kindle e-books. Here are the Support and Download links for the free Kindle Readers for a range of devices: Windows PCs, Windows Phone, Mac, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Andoid Tablet, Android Phone, and Blackberry.

Full-length course titles.

creative_spirit.html     prayer_journal.html

 


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This article / blog post is Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2014. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without Cate’s prior written permission. That includes usage in forms such as print, audio and digital imaging including pdf, jpg, png etc. A fee may be requested for re-using her work if it is for a commercial venture. 

Link sharing and Pinterest pins are most welcome as long as Cate is the attributed Author.

A Quick World Building Tip: Map Building in #Fantasy / #SciFi

When I have a story idea that I need to churn over in my head, I will often use a prompt image as a desktop and/or iPad wallpaper. The images engage my subconscious mind. It works well for character costume creation, scene settings and this map of Asgard produced a valuable aha!

Source unknown.

Source unknown.

It isn’t as clear here, but on my iMac screen, this image shows very clearly where parts of the image (water mainly) have been painted, how the streets were drawn in to form a triquetra… and the coastline looked oddly familiar. Google maps anyone? It has to be a composite of existing land images.

I have been buying graph pads and putting off drawing in coastlines and the more tedious geographical features, but using fragments of Google maps gives me a helping hand and keeps my work true to natural formations such as cliffs, beaches, rivers, sand bars and their location etc. You won’t be able to read the writing on the top right, but someone has marked in wheat fields.

I went into Google maps and bought up part of Ireland’s coast, just the way I wanted it: long beach and then a cliff-faced cove. Problem solved. It won’t be on a cover, so it doesn’t have to be properly Photoshopped together. It is solely for my own use, so I am not breaking copyright. A simple series of screen shots is helpful enough for me. It may also work well for you too.

Image courtesy of Google maps, cliffs courtesy of the last ice age as the glaciers cut out the coast; sand courtesy of rock erosion. Original design by God.

Image courtesy of Google maps, cliffs courtesy of the last ice age as the glaciers cut out the coast; sand courtesy of rock erosion; water, well water is just great! Original design by God. (He doesn’t mind me using this, I asked. Google may not be quite that generous though…)

If you have any other world building tips, I’d love to hear them in the comments. Next, I have eight astronomy DVDs to plough through to ensure my solar system is built correctly. Watching those will be a pleasure though.

Happy writing.


Creative Commons License
This work, created and Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2014 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Author Survival Resources

salvagente_architetto_f_01rCommuniCATE frequently posts tips, references and encouragement for all writers and authors. The post links below will take you to the most helpful information on the blog.




Social Media and Networking Help




Book Marketing



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