Internet #Marketing Terms #Writers Need to Know

social-media-assorted-icons_freevector 95167If you watch my Twitter feed, you know that I frequently pass on blog posts which contain words that you may not think are relevant to writers. Have you seen these?

  • Content / Content Marketing
  • Business
  • Branding
  • Engagement
  • Sales
  • Web Design
  • SEO
  • Platform

I wouldn’t blame you for tuning out to those posts, however, if you are an author or blogger marketing your work, you need those posts and an understanding of the terms. Those posts are passed on to help you.

May I demonstrate?

  • Content: your book, your blog posts and what you place on social media. Content marketing means you gear what goes into those elements to make people want to read your work and buy from you.
  • Business: if you sell anything, you are a business. You are liable for taxation. Even if you are a small time Indie author, you are still a micro-business and it helps to be organised and think like one: without getting bogged down!
  • Branding: whatever image of you that is placed online in pictures, web design and your “voice” in your work, makes a brand that is YOU! Wherever you see my online presences, you see my teacup logo and Macbook desk image. They are part of my brand and make me recognisable. If you build a strong brand, people will recognise you.
  • Engagement: how you interact with followers, other authors etc. that sells and promotes your work.
  • Sales: we all hope for them! If you don’t sell books, your “sales” could be likened to your blog stats and followers.

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Find these posts on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cateartios
  • Web Design: necessary for everyone with a site, whether it is a blog or independent web site.
  • SEO: Search Engine Optimisation which dictates how far up the search list your name, web site, books, blogs etc. are found.
  • Platform: speakers stand on a platform to be heard. It raises you high enough that others notice you. Your platform is your blog, web site, social media presences and whatever you do online to be noticed.

You will also find me passing along posts relevant to the main social media including Pinterest, Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter; email list services, plus varied other technical topics… it is all relevant believe it or not. Have a read, stretch your view of your value a little further and see what new tips and tricks you can discover.


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.

Giving Antagonists Depth and More Effective Roles in Plot Resolution

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Source: A Lofty Existence Blog on WordPress: http://tinyurl.com/blmdl2g
Source: A Lofty Existence Blog on WordPress: http://tinyurl.com/blmdl2g

Whether you want to believe in personality typing or not, for writers building characters, the enneagram is one of the very best gold mines you’ll ever find. It is similar to a road map for human behaviour, which shows our basic motivational needs, strengths, weaknesses, temptations and what we can do to balance out our negatives (and thus resolve interpersonal conflicts in plots).

Using the Enneagram has been a wonderful tool for fleshing out the motivation of my antagonists. It’s given them depth. Instead of the good guys just being good, and the bad guys inherently having to be bad, now the bad guy is bad because he is a Reformer (the 1). He is compulsively motivated by a need to make things better, but he’s handled the challenges he is facing the wrong way. It has created fights and barriers, not change. He is out of balance (the enneagram shows you how to create balance) and is a danger to himself, as much as he is to others. I have a relatable, humanised bad guy, who doesn’t mean to be a rat and has no idea why people are opposing him, but he can’t stop himself. He isn’t a one-dimensional, one-task piece of the novel puzzle.

Let me give you another example of how this can work. Let me use an intellectual personality as an example. They are referred to as the Thinker or Observer (the 5). Out of balance, they can be withdrawn, thought-driven, self-motivated, happy to be alone and have a strong need for independence and privacy. Often they don’t fit in with social groups. This is a weakness of their personality type. Problems for fives include isolation, pride, power-seeking and their intellectual approach can drive people in the other direction, seeking friendlier company. The five can become one very frustrated, lonely individual, with answers no one will listen to.

No one has just one type they solely fit into. They have parts of all the types and two other, less dominant types which are called wings. They balance the psyche out. A five will have the wings of a four: the romantic, withdrawn ideal-seeker who wants authenticity, self-expression and who can also be deeply empathetic; and a six wing, which is the attachment-making loyalist. They can work towards balance by utilising their ability to empathise and be loyal, alongside their need to think, rather than coldly retreating.

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One-dimensional villains, who simply exist, as a bad guy is needed for the story line to work.

Enneagram research will also give you lists of ways that the various types can get along with other people. It flags sources of conflicts, how to approach them and other techniques which will have writers in seventh heaven! This is a mystically based theory which has been around for centuries. At it’s simplest level it is an excellent idea generator, that you will find useful and intriguing.

Enneagram Resources

http://www.9types.com/writeup/enneagram.html#FAQ
http:// www.enneagraminstitute.com/  and   http:// www.enneagram.com.au/


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.

The Rules

Cate Russell-Cole:

Common sense for your writer’s survival kit. We all need to hear this message from Jo Robinson. Thanks Jo!

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Originally posted on Lit World Interviews:

Jo Robinson
Jo Robinson

A lot of indie authors are pretty rigid with their writing rules. There’s nothing wrong with this when it’s your style, and self-imposed. You’ll have problems though if rigid rules don’t fit well with your character, and you’ve only inflicted them on yourself because a successful and well known writer said that that’s what you should be doing if you ever want to succeed. “Must” is often the word lurking behind procrastination in any field, and when it comes to creative souls, I believe it could shut down production pretty well.

The minute we’re told we must do something, our subconscious goes into overdrive, bombarding us with all the ways we could fail, and settles like a lump in your mind, effectively blocking all those wonderful sentences that had been champing at the bit to leap onto your pages. This fear can be good in small doses. When…

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Getting Your Characters Help! The Character Therapist

BLOG BUTTONThis is one of the most original writer’s resource blogs I have discovered, and it’s a goldmine of information on many topics including:

  • romantic scenes, break ups and all the soppy stuff
  • amnesia
  • mental illnesses of all kinds, including some you’ve never heard of
  • attachment
  • character archetypes
  • body image
  • backstory
  • character flaws and criminology
  • comic relief
  • conflict, defence mechanisms etc
  • social issues such as domestic violence, cults,
  • physical illnesses including autism, Down’s Syndrome and many things
  • dialogue and character inconsistency
  • emotional revolution
  • marital issues

… and if those haven’t piqued your interest, go look up Fascination by Mystique, countertransference, the Cotard Delusion, Nazism and Paris Syndrome. Plus, it is Christian friendly.

Screen-shot-2013-03-13-at-9.20.59-PMLink: http://charactertherapist.blogspot.com.au

The blog and accompanying services are run by Jeannie Campbell, who is a licensed and highly experienced marriage and family therapist. She has turned her skills into a helpful resource where she “diagnoses make-believe people” to assist novelists. Jeannie also has a newsletter you can sign up for.


Need more help?

“Creating and Resolving Conflict in Fiction,” dissects conflict into its component parts; looks at how it works and helps you generate conflict plot-lines and themes which will add richness and realism to your work. The principles apply to any kind of fiction, regardless of the length, characters or genre.

CRCF4DimCover3lowresThis book is not a “how to write” text. It is a user-friendly, introductory reference on the topics covered, which will enable you to write about them effectively. You don’t have to read it from cover to cover, it can be used as needed.

Some of the topics covered include:

  • How to Fuel Conflicts and Misunderstandings
  • What Character Traits Go With What Type of Person?
  • Human Behaviour Is All About Patterns
  • Using Power Dynamics
  • Making or Breaking Character Relationships

Available in Kindle and pdf formats from this site: http://virtual-desk.com.au/conflict_in_fiction.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.

Support an Author: Grab that Book You’ve Been Wanting

There is a pie shop near here that has the slogan, “Buy one so we both don’t go hungry.” It is one of the best advertising slogans I’ve seen. Books feed both the reader’s and the writer’s soul in so many ways. So, you know you’ve been meaning to… this week, your love task for Support an Author Month is to go buy that book you’ve planned to get, but didn’t get around to.

Don’t forget, wherever you buy your books from, leave some love!

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Support an Author: How to Write a Book Review

To sell books, we all need reviews… as much as we sometimes dread them! One of the best ways to support any author is to write a well-crafted review. I had to do a lot of searching online to find out how. Most of the information you get off the Internet is about F.o.r.m.a.l. college-type reviews, technical journals and things that scare my hair off. So to save us all, I have “borrowed,” and slightly modified these awesome tips. They are user-friendly. So please, write a book review this week… unless you hate the book. In that case, just walk away quietly and leave the world a more peaceful place.

The source of the wisdom below is http://slashdot.org/faq/bookreviews.shtml I took out the negative parts of writing a critique, as this is support, not tear apart, month!

  • writing spinesDid you like previous works from the same author or series?
  • Where and when does the story take place?
  • Is this book part of a series?
  • Is there an identifiable central conflict, or a complex of conflicts?
  • What is the tone and style? Is it frightening? Clinical? Amusing? Scattered?
  • Do you like the characters? What about them makes them believable, dynamic or static?
  • From whose viewpoint is the story told, and how does that affect the narrative?
  • Does the book remind you of others by the same author, or in the same genre?
  • Do any twists particularly inspire? (Don’t give away too much, of course.)
  • If you really have to, don’t ‘pan’ a book without specifying your context and expectations. I did ask you nicely not to though, so please, walk away…

If you can add more suggestions, please do in the comments below. Plus, as one commenter pointed out, if someone asks you to write a review, don’t say that in the review! It looks rigged.


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Please do not reblog this post.

The suggestions in this blog post are Copyright Slashdot.org. Only a very small part of their entire page has been reproduced here. (It is massive.)

“Slashdot welcomes readers’ book reviews. In particular, we’re interested in reviews of books on programming, computer security, the history of technology and anything else (including Science Fiction, cyberpunk, etc.) that fits under the “News for Nerds” umbrella.” http://slashdot.org

Support an Author Month: Love a Blogger!

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This month is Support an Author Month here on CommuniCATE. The aim is to spread the love… It’s a time to put away competition and give each other a hand onwards and upwards! We are stronger as a unified community.

Most posts this month will be geared towards that goal, with call to action posts every Friday.

This week, your call to action is to visit a favourite blog; locate a post that inspired you and leave a comment saying, “This is my favourite post or blog. Thank you!” Be sure to Tweet, Facebook or share it on G+ so the author knows you’ve spread the word.

#bestpostever or #bestblogever

You are also welcome to leave a link in the comments here and recommend a blog, if not a specific post.

Cheers everyone!

Using Triberr for Maximum Effect

goldfish jumping out of the waterThis post is pretty much the Triberr user manual which desperately needs to be written and I often see asked for! Triberr is the best blog traffic and network booster I have come across (click on link above to learn about it.) Handled well, it is gold! These are the lessons I’ve learnt, which I often see questions on.

The most important one is “think community.” This is about give and take, not all about you!

Joining Tribes

If you are looking to join new tribes, or receive an invitation, always look at the member list. Avoid or leave them if:

1. There are many followers who haven’t been made into members. That is a sign the Chief is on the free Triberr plan and there is no room. You will see and be able to share everyone’s posts, they will never see or be sharing yours. If you have never been admitted to a tribe as a member, you can go into the list of tribe members and remove yourself.

2. The Chief hasn’t logged in for several months: no free-loading, or inactive members will be removed. Again, you will be sharing their posts, they won’t give a fig about yours. Don’t forget, people try Triberr and forget it or don’t like it. Each tribe has old members who have stopped blogging or moved on. They need weeding out. (It’s not a sign of a mean Chief, just a smart one!)

3. Look at how recently a majority of members shared. If there are quite a number of members who haven’t been sharing in around three months or more, that will be a very low value tribe. I have culled 20 tribes from my stream on that alone and it made no difference to the number of shares I received. Anyone who I would miss, was invited to my tribe.

4. If you hate certain kinds of posts, such as SEO, social media how-to, constant product promotion posts, or erotica, check out how much of that sort of content is in the tribal stream. You can mute individual members, but that may be the wrong tribe for you.

5. Tribes with fewer members in them can be more faithful than the giant ones. Don’t let the head count swing your decision. Look for activity.

6. I have always found that the best Chiefs are paying, Prime members. As we pay for the service, we make sure our tribes function! You can tell who they are as they will have tribes with over 20 full members in them.

7. Don’t feel pressured to share everyone’s posts, all the time and don’t expect the same from them. If, like me, you have a topic specific blog, as long as you share as many as you can and support members by following them on Twitter and visiting their blog, you are ok. One concern I see is members worrying about filling their social media streams too much with shares. You can set share frequency to combat that problem. Be generous, but discerning.

super triberrFor best effect, join as many tribes as you can handle and use autoshare for your favourites. Consider paying the $10 a month for Triberr Prime. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for Triberr.

Remember this service is not supported by advertising, so pay for use is fair. I appreciate their Paypal option.

Did you know you can also follow individual members? If you know people who you just love to read and share, whether they are in a tribe with you or not, you can still stay in contact with them. Moving tribes won’t affect you.


How to Maintain a Tribe Effectively and Quickly

Chiefs, it takes very little time to maintain your tribe. New followers asking to be members I check out and add or reject as the notices arrive. Other than that, it is very low maintenance. Every few months, I see who is inactive, check and see what’s happening with them (in case their activity stats are wrong, as new Triberr features are added, some areas do become buggy); remove the “dead wood” and invite any new actively sharing members I now have the space for.

Set a specific goal or theme for your tribe. People will try and join without reading it, but if someone joins just to swell their numbers and not add value for everyone, you have good reason to refuse membership.

Sorry, you do have to keep a check on all those damn emails! I have learnt to skim them and just attend to the ones which apply to my three tribes. Also, crack down on members who use the message screens to further promote themselves in a spammy manner. You can delete those posts as Chief.

If your tribe is full, turn the settings to “Protect My Tribe” so you don’t get masses of frustrated followers you just can’t add. Sure, they may share your posts, but they soon lose interest as they realise they are being used.

If you start a new tribe, invite new active sharers. I have found no one wants to be a founding member in an empty tribe. It takes little time.

Lastly, if you want to stop using Triberr, don’t leave a dying, hanging tribe. Ask who wants it and then under the membership setting for that person, promote them to Chief. You can then opt to leave Triberr altogether, or stay in that tribe without worrying about it’s future.


REBLOGS WELCOMED

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.

#Search Engine Optimisation for #Indie Authors: How Far Should You Go?

Sculpture by Jeremy Mayer. Source: http://technabob.com/blog/2008/10/04/jeremy-mayers-typewriter-robots-will-blow-your-mind/
Sculpture by Jeremy Mayer. Source: Click to access web site.

There are many bloggers out there who still don’t know what SEO is. That is and isn’t a good thing. SEO is Search Engine Optimisation and for best practice, it is supposed to have a very large say in how you write book titles, web pages and blog posts. (There is an infographic explaining it at the base of this page.) A great idea? Yes, if kept in balance. There is one major worry with getting too carried away with it: you stop writing as yourself and allow yourself to be told what to do by a robot. Think about it…

Digital computations determine how easy it is for us to have our books found on Amazon, our Page posts read on Facebook, our web site or blog found on Google… They are awfully frustrating and if you want to claw your way to the top of the pile, you have to work – hard! You must sprinkle your keywords through your post, use meta tags on web pages, sprinkle matching keywords through your web pages, tweet, status update, Like, Plus 1, retweet, share and comment until your fingers fall off and your brain goes numb.

I did this asiduously throughout 2013 and got to the end of September and simply burnt out! I wasn’t tired of blogging, writing and people. It was those robotic demands that did me in. So I spent far less time on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. After reading a massive, endless stream of SEO and social media how-to posts, I came to the conclusion that as writers, we are possibly far better off writing in the attic, away from the computer and all this “wonderfully good advice.” Any available time I had in my week, was spent assuaging the gods of rank. So I quit! I’ve noticed that since I began to pull back in September, my visit stats and book sales didn’t drop much. They are growing.

1238999_450639671718505_835016741_nSo here is how I am now surviving online. I hope it inspires you and if you have further suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

  1. I will automate as many blog posts and shares as I can, so I can take time to see the sunshine and not be spending hours manually on social media. “I’m sorry Hal, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
  2. I will not read any more SEO and social media how-to posts or books: instead I will be myself and stay tapped into my innate creativity identity.
  3. I will not get trapped in worrying about my statistics. If I get 2 Likes on a post and someone was inspired: I aced it! That is my main goal: encourage, equip, empower. Not rack up fat numbers.
  4. I will write the blog posts which are close to my heart, regardless of what posts pull in the greatest number of readers.
  5. I will market my books with titles that make sense to the content of the book and are not used elsewhere. I will not calculate words on what sells.

In business, if something does not pull in sales, you stop doing it. Yet online, many of us tend to jump feet first into the latest and greatest next thing, perhaps in the hope it will propel us to stardom? That doesn’t work. It simply chews away more of our time and sanity.

It is all about sanity. If I have to mutiny against binary calculations, the numbers game and everyone’s marvellous advice, then I will. Join me… your creative soul is worth more than this.


If you want to know more about SEO, check this infographic from nerdyface.com

SEO_IG


REBLOGS WELCOMED

This article / blog post is Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2013 and adapted in 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.

Don’t “Write” Yourself Off: I Don’t Care How Old You Are!

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One of my memoir classes was attended by an eighty year old lady who had little education; had never written a poem, story or anything else in her life – and discovered she could write with absolute perfection! What if she’d opted for the rocking chair and never tried? Obviously, she had been a life-long reader and that had taught her a great deal, but she never knew the talent was there… until she picked up a pen and started to write!

When this came out on Pinterest, I applauded. Take it to heart. It’s not too late until you’re *a week dead.

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(*Survival Tip: be buried with a mobile phone in case it’s not really over. No, really, people do still opt for this.)


REBLOGS WELCOMED

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.

Help to Solve Your Facebook Fan Page Problems

FB Timeline Unhide NoticeI used to advertise on Facebook: until they bought in timeline. Then the value I gained from my community building attempts died a cruel death. Everyone with a Page is now in the same boat: unless we throw in more and more and more money, which most of us simply can’t do, we have lost a huge chunk of our hard work. I have seen posts go from 800 views to 50 and I am angry. Many people have abandoned their Pages and I don’t blame them.

There are ways we can partially combat this. For a start, posting the image above to make others aware of what they can do, does help. Every time I post this image, it is seen more than other posts. Other ideas I have found online include:

  • Posting status updates which don’t have links in them. They seem to score well with Facebook’s new algorithm as engagement is the key, not just “look at my blog” or “please buy my book.”
  • Posting images which catch attention. They appear to frequently be shared. Some writers will put in an image that goes with their blog post, but place the link in the comments to work the system.
  • Telling your followers frequently to change that box that says “Highlights” to “Posts by Page” so they see all your posts. (See image below.) The problem is, that never stays changed!

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  • Refusing to pay Facebook for ads and promotion when even those who do pay don’t get a fair deal! If you used to pay or do, speak up and tell Facebook you are unhappy and why.
  • Encourage readers to use their own categories and not overfill them with Pages, so posts are more likely to be seen. Then check the categories rather than their timeline for new posts. There is no guarantee this will work, but it may help. I am always losing pages I like, so it can’t hurt to try.
  • Showing followers/fans how to get page notifications (and take that survey!)

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I know it sounds like a lot of work and many repetitive posts, however, if you still want to use Facebook as a promotional tool, the investment may be worth it. Feel free to use any of the screenshots on this post. (Right click on image and “Save As.”)

If you know of other ways, please tell me in the comments! I’d ‘like’ to know (pun intended!)

 


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.

Lessons I Learned from Writing My First Book, by Sandra Nikolai

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Bio-234x300The leap into publishing can be an unnerving journey marked with a steep learning curve. Not only do writers have to understand the specifics of the trade, but they also need to wear a variety of hats when handling the different aspects of the business as it evolves.

Some of the lessons I learned while writing and promoting my first mystery novel came from how-to books that still line my shelf. The other lessons I learned came from hands-on experience. From these lessons, I set up five guidelines that would come in handy the second time around. I’d like to share them with you now:

1. Above all, be true to yourself. Write in a genre that is familiar to you. Don’t attempt to write stories about vampires and wizards just because they’re trendy. Write what you know best and write to please yourself—not everybody else. Use a style of writing that comes naturally. It will help you find your author’s voice. Accept who you are as a writer. Trust your instincts and make choices that you won’t regret later on.

2. Organize your time. Most writers agree that writing is a priority, but so many other things begging for attention can be a drain on your time and energy. Writing calls for discipline. Reinforce good writing habits by maintaining a schedule, even if it’s only a couple of hours a day. It’s surprising how much you can accomplish when you’re under pressure! If you encounter a setback one day, keep on going the next. Tomorrow offers a chance to get things back on track. Reward your progress with a good book, a movie or more family fun time in the evening.

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Click on cover to order book.

3. Understand the give and take of social networking. The more time you spend online, the more it takes away from your writing schedule. Try to limit your daily visits online to three sessions of twenty minutes each. Use this time to build up your network, promote your work, and support fellow writers. Walking away from your writing helps to refresh your mind, so these short breaks play a dual role.

4. Hire a professional editor. Your software program might not spot the distinction between there and they’re in a sentence, but a copyeditor will. Feedback is important, and an editor who has expertise in structural or developmental content can be an invaluable asset. If you’re on a tight budget but happen to belong to a writers’ group, you can ask another member to review your manuscript in return for the same service. At the very least, get someone with an excellent knowledge of grammar and punctuation to proofread your work.

5. Promote early. Don’t wait until your book is published. Ask one or more authors to read an advance copy of your book and provide reviews for promotional purposes. Offer to read and review their work in return. Create a buzz about your book months before the release date. Once you have a final book cover design, promote it through social media. Many sites offer free or inexpensive services that help promote authors. Do your research and choose sites that work best for you. If you’re publishing paperback copies, bookmarks with a link to your website or retailer is an economical way to spread the word about your book. Find out which bookstores support local authors and sponsor book-signing events. Some coffee shops hold author events too. It pays to ask around.


1174793_518133394929463_11253479_nFollow Sandra

Website and blog: http://sandranikolai.com

Twitter: @sandranikolai

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SandraNikolaiAuthor

False Impressions on Amazon US

Fatal Whispers on Amazon US

Bio

Sandra Nikolai graduated from McGill University in Montreal and worked in sales, finance, and high tech before devoting her days to writing. She is a member of Crime Writers of Canada and has published a dozen short stories online and in print, earning Honourable Mentions along the way.

Fatal Whispers follows False Impressions in a mystery series featuring ghostwriter Megan Scott and investigative reporter Michael Elliott. When not plotting mysteries, Sandra shares her thoughts and experiences about the writing world on her blog and has been a frequent guest writer on other blogs. She lives with her husband near Ottawa, where she is currently at work on her next novel in the series.

CWC-Member

This blog post is Copyright Sandra Nikolai 2013. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without the author’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-use if it is for a commercial venture.

Writing Your Way Through Depression


Christy BirminghamThe reasons why people choose to write can vary widely. For me, writing has been an integral part of my healing journey over the past three years. I was in a deep depression when my therapist suggested I begin to write my feelings down in a journal as a way to work through them. Over time, the writings became poems, and those poems became the basis for my book Pathways to Illumination.

The Writing Begins

At that time, writing was a scary venture. To write down my thoughts meant that I had to acknowledge them. It was so much easier to be numb than address any feelings. I knew it was probable I would have realizations about my toxic relationship that recently ended and my suicide attempt, when I began to journal.

My therapist did not assign a certain writing style, but she did prompt me with questions to answer in my journal. As I began to write my answers, I did have realizations. I began to explore why my self-confidence was extremely low. I was face-to-face with the assumptions I held about both my body and my surroundings; I had tried to avoid those thoughts for so long.

Along the way, I regained my love for poetry. I had not written poetry lately, although it had been a love of mine throughout my school years. I started to experiment with the lines and found new perceptions emerge as I continued with my therapy sessions. I focused on myself again; it had been a long time since I had allowed myself to do so.

I had another powerful realization. The issues I dealt with were bigger than my life alone. Other women had been, and potentially were still, in abusive relationships similar to the one I experienced.

PIRPCoverRealization Leads to Publishing

That light-bulb moment was my motivation to continue to write poetry, in hopes to put together a published collection designed to help women. Depression, anxiety, and abuse were the themes I delved into with my writing. Slowly, word by word, I created the poetry collection. I healed as I wrote about a woman who still held pieces of hope even after her life shattered around her. I tied in parts of my own experiences, although the book is not a memoir.

I healed so much as I wrote the poetry book. The cathartic nature of writing is evident, whether one chooses to journal, essay, pen poetry, or other style of choice. I worked through many feelings as I wrote Pathways to Illumination and I hope readers understand that they are not alone. I hope the book comes to readers as a warm blanket on a quiet day, with its comforting text and photography.


Meet Christy

Christy Birmingham is a freelance writer, author and poet. She lives in British Columbia, Canada, where she enjoys walks on local trails and time relaxing with close family and friends. She shares her experiences about depression, anxiety, and abuse to help others who may suffer. Enjoy more of her poetry at Poetic Parfait and connect with her on Twitter.


This blog post is Copyright Christy Birmingham 2013. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without the author’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-use if it is for a commercial venture.

Creative Gestation: The Benefits of Giving Work “Off Time”

Any writer knows how it feels to finish a brand new piece: The excitement is intense. This one, we tell ourselves, is the best we’ve ever written. Quick! Let’s submit it! Hold it right there, Shakespeare. Not so fast.

One of the biggest favors you can do for your work is allow it to rest. Put it out of sight and out of mind for a while, and then come back to it with fresh sight and a sense of objectivity. Let the bright gleam of novelty age into the patina of reason, and then assess this “masterpiece” you’ve created.

johnspenimageoriginunknownExperts have termed this practice of waiting “creative gestation,” and much like the shaping of a child in the womb, producing quality work requires a degree of time, no matter what genre. By coming back to your writing later on, you’ll find that certain word choices can be improved, images can be sharpened, and other enhancements can refine your work even further. Rather than sending an immature, embryotic creation to editors, you’re handing over “your baby,” fully developed, delivered, and ready.

Some poets like Philip Levine and Billy Collins have advocated putting a piece away for a year or more, while other artists and writers say a week or so is better than adequate. My own writing, I’ve found, undergoes a “gestation” of about two to three months – this allows many eyes to see it, and plenty of time to elapse between re-readings and revisions before I’m ready to submit. And of course, like that of all artists, my work is constantly in flux, even after acceptance and publication.

Even short breaks from the screen, page, or canvas can help, however. Getting up, stretching, walking short distances at a brisk pace, or grabbing a light snack and beverage can create cognitive distance from your work, allowing for new perspectives upon returning to it. Also, by allowing oxygen to circulate to the brain via the bloodstream, creators can ensure that their grey matter is functioning at optimum levels consistently, research indicates. Classroom educators have known this trick for a while, incorporating “brain breaks” into everyday cooperative learning structures so that students stay focused and alert. The same research applies to adults and artists: get off your backside and your brain won’t backslide.

Every writer has different practices and habits, and for some, creative gestation may take more or less time to be truly effective. No matter how many days or weeks it takes, however, one thing is for certain: Creative gestation allows for better decisions, improved insights, and real maturity of one’s work.

john03bJohn Davis Jr. is a Florida poet whose work has been published in literary venues internationally. His poems have recently appeared in Deep South magazineSaw Palm magazine, and Touch: The Journal of Healing, and he has forthcoming poetry in The Wayfarer. His book, Growing Moon, Growing Soil: Poems of my Native Land, is available through Amazon and other fine retailers. His website is: http://www.poetjohndavisjr.com/


This blog post is Copyright John Davis Jnr 2013. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without the author’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-use.

Coping with a Cynical Critique, by Sandra Nikolai

Equator-1-Gallery-300x225Like any writer who wants to succeed, I spent years learning about the profession and refining my skills. I attended writers’ conferences, studied how-to books on writing and publishing, and read piles of novels in a variety of genres.

Armed with a draft of my first mystery novel, I took the next step in the process: I found a mentor through a writers’ group I’d joined. My mentor offered to review the first and last thirty pages of my novel and email her comments to me after a month’s time.

At the end of the session, her email arrived and I was eager to read it. As my eyes flew over the words, disbelief stifled enthusiasm. Her remarks were sarcastic and stung as much on screen as if she’d read them out loud in a room full of people. She proposed drastic changes to the characters, settings, and plot. She even advised me to re-write the entire story in the third person. (I’d written it in the first person.) In closing, she defended her position as a “tough editor” and hoped her comments would help me write a better book.

You’ve got to be kidding!

My next reaction was to send “Miss Sarcastic” a nasty email but I decided against it. It wasn’t worth the time or energy to respond to someone who was inconsiderate and rude. I’d just file a complaint against her on the evaluation form I had to complete and send it off to the writers’ group headquarters. And yet…

False-Impressions-Gallery-300x200
Available from Amazon Kindle http://www.amazon.com/Impressions-Michael-Elliott-mystery-ebook/dp/B0086WMMZ0/ref=sr_1_6?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1338295012&sr=1-6

I read Miss Sarcastic’s comments again. Her mocking attitude had dealt a serious blow to my ego, but what if she was right and my story did need a revamp? After all, she had a handful of published mystery novels under her belt and had mentored other writers. I was…well…green. Surely she must know what she’s talking about. And so I conceded, knowing that the revisions to my manuscript would entail a major upheaval. In fact, the task proved a lot more difficult than writing the book in the first place and took months out of my life. After I’d finished, I put it aside. When I read it a week later, I was disheartened. It was no longer my story. The changes I’d made had sucked the life right out of it. I hated it.

Not one to accept defeat, I reviewed Miss Sarcastic’s comments again—this time from an unbiased perspective. I dug out my original manuscript and integrated the changes that I felt would benefit the story and ignored the rest. After I finished, I had to admit it was a stronger novel.

I recently heard that my mentor has abandoned her writing career. Her book sales weren’t doing well, so she accepted a job with a media firm. If anything, I owe her a modicum of gratitude. The experience inspired me to set up guidelines that I’ve since followed when reviewing critiques of my work. I’d like to share them with other writers in the hope they might find them useful too:

1. Take the time to review a critique. Let it ferment. You might interpret it differently later on.

2. Try not to take a negative critique as a personal insult but consider it with an open mind.

3. A negative critique gives you a choice: either fix the problem or ignore it. Consider how any change will affect your story. Will it strengthen or weaken it?

4. No one knows your characters or plot as well as you do. If a suggestion for a change doesn’t fit— no matter how good it might sound, don’t force it into the story.

5. Growing as a writer means heeding your inner voice or gut feelings. Trust your writer’s instincts more often. If you believe that a change will improve the story, do it. If not, move on.

Happy writing!

CWC-Member

Meet Sandra Nikolai

Bio-234x300Sandra was raised in Montreal, Québec, and graduated from McGill University. As a young girl, she loved reading the Nancy Drew mystery series and was determined to write her own stories one day. Her career choices didn’t exactly lead her along the “yellow brick road” to writing mystery novels—though working in a bank and experiencing a string of armed robberies did ingrain terrifying memories worthy of a story!

In 2002, Sandra won an Honorable Mention in Canadian Writer’s Journal short fiction competition. She has since published a dozen short stories online and in print. False Impressions is her first mystery novel in a series featuring ghostwriter Megan Scott and investigative reporter Michael Elliott. She is currently working on Fatal Whispers, book two in the series.

Sandra is a member of Crime Writers of Canada and Capital Crime Writers.

You can catch up with Sandra at her beautiful website and blog:


This blog post is Copyright Sandra Nikolai 2013. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without the author’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-use if it is for a commercial venture.