Controlling How Much of YOU Appears in Your Fiction

SlidingthroughyourfingersAs you write, you write out of your own experiences, no matter what the genre. It is a cliché but parts of you are always going to bleed through your keyboard to the reader. Your life is teaching you plot, characterization, behaviour traits and all the essentials needed to build a fully-formed, believable work of fiction… and that is good. However, you may not want your novel to be a kiss and tell where your subconscious has dobbed you in, through character personality traits, conflicts and experiences.

Consciousness is the key to control. If you have journaled about your feelings and experiences in life, you will discover themes and events which will enable you to identify what is too much you. Plus you’re building a resource you can use to craft a better story. It could be likened to a mini self-service and/or character psychology course. It’s a lot cheaper than taking your novel to a therapist!

The act of physically writing out something which has happened helps to clarify events, giving you a new perspective on how and why things happened as they did. It’s a great plot formation tool that will both inspire your fiction… and keep you off the page! You are creating your own privacy control options, enabling you to effectively edit out the parts that are too close to the way you think or act.

However, don’t become paranoid about self-revelation:

“Let some of you come through. You’re obviously not writing a memoir here, but this book is still partly about you: the world you see, the way you think, the experiences you have with people. And trust me, readers are interested in who you are. So don’t be afraid to let bits and pieces of your personality and even life details seep into the text. It will breathe a lot of life into the book.” David Shenk

May I challenge you to get a journal and start to write about your life, your feelings and how you see the world. Look at how much may have slid through into your fictional work… and what comes out that you didn’t expect. It is a journey that will reward you in many ways.

For helpful information on journalling, go to Journal Chat with Dawn Herring, or Write for Life with Nathan Ohren.


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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.

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

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.)


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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.

Build Your Writing Muscles

“After all, reading is arguably a far more creative and imaginative process than writing; when the reader creates emotion in their head, or the colors of the sky during the setting sun, or the smell of a warm summer’s breeze on their face, they should reserve as much praise for themselves as they do for the writer: perhaps more.” Jasper Fforde

How reading engages our imaginations and assists creativity: “Hear the voices, smell the smells, feel the textures… see the colours… without drudgery.”

Surviving BIG Blogging Mistakes

2014-02-14_09-23-58Sometimes we goof. We put up dead links, make spellling misteaks, or publicly make ourselves look as credible as Jar Jar Binks. “Yoosa should follow me now, okeeday?” *shudder* If you have made a grand faux pas, how do you recover?

That is the problem I have been pondering for the last week, as after placing too many promotional posts together, I have consistently lost 60% of my blog traffic. Damn! I wrote a reactive post, then thankfully had the sense to delete it. I realised that those who had walked away, would not be here to read my “ooops, my bad, I will ease up” rant. Instead, I have modified the posts to something much softer… but my ego hurts!

Recovery from a blooper will not come by force. The answer isn’t in storming out red-faced either. You have to “get back on the horse, unless you have to go to the hospital.” I am going to continue on as usual. The best blog posts are still pulling in “normal traffic,” so there is hope in that. Maybe my lost readers will forgive me? First, I have to forgive myself for being so dense! No matter how stats orientated we become, it is not the end of the world.

Maybe there are other reasons for a traffic drop I have not considered?

Maybe it’s not solely MY fault?

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Sally Jean, taken from Kristen's blog. Is there a chiropractor in the house?

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Sally Jean. Is there a chiropractor in the house?

If you are a sensitive, shy soul, as many of us writers are, when things go wrong, the first person we blame is ourselves. Life is a trial and error process. Creativity has hurdles we jump and get bruised on… and hurdles where we jump, then thrive off the elation of success. Growth comes from knowing there will be dark with the light and accepting that. Berating yourself won’t fix anything, you will just feel worse. Chalk it up as what doesn’t work and stay on that horse!

It comes down to patience, having the guts to try again and not just being greedy for success.

Speaking of success, Kristen Lamb’s blog has the most heartening post on author earnings and what will make you successful. It’s a must-read. In short, it takes patience, professionalism, quality online interaction and a backlist of work to set up a base on – and it occurs over multiple years, not fast. Remember: patience, patience, patience! When we are too eager to become an overnight success, we also become too eager to label ourselves as an instant failure.

Stay faithful to your dreams.

Those of you who are in it for the long haul, are the ones who will succeed.


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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.

Image is from my Bitstrips account.

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!)

Most importantly…

VALEN

…please pay it forward this Valentine’s day by clicking Like and commenting on the pages you’re a fan of. The more support you give, the more you will receive. Spread the love!


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.

#Email Marketing and Your Average #Author

IMG_0195 Since early January, I have been inundated with blog posts and emails, telling me that email marketing is A.B.S.O.L.U.T.E.L.Y.  E.S.S.E.N.T.I.A.L.  to the point of being critical to anyone and everyone’s success. I carefully read them, considered implementing it for my own work and then pitched a fit! Why? I do N.O.T.  have the  T.I.M.E.

This advice has been coming from sources I follow and greatly respect. However, I have been marketing online for nearly four years and this is the first time this has come up with so much sink or swim emphasis. Plus I am noting that some are adding to their income by running paid seminars on the topic. Are we falling prey to their marketing? Is email marketing for authors without thousands of followers essential?

Yes, building a following is critical. Yes, keeping followers up to speed with what’s happening is essential. But: isn’t that what our blogs and social media streams were designed to do? That is the reason I was told to get a blog in the first place! If I am over-busy, the first things in my email box to hit the dust are newsletters and blog post notices. They don’t take priority. I know we need all the tools we can utilize to reach our audience, but this seems to be doubling up on what we already do. I don’t have any newsletter content that you won’t find here or on my web site.

The first thing I thought of, beside myself, is the other Indie authors out there, who have kids, work, busy lives, health issues, limited time: how are we supposed to add another thing to the mix?

IMG_0199Mr Internet, have mercy on us! I am noting that the writers who are recommending email marketing are backed by a decent income and those magical beings: staff! I am me. I run everything. There is not enough of me.

If email works for you: awesome! Go for it! But Mr Internet, on behalf of many of us, we work our butts off on our blogs, books and social media. Don’t ask us to repeat what we have to say in yet another expensive, time-chewing form.


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.

Images are from my Bitstrips account.

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

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.

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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.

Your Individuality is Your Greatest Asset: Writing and Marketing as You

lifeinchalkIf all writers thought and expressed themselves the same way, all books would be the same. Fortunately, they aren’t. We enjoy libraries stocked with diverse characters, settings, views and approaches. There is always something new to discover. It whets our appetite for thinking outside our own style and genre.

However, as I roam around writer’s blogs on the Internet, I see so much of the same repeated. The same blogging challenges, the same badges, the same marketing techniques. I also read regurgitated lists of rules on how often we must blog to capture the attention of search engines, approach social media and present ourselves. There are excellent reasons for following some of that advice… but…

If our success as writers is dependent on our individual creative instincts, why do we fall into a carbon copy approach online? I feel like rebelling: jumping out of line and saying, “Hey, I am going to be ME. If you don’t like my style, that’s OK. I don’t like everyone’s style either. I am not going to conform and fail at being myself.”

Following the flock of sheep in front of us involves the risk that all people will see, is another woolly behind. We can be too well blended into an indistinguishable mass of cream woolly behinds. When you promote other writers on Triberr and Twitter, you can start to tune out and not pass on another round of giveaways, challenge posts and blog tours. You’re looking for something different, something that catches your interest and hasn’t been done before. A new design. A new point of view. A new theme. With the number of people online, that’s not always easy to do; but when you put yourself forward in your own individualistic style, then people do notice. That can generate a more positive response.

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So, while being sensible and sticking to the most essential rules for promotion, may I challenge you to not be afraid to be yourself. Show your personality, show your passion for your work and if you hate blog challenges or tours, don’t do it! Find an approach that fits who you are.

Be yourself. You are your best shot at success.


This video from TED Talks highlights how we tend to gravitate towards like-minded people. They are often the least able to help us when we need to break free of the norm. Please enjoy Maria Bezaitis, speaking on the surprising need for strangeness.


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

Stephen King: Short Stories and Novels, How they Form

Stephen King“Stephen King was born in Portland, Maine in 1947, the second son of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King. He made his first professional short story sale in 1967 to Startling Mystery Stories. In the fall of 1973, he began teaching high school English classes at Hampden Academy, the public high school in Hampden, Maine. Writing in the evenings and on the weekends, he continued to produce short stories and to work on novels. In the spring of 1973, Doubleday & Co., accepted the novel Carrie for publication, providing him the means to leave teaching and write full-time. He has since published over 50 books and has become one of the world’s most successful writers.” Source: http://www.stephenking.com/index.html

Don’t Quit Striving Towards Your Writing Goals

New desk 2

For some reason, I see owls being used everywhere in decorator and stationary items. 
They are even appearing on Christmas paper plates! Maybe they are telling us that we need less ‘frantic doing’ and more contemplating to learn wisdom from our experiences!

For the last few weeks I have desperately needed a change of pace, and have been trying to plot out a new direction for CommuniCATE in 2014. I have destroyed parts of a brand new, very expensive diary in the process! However, after an obsessive assessment of my stats and many hours of deliberating, I keep coming back to the same answer: keep doing what I am already doing, as it’s working and I am being true to my own creative self.

That makes sense… but!!!!!! I am paying a high price in unpaid labour and far too many hours of drudge work to make that happen. So still, what to do? I want off that rat wheel!

I know many of you are in the same position. You have a taste of success, but you’re still a small player, investing more than you will ever get back. Some days you just stop and say, “why?” “Is this Internet promotion game really going to make me a satisfied author? What am I doing pandering to strangers, SEO, social media and all that rot? I want my life back!”

The final clincher for me in making this decision, was digging out archived files of an old disaster. You know how some days you have to stop and look back? You have to pull up that memory that still hurts, remember dreams lost, face the work that was wasted and ask, “what the ‘bleep’ went so wrong?” It’s human nature to want to make sense of it all. Looking back at that toxic carcass, gave me a sense of gratitude which I have been missing. Despite being fidgety, I am now happier because I followed one of my dreams. It’s all been worth it.

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Yes, there are a lot of plants. As I spend so much time at my desk, I try and make it pleasant.

As writers we often look back on older work and cringe. We have shelved ideas, abandoned books, smashed dreams and poisonous feedback that still makes us want to hide and cry under our desks. I have thirty files which need editing and placing back on Faithwriters.com. Why were they removed? They are 15 years old! My editing standards are now higher. Many past pieces of writing are online out of my reach, and perfect or not, I just have to wear them. Maybe that is a lesson in humility we all have to learn, allowing ourselves to grow. Seeing what lies behind as a necessity, a blessing and something we should use to empower us to keep moving forward.

Whatever publishing, blogging, social media and your life throws at you, stay with it. Keep writing. It will pay off in some way. I know once my restlessness wears off, I will go back to happily following my work routine. I just need the sense to focus, stay grateful and stay put!

What is the hardest part of your writing journey?

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Oh yes, please don’t forget! There is a new free e-book (pdf so readable on any device) which pulls all my blog related posts together. It’s titled “Savvy Blogging for Time Starved Writers,” and is available via the sidebar. You can import pdf files into Kindle via their apps (just point your Kindle app on your computer to the directory where you keep your pdf and it will import); and into iBooks via the iTunes link up with your computer and your iPhone/iPad.


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This article / blog post is Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2013. 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. The featured image from this post comes from the web site linked to above.

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

The Life Journey of a Mystic in Fiction

Image Source: http://www.giantbomb.com/druids/92-4091/
Original artist unknown.

One of the spiritual areas that fascinates me is prophecy. I love fantasy books featuring people who strive to reach a high spiritual calling. Being a Mystic / Prophet appears to be one of the toughest roles anyone can take. They can be held in awe, regarded with fear or suspicion or ostracised… if left alive. It is as demanding as the role of a warrior.

Some prophets have it easier than others. For example, the Oracle of Delphi in Greece, was constantly breathing in toxic fumes from volcanic gasses that came up through a rock. The priests around the Oracle did the interpretation of the gibberish this chemical high produced. They were the ones with the real power. The actual position of Oracle doesn’t sound too onerous to me, though definitely dangerous to their health!

Often these mystical people were embroiled in power battles within epic fables and stories. Being a mystic supposedly gives ordinary people marvellous power; but is that view a myth? Depending on the storyline, that power can be public and impressive, or limited and only able to be used in a covert manner. The little power they have may not be enough; it could often leave the mystic frustrated. How often do the wise ones have to stand back and watch those they warned make avoidable mistakes? That or they can be so power drunk, they start to destroy everything around them, including themselves. You can turn the storyline so many different ways.

According to the Old Testament, if you were a prophet and your accuracy was less than one hundred percent, you could be stoned to death. Nostradamus would never have made it. The Egyptians could change gods like you change your socks. Depending on who you represented, being one of their religious leaders could be a job with a limited shelf life! If you were ever on the wrong side of the current religious fad, you could kiss your robes and your good life goodbye.

Look into the job description of a mystic further. While literature romanticises quests and great adventures, more often, the wise ones were called on to deal with the conflicts and faults of their societies. That can mean that their purpose in life was to be unpopular. I can see why figures such as Jonah legged it when given a tough challenge. For most prophets, the training and standards are anything but easy and would leave them feeling humbled and impotent. Then to make them feel better, people don’t tend to roll out the welcome mat when it’s your divinely-given task to go tell them they are wrong. In the same shoes, I’d go whale watching too. It could be worth the risk. There are always plenty of rocks laying around to be thrown… Moses was another Biblical figure who firstly said “I don’t think so!” when he heard what he was meant to do.

This image was made by and belongs to i_luv_angst
Click on image to go to their page.

The early life of a prophet involves sacrificing a normal life; developing exacting discipline; being misunderstood; learning focus and meditation; studying relevant areas such as magic, medicine, history and literature; making your fair share of humiliating bloopers when you hear or judge the facts wrong and the obligatory “character building” wilderness experience.

The best prophets are grown in the toughest places and at times, are called into a time of living in solitude, while they do the equivalent of a Prophetic Masters Degree… in the middle of nowhere with scant protection and few comforts, if any. If they were really lucky, the wilderness would be their permanent mailing address. Loneliness is often the prophet’s closest and only friend.

Prophets are deliberately developed where the conditions are toughest. If you were a Celtic mystic, they may have chosen to go to sea. Sometimes they made landfall, sometimes, they didn’t, being on a boat for weeks. The forests and the desert are not the only choices for getting away from it all to hear clearly.

Celtic Monasteries have been found on tiny, wind-slapped islands (not wind-swept, that is too gentle), where you need to be a mountain goat to move around. The tougher the life, the better one’s attitude grows. It’s the truest of cliches; suffering gains you perspective on human nature and shows you what really matters in life. You must have suffered to be able to relate to others’ pain.

So as you write about awesome soothsayers, crystal ball gazers and wand carrying heroes, consider what manner of life experience and training that led them to the centre stage in your novel. True mystics are not born with all the talents and graces they need, they’re made: most probably the hardest way!

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.

No images on this blog may be copied, captured, or altered for your own purpose without the consent of the originating owner. Where images are marked as being iStockphoto.com images, they are paid for and licenced to Cate for use on this blog. If you take them, iStockphoto.com has the right to take legal action against you for Copyright Infringement.

Please see the Blog Content and Image Copyright page of this blog for further information in regards to Guest Posts, other images, Cate’s checks on infringements and Liability.

Creative Freedom or Selling Out for Profit: Which is Your Choice?

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I am being asked more and more, “how do I sell my work?” “How do I write when I have no money for editing and book covers?” “How can I get my out-of-print books up and into circulation again?”

Writers seem to be getting lost in the market, thrown around my poorly deduced statistics and seduced by the demands of one-sided advice. It appears at times, that almost everyone that has e-published then has an urge to write a book on how they did it, as a self-proclaimed expert! Often, the advice is at best, partial; at worst, downright dangerous to a writer’s mental health! As I’ve look at some of the advice in the books, then look at a poorly written sample of that writer’s actual published novel, I’ve quickly developed an allergy to these ‘experts.’

What is really bothering me at the moment, is how often I see the same messages being repeated which are dictating how we are to blog, how we are to write, how we are to publish. We are being assimilated to a manageable norm. So are we having our creativity and originality juiced out of us? It concerns me that we are. If I read one more four character based novel with a predictable ending, I am going to scream. The writers are stuck in a formula rut. At times, it makes me stop reading. I’m bored with the same old thing.

So I decided to watch a few out-of-the-box movies, such as “Finding Neverland,” which is magic for writers, and “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.” I’ve always been intrigued by Johnny Depp’s performances and surprised at his ability to chameleon into roles. He is original and outstanding. I don’t watch a Johnny Depp movie to see him. The character always overtakes the real Johnny in appearance and personality. Depp is that character, rather than appearing as another reincarnation of “Star X now depicting the character Y.”

Reading more about Depp, I quickly discovered that he is his own man, takes his own path, frustrates the Hollywood norms… and wins. Labelled as frustrating, eccentric, unusual and odd, he won’t do the standard cliched blockbuster films, that enable the financial wheels of the movie industry to safely spin along their predictable path. Yes, he is also a writer. Just at the moment, that is the kind of role models many writers need… so much so, it is at least rumoured that Harper Collins has started an imprint of books which are “authentic, outspoken, and visionary,” a project initiated by the “bookish” Johnny Depp. The Imprint title is characteristically him: Infinitum Nihil” (“Nothing is forever.”)

Johnny has reminded me:

  • You can still be successful by being yourself, rather than filling the mold;
  • Reflect your own interests in your choices, not what’s popular now and thus liable to make the most money;
  • If instinct says so, disregard the ‘shoulds’ from the experts: there is always more than one formula for success;
  • Write for the love of writing, not the money, you’ll stifle your real self;
  • Don’t be afraid to write outside your standard genre, step out of your comfort zone and do something completely different;
  • If others raise an eyebrow at your work and call you ‘unusual’ that’s good! Negative criticism can be a long term positive.
  • Never compromise yourself.

So “do a Depp.” Seriously consider where you are conforming to the norm in any way that is not you. Find your way back to your genuine creative self. Take a few risks: write something in a new genre and see where your journey takes you. The satisfaction of the creative journey is worth more than any payment or popularity. Plus, it can also become a winner for you too.

From Depp’s Point of View:

“The challenge for me is still to do something that hasn’t been beaten into the moviegoing consciousness. Otherwise what am I in it for?”

As an undercover cop on 21 Jump Street, Depp emerged into the spotlight as a teen idol in 1987, but a future as a lunch box icon and not having any control over his own image, scared him. “I waited and waited to do a movie, because I wanted to do the right one. I wanted to go as far away from the series (21 Jump Street) as I could. The first film I did after Jump Street was Cry-Baby with John Waters. That was a great experience. After that I did another season of the series, and then I did Edward Scissorhands. During that movie I got the phone call saying I was out of the show. I felt like, Ah, possibilities. I was freed up. I swore to myself that I would never again compromise to the degree that I had. I swore that I wouldn’t just follow the commercial road. I wouldn’t do what was expected of me or what was necessary to maintain whatever it is –a popular or financially rewarding career. I promised myself that I would do that.”

f8b104b5dc135f71e6a5f154a7857e3eAfter the success of Pirates of the Caribbean he has been considered less of a non-conformist risk and more of a bankable movie star. However, his change in status has not changed the way he maintains his career path. Depp: “I’ve always been some distance from that game. I guess there have been times when I was on the brink of being bankable. But that’s all so weird. All these weird lists – top five star, top 10, “Let’s get this guy because he’s bankable.” I don’t think about that. You’re on the list two weeks and then – poof – you’re gone. It never jarred me that I wasn’t on the list. If I’m considered bankable this week, that’s great. Next week I’ll be totally off. I’m used to that. I’ve never had an allergy to the idea of commercial success. When you put a movie out and it’s successful, that’s great. I just wanted to get there in the right way, in a way that’s not too compromising or demeaning or ugly. Whether I’m there as a bankable movie star or not, I don’t know. If I stay there, who knows?”

“It’s just an odd game. I mean, I may want to do dinner theater. Maybe it’s not so bad. I’ve always said I might end up being forced to do McDonald’s openings dressed as Edward Scissorhands. You never know.”

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Aside from Mr Depp’s quotes, this article / blog post is Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2012, updated 2013. 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.

No images on this blog may be copied, captured, or altered for your own purpose without the consent of the originating owner.

Walter Mosley on Productivity & the Writing Life

Walter Mosley is one of the most versatile and admired writers in America today. He is the author of more than 37 critically acclaimed books, including the major bestselling mystery series featuring Easy Rawlins. His work has been translated into 23 languages and includes literary fiction, science fiction, political monographs, and a young adult novel. His short fiction has been widely published, and his nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and The Nation, among other publications. He is the winner of numerous awards, including an O. Henry Award, a Grammy and PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He lives in New York City.”

10% On Top: Being a More Efficient Writer

When I was in Senior High School and the dreaded final exams were approaching, our school adopted a program called “10% On Top.” The idea was for every student to pick a teacher they related to, then we’d be given study and exam tips that would improve efficiency and thus our exam results, by 10%.

I don’t know whether it did actually help statistically, but mentally, the support and extra know-how was incalculable. To have someone help you work out a study timetable that was realistic; prepare you for what was to come and steady the nerves was a godsend! Some schools still use the program… ahem, a ‘few’ years later, so it must have paid off.

When NaNoWriMo began to loom last October, a flurry of preparation began. That was when I remembered the 10% On Top program. Having a pre-planned schedule for writing, which was weaved around real life, seemed the best way to approach Nano. Maybe High School had taught me an actual useful life lesson!

Often our passion for our goals overshadows all else. We don’t allow for creative dates to refresh ourselves; we don’t allow for the chaos of everyday family living and we never allow time for the unseen to throw everything out of kilter. It’s hard to sit at a computer or with a pen in hand and write when we’re surrounded by noise, unfinished business and we can’t remember where we’re up to, or know where we are going. Time runs out, we get frustrated; the guilt cycle kicks in.

If you run a business, some preparation is utterly essential. You need staff, business hours, inventory or services to offer. There must be a plan of some sort, or you will fail. Power companies plan for peak periods of demand; Supermarkets stock their shelves based on weather conditions, which determine what products will be the most popular. Writing is exactly the same. You need to plan ahead to achieve and survive.

So wherever you are situated in your writing life now, take the time to prepare to increase your efficiency by 10%. Plan your schedule and tasks realistically. Take into account public holidays, birthdays and weekends; then allow a little extra time for the unseen incidents that will inevitably pop up. Having a plan can help steady the nerves and if the Senior High School program is any example, the benefits are long term!


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

No images on this blog may be copied, captured, or altered for your own purpose without the consent of the originating owner. Where images are marked as being iStockphoto.com images, they are paid for and licenced to Cate for use on this blog. If you take them, iStockphoto.com has the right to take legal action against you for Copyright Infringement.

Please see the Blog Content and Image Copyright page of this blog for further information in regards to Guest Posts, other images, Cate’s checks on infringements and Liability.

Professional, Effective Author Sites: The Problems With Using Blogs

nupThis tweet caught my eye and made me go “hmmm…” Actually, it’s easy to have a bad author website. All you do is fail to plan, use nothing but freebies and put in minimal effort. I often see it done.

It’s been said that it’s essential for authors to have a dedicated website and a blog. I can see the benefits of combining both, however, it concerns me when blogs are used as author websites. I see many where the blog quality is not doing that author justice at all. It can work against you. I also had to ask, “since when is a blog a product website?” In the commercial world, it’s not. You need both if you want to succeed.

I do understand that technology and code can be utterly daunting, plus the expense of hiring a site developer can be exorbitant. I don’t judge any author by using Blogger or WordPress, especially Indie authors. However, there is one exception which makes me back off someone’s site… and which helps give independent authors a bad name: a standard, half-working, thrown together blog.

For those of you who don’t want to be broke or a geek, you can get away with using a blog if it is done well. Here is what will kill your author site credibility if you drop the ball:

~ Using the first theme that comes up as the freebie. We know you didn’t even try! If it is Twenty-Ten, Twenty-Twelve or Twenty-Thirteen it’s a dead give-away. These are the automatically chosen defaults WordPress starts you with. The name appears at the bottom of your blog.

~ Widgets that don’t work! The Twitter widget on WordPress is a frequent offender, for that reason, I stopped using it. I have noticed it malfunctioning on many blogs.

No, no, please no! Readers don't use them and it looks like you didn't bother to plan.

No, no, please no! Readers don’t use them and it looks like you didn’t bother to plan.

~ Old information in the side bars: out of date events, accounts and links that no longer work make your blog look abandoned and show your commitment level. Update regularly and change content to draw new interest (and draw in search engines.)

<<< Using all the basic, standard template features: leaving on calendars, meta data, categories, recent comments etc. all as they appear on the template, without just leaving what works. Also, get rid of the Hello World first post and the rubbish in the Links which are automatically provided.

~ More than one sidebar so the blog is crammed and hard to read.

Not adding your copyright at the base of the page, to a sidebar or to posts.

Not deleting the standard template page which comes with the blog and adding your own pages, or leaving only one.

~ Too many negative apology posts over not keeping up with your commitment to blog or write.

Also: if you write for an initiative such as ROW80 or #writemotivation, please, get yourself a separate blog and put your writing woes there: and don’t make it open to search engines. You can dent your reputation! Also, put your personal stuff elsewhere: this is your business shopfront.

Not replacing the template headers and backgrounds with your own.

Please make the small financial commitment to add your own custom web address to your blog and turn off the ads. I was lucky enough to get a blog url which was my Twitter handle, so I dodged one expense, but the ads, they had to go. On WordPress it is $30 a year. Your own domain name is $18.

Please, don’t take your blog live until all the technical issues and design are completed. I know you’ll be proud of your new blog, but resist the temptation to go out half-dressed.

So my apologies to the writers who believe it is hard to have a bad website, but when you read a lot of blogs and visit well executed writer’s sites, it is actually incredibly easy to pick out who cares, who is professional and who understands their marketplace… and who doesn’t. It can help you achieve or it can help you fail.


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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.