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.”

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.


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.

Nothing is Too Crazy to Write!

“For the author Margaret Atwood, it’s not a question of sitting around and wondering what to write; it’s a question of deciding which of the “far-fetched and absurd” ideas she’s going to try to tackle.” I love that! You can follow Margaret on Twitter: @MargaretAtwood and beware her correct advice: whatever you say online on Twitter or on a blog is “published.” It can come back at you. Discretion is wise.

Margaret’s Biography from“Throughout her writing career, Margaret Atwood has received numerous awards and honourary degrees. She is the author of more than fifty volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction and is perhaps best known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman (1970), The Handmaid’s Tale (1983), The Robber Bride(1994), Alias Grace(1996), and The Blind Assassin, which won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2000. Atwood’s dystopic novel, Oryx and Crake, was published in 2003. The Tent (mini-fictions) and Moral Disorder(short stories) both appeared in 2006. Her most recent volume of poetry, The Door, was published in 2007. Her non-fiction book, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, part of the Massey Lecture series, appeared in 2008, and her most recent novel, The Year of the Flood, in the autumn of 2009. Ms. Atwood’s work has been published in more than forty languages, including Farsi, Japanese, Turkish, Finnish, Korean, Icelandic and Estonian. In 2004 she co-invented the Long Pen TM.”

Indie Author Organizations for Publicity

success scrapbook clipOne of my marketing tasks for this year was to join as many Independent Author associations, groups and organizations as I could. In the process I found that some were expensive, or were of the calibre that gives Indies a bad name. Poor and cheaply done sites with an unprofessional image did little to inspire me. However, there are gems out there.

Here is the list of the sites I have found so far. Please research them and use your discretion before joining, especially if payment is required. As usual, I am not liable for your experience. (I hate having to say that!) If you find a great one, tell everyone. I have comments switched off for this post as I don’t want anyone in this list being openly criticised or unreasonably praised as subtle promotion.

Good luck!

Ebook Author:

The Independent Author Network:

Ebook Freeway:

Independent Author’s Guild:

Independent Authors International:

Coalition of Independent Authors:

Independent Author Index:

Authors Social Media Support Group:


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.

Hang Onto Inspiration – Writing Excellent Descriptions

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“My screaming-blue mountaineering parka makes me feel like some kind of toxin.” Anne Batterson, The Black Swan

“Incense perfumed the air, a special kind she bought in Little Tokyo, without any sweetness, expensive; it smelled of wood and green tea.”  Janet Fitch, White Oleander

image005Several years ago I began collecting examples of scintillating material from books I read. I created the collection to study techniques of authors I admire, and it has dramatically benefited my writing. Perusing those clips has furthered my understanding of effective description and my skill in writing it.

In the beginning, I couldn’t quantify what these authors were doing besides using innovative adjectives and similes — as far as I could tell, it was magic. But rubbing the lantern that held that magic  began stretching my view of life and the world, challenging me to see things in new ways. Reading a concentrated collection of pure excellence continues to prime my creativity pump. It pushes me out of my perceptual ruts and expands boundaries of awareness and possibility, showing me angles I may miss on my own.

When I read a print book, I keep a pad of sticky tags at hand to flag especially delightful, succulent passages as illustrated in the photo above from Anne Lamott’s book, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith. When I finish reading, the book often resembles a porcupine, with a couple of dozen tags protruding from the edge.

The next step is to type the flagged passages into a jerry-rigged database consisting of a table in Word. That may take half an hour or so for an especially inspiring book, but it’s time well-spent, reinforcing the power of the examples and setting them more firmly in memory. The screenshot below shows how it works.


Notice that I usually include the page number for the passage, in case I want to refer to it later. Publication data is minimal. Amazon makes it easy to fill that in later if I need it. As I enter the material from each book, I leave the Title column blank. When I finish all entries, I type the title and author once, copy it, and paste it in each row below for that book.

The Label column can include anything that helps or interests you. If you keep it to one word, you can sort the table on the Labels column and find all the material on that particular topic quickly and easily. Since I’ve begun adding additional labels, I use the Find function to look for them.

My method is crude, and someone with more savvy could improve upon it. A database would be a better approach, but the boundaries of my geekiness don’t stretch enough to include database expertise — a gal’s got to have limits!

When eBooks entered my life, I expanded the process. I love eBooks for many reasons, and the ease of capturing examples tops the list. I currently read on an iPad, and here’s my process, adaptable for your device.

H&C Description 400

Click on the cover to buy the book.

For Kindle books, I highlight passages and occasionally add a note. When I’ve finished reading on the Kindle iPad app, I open the book on Kindle for PC. From there I work my way through the Notes & Marks list, copying highlighted passages and note contents to paste into my table. Instead of page numbers, I enter the eBook location.

For ePub books (the format used by Nook, Kobo, and other readers), I read with iBooks. I copy highlighted passages and note content and paste them into an Evernotes file where I can access it on my PC for transfer to Word. Pasting this material into a self-addressed email or a Notes page would work just as well.

Write now: start a new file with a simple table like the one in the example and purchase a stash of sticky flags so you can start your own collection of juicy examples for further study and inspiration. Your writing skills will soar as a result. If you need help creating the table, refer to the last chapter in The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing.

Meet Sharon Lippincott:

slm-pres07Sharon Lippincott, life writing coach and teacher, is addicted to writing, specializing in zany observations of writing and life on her blog. The Heart and Craft of Writing Compelling Description. Her mission is to encourage the global use of Story to heal lives and the world.


Amazon page:

This blog post is Copyright Sharon Lippincott 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.

From Spellbound Child to a Published Author: An Inspirational Journey

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Never let anyone tell you not to write in your own voice. This guest post came into my inbox on Friday, begging to be shared. Because it touched me, I have shifted one of my scheduled posts to give it precedence. Please be inspired by the publishing journey of Snjezana Marinkovic.

9058661Many years ago, a woman sat in a little chair and read to her granddaughter who lay in bed with her eyes closed. She quietly listened to the story as it came to life in her head, but at the same time she was dreaming. This was a dream of her words being read and her stories inspiring others.

At age twelve, she started on a journey and put pen to paper.

At first she wrote poems and later short stories which blended the different cultures, languages and experiences that shaped who she was. As time passed her voice became clearer, and her resolve deeper which culminated into her first book.

Although she is at the core of my being, I am no longer a little girl.

907008fc22Literary agents and traditional publishing houses became interested in my writing but could take up to a year to provide simple answers to even simpler inquires. I struggled to come to terms with the disconnect between my writing and the traditional publishing industry. I was often asked to change my voice to sell more books. Although a small press published my first book “Born in Sarajevo,” the experience showed me that such an impersonal industry had little respect for the journey of that little girl. There had to be a different path.

In 2012, I became independently published. Although it is harder to go at alone, I feel that it is easier to be successful. The trick is not to let others define what success is. For me it isn’t the number of books sold, but the ability to speak from my heart through my own voice and inspire the next little girl to dream.

Follow Snjezana Marinkovic: Author of Born in Sarajevo Series

This blog post is Copyright Snjezana Marinkovic 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.

Shyness in the Marketplace

AMANDA-PALMER-MUSEIf you would rather devote your energy to writing than struggle to promote yourself, risking being openly criticised, this is for you. As someone who hates reviews, would rather read posts than comment and abhors bombing social media streams with book promotion, it touched me. I am nodding my head and agreeing: all I want is for my work to touch someone and resonate with them.

Just after the Boston Marathon bombing, writer and musician Amanda Palmer gave this talk on writers, shyness, the “wild west” of the Internet marketplace. You don’t have to be formally recognised for your work to have value; and that should never detract from your joy in being a writer.

Go shout down to your marketplace and do it with pride.

Amanda, thank you.

Amanda Palmer on the Muse in the Marketplace

My apologies for being unable to embed this video. It’s a WordPress thing.