Writer Beware

Gold class sites

 

http://www.accrispin.blogspot.com.au

“Writer Beware® is the public face of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s Committee on Writing Scams. We also receive sponsorship from the Mystery Writers of America. Like many genre-focused writers’ groups, SFWA and MWA are concerned not just with issues that affect professional authors, but with the problems and pitfalls that face aspiring writers. Writer Beware, founded in 1998, reflects that concern.

Although SFWA and MWA are US-based organizations of professional fiction authors, Writer Beware’s efforts aren’t limited by country, genre, or publication history. The Writer Beware website and blog can be used by any writer, new or established, regardless of subject, style, genre, or nationality.”


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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.

Eye Strain Reducing Editing for Writers – #amediting #amwriting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Textkraft EN is available through iTunes.

 

 

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

Word Count Meters and Tight Writing Resources

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

 



Quick-read, writer’s companions.

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

conflict_in_fiction.html    Building Emotionally Realistic Characters Cover    conquering_writing_stress.html        

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

Full-length course titles.

creative_spirit.html     prayer_journal.html

 


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

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

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

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

Source unknown.

Source unknown.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy writing.


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

Author Survival Resources

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




Social Media and Networking Help




Book Marketing



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realisticfiction

Fear of Failure: Survival for Writers

DEB_MixedMedia_Emb_Pencil_RedFear of failure as an author, can be built into us as early as primary school. We become inflicted with what I call, “Red Pen Phobia.”

Red pen is the hated mark that comes back on school assignments screaming, “you are wrong! You didn’t make the grade. You’re not good enough. You messed up! You didn’t try hard enough.” It is also used to mark bills with “overdue!”  Red pen phobia is so serious, that when I looked through my licence stock photos for a *red pen image, I couldn’t find one. All I could find was a red pencil. Who wants to make artwork using an image that makes you feel bad?

I hear from other writers who like to write in colour to stimulate their creativity, whether in pen or as a font choice. They choose purple, blue, green, orange, pink… I can’t remember anyone ever saying they like writing in red. It is the colour of failure. Many writers I teach are over 55 years of age and have an embedded demanding, judging English teacher in their head. Some teachers used to throw chalk, or smack them over the back of their knuckles with a ruler. Others were lucky enough to have teachers who were interested in getting them to be creative; but a vast majority fit the academic model: you were judged on correctness. There was no grey, only black and white and on that you were smart or you were stupid.

In psychology class we had to try and define intelligence as an exercise. It is impossible. Too many people fit outside that tiny box academia focusses on and we, sadly, often judge ourselves on. There are people who work best through movements such as dance or art, are great manual workers, have excellent spatial skills or who have musical or people skills. They are all intelligent but may not have the academically acceptable mathematical or English skills that are supposed to define intelligence. It doesn’t mean they are stupid. Yet, we can live our whole lives with that label as we didn’t fit a narrow set of standards, rather than being encouraged to use our unique skills.

Many, many writers over time have not fit the academic model, but have been successful despite it. They may not have had the educational opportunities to try and fit into that model, or their skills may simply lie in other areas. Some writers are great story tellers, but need extra support with grammar etc. It does not mean they should stop writing as they don’t have what it takes. We need to silence our inner school teacher and reach for our goals.

So you can take the red pen in two ways:

1. A rod of correction, signal of danger or symbol of fear ;

or

2. Look at it as a colour of passion, fire and energy! Those are positive qualities of writers who love their craft.

Grab your red pens, stick them in a drawer if they deter you, but don’t let them stand in your way! Write for yourself and the joy it brings you first. Edit later; hire a professional editor if you are not confident… but don’t let those red pens stop your dreams. The only thing that will mark you as a failure is never having tried.

 


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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. 

*The red pencil image is commercially licenced to Cate Russell-Cole. Please do not reuse it. It can be purchased from Scrapgirls.com as part of the DEB_Stationary and Art Bits collection designed by Durin Eberhart.

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

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

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


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IMG_0204Note from Cate: this post was published last year under a different title, but there was a technical glitch and it never got proper promotion. As it received great comments from those who did read it, I have updated, improved and published it again.

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.

#Romance University for Writers: A Gold Class #Writing Site

Printhttp://romanceuniversity.org

Purpose: Dedicated to helping writers establish and advance their careers, introducing readers to a variety of authors, and delving into the ever-inscrutable male mind.

Monday: Crafting Your Career
Most writers begin writing because they love the process–using just the right word, crafting the perfect sentence, giving life to imaginary people. However satisfying the writing process, many writers begin to want more. The want people to read about and love those imaginary folks. Okay–they want people to pay to read about those imaginary folks. Join us each Monday at RU where we’ll discuss the business of writing or career topic. Visiting Professors (guest bloggers) often stop by the school to offer advice.

Wednesday: Anatomy of the Mind
This is the day we explore every facet of writing, reading, and men.

Friday: Chaos Theory of Writing
On Fridays, RU Faculty along with industry professionals and established authors will focus on the elements of manuscript writing. Tips to help you hone your craft and write a damn fine book. After all, it will be your writing that will catch (and retain) the interest of a lucky agent or editor.We’ll tap into our own experiences, share what’s working and what isn’t as we chase our dreams of becoming published authors. We’ll also discuss advice from our favorite writing reference books and websites. So join us each Friday to experience the chaos of writing.”

Gold class sites

How NOT to look like a total loser on #Twitter: Social Media Professionalism

2014-02-24_08-58-36There are services out there which are incredibly useful to have, particularly if you like proper stats on where you’re at. However, openly advertising that you use these services can make you look like a woeful failure if you don’t have a massive following. For example:

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That was one of the more cheery ones I saw this morning. 224 people walking away is a lot! I would be worrying if these were my stats.

I see numerous notices like this go through my stream every day. They are auto-generated. All services spit out these ads. If I use one, I go into Twitter fast and delete them. Plus, if I pay to subscribe to a service, I will remove all automatic options to have these services air my private laundry at their will.

I would never advocate not using these sites to clean up your following. They also removed dormant accounts and have many benefits. They are too good to ignore. Benefits include:

  • Finding inactive users and your unfollowers.
  • Finding relevant users to follow.
  • Keeping track of how your social media updates affect your follower/unfollower stats.
  • Checking the relationship between any accounts and doing a whole lot more (for a price on services this good).

I would recommend you never auto-follow anyone using them though: not only do automatic DMs mean I know you are insincere and have never seen me; you also follow every spammer out there, thinking you’ve got great stats when you’ve only got snake oil merchants and porn…

So be aware of who advertises what in your Twitter stream and how it makes you look. You won’t be sorry you did.

P.S. May I present to you the other side of the argument? Note that when you have many followers, this isn’t an issue but if you have a small number, the above still applies.

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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.

realisticfiction

Do You Write by Heart or Head? Technique Overload

Complexities that put me off my game.

Complexities that put me off my game.

When does studying the craft of writing stop you or inhibit your work? That is a question which some of us need to ask. Writing has become more than a plotter or pantser issue, it can come down to science vs your instincts as a bard.

I like to know I am doing things the right way. However, in branching back out into fiction, I am finding the more I read about what to include, the more nervous I am becoming with my writing. I look at images on Pinterest, like the one on the right, feeling bemused, hemmed in, inadequate and I am stunned into inaction by a fear of failure. What if the “right” way is not my way? Jane Austen wrote without all this!

Since I originally studied writing, main characters have become protagonists and there are also antagonists, contagonists, deuteragonists… what? Deuteragonists are the main secondary characters. Why can’t we just say that! How many aspiring authors are being scared away? I often get the feeling you I am being told to be perfect and write a specific way, rather than being allowed to just write down that story I need to tell.

There are things I need at the beginning: plot arcs, descriptions, body language, emotional reactions which are realistic, archetypes as a guideline and character profiles (such as the Enneagram); however, I need to begin to ignore many technical articles or stash them for later in the writing process.

Things that freak me out when I am writing a new story for the first time:

  • Dos and Don’ts for the Last 10,000 words of your story.
  • What you should write and when : hook, plot point, response, mid point, attack, plot point, climax, resolution… complete nervous breakdown?
  • Structuring Your Story’s Scenes, Pt. 5 (What if I don’t fit neatly into all that? Did I fail?)
  • 200,000,000 ways to say that, went, and or whatever, which makes me feel like I need to watch every word as it comes out.
  • Revealing secrets, pivotal information etc. for maximum impact on a very detailed, precise manner. (What if I don’t fit neatly into all that? I really stink at this, don’t I!)
  • The First Five Pages. A writer’s guide to staying out of the rejection pile. (That has to come with editing, you can’t get that right, straight off the bat!)
  • The most annoying type of story conflict / the most hated antagonist readers will throw the book down after reading etc.

You get the picture.

My answer: learn slowly as you go; be open to new ideas but don’t let them mash you into a one-size-fits-all, formatted cliché like a Hollywood blockbuster movie… You need to get that story down before you can start working on perfecting it.


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.

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.

What is Nagging for Book Sales, What is Marketing? The Difference…

qqffb_1285058022796Trying to get the balance right in promoting blog posts and book sales gives me nightmares. I have looked at what Twitter recommends and what the social media marketing people recommend and there is a notable discrepancy. It seems Twitter wants to keep spam and server overload to a minimum, whereas the marketers understand the need to stand out from the crowd. Here is the balanced middle ground:

1. Only Tweet 7-20 times a day: no more or fingers will itch over that Unfollow button. All Twitter makes an interesting point about over-tweeting. Which proves that tweet nagging will knock you out of the game:

TrackSocial took a look at the tweets from top brands to determine whether brands who tweeted more saw more retweets. And the findings are interesting… we begin to see a “sweet spot…” When they tweet 4 to 5 times per day, brands see over 300% more retweets per tweet than when they tweet just once. But the percentage of retweets per tweet drops when brands tweet more than 5 times per day…”

2. Mix your content! I unfollow anyone who tweets the same promotion multiple times a day, every day of the week! Post relevant videos, images, interact with people, promote your blog posts with quick content quotes in them etc. Have a series of different tweets for different books that you rotate over weeks.

twitnest

3. There are many different opinions on what time of day is the best time for Twitter. It depends on your time zone, type of followers… you will slowly get to know what works for you. If like me, you work Internationally, there is no easy answer.

4. Talk to people, be genuine and be a real face online: not just a hard core seller. Twitter recommends you cover behind the scenes information too, not just sales and marketing. Tell people a little about how you work, what you like etc. Don’t err on the side of putting your personal life out there too much, but be human, not just “buy my stuff!”

6. Be professional. If you are selling your work, Twitter is not a good place to list your writing battles and insecurities. You can appear completely incompetent!

7. Follow about 10 new people a day to build your presence without spamming. Never or rarely mass unfollow people who don’t follow you. That is identified by Twitter’s watchdogs as spam activity. New research also shows that paying for followers achieves nothing: as do using gimmicks which guarantee follow backs. They just add you to their numbers, they don’t “see you.”

social-media-sins

Infographic Source:

http://info.reallyb2b.com/blog-hs/bid/332063/The-Seven-Deadly-Sins-of-Social-Media-INFOGRAPHIC


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.

When You Feel Like Originality Has Passed You By…

Meridan PlainsIt was during the early 1990’s that I started to write “The Chronicles of Mirchar.” This was before the Internet, it had never been published and I felt my place and character names were pretty safe. I’d never seen them anywhere.

Then around 2003 or so, my husband and I were on holidays in a coastal area I had never been to. This area was fairly new and the suburb name: Meridan Plains. They had “stolen” my continent name! Even though my series was long since abandoned at the time… and had never seen the light of day outside my desk… I still felt the sting of losing my exclusive name. As I had (stupidly) destroyed my original manuscripts, I didn’t even have the satisfaction of storming into their local Council office to demand answers. “Where did you get this from, it was mine!” You know how it is when you get attached to your work. You take the oddest things rather personally…

I went online, checked all my old character names, had a little cry at my lack of originality and vowed to never, ever repeated the mistake. I would research all my names in case I had subconsciously “acquired” someone else’s idea. Then I was working on a name for a key character earlier this year and liked the name “Mirabelle.” I hadn’t read anything where it was used by my favourite authors and it looked safe to me. I did no further checking. It was just an old fashioned girl’s name. A few weeks later, I opened the cupboard. Months earlier we had changed light bulb types and voila!

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[Epic facepalm!] I named a favourite character after a light bulb. Please hold back on the “she must be a bright spark,” jokes! So much for learning that lesson. Though there is one thing I did learn from that: no matter what the genre, you don’t have to be perfect all the time… have fun and do what you want anyway. As one idea leads to another, then yet another, you never know what may come from it.

leaf

If you ever need it, this is how you name characters, places and construct languages in fantasy stories.
keepcalmandloveminions

Character images property of Universal Studios.

1. Base them on known sounds and words so they strike a familiar chord with readers and don’t sound fake. Case in point, in the movie Despicable Me 2, the Minions call an apple “papple” and their banana language comes from a mix of many languages including Spanish, French, English etc. They will say “belo” instead of “hello.” You get the picture, it’s just close enough to sound right to our ears.

2. Building a fantasy language is a mammoth task! Try and stick to key phrases such as patriotic slogans, greetings and commonly used words, unless you head goes spinning off or you feel a strong need to sue someone, when you find out they used YOUR word!

3. Link your language into cultural elements: eg. In the Game of Thrones, in the Dothraki culture the word graddakh means “one who walks.” This is a status inference. You are worthy or unworthy as you are able to ride, or are too weak or forbidden to ride. It reflects your societal value. Using words like that gives them a great deal of power.

4. Document your language very well so you don’t contradict yourself, can build a glossary on your web site or into your books, and hey, if you get to the level of Sir Terry Pratchett, you can make a mint out of it. Or have people playing your equivalent of Klingon Boggle (video below for the Big Bang Theory fans).

5. Learn to be at peace with the fact that you will probably never get a totally original name or word and that’s OK. If it is recognisable as a possible native tongue, you aced it!

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

Think Outside Your Niche: Awesome Plot and Character Ideas

2013-12-02_15-04-37In addition to gaining more markets and outlets for our writing, exploring the sites of other genres can also turn up gold dust. Last year Damian Trasler wrote me an excellent post on the success he has had with switching to screenwriting. It inspired me to think outside of the confines I have placed myself in as a writer. There is more out there I can do, I simply need an open mind. 

When I was planning my blog posts for this year, I came across “The Script Lab” web site, and thanks to Damian, I stopped and had a good look around. It is exceptionally useful to all kinds of writers. I am encouraging you to go plunder it for your own needs.

hairymnstr_Coffee_Mug_1Some of their content includes:

  • Character and scene questionnaires to help you build backstory, develop personality traits etc.
  • Naming characters effectively to convey their role or personality.
  • Key moments and plot points in story structure (there are quite a few of these and they are great.)
  • Comparing movie plot breakdowns, which every writer can use.
  • Don’t miss their articles on the Triangle, the 100% Rule and the Three C’s!
  • Rules on Writing Heroes
  • Scene Types… and masses more!

Go raid it! http://thescriptlab.com/screenwriting-101/screenwriting

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheScriptLab

Their writing inspiration board on Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/thescriptlab/writing-inspiration/

REBLOGS WELCOMED

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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.

Images in this post belong to The Script Lab and Open Clipart.com

Blogging Survival: Get Ahead

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Click to go to post.

With blogs, there are times when you have to hit the pause switch for the sake of sanity. But how? Around Thanksgiving last year, a fellow blogger put up a post asking, “should you blog through the holidays?” It was interesting to read how many people said yes, said no… or said no and then gave into temptation and pressure and blogged anyway! There are weeks when my husband has to refer to our family photos to remember what I look like, as I can’t be separated from the computer.

There is one technique which I have been using for the past two years to save my sanity and cater for those disruptions life puts in your way: scheduling. Writing ahead, even by a week or two, saves last minute “what will I post” panic attacks; stops multiple posts being sent out on one day; ensures you DO have time to go back and edit that dodgy bit you’re unsure about and gives you planning space. As I work in WordPress, here is how you do it.

2013-12-02_13-31-29While you are editing your post, on your right you will see the Publish box. On a new post it will come up as Publish Immediately. Click on Edit and you get this box where you can control exactly when your post will come out. The post I am writing now was written on the 2nd December last year. I am not bragging. As a migraine sufferer, I lose too many days on heavy painkillers and being forced into scheduling has been a great bonus! It does improve the quality of your blog as you have time to think.

If, like me, you are in an inconvenient time zone, scheduling also allows you to post in the zone where you get the best readership. With Twitter, Facebook, Triberr and Networked Blogs automatically sending out new post promotion live, I get the luxury of being asleep when my posts go out: between 1am and 2am my time. It’s bliss! No racing around multiple social media to spread the word. I love it! Use that Publicize feature and pre-hashtag post promo… it works.

Also be aware: I ran a weekly series in 2013 which I planned ahead, then added other periodic features plus my usual write-ahead posts. When I reached 100 scheduled posts, WordPress sent me an email saying STOP! They need you to save posts as drafts if there are a large number.

Keeping a blog running is a mammoth task: particularly if you like to post more than a few times per week. To stay productive you need to take time out. Like any muscle in your body, creativity needs to be rested so you can refresh. Without that you run out of ideas, enthusiasm and your blog becomes a major pain! Try scheduling as a painkiller. You have earned your time off and it will save you agony!


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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.

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