NaNoWriMo, Should You or Shouldn’t You? A Balanced View

My current planning for my next novel. I need time to put in all those plot points which are mapped out. I just can't get this, work and health commitments all in sync and completed in a month!

My current planning for my next novel. I need time to put in all those blank plot points which are mapped out. I just can’t get this, work and health commitments all in sync and completed in a month!

Each November, my blog visit stats drop as everyone focusses on their plans for National Novel Writing Month. Then later in the month, the visits pop up again as the dream of winning NaNo is abandoned or hijacked my real life. So should you sign up? I won’t be. I tried it a few years ago and stressed right out. I need more flexibility. Some of us need a push to get into gear, some of us need creative time and space. I am the latter.

Last year I wrote a post on how to assess whether or not initiatives such as NaNoWriMo are suitable for you, individually, or not. Please read it, you may find it very helpful. If you want an alternative to NaNoWriMo, try the links below. They are far, far less stressful and will suit those of you who don’t fit the “full steam ahead, hell or high water” mould.

Don’t forget that October is OctPoWriMo, October Poetry Writing Month: Write 31 poems in 31 days.

Try this post for NaNoWriMo planning and tracking tools.



ROW80Logocopy~ A Round of Words in 80 Days: There are 4 rounds of 80 days a year. Rounds start in January, April, July and October, but you can participate in as many as you wish. ROW80 is the challenge that champions the marriage of writing and real life where you post your own goals, check-in twice a week and can change your goals as needed. Join at any time.

~ Creative Every Day: This is a low pressure, all-inclusive, year-long adventure for bloggers. You can join at any time.

~ #writemotivation by K.T. Hanna.  This initiative runs periodically through the year. You need to sign up, make a realistic list of blogging goals for the month, check-in once a week and visit your team mates to encourage them.


November also has these two challenges:

LeNoWriCha: a “rank-and-reward system is to provide an escape from the “success/failure” paradigm that seems to evolve from NaNo.” Started by David Shelverman Grimes and accessible through here:

WNFINNOVWrite Non-Fiction in November: “Challenges nonfiction writers to spend the month of November writing and completing a work of nonfiction. It also discusses nonfiction writing and publishing and provide a way for nonfiction writers to comment on their writing experiences during November each year. This is not a contest!”



Writer’s Resources on Twitter: September 2014 Update

I started this post in 2012 to give writers and bloggers a list of resources on Twitter which would provide promotion, inspiration and industry resources. The list of excellent Tweeters I have discovered has grown so much, I’ve had to start multiple lists, which I regularly update. Also there are now too many to name here. So here are the links to my lists.

You can subscribe to these lists as a Twitter user so you are kept in the loop with new additions. My Twitter username is @cateartios  and posts I share are writing related, not personal.

  • Publishers and Magazines covers everything publishing and is a list of 380+ Literary agents, publishers, industry news providers etc. Use at your own risk. Always get legal advice about publishing contracts and check industry news and trends via multiple sources.!/cateartios/publishers-and-magazines

  • Books and Readers is a public list for readers of all genres, plus it lists some tweeters that publicise books and may also publicise yours on request. 196 members.!/cateartios/books-and-readers


Caught in the Prologue Cross Fire? When to Hit Delete and When to Save Them

iStock_000018797284XSmallEveryone tends to like things to be done a certain way, generally their way! That’s not necessarily problematic, it’s a matter of placing your own mark on what you’re achieving. Some of the best novels have broken the rules, some of worst ones have decimated the rules. Fashions governing what is acceptable also change over time, leaving writers sitting in the middle of raging arguments, wondering which direction they should be taking and what it will do to their sales.

One of the debates I’ve been reading up on, is “forget about writing prologues, no one reads them anyway. They are just a frustrating delay.” I can see the point, but I am still scratching my head and considering that to be a sweeping generalisation, rather than solid advice. Could prologue bashing be part of the reason why are turned off them? If we keep seeing them reported as bad writing, the force of repetition can lead to us adopting the same negative view, whether it is biased, erroneous, or not. We need to think for ourselves.

A well-written prologue can be an effective story hook. I always read the prologue and epilogue. I’ve always liked them. They can set the scene for a story and contain gems of information I can’t understand the book without. I particularly like the ones which talk about a future event, that motivate me to dive into the novel to see how it comes about. My curiosity is aroused. Please note the words well-written. Actually, note them again. Poor writing is the entire basis of the prologue problem.

Have a think about this further. Television programs, such as The Big Bang Theory, are structured to include parts that act very much like a prologue and epilogue. If you are an avid television watcher, you are being conditioned to expect that structure. There is a ‘prologue,’ or teaser at the start; the front credits roll and then the body of the episode begins. At the very end, there is a small, comedic part you never want to miss, which works as an epilogue. Every episode is the same. You expect it to be.

The quickest way to determine the effectiveness of a prologue, on a fair book-by-book basis, is if you can give just your prologue to a reader and they start to care about the characters and want to read more to see what happens or happened, it’s working for you.

Below is a summary of all the arguments about prologues so you can determine your own fate.

Pro Prologue

  • You can put specific events under a spotlight to emphasize their importance.
  • You can talk to the reader from a different point of view than the rest of the novel is written in. For example, instead of third person, you may speak from first person as an onlooker, or one of the characters.
  • You can start to build solid characterisation, motivation, suspense and plot with a focus on one pivotal element.
  • If, like me, you are a science fiction and/or fantasy writer and need to world build, a prologue can familiarise your reader with place, science and customs. Just keep it interesting and adding benefit to the story. Don’t info dump! If there are parts of the world you can’t introduce through dialogue, this may be an effective way to set the scene.

IMG_0182Anti Prologue

  • They can be used as lazy information dumps, rather than building proper story. For example, you can write far too much about a character’s past, bypassing show don’t tell and boring your reader. Try a glossary or build these elements into your story properly.
  • If it doesn’t make you care about the characters or get you interested in the story, cull it!
  • If you can understand the story without the prologue, you don’t need it, you are wasting time and paper.
  • Due to the abuse of prologues, many traditional editors may reject your work as you have included one.
  • If you put in plot points which leave the reader hanging for a very long time before the answers are revealed, you can divide their attention and frustrate them.

Effective Prologues

  • Keep it short and write in active voice, not passive terms. Prologues can be a single paragraph or a single sentence. Length is up to you.
  • It must be written in the same spirit and style as the novel, or it looks out of place.
  • It was stated in one article that it should read like a short story, but without an ending. The ending is your novel.
  • Both the prologue and chapter one must hook the reader in, just as powerfully. Both have to work hard, or they don’t work at all.
  • It must be distinctive from the rest of the novel in terms of time or point of view, otherwise it’s a chapter you stashed in a silly place.

So what parts of a novel do I skip? Prefaces, Forwards, Dedications, Acknowledgements and most Introductions, especially lengthy ones. They have no story value and unless I adore the author and they can teach me more about them, I skip over the pages. I’ve always seen them as the part that is written for the Author’s benefit or as a courtesy. But that’s just me…


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.

Book of the Month: Morale Boosters for Busy Writers

If your energy and enthusiasm for writing, blogging and marketing has left you drained, these quick-read ebooks will help. They are also priced as low as Amazon allows. Books are available in pdf or epub from Cate or from Amazon Kindle. Click on the underlined links for ordering information.

PR3DPhoenix Rising: Conquering the Stresses of the Writer’s Life, addresses the challenges and frustrations of writers in the digital age. It has been written for all genres of writers and all forms of publication. It has been written as a quick-read writer’s companion, with chapter topics that don’t require reading in any set order.

If your creative energy is low, your word count flagging or the downsides of being a writer are taking away your joy, this book will give you new strength and hope with which to spread your wings and find new freedom.

I chose the image and title of the phoenix rising from the ashes in response to the battles writers face. I personally relate to the need to choose to rise upwards: away from the fire and into a clear sky to start again.

Topics include but are not limited to:

  • Measuring the Value of Your Work in a Digital Age
  • Healing Creative Injuries
  • Bomb Proofing Your Writer’s Ego
  • Balancing the Blogging Load
  • Writers and Depression: Debunking the Stereotypes
  • Boosting Your Productivity



3dpthriveIf you buy a copy of this book, you will also receive a free copy of “Phoenix Thriving: Conquering Stress and Burnout in the Blogging Life.”

I frequently hear complaints and pleas for help from highly stressed bloggers. As a coach and fellow writer, I have been doing my best to assist people, then decided to write a helpful ebook. “Phoenix Thriving: Conquering Stress and Burnout in the Blogging Life,” will help to ease the burden of writing, marketing, social media and the annoyances that fly in the faces of online writers.

Some of the topics covered include:

  • Creative myth busting;
  • Placing value on yourself as a writer, despite your level of success;
  • Dealing with writer’s burn out and social media demands;
  • Search Engine Optimisation versus originality;
  • A balanced approach to writing challenges online;
  • Marketing and people connections: the plus side and
  • When is it time to keep or ditch your blog?

To claim your free copy, inside the book, next to the CommuniCATE Resources for Writers blog link, there is a code. Buy the book, find the code (it’s easy, it’s in the first few pages) and email me. I will send you a copy of the new book by email. Your email address will never be sold, compiled for mailing lists, or used in any other manner. So far it is not available on Amazon.




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

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

Cate's books for writers.

Cate’s books for writers.

Getting Your Characters Help! The Character Therapist

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

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

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


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

Need more help?

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

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

Some of the topics covered include:

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

Available in Kindle and pdf formats from this site:


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.


Inspiring Spaces Blog Hop: Share What Ignites Your Creativity

IMG_1194Writers have to write anywhere and anyhow, to get anything done! Few of us enjoy a proper office, some don’t even have the sole ownership of a desk. I write from the corner of my bedroom. It may not be fancy, but it works (kind of… most of the time). So when I visit blog’s like No Wasted Ink, I drool over the wonderful desks and rooms that Wendy Van Camp shares.

Drooling is often as good as it gets, but it doesn’t mean that I hate my space, or that it inhibits my creativity. I keep objects I love and need close by, including books which I can’t live without. I have my leather bridle and a pile of horse books for novel research; a fake Claymore sword is tucked away where it doesn’t scare the lady who helps me clean the place… a piece of Irish Connemara marble sits on a shelf (as I keep meaning to use it in The Dragon Tree and keep forgetting); I love many coloured pens and pencils so they have to be there and just now, I need the videos I am swatting over, to fix my solar system building problems. Alright, I have a whole heap of sentimental junk too. (Of course that’s the Millennium Falcon. You even had to ask me that?)

Authors who must be present include Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones); Julia Cameron (The Right to Write and The Sound of Paper); Stephen King’s On Writing; The Idiot’s Guide to Writing Well (fast reference); my Horderns Home Dictionary which some of you have met in olde word posts; books of quotations which are brilliant for kick starting short stories; The Writing Book, by Australian author Kate Grenville; NaNoWriMo’s book, Ready Set Novel; Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich and Elements of the Writing Craft by Robert Olmstead.

I’m curious, what do you have in your writing space? What do you need to have around you to get into the creative groove?

This is a blog hop. Any of you can grab the logo and kick off from your own blog as well. I am picking ten of my writing buddies (below), pick five or ten of your own and ask them:

~ where do they work and

~ what can’t they write without?

Inspire each other! Use photo, video, any medium desired, which will show off your muse’s playground. The purpose is to discover something in another blogger’s space that inspires you and to share the love around, so blogs are being seen by a new audience. Oh and please mention that the blog hop started here. (Thank you.) Happy hopping!



Tima Maria Lacoba, Jade Reyner, Ciara Ballintyne, Lauralynn Elliott, Shan Jeniah Burton, Kathy Owen, Judy Feather Stone, Karen McFarland, Ruth Nestvold and Skye Fairwin, tag, you’re it!

#Ebook Readability and White Space ~ Thoughts to Ponder

2014-06-09_13-48-28When readers are deciding whether or not to buy a book, it may not just be the cover which puts them off. Stephen King made a great point in “On Writing:” you can tell how hard a book will be to read, by how close together the text is set. Heavy duty stories are crammed in, lighter novels appear more airy. The white space (blank parts of the page), paragraph spacing and layout are telling.

Complex literary works or in-depth fantasy novels, can be almost as painful to wade through as a phone book. I’ve placed books back on the shelf for that reason. I have flicked through, gone cross-eyed and said, “too hard and too heavy.” With ebook example pages, your reader can reject your work the same way. However, there are tricks which make even long books appealing to a reader’s eyes. First let me show you a few examples of what I mean.

Exhibit A: short paragraphs on an A4 computer page, appear as long blocks in an epub or mobi novel.
There is little white space to give your eyes a break. I’ve started saving my files as epub and double checking readability to avoid this problem. A two space indent may not be enough. Shorter paragraphs can also assist.

Don’t forget, reading from a backlit device is different than reading a paper novel. The affects on your eyesight need to be taken into account. A headache means a book will be put down. You can change size, background colour and font in e-readers, but that won’t help you digest big blocks of text.



Exhibit B: An easier to read page, though, some readers may consider this style to be choppy. I have no trouble reading it and it’s a relief to my ageing eyes.


Which layout appeals to you more?
Which gives you a chance to raid the fridge, then re-find the spot where you left off?

Can you believe that both books are by the same author? Publishing Houses don’t necessarily ensure that each ebook is formatted the same way, not even within the same author’s catalogue. That gives us room to move with formatting, as we don’t need to fret about accepted styles. As long as your layout is clean and consistent, you should be able to adapt your own ebook style for practicality. (Though frankly, some sort of set standards would be helpful!)

Experiment as much as you can before you send your book into the Smashwords meatgrinder or upload your document to Amazon. I know you can’t control everything, but if you set your styles right in your document, you have a fighting chance at getting what you want in the final book.

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.