Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Red Writing Hood

One of the my favorite movies is The Brave Little Toaster (oh and this is Ericka by the way).  To pay homage to one of my favorites, I thought we'd write a short piece of prose (or a poem if you so choose) from the perspective of a broken inanimate object.  It doesn't necessarily have to be a toaster but it should most definitely be inanimate!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Cut me! (Ericka: that's a Rocky reference, FYI)

We are thrilled that so many of you want to join our Red Dress Blog. It's pretty exciting to have that kind of interest. More than 100 of you have applied. Which leads us to a problem: Blogger only allows 100 subscribers to a private blog. We have no idea why.

We're working on moving the blog to Wordpress but until we can do that, we will form a waiting list.

Which leads us to the beautiful drawing of us crafted by Ericka.

Here's the thing: you guys aren't really commenting on the pieces that are submitted. Now, some of you are diligent about it, but with 100 members? We should be getting at least 20-25 minimum.

We understand you're busy. We do. But if you're not an active member, we will cut you. MWAHAHAHA!

(insert high-pitched eee eee eee eee horror-movie sounds).

It's just that we have women who want to join, and if you're not participating? Well, we need to make room for those who do.

If you don't comment on a piece on The Red Dress Blog in the next two weeks, you might be cut. We'll try to make it as painless as possible. And once we get our WP site up and running, everyone who wants to will be able to join.

Thanks for your understanding and mostly, thanks so much for your interest and support of our little club.

***To clear up a little confusion. This post is in reference ONLY to members of The Red Dress Blog, the password-protected blog where we post your submissions. It is not for any of the link-ups or for the Red Writing Hood meme.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Weekend linkup

Hey - the weekend's not over yet! Right? RIGHT?!?!

Ahem. Sorry for the delay. Please link up a fave post of yours. Then go read everyone else's.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Writer's Anxiety

I suffer from it.  A lot.

Take for instance this week.  I'm dealing with weaning a teething child who is enduring the worse case of diaper rash she's ever had while my mom (who babysits Ava while I write) is out of town.  And I have an incredible wealth of ideas swimming through my head like clumsy, wayward fish. 


Needless to say, my minutes are precious and are often occupied by feeding my orangutan, er, daughter a countless number of bananas and cleaning up "accidents" while my baby and her diaper-rashed derriere go diaper free.  In the mean time my mind is feeding my fish, concocting bits and snippets of story line to add to my poor, neglected manuscript.

And the anxiety is building.

Not being able to write is, for a writer, a lot like not being able to pee for the average human being.  Okay, I admit writing takes a tad more skill (although I'm sure we've all read our fair share of piss poor writing.  Ba-dum-dum), but the insatiable craving to relieve one's self on paper burns much the same.  I am incredibly sorry for the analogy.

Fortunately, there are ways to cure our anxiety short of grabbing the nearest bottle of Vicodin:

  1. Jot down notes.  Construct a necklace of post-its, scribble on your arms until they turn black, smash an unused tube of lipstick against your bathroom sink.  Whatever it takes make sure your ideas aren't just bouncing of the walls of your head.  If you can't take a break to write, you can at least take a moment to permanently archive your thoughts.
  2. Read.  "If I don't have time to write, how do I have time to read?", you ask.  Well, if there's a will there's a way, and I for one have a very big will.  For example, it's hard to read with a little one so whenever I take Ava to play dates or when my mom babysits and I have somewhere to be, I arrive ten to fifteen minutes in advance and read in my car.  Ava loves the car seat and is usually napping in it so I get a few minutes of peace and quiet that I put to use.  And of course, there's always the crapper (you know you were thinking it).
  3. Keep the TV on in the background.  I like to keep mornings to mid-afternoons TV free, but early evenings I put on the TV while I cook and take note of characters - their mannerisms, names, dress, etc. - and situations.  It opens my mind to new possibilities in my own manuscript.  
It's not a long list but it helps a little and will hopefully keep you occupied until your next writing jaunt.  And if nothing else you've witnessed the various ways I can bring defecation into any sort of topic.

How do you cure writer's anxiety?



Wednesday, August 25, 2010

How 'bout a contest?

We'd really like to get to know all of you better. So we've decided to try something new.

Everyone who links up Friday for the Red Writing Hood will be eligible. We'll randomly pick a post, and that blogger will be featured the following Wednesday. We'll do a little Q & A, link to your blog, etc.

Sound good?

So make sure you link up Friday! And, as always, we can't wait to see what you come up with!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Red Writing Hood

This week's prompt for Red Writing Hood is based on dramatic entrance, courtesy of Webook.  Write a short story based on this prompt:

An art opening at a lavish downtown gallery. A car crashes through the plate glass window. The driver's door opens, and an eight-year-old girl steps out.

We're looking forward to seeing how everyone handles the same exact opening!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Writer's block

Finally, quiet.

The kids are either in bed or at school or quietly occupied. Dishes are all clean and put away. Same goes for laundry.

You sit down at your computer. You are ready. Ready to write.

And then?


You got nothing. You're stuck and for the life of you, you can't figure out what comes next. You resist the urge to get on Twitter or Facebook or the dreaded Google Reader.

Because it's your time to add to the novel you've been working on for awhile now. It's your time, and you may as well have completely forgotten what that thing with the buttons with letters and numbers on it in front of you is for.

Writer's block.

You have a bad case of it. What should you do?

1. Silence your inner critic. Not everything you write has to be a masterpiece. The fact you're sitting down and getting stuff down? Is an accomplishment to be proud of. Don't get caught up in that voice telling you it's not good enough. You can always go back later and edit or rewrite, and you never know where the "awful" stuff might lead.

2. It's your job. That's right. If you were at an office getting paid for this, would you really be on TMZ reading about the Kardashians? No. No you wouldn't. You'd be filling your time with work. And in your case, that would be writing. So approach your writing session that way. This is your job. So turn off the interwebz and quiet those distractions.

3. Get up. Yes, yes, I know I just told you to sit down and get to work, no matter what comes out. But sometimes? You just need a breath of fresh air. Even if it's out to your mailbox and back. Set a time limit and stick to it.

4. Change of scenery. If you're writing on your laptop or netbook, why not move it to a different room in your house? Or, if possible, take the show on the road, possibly going to a local coffeehouse or library or even a park. Or even shut down the computer and go old school with a pen and notebook. It might inspire you.

5. Writing exercises. Challenge yourself to do an exercise. There are tons just a quick Google search away. Or, of course, check out our very own Red Writing Hood for some ideas. Try something quick that will get your mind going in a different direction.

6. Start at the middle. Maybe you're stuck somewhere near the beginning of your novel. Why not pick up with something that happens later on? Or maybe there's a part that you're really excited about - write it. You can decide how it'll all fit in later.

7. Set a schedule and deadlines. You might not have a certain time each day reserved for writing, but if you can swing it, try it. Knowing you'll have that time will condition you to be ready to go. Also, set certain deadlines for things you want to accomplish. Have a writer friend hold you accountable - and hold him or her accountable for his/her deadline, too.

8. Remind yourself why you're writing. You know, remember when you had a great idea and you couldn't wait to get started? And now you've started, and you're rolling - until suddenly it screeches to a halt. Think back to those heady days of deciding you're going to write. Remember and try to recapture it.

9. What else is going on? Is there something going on that's deeper than just a little writer's block? Maybe you're having anxiety about the subject matter. Maybe it's stirring old memories for you that you'd rather not delve into. Or maybe there's simply too much going on in your personal life. Ask yourself if something is holding you back.

10. Take a break. Did you just finish a project? Take some time to regroup and relax. Or have you finally completed a particularly grueling re-write of a few sections? Maybe a day or two off will refresh you.

How do you handle writer's block? Add your suggestions!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Link Up - Your Best-Written Posts

Happy weekend! Time to link up your favorite posts.

Just a note: if you have emailed about joining The Red Dress Blog and have not heard from us, please email again. Some of you who we have emailed the official permission to access the blog have not yet accepted, so we want to make sure you have received it.

Okay. Can't wait to read your links!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Red Writing Hood

Time to link up! Can't wait to read how you wrote a first-person piece describing taking a shower or eating a dinner - without using a personal pronoun.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Red Writing Hood

Last week we worked on dialogue. This week? It's all about description. Your assignment: write a first-person piece about either eating your favorite food or taking a shower - without using a personal pronoun.

Can't wait to see what you all come up with!

Monday, August 16, 2010

What color is your genre?

I got the rare chance to have alone time with my Kindle last week when I flew to and from New York City for BlogHer.

No kids. No responsibilities. Just sitting on a plane with nothing to do but read. 

Before I left, I had to download some books. I chose Lift by Kelly Corrigan and Lit by Mary Karr (I didn't notice til just now how those titles are one letter apart. Coincidence?). I have read other books by both authors before, and Corrigan's Middle Place is one of my all-time favorite books. Thing is, these books are memoirs. Another of my favorite books ever is also a memoir, Blackbird by Jennifer Lauck.

I am attracted to these books because, foremost, they are great stories written by tremendous authors. That they are true either plays to my voyeuristic tendencies or to my journalistic ones, as I always loved to find out the real stories of the athletes I covered.

Why am I telling you this?

I'm trying to figure out what genre of novel I'd like to write. And since my life isn't a thrill a minute and my childhood didn't involve anything horrific to overcome, I'm thinking memoir isn't going to work for me.

And the thing about writing a novel is you need to know what genre it is. Because eventually, you'll want to sell this bad boy, and your prospective publisher is going to want to know how to market.

Here are some of the most common genres, in no particular order:

1) Romance
2) Science Fiction
3) Mystery
4) Western
5) Horror
6) Men's adventure
7) Memoir
8) Fantasy
9) Gay/lesbian
10) Erotica
11) Young adult
12) Mainstream (which will have elements of another genre(s) but will be something that will have mass appeal)

So how do you know which genre you should attempt?

Figure out what type of books you like to read. If you're always picking up Kate Grafton's newest letter novel, you might want to try mystery. If it's Sophie Kinsella, maybe chick lit is your game. This is not to say you can't do something else, but if you're drawn to something, it's likely because you have a passion for it. And passion goes a long way in making your story come to life.

You will also obviously be more familiar with it than with other genres.

And you should continue to read, read, read. Examine what your favorite authors do. Decide what works and what doesn't in terms of the genre.

All novels start with an idea. Let's say a woman meets a man she likes but he's involved with someone else. Romance, right? Not necessarily. Maybe the man is a fugitive and he's on the run - and he kidnaps her. Now it's adventure. Or maybe the man is really a three-headed alien and he's involved with a giant space worm. Now it's sci-fi.

A great idea is a great idea. It's up to you to decide into what genre it fits. Clearly, I have some work to do to figure out what's right for me.

What genre does your novel (or novel-to-be) fit? Do you struggle at all with choosing a genre or is it a no-brainer? 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Link Up - Your Best-Written Posts

Hi everyone! Hope you're having a great weekend. We've added a newsletter subscription to our private blog so you can be informed of whose submission is posted when. Be sure to subscribe if you're a private member. Also, we've decided to have you email us directly when joining the private blog, submitting work, and submitting your writers bios instead of using the contact forms.

Also, there is a new submission up on The Red Dress Blog, so if you're a member, please check it out!

Thanks and we're looking forward to reading your best written posts!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Red Writing Hood

Time to link up! Share your piece of short fiction featuring the dialogue between two people arguing.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

How to Write a Query Letter

Joann's guest post got me thinking: I've written a number of query letters in my small stint as a writer.  I actually think I'm pretty decent at it considering many publishers and writers have asked to see my work.  It's the whole getting them to publish me that's quite a head scratcher.

But I believe a cleanly written, professional sounding query letter is one of the most important tools in a writer's arsenal.  An agent wants to represent someone who is not only talented but has a good sense for business and is willing to put forth the effort needed to sell a story.  So here are the components I find helpful when composing this type of letter:

  1. Address your query letter to a particular agent.  Know this agent's background and be sure your work fits the particular genre or genres he or she represents.  You should be able to find this information on the agency's website.
  2. Your opening line, also known as the "hook", summarizes the crux of your story and does exactly what it sounds like: hooks your reader (in this case your potential agent) right off the bat.  At the end of this line, include your novel's word count and its literary genre.
  3. Next, you want to feature a mini-synopsis of your work in a single paragraph.  Think about the back flap of one of your favorite books and see if you can translate your work to this type of format.
  4. Add your writer's bio.  It's easy to get carried away at this point because a lot of us think more is better but its crucial to include aspects of your career that pertain solely to writing.  Educational references, previously published works and literary contests you've entered and/or won are worth mentioning.
  5. Finish with your closing paragraph.  I like to keep this part short and sweet but do make sure to include the following: mention if you're sending out multiple submissions (and, of course, check beforehand to make sure the agency you're querying allows this), thank your agent for taking the time to read your work and lastly, mention if you've included any sample chapters, and if not, make sure the agent knows your manuscript is available upon request.  
 I can't guarantee your work will be published but I do know you'll be respected as a courteous and mindful writer if you're willing to write a a courteous and mindful query letter.   Good luck!


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Red Writing Hood

For Friday's meme, we'd like to work on dialogue. Craft a piece of short fiction featuring the dialogue between two people arguing. Focus more on the spoken language and less on setting details. Think "Hills Like White Elephants" by Hemingway.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Guest Poster: Joann Mannix

First of all, I’d like to thank Cheryl and Ericka for the privilege of being here today.

Hi, Red Dress Writers! My name is Joann Mannix and I have a blog called Laundry Hurts My Feelings where I cover everything from the writing of my very first novel to my thong-stealing daughters. And for the record, my daughters aren’t juvenile delinquents or anything. They’re stealing the thongs from me, which I know is super gross and probably something I shouldn’t share with the Internet, but I’ve always been an oversharer. Sorry.

I was incredibly honored when Cheryl asked me to guest post at The Red Dress Club, but my first reaction was, “Wha? You want me? You want the unpublished writer to talk about writing a novel?”

After I got over the initial shock, I realized that my journey, although still at its beginning, just might be worth telling. I have learned so much throughout this process. And so, with my humble unpublished writer’s heart, I would like to offer up my advice for anyone thinking of writing a novel.

When I decided to write a novel, I did exactly that. I just started writing.

This was the biggest mistake any writer could ever make. Big. Huge. Obese. And if there is one thing I hope you carry away from this, it is to always do your homework first.

There is a great wide world web out there, chock full of information on how to write a novel. Use it for the good. Examine the different types of genres and decide where your story will fit in the literary world. Learn what the publisher’s market deems to be a marketable word count and aim for that number when you write. Study the process that takes an unpublished novel to publication. Learn. Study. Read. Subscribe to agent blogs and writer blogs. Information is one of a hopeful writer’s biggest allies.

My favorite agent blog, hands down, is Nathan Bransford's blog. Nathan is not only a very successful agent, he is one of the most generous people out there in the literary world, offering up freely his advice to all hopeful writers. His blog is filled with information, links, advice and contests. And it doesn’t hurt that he looks like a California surfer boy, if you know what I’m sayin’.

There are a bevy of others out there— blogs, writer forums, author pages and if you need someone to point you in the right direction, please contact me. I could fill up a page with just helpful links alone.

Which leads me to my next bit of advice— this writing community is one of the most gracious, generous places I’ve ever found. Writers, for the most part, do not hesitate to hold out a hand to other writers. I’ve been astonished, really, at the kindheartedness I’ve found throughout the writing community. Even bestselling authors will quite often answer your question or point you in the right direction. Don’t be afraid or intimidated to reach out. Comment on writer and agent blogs. If you love a book you’ve read, write a good review for that author on Amazon. Trust me, every writer appreciates support and a good review. It’s a great way to introduce yourself to an author. Make yourself known. The more contacts you make, the better your chances are of getting your book in the right hands.

And most importantly of all, study your craft. A good writer never stops trying to hone her craft.

A great way to keep you on your writing toes is to read. Read constantly. Read authors who inspire you. And here’s the part where, if you’ve never read my blog, you will now realize I am a freak of humongous proportions. I know I’ve read a great book when I kiss the book when I’m finished because the words were just that glorious. Joan Didion does that to me. Her writing is so beyond stellar, I feel like I become a better writer, just by soaking in her spellbinding words.

And in that same note, read books on the art of writing. One of my favorites is Stephen King’s, On Writing. It is a plainspoken, straight to the guts schooling on how to write. Almost everything you need to write a novel is there in Stephen’s part memoir, part instructional book.

And if you haven’t by now, start a blog, join Facebook and Twitter. Social network every way you can. Not only will you establish contacts, you will also be building yourself a reading audience. Talk to your readers about your novel, how the words are coming and in the meantime, give them a show. Let them see through your everyday posts how you will dazzle them with your writing brilliance when the big day comes. And when that big day does hopefully come, you will already have this built in marketing network.

And when you’ve done all that, Go.

Write hard. Write well. Write like it is your job, which it is. Dig into the recesses of you heart and when you think you can’t go any deeper, go further to find the right words. On the days that I was really in the midst of my writing, I would find myself in this daze. The world would fall away as I molded my story. There were many days, I would have to set my alarm in order to remember to pick up the kids from school. Those are and will always be the greatest kind of writing days.

Here’s another lesson — I’ve learned the hard way that if you’re serious about this, you must, must make it a top priority. I didn’t for the longest time and if I could have a do-over, I would treat it with the vigilance it deserves.

Towards the end, when I began to understand, the amount of sweat and diligence it would take to really accomplish this, I sat my 3 daughters, my husband and our moronic pack of dogs down, (long story, but trust me when I say I have no Lassies in my house), and informed them I needed a stretch of time to call my own, every single day. I needed quiet and space and no pressure. And those gorgeous loves of mine, did just that. I won’t lie and say it was all peaches and cream. There were meltdowns on the days I couldn’t find my niche of time. There were solid blocks of frustrating days. But along the way, we all learned that “Momma is writing”, means unless the house is on fire or someone is bleeding and it better be profusely, that she is not to be disturbed. There are more dust bunnies and dirty dishes these days. And sadly, I have what is now called a writer’s ass, a malady that falls upon all of us who sit and let the words roll out for hours at a time. My family has given me that, (not the ass but the time and freedom to do this) and because of them, I have written a book— a very good book, I think.

And after you’ve written your own book, pass it out. Pass it out to your most trustworthy friends and peers. Hand it to the people you are certain will give you real truths. Ask them to tell you what works and what doesn’t. And don’t be offended by any of their critiques. I have learned to welcome advice. My fragile, papery writer’s heart is now more like a Shamwow. It can handle the critiques, because I know my novel is always better for it. But having said that, trust your instinct and your voice first. And keep your writer instinct strong, you will need it.

And one more valuable thing you can do for yourself. Find a critique partner or a critique group. I have had the great fortune of snagging a critique partner, another writer who, beginning next week, will read my novel with her expert eye. I am going to do the same for her. Fate brought us together via our blogs and so now, we will hold hands and help each other through this part of our writer’s journey.

I am about to step out on that very steep, scary cliff of shopping my novel out to literary agents. I’ve written a query, which is another post for another day, if Cheryl and Ericka are foolish enough to ever have me back. But we won’t speak of queries today, for queries are ungodly. And that’s all I’m going to say about that right now.

What I will say is that to write a novel has been one of the most joyous, fulfilling times of my life. It takes diligence and hard, hard work, a strong and steady heart and all the support you can find, but every single moment of it is absolutely worth it, when you put those 2 magical words to your novel—The End. There is nothing like that finish line to feel like a writing champion.

I’d like to end this today, not with my words, but the words of one of my most precious writer friends, Amy Shouse. Amy writes under the pen name of Cupcake Murphy on her fabulous blog, Odd, Good, True —A Deeply Profound Kind Of Shallow. Amy is also a published poet with a book of poetry that never ceases to amaze me every time I breathe in her words. Amy said this to me, one time, and I think it just sums up everything there is to be said about writing: “Writing is just the most beloved, holy endeavor.”

I wish all of you safe and wondrous journeys on your holy endeavor.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Link Up - Your Best Written Posts

Hi everyone! Hope you're having a great weekend. We've added a newsletter subscription to our private blog so you can be informed of whose submission is posted when. Be sure to subscribe if you're a private member. Also, we've decided to have you email us directly when joining the private blog, submitting work, and submitting your writers bios instead of using the contact forms. Thank you guys and we're looking forward to reading your best written posts!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Red Writing Hood

Let's see your narrative poems featuring a family of your choosing!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Words Hurt

Authorial license.  I claim it often because it makes me seem like a big shot and why wouldn't I have a right to claim other people's stories, histories, emotions and memories as my own?  I haven't scaled a mountain but why should that mean I can't pen a short story about it?

However, whether we want to admit it or not there are boundaries.  I think we forget that sometimes, at least I have in the past.  I often view myself as the silent voyeur, someone who's removed from the situation and is simply present to observe and take note of it.  But when that situation is closely linked to your family, your friends, really anyone you know and respect, you have to decide if your license has expired.

Words hurt.  People can quickly take them out of context or take them exactly the way you deliver them.  Suddenly you're no longer the talented writer but the exploitative a-hole who used to have friends.  It's important to take this in consideration before sending work out for contests or to publishers.

I'm not one for censoring but sometimes a little discretion goes a long way.

How do you discern between a creative piece and one that may be exploitative?  Have you've ever had to deal with offending a friend or family member with something you've written?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Red Writing Hood

This week we're going to switch gears and write a little poetry. Writing poetry helps us work on cadence and rhythm which can make for better fiction.  So by flexing our poetry muscles, we can in turn create more fluid fictional pieces.  Please write a narrative poem that focuses on the workings of a family, whether it be your own or one that you've created from scratch.  Good luck!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Got Notebook?

If you are a member of The Red Dress Blog, please make sure to comment on the submissions. It takes a lot to let yourself be critiqued, so please give your support. New submissions are up every Tuesday and Friday, and we need more!

Do you journal?

Do you open a notebook and fill the pages with whatever comes to mind? Maybe you started as a child and it's just something you do, like brushing your teeth.

Or maybe you hate journaling and you'd rather, well, pull your teeth out.

I came across an interesting post on the topic by Janice Erlbaum, author of the memoirs Girlbomb and Have You Found Her. Erlbaum says about journaling:

"The stuff you write in your notebook is not something that's going to be published someday. It's not something you're going to read out loud. It's the shit that's in the way between you and your deeper ideas."

I think that is so true. It's like getting rid of the static so you can hear the station loud and clear. Like when your kids finally stop whining/crying/bickering and they fall asleep, leaving you to think a full thought.

She also talks about keeping a little notebook with you and taking it out - instead of your iPhone - and making notes on the scene. You can jot down details about the room you're in, the sound, the lighting, the people - whatever you see.

This is something I never do. And I think it shows in my writing. I'm not great a setting a scene. I'm "subtle" to the point of using no description. It's something I know I have to get better with and I'm going to get myself a little notebook (I'm sure BlogHer will be fertile ground for interesting characters) and start.

So, of course, I'm wondering what YOU think. Do you journal? Do you carry a notebook? If so, is it helpful in your fiction writing?