Friday, July 29, 2011

Weekend linkup

It's time to link up a favorite post you've written. It's a great way to meet new bloggers and find amazing writers.

Try to visit as many as you can, or at least the one in front and behind you.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Red Writing Hood - Rewrite

This week's hosts, Nancy and Erin have tasked you with revisiting an old post and reworking it.

They invited you to...

Go back in the archives and pick a fiction or nonfiction piece. Perhaps something you posted on your blog, or an old Red Dress Club prompt? Find something that you're proud of, but something you haven't read for awhile. Do a complete overhaul.

Or, kill your babies, as Nancy put it.

Okay, let's see what you came up with.

Please only link up if you have done the prompt.


This week, Erin and Nancy have the following RemembeRED prompt for you...

Everyone remembers that first inspiration or mentor in their lives that made them want to be or do something in their lives, whether you actually followed through with it or not. Tell us about that inspiration/mentor. How did they affect or change your life!

Let's keep your posts to 500 words or less.

Please come back on Tuesday, August 2nd to link up.


I am not a writer, but I play one on The Red Dress Club. And I am honored to be asked to participate in the “Summer of You.”

When I was in college, I had no reason to take any English classes as my major was Psychology. So they offered me a way out of English. A two-hour test, an impromptu subject to write on. Not to prove your knowledge on that subject but to prove that you could, in fact, write, and that you did, indeed, have a good basis of what the English language was and how to use it.

My “prompt” was censorship in music. I thought briefly, just the tiniest of moments of how to attack this. And I began to write. It didn’t matter what I wrote, if I wrote about how great censorship was or how horrible it was. As long as I wrote a 5 paragraph essay. Take myself back to the basics. My mind said to me K.I.S.S. “Keep It Simple Stupid.” And I passed with flying colors. The grader left notes stating it’s been a long time since he had seen such a perfectly written 5 paragraph essay.

Writing doesn’t have to be hard. A 5 paragraph essay is just that easy. And writing is just that easy. It’s when my brain gets in the way that makes it complex. I do it all the time. I am self conscious of my writings as I have been told I have the gift of the depressed word.

I’ve always heard “write about what you know,” so I write things that happen in my life, and I dive so deeply into my words and my experiences that they come from a deep, heartfelt, and sometimes dark place. And those pieces come out fantastic but they make people cry or think “how sad” or “how depressing.”

So my brain gets in the way and makes it all complex as I try to come up with something upbeat, something funny, something, not so depressing. And those pieces, come out as forced and not me.

So I am learning that going back to basics and keeping things simple, helps in creating a masterpiece in my own mind. I don’t need to write a 5 paragraph essay for every prompt, I don’t even need to write on every prompt, but when I keep things simple, it flows.

It’s when I don’t think when I have some of my greatest successes. Go figure!

Today's guest post is from Erin, of My Little Miracles.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Rumor

I am in pain. Not today. But I was. And tomorrow? Maybe.

Pain can be my worst enemy. But more often, it’s where my words are conceived. It’s the feeling that sucks the life out of me, yet gives life to my page. For a split second, the pain will make me want to fall asleep forever, but fortunately, in my heart I am writer. And as a writer, the rush and urgency to tell the story is always stronger than the pain.

The problem with writing out of pain is that sharing it can be ugly. Will I hurt someone? Will exposing this cause heartache? Is this crossing the line? In my experience, the answer is usually always “yes.”

Most often, those are the stories I keep to myself. Those pieces are password protected on my laptop or tucked messily in an unraveling notebook in my drawer. I want to share them, but I never do.

It’s those stories that tell my story. They are the stories I’m most proud of. Those stories bring me to tears and from those tears, I find a rhythm and cadence and diction to write from my gut. As a writer, we take risks, right? We share our most vulnerable selves. We expose the unexposed. We are constantly unearthing our own emotions, and striving to make a connection to our readers.

Writing about pain is a risk. Today, I’d like to take that risk with you.

A Rumor

I heard a rumor that he’d died.

I heard he’d slipped from a high platform used to service the massive Boeing 747’s he’d been maintaining for years. He’d fallen. He’d died.

The details were sketchy and were delivered to me long before I knew how to search for specifics on the world wide web.

This news didn’t make me sad; It didn’t even derail my day. I felt small pangs of regret cloaked in large sighs of relief.

I didn’t know him anymore, and honestly, I didn’t care to. He was my father, but for the last three years, he’d been my enemy.

My parents split in a bitter divorce spurred by illness and neglect and depression and lies. Everyone was left feeling cheated and betrayed and accusatory – and alone. Without question or explanation, my allegiance to my mother was rock solid and unapologetic. I spent the next six years hating every fiber of my father, so when I heard of his death, I exhaled.

Eventually, the rumor was dispelled. He was alive, and I found myself holding my breath again. His alleged death had rid me of the guilt I felt for hating him and had promised that I’d never have to look him in the eyes to explain why I’d abandoned him.

Several years later, I found myself meeting him for dinner. It was our first voluntary face to face encounter in nearly seven years, and in that time, my bitterness and hatred had only multiplied. I’d graduated from High School. My life had changed. The alliance with my mother had been damaged. I was poor, entitled, and lost.

I’d asked for this meeting because I was looking for payment. I’d been suffering, and I wanted compensation. I wanted him to show me he was sorry for what he’d done. I wanted him to apologize for what he’d not done. I wanted him to feel remorseful for missing plays and track meets and graduations. I wanted him to regret being stubborn and never giving in to my mother’s demands. I wanted him to convince me that he was willing to do anything to repair our relationship.

I wanted him to buy me a car.

I was going to lie. I was going to say what he wanted to hear. I was going to manipulate him. Use him. Hurt him. I was going to play this game until I got what I deserved. Until he paid.

Then I saw him, sitting in a large booth in a dimly lit restaurant, waiting for me. Waiting for his daughter.

As I approached him, I was flooded with memories. Memories from before his depression, from before the divorce. With every step, images of my childhood blanketed my calloused heart. I felt his hands on the small of my back, teaching my tiny body to do back handsprings and glide kips. I saw his gentle eyes urging me to tease my mother while we played Uno. I heard his voice sing “Ja, Ja, Ja, Jenni and the Jets”, and I smelled the Zest soap that danced in my nose when he hugged me goodbye each morning.

I tried to force those thoughts away as I slid into the booth opposite him. He was noticeably nervous and noticeably clean shaven. We spent the next hour discussing things I will never remember. Small talk. Surface talk. Things that neither one of us cared about.

His eyes were my eyes. I’d forgotten that. Or, maybe I’d never noticed before? He looked at me in a way no one ever had. Interested. Proud. Unconditional.

I spent the entire dinner trying to make sense of all the things that had gone wrong.

I thought of his mistakes and the mistakes of my mother.

I thought of all the hateful things he’d said to me, and all the hateful things I’d screamed at him.

I thought of all the times I’d wished he’d leave me alone and all the times I’d wished he’d been there.

I thought of being eleven and feeling justified and scared and angry and sad.

But mostly, I thought of how different things should have been.

My guard slowly dissipated as we spent many dinners getting reacquainted. In time, I began to love him. Again. I never asked him to buy me a car. I no longer needed compensation. I had it.

And every single day, I am grateful the rumor had been untrue.

Today's lovely post is from Jen, of Jen Has a Pen. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook.

Red Writing Hood

This week, Nancy and Erin have the following Red Writing Hood prompt for you and we think that this one is going to be fun!

Revision is about looking at a piece with a new-vision. Sometimes, it's about sprucing up the trim, but sometimes it's about knocking down walls. That's today's challenge. Go back in the archives and pick a fiction or nonfiction piece. Perhaps something you posted on your blog, or an old Red Dress Club prompt? Find something that you're proud of, but something you haven't read for awhile. Do a complete overhaul. Change the point of view. Write it from a different perspective. Try dialogue. Make it a narrative. Play with tense or organizational structure. You know, kill those babies.

Oh, and by the way? Trim it down to 400 words or less.

Come back on Friday, July 29th and link up!

Monday, July 25, 2011

RemembeRED - Lesson learned

This week's prompt, from Angela and Galit, asked us to write a post that either starts or ends with the words "Lesson learned."

We're looking forward to seeing what you've come up with.

Cheryl wrote about her daughter in The deep end.

Katie wrote about her son's hair in Still my Boy.

Please, only link up if you've done the prompt!

Try to comment on as many as possible, or at least the one in front of you and behind you.

Boogers Are Hilarious: Show Not Tell

This week, Nancy and Erin are our lovely hosts for the Summer of You.

Nancy is up first with some great words of writing wisdom...


Writing teachers and gurus throw out the phrase “show not tell” so often that it has become a cliche. What does it mean, anyway?

When I taught middle school, high school, and community college, I used the shorthand SNOT as an acronym for “Show Not Tell” because boogers are hilarious. I will do the same here, because inside all of us is a thirteen year-old with an affinity for bodily functions. Am I right?

Telling in writing is when the author uses words to explain how the reader is supposed to feel or react. It’s a method of control. When you tell in your writing, you’re saying, “I don’t trust that you will get this. I believe that you are stupid and I will therefore spell it out.” Not only is it incredibly boring to read, it is also insulting to your reader.

Showing in writing means that you are entering a relationship with your reader. It’s saying, “I trust that you are smart enough to see nuance. We’re on this ride together. Hold on.”

Think about the books or films that have lingered–the ones that you talk about over coffee or find yourself deconstructing before you drift off to sleep. Those are the stories that have trusted you enough to show instead of tell.

So, what does SNOT look like?

Here’s a classic tell: It was a miserably hot day.

To change this to a show, you can do several things.

1. Use body language: She fanned herself with a paper plate.

2. Use vivid, sensory detail: She fanned herself with a paper plate. She licked her lips, and tasted the salt.

3. Use active verbs: She fanned herself with a paper plate. She licked her lips, and tasted the salt. With a sigh, she lumbered to the cooler for another beer.

4, Add dialogue: She fanned herself with a paper plate. She licked her lips, and tasted the salt. With a sigh, she lumbered to the cooler for another beer. “If he thinks I’m cooking dinner tonight,” she said, “He better think again.” She emptied the bottle in two swift gulps.

I am by no means saying this is incredible writing, but it does so much more than explain the weather. It jumps right into the characterization, skipping the set-up and all the clutter. Through this passage we know that she likes her beer, that she may be heavy, and that there is some conflict with her spouse/boyfriend/partner. And yes, we know it’s hot.

A further note. Try to avoid adverbs. Yes, they aren’t evil, but they are often the lazy way to express something. For example, listen to this with added adverbs.

She slowly fanned herself with a paper plate. She licked her lips, and tasted the salt. With a sigh, she clumsily lumbered to the cooler for another beer. “If he thinks I’m cooking dinner tonight,” she said to herself, “He better think again.” She greedily emptied the bottle in two swift gulps.

Do you note how it adds clutter? It’s not necessary or interesting to state that she was fanning slowly. Isn’t that how you normally fan? Likewise, the clumsily is redundant and takes away the power of the active verb lumbered.

In short, if you want to trim the fat, the easiest place to start is with adverbs. And if you wish to write frugally, but with great impact, then reach into those deep, dark places, and pull out the SNOT.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Weekend linkup

It's time to link up a favorite post you've written. It's a great way to meet new bloggers and find amazing writers.

Try to visit as many as you can, or at least the one in front and behind you.

Red Writing Hood - Cameras

Time to link up your Red Writing Hood post!

This week Galit and Angela asked you to write a short fiction or non based on the following picture:

You were only allowed 400 words or fewer.

Could you handle it?

Cheryl wrote a fiction piece: Other people's lives.

Only link up if you did the prompt, please...and happy reading!



Here are Angela and Galit again with your RemembeRED prompt for this weekend!

Angela and Galit were both teachers in their pre-Mom lives. When we made that connection so many words popped into our heads:
What we finally landed on? Is this:
Write a post that either starts or ends with the words "Lesson learned." Word limit: 400 words. 

They are being super strict with word limit this week...can you handle the challenge?

Come back to link up on Tuesday!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Details, Details

As writers we’re always on the search for the perfect amount of detail.

Too much, and its a tedious read.

Too little, and our readers won’t have a clue what the heck we’re talking about.

Or will they?

In On Writing, Stephen King says that with strong word choices and a firm grasp of what’s important for the reader to see, a writer can, indeed, convey their point, message, beauty, horror, whatever really, with just a few words.

Consider King's example:

Look- here’s a table covered with a red cloth. On it is a cage the size of a small fish aquarium. In the cage is a white rabbit with a pink nose and pink-rimmed eyes. In its front paws is a carrot-stub upon which it is contentedly munching. On its back, clearly marked in blue ink, is the numeral 8.

Are you wondering if we’re seeing the same thing? Stephen King says that besides a few subtle variances, we are.

Not so sure about that? You can play this game with your husband. Or your best friend. Or your children. They won’t mind, I promise.

King’s point is that we might be seeing varying shades of red. You might be remembering your pet rabbit while I, however, am not. But that blue ink 8 on the rabbit’s back? Oh yeah baby, we all see that.

And that’s what matters, right?

Trust your reader to use your gorgeous, succinct, tight word choices to paint their picture. Lead their eye, mind, heart only to what's important to your story; what pushes it forward.

King says, "Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s." I keep that in my pocket while I write.

The other tool that I keep in there?

Is blueberries.

Yes, blueberries.

Forever and a day ago I read this sweet piece by Nichole.

Whole wheat toast and perfectly plump blueberries.
“Where is Thumbkin, where is Thumbkin? Here I am!”
Markers and stickers and practicing K*A*T*I*E.
Dancing and twirling to Natalie Merchant.
More blocks.
Golden roast chicken with rosemary, thyme, and garlic.
Welcome home squeals and hugs.

And all these months later, the one detail that's still stuck in mind? Is those perfectly plump blueberries. So much so that I think about them every time I write.

Yes, every time.

When I edit I plan which one or two or three items, moments, people I really want my reader to feel in their bones and carry with them.

And those are my blueberries.

The ones that I search for stronger words to describe, that I layer in senses and other character’s reactions to- the blue numeral 8, the perfectly plump go there.

And everything else? Can be described as red or white, a table or a cage. Your reader can decide how bright the white is or what the cage is made of- I promise.

Every night, I sit at my kitchen table mumbling my piece out loud. Jason walks by, rubs my back and asks, Looking for the blueberry?

And yes. I always am.

How about you? Have you written a post where The Blueberry stands out? Have you read someone else’s who has? Please leave a Blueberry Link below. I’d so love to read them. And keep them in my pocket.

Today's Guest Host, Galit, blogs at These Little Waves.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Young Writer

When I was in middle school I began to really like writing. I would scribble poetry onto my lined notebooks during history class or while waiting for choir rehearsal to start. I never knew if it was really any good I just knew I liked the words to flow out onto the paper. I was also happy when I was writing my feelings in my journal and I kept one all through my middle school and high school years and even into college, when I met my now husband.

As a school girl the only time my writing ever saw the light of day was in English class. I actually enjoyed writing essays for other classes as well as short stories, but at that time poetry was my primary avenue for writing.

On occasion we were encouraged to read a piece out loud to the class and I had a bit of an out-of-body experience one day as I raised my hand to volunteer. I usually just sat back and listened, never wanting to read my writing since I was too afraid of the critique and criticism I might receive. But I really liked this poem I had written and I felt compelled to share it.

Here is the poem I read:

The Car
A young housewife sends the kids off to school,
only to head the call of the liquor cabinet
While leisurely sitting on one of his lemons,
Is the convincing car salesman
Who in minutes will receive a call
telling him his mother has died,
and realizing he does have feelings,
he will quit his job

In the distance the faint bark of a
lonesome or hungry or cold dog
But does anyone hear him
Only the ragged woman who
Dangerously beats him-
He shall never bark again

Far away in the distance lies the
immensely wealthy gentleman
and his wife, by money, not love,
Delicately decorates her neck with a
Singles strand of pearls

Lastly, in a town of one thousand,
Sits the wife’s regretful parents
Today they celebrate their fiftieth
Wedding anniversary, without her
Together they rest on the loveseat,
Commenting on childhood pictures,
Wishing they knew her now

And two thousand miles away sits a
Rusty, broken-down `57 Chevy,
Driven by them all
And filled with the scents of
liquor, dirty deals, cheap perfume and chocolate chip cookies

I was flabbergasted as the room fell silent after I finished speaking the last line. It was like everyone was holding their breath. All I could think was that they hated it.

And then they all started to clap and holler.

I was floored.

Once the clapping was over my teacher spoke up. (this is the best I can recall what she said, of course it’s not verbatim)

“Elaine,” she said. “That was really good! I’m so proud of you for reading aloud. I mean, it was REALLY, really good!”

This was my junior year in high school and even after that experience I still kept my writing under wraps for the most part. Only my teachers saw my assignments. I was just never that comfortable with others reading what I wrote.

And now, years later, I discovered this place here, The Red Dress Club, and it feels really good to put my writing out there for you all to read. I mean, life is too short to sit on the sidelines and I know I can write, even if I’m not the most skillful or “best” writer out there, I’m proud of the words I put to paper (or screen in most cases these days).

Sometimes I think I was better as a “young writer” but I try not to focus on the past that much and remember that I still have many stories and poems inside of me now.

Do you feel like you wrote differently when you were younger? How do you feel your writing has evolved over the years? I’m curious to know…

Elaine blogs at The Miss Elaine-ous Life and can be found on twitter too!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

RemembeRED - Rhythm

This week's prompt asked us to write about a time that rhythm, or a lack thereof, played a role in your life. And don’t use the word “rhythm.”

Let's see how you did. Link up - but please, only if you've done the prompt! Try to comment on as many as possible, or at least the one in front of you and behind you.

Red Writing Hood

Angela and Galit are here today with your Red Writing Hood prompt...

Write a short fiction or non-fiction piece inspired by any or all of the photo below. Word limit: 400 words
  Come back and link up on Friday!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Letting Go of Fear

A lifetime ago, in advanced placement English, I wrote a compare and contrast paper on the feminist philosophies of Madonna and Gloria Steinem, complete with required quotes, properly cited and sealed with a kiss.

I received a high percent A, and my teacher, beloved enough that she influenced my future career choice, read my work aloud as a representation of an exemplary job.

I made up the entire thing.

Quotes, magazine articles, and the inner thoughts of celebrities were all fabrications of my own imagination.

Young and a little arrogant, I was able to turn in that travesty of an assignment because of my utter confidence in the words I put onto paper. I believed I could weave something out of nothing, something beautiful and believable.

Now I find myself hesitating over the publish button. I agonize over submitting posts to BlogHer in hopes of becoming syndicated. I quake at the thought of query letters or attempting to find freelance work or supposing that anyone would value my work enough to pay even a penny for my thoughts.

Before finding The Red Dress Club, I hadn’t let anyone read my writing in years.

Here, I’ve found support and encouragement and friends. I’m writing, stretching, editing, writing, reading, critiquing, writing, tentatively rebuilding my confidence.

Here, I’ve found writers who make my mascara run down my face in laughter and in tears, writers whose words leave me speechless in their beauty, writers who bring back that familiar fear: Why do YOU think you can do THAT?

Fear kept me from beginning this post. What could I possibly share about writing?

I can share that fear guarantees my work stays locked in my computer, unread and unpublished.

Fear hides my words from readers, readers whose eyes see the beauty and whose ears hear the dissonant, readers who push me when I am stalled and lonely and uncertain.

Fear sneers that I have wasted too many years burying my writing to try to bring it to light now, surrounded by the presence of better, more talented, refined writers.

Fear keeps me from being rejected three hundred and forty-one times, but it also keeps me from a single, glorious acceptance.

Fear convinces me that I am the only “writer” who feels this way.

Fear drives me to put writer in quotation marks.

Confronting that fear, shoving back, leaping over it is the only way I’ll have the chance to find out if writing as a career is even a possibility.

Overcoming that fear will allow me to think of myself as a writer – without the quotation marks.

I’m ready to offer up my written words for public consumption.

I’m ready to actively seek out freelance writing opportunities.

I’m ready to hear the countless “no thank yous” and the rejections implied by the silence of no response. Because without those, I’ll never hear a yes.

(And, regarding the falsified paper referenced at the beginning of this post? I faced karmic retribution in my sixth grade language arts job, when my students used Google, cut, and paste to really show me how to fabricate a paper.)

“It’s never too late to be who you might have been.” – George Eliot

Do you have yet unrealized aspirations for your writing? What is holding you back? Are you ready to move forward towards your goals?

Our guest host, Angela, blogs at Tiaras and Trucks.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Weekend linkup

It's time to link up a favorite post you've written. It's a great way to meet new bloggers and find amazing writers.

Try to visit as many as you can, or at least the one in front and behind you.


This prompt is brought to you by Natalie of Mama Track,

Your assignment this week is based on rhythm, which you can use to help entertain and engage your readers.

Let's make it more literal.

Write about a time that rhythm, or a lack thereof, played a role in your life. And don’t use the word “rhythm.”

Maybe it’s a time that you danced to a special song. Maybe it’s a period of your life during which the days were marked by a distinct pattern. Or maybe it’s a time that you couldn’t catch your breath because life just kept coming at your randomly.

It’s up to you.

Let’s see if you can convey that rhythm using your writing, and not the word itself. Word limit is 600. Come back here Tuesday and link up!

Red Writing Hood - Shoes

Kir's prompt for us this week asked us to write about a topic very near and dear to many of us: shoes.

You were to write about a pair of shoes of yours or your character's. They can be real or symbolic.

Cheryl wrote about what grown-up shoes really mean in Grown-up shoes.

Let's see how you did - link up ONLY if you have done the prompt!

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Today's post is from Natalie of Mama Track.


It’s crucial to writing.

I know, I know. It seems counterintuitive, right? We are attracted to writing because other forms of art, like music and dance, don’t appeal to us. Or, in my case, because we aren’t suited for them. In fact, if you ask my family, they would be hard pressed to name someone with less rhythm than I have.

But good writing, writing that captures the reader and pulls her in, is a very rhythmic thing.

Sometimes, we use rhythm to convey something to our readers. A short, staccato sentence can signal abruptness or a surprising twist, some kind of action that advances the plot. It makes the reader sit up and take notice.

On the other hand, a longer, more complex arrangement, with a parallel or comparative structure, can set the stage and provide a reader with critical background information. But if you try to use a complex sentence to convey a shocking development, something gets lost in the translation. The development is no longer quite so shocking—it’s just buried in a long sentence.

For instance:

“The rain battered the side of the house, and a bolt of lightning flashed across the sky. The lights flickered and went out. Then, from the depths of the basement, I heard a window shatter.”

“As I sat, listening to the rain fall and watching the lightening storm outside the window, the lights flickered, and the power went out; a moment later, I heard the sound of a basement windowing breaking.”

Both of these phrasings suggest the same thing—during a scary storm, the character thought someone might be breaking into her house—but the rhythm of the first helps advance the action and startle the reader. The second sentence almost reads as if the storm might have broken the window. It’s just not as frightening.

Rhythm can also reflect the action in the story. Think of swinging: back and forth, back and forth. We can use sentence structure to reflect that motion, to help our readers feel present in the action. Repetition works the same way—repeating something in a piece can help the readers see its import, its monotony or its very nature.

As authors, it’s up to us.

Dialogue is another place the rhythm has a role. Writing a conversation is challenging, in part because it’s hard to do in a way that feels authentic.

Some of the challenge is that conversation is generally full of rhythmic variations. A typical conversation includes short sentences, long sentences and interruptions. Capturing the randomness and the give and take is difficult.

One of the most effective uses of rhythm is to entertain. People get bored reading the same sentence structure over and over again. It’s not interesting. Their eyes glaze over, and their attention wanders. They might skip to the end of the paragraph and start reading the next one. Or worse—move on.

I’ve spent years drafting legal writing, and it’s boring, not (solely) because of the subject matter, but because of the way it’s presented. Long, complex sentences, one after the other, make people fall asleep. Conversely, stringing short, simple sentences together can create a “See Jane Run” feeling.

Combining a variety of structures makes the reader take notice and creates interest in what the author is actually saying.

For instance:

“I walked to the store. I bought some candy. Then I walked home.”

“I walked to the store, where I bought some candy; subsequently, I returned home, as I had finished my errands.”

“I walked to the store and bought some candy. Then, after my errands were finished, I walked home.”

These sentences say the exact same (boring)thing, but the third example’s construction is just more interesting. If you had an entire post of sentences like either the first or the second examples, readers wouldn’t be engaged. People notice things that are different than at what they have been looking.

The same can be said for paragraph structure. Be honest, don’t you groan a little when you open a book or a blog page and see nothing but a series of long paragraphs? Variety keeps people awake.

Finally, rhythm has a role in voice. That includes finding a rhythm that is ours — a cadence that reflects our speech and our thoughts. We each have our own voice when we speak; mirroring it in our writing helps readers identify a piece as ours.

That’s what makes rhythm so great. Everyone is unique, and there’s no wrong answer. So experiment and find what works for you, what accentuates your writing.

Read your piece aloud. Ensure that it has the flow and cadence you want. Check for balance, timing and awkwardness. Confirm that the rhythm enhances your story, rather than competes with it.

And, most of all, be creative and take risks. Have fun.

This is our chance - whether you can dance or (like me) not - we can all play around with rhythm.

What are some of the ways you like to use rhythm in writing? Are there any aspects that you think are particularly effective or ineffective? What techniques work best for you?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

For the love of writing

Today's post is from Ashley of LA Bird's Nest

I joined The Red Dress Club because I love writing. It’s as simple as that. But sometimes it feels as if love isn’t enough. It takes work and dedication as well as passion. Being passionate about writing means constantly working out those creative muscles by doing the very thing you love – writing.

Even when blogging burnout is scratching at your back or writer’s block is leaving you in agony over a blank page, I believe in writing. Writing doesn’t have to be all blog and no fun. It is times like these when we should write for the love of it. And a great way of writing for fun is through playing games.

Last semester I enrolled in a creative writing class through my local community college and one of the main things we did throughout the semester was play writing games. Each week we’d have a selection of games to choose from. We’d perform the game and then write about our experience in doing so. We weren’t obligated to turn in our writing or even create something from them. They were simply exercises to just get writing. And I found once I performed a writing game that I had more I wanted to write about. That’s what writing games are for – to generate ideas and keep the flow of writing.

Examples of writing games:

This writing game is based off one I performed in class out of the book The Cambridge Introduction to Creative Writing by David Morely: Pick up a book that you haven’t read. Close your eyes flip through the pages and point to a word at random. Write down the sentence the word is in and use that sentence to free write for five minutes.

Have a song stuck in your head? Write it down and keep going. What do you think the song is about or how does it make you feel? Just write whatever comes to mind.

Words! One of my favorite games is to write down as many words I know that begin with a certain letter. I write them until I get stumped and then I try to make sentences out of them. An example of a sentence I created with the letter I is - Illusions intersect intelligent ideas.

The Red Dress Club’s prompts each week also help in giving us new, exciting, and surprising ideas but it’s not always easy to come up with one. I hope the next time you’re struggling with what to write about you’ll try a writing game to help get you started. I guarantee you’ll have easier time writing once you let loose and write for the love of it. Don’t believe me? Well, let’s try it then.

Today I’d like you to perform a writing game and see if it helps when writing the prompt this week.

It’s summer time. What words do you connect with summer? Write down a list of words without hesitating. Once you’ve gotten out all the words you can think of start free writing for five minutes about this topic.

Read over your free writing and you may spot a new idea or something different about your voice. You may find a new story or blog post in there. But the best part about it is it doesn’t have to be anything other than a stepping stone to another idea floating toward you.

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Red Writing Hood

Today's prompt is courtesy of Kir.

One of my favorite parts of summer is THE SHOES. So for your prompt this week I'd like you to write about your character (or yourself) and a pair of his or her shoes.

Those shoes can be real or symbolic, they can hurt or be super comfy but I want to see what they say about the life of the person wearing them. It's a chance to use all those descriptive words I love reading.

And because I am a giver, this prompt's word limit is 625.

Come back and link up here Friday to show us your "sole".

Monday, July 11, 2011

REmembeRED - Embarrassment

Your assignment this week was to write a post about an embarrassing moment. 

Many of you asked, "We can only pick one?" Because it is, unfortunately, part of life.

Katie chose a moment from Middle School that has stuck with her to this day:  too ugly.

So let's see what you came up with for your post.

Link up - but ONLY if you've done the prompt.

Worry is in the words

Today's guest poster is Kir from The Kir Corner.

The simple act of writing does not worry or cause me agony.

Many times, I have too many ideas, a plethora of words to use, a stockpile of memories to tap into. What causes me angst is the simple act of hitting the publish button.

Recently I heard Bono give an interview during the new opening of Spiderman: Turn off the Dark. He was discussing the differences in composing music for a crowd of 10,000 and for a Broadway audience of 500.

He lamented the fact that once you write music for a Broadway score, you hand it over to be interpreted exactly the same way night after night after night. The songs must convey the same emotions, be sung in the same key in the same sequence. There are no changes. You just have to believe in it as it is.

He compared it to touring and how U2’s live shows could be changed to suit the band, the audience, the venue. Set lists are open to interpretation, songs normally done one way can be handled acoustically or not done at all, he can tweak, rearrange and handle them until it “feels right”

This is how writing feels for me.

While my words sit in draft or review they are safe; from criticism, from critiquing myself and from wondering about the “what ifs”.

I can tear a piece apart.

Write and Rewrite.

Use my thesaurus and Elements of Style. Sit and read it out loud, primping it like a debutante before her coming out.

Once I hit publish, I hate being hit with a revelation, or worse, being at the mercy of all those other thoughts, opinions and eyes.

Before I started writing for The Red Dress Club, I never considered myself a writer.
I enjoyed writing. End of story.

But in the last few months, I feel myself evolving into one.

I still rewrite a piece over and over again, swapping one word for another, or a whole paragraph for something tighter and fluent, but I am beginning to think that is the part that is helping me grow - sure, it’s painful, but I’m guessing that is precisely the point.

To stretch beyond myself.

To use napkins, notebooks, pen and paper or scribble on tiny scraps when a thought hits or a puzzle piece glides gently into place.

For all the roadblocks to my writing; time, word limits, even prompts; there are the good, fantastic moments where I find the perfect sentence, the word that finishes a piece. That is the happiest of times for me, to see my talent on the page.

Tell me: do you agonize over your words, do you use things like a thesaurus or writing books and how do you feel once you’ve hit publish?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Weekend linkup

It's time to link up a favorite post you've written. It's a great way to meet new bloggers and find amazing writers.

Try to visit as many as you can, or at least the one in front and behind you.


Here's the prompt that Yuliya and CDG have come with you for RemembeRED this week:

We just spent some time thinking about how to write funny.

Know what's NOT funny? People laughing at you.

Take us back to an embarrassing moment in your life.

Did someone embarrass you, your parents perhaps? Or did you bring it upon yourself?

Are you still embarrassed or can you laugh at it now?

Let's keep these to 600 words.

Come back and link up your most embarrassing moment on Tuesday, July 12th.

Oy to the Vey: How to Write Funny

Today I’ve been tasked with talking about “how to write funny.”

Uh oh.

Or, as my people like to say, “Oy to the Vey.”

I think people have a fear of writing comedy, and rightly so! It makes you vulnerable and exposes you, in the same way that writing any heartfelt emotion does. You fear that people will laugh at you, not with you. Or that people won't “get it” (read: get you.) Or worse yet, they’ll take it seriously and take offense!

Comedy is not tragedy a la “my husband cheated on me, I walked in on him and his mistresses whipping each other with wire hangers, no more wire hangers!” so people fear that comedy isn't as “deep.” But just because it's humor doesn't mean that it's not poignant, deep, or emotional.

Indeed, comedy is the mirror we hold up to our life. Sometimes that mirror is jagged, our reflection distorted and beneath the humor we can sense myriad emotions that make up our human experience. To write comedy we must first make observations about everyday life, the miraculous and the mundane, and tell the truth about it. Truth might be uncomfortable, but truth is the essence of comedy.

Start there, tell the truth, share an experience that is universal. Hold up the mirror and reflect something that your audience will recognize and relate to. Be believable (and be bold).

Comedy is also giving yourself the freedom to use your imagination. Think about the truth freely and try inserting a ridiculous premise into a situation. Ask yourself "what if" and be as outrageous, outlandish, ridiculous or bizarre as you dare. (A fantastically clever example of this can be seen in Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess.

Comedy is...

- The ability to poke fun at yourself (and others)
- Unexpected pairings
- The absurd and the ridiculous
- Sarcasm
- Extremes
- Absolutes
- Numbers...instead of saying "I have a million things to do", try "there are 4,721 items on my to do list." (Made up numbers like “eleventeen” are even funnier.) And finally, when giving examples of something, three is the key number for funny.

Did I say three? Oops.

Now that we've covered the what of comedy, let's talk about the how. The big challenge (for me at least) is that in writing humor, you don't always have the benefit of delivery and so much of humor is in the delivery.

Some ideas to help with delivery are to write the way you actually talk, (maybe tone down the potty mouth, though). Use your own vernacular, unique voice, accent, what have you. You can break grammar rules to be funny and your style can be relaxed and conversational.

Also as a rule, simplicity and economy are key. Use simple sentences and words so that your idea is easy to understand, the fewer words the better.

Speaking of rules, when you keep breaking the same rules in comedy that's called “your style.” Isn't that great?

Ann Imig, whose comedic style I greatly admire was kind enough to share her insights with me, while on her vacation no less:

- Belong to a historically oppressed people. Jews are funny to distract people from trying to kill us.
- Three times is funny. Odd numbers are funnier than even.
- Juxtaposition is funny as long as you don't call it that.
- Your family is funny
- Details are funny.
- Kids are funny because they are direct and honest. Direct and honest is funny.
- Too many adjectives and adverbs kill funny.
- Short, quick and rhythmic is funny.

And last but not least, I leave you with this, believe in yourself and ask ‘does this make ME laugh?' Then it will undoubtedly make us laugh, too. (Or maybe it won’t, and there is nothing as depressing as silence where instead a wild chorus of laughter, and hoots and hollers should be. And then you’ll look down and realize you’re not wearing any pants, well at least that’s funny... wait a minute you always wear pants on Tuesdays, this can’t be that your English teacher in the third row? You know the one who said you’re more Gregor Samsa than Franz Kafka? But your English teacher “retired” to Boca after that “incident”...WAKE UP!!!)

Special thanks to all of the funny ladies who contributed to and inspired me to write this:
Ann, Jessica, Lori, Marinka,, Poppy, and Sherri.

Today's guest post is from Yuliya, who you can find at She Suggests and also on Twitter.

Red Writing Hood

This week, CDG and Yuliya tasked you to push yourselves out of your comfort zone, to shake things up a bit.

We've been looking forward to watching you stretch and experiment and grow.

So, let's cut to the chase!

Show us what you've come up with!

We promise to be gentle with you. ;)

Cheryl took a much older point of view in Wrong Room

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Take a Vacation!

When I graduated college with a degree in literature, I said, “Yay! I don’t have to read anymore so now I finally have time to read!”

True story.

The same goes for blogging.

Blogger burnout is a very real thing. It’s not the same as writer’s block. This is about the demands of a blog too. It’s no wonder with all that a blogger has to do beyond simply generating content. You have to network, which includes copious amounts of time spend on Twitter, reading and commenting on other blogs, and guest posting. You have to keep your pages and sidebar content fresh. You have to pimp yourself out for ad dollars. But the saddest part of blogger burnout is that it takes the hardest toll on our writing.

We mustn’t forget that as bloggers we are first and foremost writers (or cooks or photographers, etc.), creative people who are expressing ourselves in an incredibly revolutionary medium. We’re artists. We create words. We connect to readers. We build community through expression. It’s easy to forget that when you’re worried about churning out content and SEO and networking. Yes, our blogs become jobs, but they are about creativity first and foremost. I doubt you started your blog for ad dollars and to drive traffic. If you did, I doubt you’d be here, looking to challenge your writing skills.

When you burn out, your writing suffers. That’s the true tragedy.

However, blogging is like a job, and every industry in the whole mother loving universe takes some kind of vacation time. So why don’t bloggers? Why are we bloggers so hard on ourselves? Why is it when we go on a physical vacation, we still post to our blogs or plan guest posts? Why not take time off to recoup?

Why not indeed.

We’re simply too hard on ourselves, entirely too demanding. I’ll even go so far as to say that not only should we be kind to ourselves and give our brilliant minds a break (and they ARE brilliant, aren’t they?), but we should be kind to our writing! If you’re such a masochist that you just can’t take time off, do it for your writing.

As writers, we’re told that we need to write every day. That’s how we grow. That’s how we develop our craft. I disagree. That’s a great tool to begin with, but I say that sometimes our writing needs some time off.

I recently found myself with a severe case of blogger burnout. It was horrid. I began hating my blog, resenting its existence in my life; which, let me tell you, was upsetting on a whole ‘nother level. I love my blog! It’s my space that I created and nurtured. It’s my baby. I don’t want to hate or resent it, but I couldn’t balance it all anymore and my writing was truly suffering. I didn’t love what I was writing anymore. My words didn’t make me laugh. I didn’t delight in sharing stories. I‘d lost the original heart of my blog somewhere along the way.

Something had to give.

I tried scaling back my posting, but it still daunted me. I’d scrounge for story ideas. It just started feeling forced and disingenuous to both me and my readers, I think.

So finally I threw in the towel. I announced I was taking a hiatus, just a short one hopefully, a few weeks at most. It’s been wonderful. I simply needed a vacation. As with any job, my mind was fried and I needed a break. Most of all, though, I needed to refocus, to revisit old posts and remember what made me love blogging in the first place. I started seeing the world around me again, noticing potential stories and funny moments. I already have 5 post ideas swimming in my head for when I come back, which will be soon probably.

So please allow me to climb up on my soapbox and smack you over the head.

Take a vacation!

Give yourself a break!

Be kind to yourself and your writing!

Quit blogging so that you can keep blogging.


Today's guest post is from Andy, who you will also find entertaining the masses in 140 on Twitter.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Red Writing Hood

Our guest hosts this week are CDG and Yuliya.

Here's the Red Writing Hood prompt that they are challenging you with:

The most frequent advice I come across for amateur writers is, "Write what you know."

"What you know" doesn't necessarily always mean "your comfort zone." For this week, take what you know out of your comfort zone. Try a new genre, a new time period, a geography you've only dreamed of, fantasy or historical instead of contemporary fiction, try the male POV if you usually write women. Or vice versa.

Switch it up. See where it takes you.

Let's keep the word count to 600.
Come back and link up on Friday, July 8th.

What If?

Stephen King, in On Writing, talks about his stories being born from ideas. What would happen if...? And what if spins out into a story. The people and places fall into place around the what if.

No matter how you go about it, a story always comes back to something happening.

But is a what if situation the only the way a story is born?

I have been asked how it is I write dialogue. First let me say, I'm flattered anyone wants to know. Now, I'll tell you: many of my stories are born out of conversation, with both voices speaking in my head. I think in terms of characters, often allowing them to talk until I see what the what if is.

The voices, the mannerisms of my characters, the way they speak, their vocabulary, their slang, are often firmer in my head than the answer to the what if--at least until I get going.

Capturing dialogue is about more than the words spoken. It's about the subtleties of body language and facial expression, it's about point of view, tone of voice. It's about banter, about what isn't said out loud. It's about blocking--the theatrical term for where characters are and where they travel while onstage. It's about where in the world the characters are having the conversation.

Very often, I'll see something or someone which sparks a conversation, and there they are, two nearly living, breathing characters in my imagination.

I talk to myself. A lot. I work the dialogue out out-loud whenever I can. And I read it back to myself. I try to picture the scene unfolding like a film or a stage production to see if it seems forced, or if the tone is wrong.

If I pay attention, if I show them exactly as they are, the dialogue reveals more about them.

And the what if falls into place.

Today's guest post is from CDG, of Move Over Mary Poppins. You can also find her on Twitter.

RemembeRED - TV show

This week's prompt encouraged you to recall a television show from your past and write about the feelings it evokes and memories it triggers.

We can't wait to take a walk down memory lane with you.

PLEASE link up only if you've done the prompt.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Weekend linkup

It's time to link up a favorite post you've written. It's a great way to meet new bloggers and find amazing writers.

Try to visit as many as you can, or at least the one in front and behind you.

Red Writing Hood - Old letter

This week's prompt asked you to have you or your character find a forgotten letter or card from someone important in your life - whether good or bad. What does it say? How does it affect you or your character? What is done with it?

We're eager to find out.

Cheryl wrote another installment of her widow/bartender story: A lifeline.

Let's see what you came up with, but PLEASE only if you've done the prompt. If you'd like to link up something else, our weekend linky will be up tonight.


Mandy and Elena are here with your RememeRED post...

TV is something that people either watch a lot of or have definite feelings about. This week, we want you to think about tv show from your past. Maybe you watched it, maybe you didn't and it was just something that everyone else talked about.

What feelings does the show evoke? What memories does it trigger?

Keep it to 600 words and come back to link up on Tuesday, July 5th.