Saturday, July 31, 2010

Link Up - Your Best-Written Posts

Every weekend we'll do a McLinky where everyone can link up their best written posts. It can be something you've written recently on your blogs or a blast from the past (so to speak). Please be sure to read the pieces listed and make some new blog buddies. And for those of you who don't have blogs, read anyway. You never know what will inspire you!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Finding Your Inspiration

"Where do you get your ideas?"

I hear this a lot and short of saying "Um, inside my brain," I usually just smile and shrug and mention how I like the other person's belly shirt and cut off jeans.

But I've decided I need a real answer so people start returning my calls.  So here it is:

Writing is catharsis for me as I imagine it is for everyone.  Whether you seek out the written word to heal your heart or it just happens to do so in the process, writing has a way of putting everyone back together again.  I believe that's why I tend to start with broken characters, people who are intrinsically hurt as if the seed was planted before birth.   

My inspiration lies in pain.

It's not as morbid as it sounds.  Or maybe it is.  Either way, I know what sets my fingers to work and there's something about the need to fix a person that keeps me typing.  But it's not the same for everyone.

There are people who want to capture fragments of time, there are others who are driven by plot and can't stop pecking at the keys until their ending is in site.  Heck, there are even those who are inspired by the drink and I ain't talking water.

If we are going to call ourselves writers then we need to determine what inspires us and alter it  for our purposes.  Whether it be emotions, memories, or people, we need to shape what inspires us, tame it to our liking and create something that not only speaks to us as writers but speaks to our audiences as well.  Maybe then people will start returning our calls.

What inspires you?  Do you find writing to be an emotional outlet that lends itself to catharsis?  Is catharsis part of your inspiration or just simply the end result of the writing process?    Do people never call you back or is that just me?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Your Questions Answered

Thank you all for your questions! We have tried to answer you the best that we can, so I hope you find this to be helpful.

A small children's book publisher expressed interest in my work. A promise of an email with edits has never come... four months now. Am I entitled to submit my work elsewhere? 

Has this publisher explicitly stated that they accept multiple submissions, meaning they accept your work even if you've sent it out elsewhere?  If so then sending it somewhere else is fine.  If not, I believe four months is a reasonable amount of time to follow up and send a quick email asking about the status of your submission.

I have a non technical question,if that's alright.

What do you do if you get too easily fazed at all the talent out there, and say "there's no room for me out there...look what's already going on!"  

I think this is similar to bloggers who wonder if it's worth starting a blog since there are so many wonderful blogs out there.  I believe everyone has a unique story, a unique perspective that needs to be shared.  Like Cheryl stated in her Just Write It post, there will be better writers than you but there will not be anyone who can write exactly like you.  I think it's worth getting your voice heard because you never know who needs to read what you write.

I think my biggest issue as a writer is ending the darn piece! My blog entries either fall off of a cliff or I ramble for a paragraph hoping I'll gain some inspiration for an ending point. Any tips? 

I always try tor refer back to something I've previously mentioned in my post.  I think it makes for a more cohesive piece when my original thought comes full circle.  Before you end your piece, look for a detail you mentioned in the beginning of the post and refer back to it.For a

I always hear about writers having a goal of X pages per day, and it makes me wonder about book length. How do the computer/word processor pages translate to actual book pages; and how big a role does book length play in publishing? Is there an ideal range? It seems like a lot of what I read falls into a similar page-range, so I wonder if very short & very long books are harder to get published?

For a novel you want roughly 75,000 - 120,000 words.  There are a couple of factors that determine how word count translates to page count including font type and size but if you want a rough idea I suggest you visit this site to get a better idea.

As far as book length, you are right, shorter and longer books are harder to publish.  I usually see publishers and agents looking for manuscripts around 75,000 - 90,000 words. 

I've been trying to write a book for the past year. The plot is not very strong at all, in fact I'm still trying to figure it out. I have about 155 pages, should I throw in the towel or just finish it and figure it out for draft number two???? 

If it were me, I'd toss it out.  It hurts to do so but it's much harder to rework an entire plot the second time around.  If you tweak one part, you inevitably have to tweak another until the entire manuscript becomes a chopped up mess.  If you really want to work on plot, I'd suggest starting fresh and trying to outline your story line beforehand.  I know this is easier said than done (at least for me since plot is hardest for me too!) but I've found if I have a concrete idea of how I want the plot to play out then it's much easier for me to write.  Good luck with it!

I have a question about the memes. .. When you announce these, do we write it by a certain day, do we post it on our site whenever we want?

We announce our memes Tuesday and then the linkup is Friday. Glad you're participating!

I wrote a book/memoir about my pregnancy with my little boy. I haven't sent out many queries yet because agents don't seem to care for memoirs unless they're written by someone well known. Do you think I can use my blog as a forum to post excerpts from my book to see if it attracts enough interest? Do you know of anyone who has done this?

I don't know that memoirs have to be written by someone well known. I'm thinking of my favorite memoir, Blackbird by Jennifer Lauck (right, who?) or The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan, or even that whacky guy James Frey who wrote that "memoir" on addiction. These were not famous people, but their stories - and, of course, their writing - are amazing. Anyway, you can certainly post excerpts on your blog. You have to consider who's reading your blog. If your goal is to attract the attention of an agent, I'm honestly not sure if that will work. If it's to get feedback, then I think that's a great idea. Ericka has posted some of her stuff on her blog in the past.

How often do you update your blogs? What is too much? What is too little? My readership drops way off on the weekends, so I don't tend to post then - do you find this also to be true?

I update mine (Mommypants) usually M-F. I think we all have the fear that if we don't put up something new and fabulous every day, readers will move on since we all seem to have a short attention span these days. But the reality is we have families and responsibilities and work and life and I think having some balance - and taking a break from the blog - actually makes us better. Fresher. Blog burnout is pretty common. 

Sex scenes in literary fiction. do you write them? How do you balance the sex vs the erotica?

Well. I would write them if it was appropriate for the story/character, and I think the same goes for balancing it. Ask yourself if what you're writing fits with the story/character, if it moves the story along, what emotions you hope to elicit. What are you hoping to achieve with the scene? I think that will help you find what works - and what doesn't.

What do you do to break through the inevitable "writer's block?

First, I pound my head on the table about 17 times. Okay, maybe not. But I feel like it! There are many things you can do: if you're not on a deadline, put it away for a time. Give yourself a time limit. Like you're not going to look at it for six hours. A day. A weekend. But then get back to it. You can try doing different writing exercises (Google "fiction writing prompts" and you'll get a ton of suggestions). One thing I do sometimes is I just start writing whatever comes to my head. Even if it sucks and I know I'm going to delete it. Just the action of writing is at times enough to get me going again, especially if I'm not specifically trying to write on what I'm stuck upon.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Red Writing Hood

This week we're going to do something a little different for the Red Writing Hood meme, although I suppose we always try to do something different! For this Friday, write a short piece of fiction about seeing an ex in the grocery store from the first person point-of-view. Instead of writing from the female perspective, we want you to write from the male perspective. Hopefully, this will help us in regards to character development and stepping outside of ourselves as writers. Have fun ladies!



Monday, July 26, 2010

Just Write It

I was a professional journalist for 16 years, and in that time, I saw a LOT of tremendous writing.

I knew tons of incredibly talented people who blew me out of the water pretty much on a regular basis when it came down to their way with words.

And yet, I showed up for work every day.

I showed up every day, and I wrote, and I reported, and I did a good job. Sometimes I did a great job. There were many stories of which I was especially proud. There were others that really, really sucked (which happens if you write often enough).

Why am I telling you this?

Because I want you all to stop feeling not good enough.

There will ALWAYS be someone who can write better.

But there is no one who can write just like you.

Each of us brings our own unique experience and life view and ideas to our writing. If you worry that you can't compete, that you're out of your league, then you will be paralyzed.

What is that saying? If you think you can't, then you can't.

It's accurate.

Thing is, you're all here because you want to write. And writing is work. There are ways to get technically better. Some of you have never been edited, never had the benefit of guidance on organization or sentence structure or tense or showing instead of telling.

And that's okay. That's the easier stuff and all you have to do is ask for help (and submit something to The Red Dress Blog, of course!).

The harder stuff is believing in yourself. Believing that you are original, that you have something to say, that your writing - that YOU - deserve to be heard.

Stop using it as an excuse not to put yourself out there.

Not every word will be a gem. Believe me when I say even Shakespeare laid a turd every now again. We ALL do.

So yes, someone will write better.

But no one will write like you.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Link Up - Your Best Written Posts

Every weekend we'll do a McLinky where everyone can link up their best written posts. It can be something you've written recently on your blogs or a blast from the past (so to speak). Please be sure to read the pieces listed and make some new blog buddies. And for those of you who don't have blogs, read anyway. You never know what will inspire you!

And be sure to check out Kristy's Red Writing Hood post.  The linky from yesterday wasn't working for her!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Red Writing Hood Meme - Pick a Number

Time to link up your Red Writing Hood posts!  We're interested to see what sorts of crazy stories we'll get from this prompt!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

How to Write a Book

I thought I'd lighten the mood a bit with a humor piece I published on my blog instructing you on how to write a novel.  Enjoy. :)

i love how-to posts like ones that teach me how to make a blog button, or fashion a pair of crotchless panties from floss and a handkerchief or the best way to punch myself in the teeth.  so i figured it’s practically my duty to teach you folks something that i do best: novel writing.
be sure to follow these steps in order to create a 350-400 page albatross you can lovingly wear around your neck:
  1. go to a coffee shop to write.  and make sure everyone knows you’re going to a coffee shop to write.  be sure to type “stopping by the coffee shop to add a few pages to my novel” as your twitter and facebook statuses.  casually mention you’re in a big hurry and simply must use the five items or less lane at the grocery store because the coffee shop is closing in an hour and you probably don’t even have enough time to flesh out chapter five as it is.  and if at all possible, wear a t-shirt that says “i’d rather be writing at the coffee shop.”
  2. speaking of clothing, you might want to burn everything you own now and start over with a completely new wardrobe.  i enjoy wearing a pair of thick framed glasses and donning a knitted scarf.  the scarf comes in handy because it not only soaks up summertime sweat but it also says things like “i am more important than you because i’m writing a novel.  what are you doing besides raising kids and performing heart surgery?” and “MFA programs be damned, i’ll publish this baby completely uneducated, thankyouverymuch.”
  3. when you arrive at the coffee shop (and you will arrive at the coffee shop.  in fact, you’ll know the route to the coffee shop by heart and will have to set up a security system in your home to keep you from sleep driving there at night) be sure to take out your cell phone and call your deaf grandmother or the operator.  be sure to mention the plot device you’re toying with and why aiden’s character development in chapter seven is taking you for a loop.  you might be tempted to only pretend you’re talking on the phone but don’t.  the phone will most certainly ring if you do.
  4. cry at random intervals.
  5. order lattes with triple shots of expresso and when the barista mentions it’s practically illegal to sell something with that much caffeine in it, say “it’s okay.  i’m a novelist.”
  6. stretch every twenty minutes and be sure to swivel your lap top around so that everyone can capture a glimpse of your word document painted in courier new.
  7. carry a ginormous notebook with a cover page on the outside that reads “blah blah blah: the novel.”  fill the notebook with printed addresses, menus of your favorite restaurants, a list of people you’d enjoy beating with a giant stick of salami.  be creative here.
  8. “accidentally” send out an email to a group of five or seventy of your closest friends that captures the correspondence between you and an imaginary agent who just loves your work.  send out a follow up email letting your friends know that you’re embarrassed by your little faux pax but are hoping to “share some exciting news real soon.”
  9. make sacrifices to the gods.
  10. take up an unseemly habit like drinking or smoking too much (or preferably, both) and quote memorized lines from authors who died from cirrhosis of the liver or depression (or preferably both) when your best friend has broken up with her boyfriend.  she’ll appreciate it.
  11. don’t edit.  ever.
this should pretty much do it.  it’s been my system thus far and all i know is that a few agents (i won’t name names.  but i want to.) think my work is pretty stellar.  i mean they don’t want to publish it right now but that’s only because they’re busy and their kids have school and they don’t want their wives to catch on so it’s probably better if we enjoy my work in private together.

but i’m still holding out hope that good things will happen one of these days.  in the mean time i’m stocking up on scarves.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ask Us Anything...

About writing that is.  Cheryl and I understand that this writing schtick ain't easy so we thought it might be the perfect time to invite you all to leave your writing questions in the comment box.  We'll be sure to answer them in a post for next Wednesday.

Ask whatever you'd like: technical questions, questions about our own writing styles and methods, etc.  We're open to addressing them all!


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Red Writing Hood

This week's meme is a bit different than last week. We hope it'll be fun and lead to a lot of great posts.

Also? Don't be so shy, people! I know a lot of you were kinda feeling out the process last week, but everyone who participated did a fabulous job and seemed to enjoy it. So join in and link up this Friday!

We got this prompt from here. This could be a good way for us all to work on voice. And dialogue. And everything else.

Pick four numbers, each between 1 and 10.

Write them down so you remember.

The first number will be for your character, the second your setting, the third the time and the fourth will be the situation.

Then take the four elements and combine them into a short story.

All four you picked MUST be your main elements, but you can add in other characters, settings, times and situations.


1. A new mother

2. An actress

3. A recent high school graduate

4. A waitress

5. An alien

6. A homeless man

7. An elderly woman

8. A freshman in high school

9. A college student

10. A musician


1. The woods

2. A wedding reception

3. A party

4. A restaurant

5. A mall

6. A park

7. A beach

8. A lake

9. A baseball game

10. A seminar


1. Winter

2. During a thunderstorm

3. The morning after prom

4. Spring

5. December

6. Midnight or around midnight

7. Summer

8. In the middle of a fire

9. In the middle of a snowstorm

10. The afternoon


1. A death

2. Secret needs to be told

3. Someone has or will hurt someone

4. A crime has occured or is about to

5. Someone has lost/found something

6. Someone is falling in love

7. Reminiscing on how things change

8. There has been a family emergency

9. Something embarrassing happened

10. Someone has just gone to the doctor.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Speak up! Finding your voice

The most confusing thing to me, when I was writing for a living, was when an editor talked about voice.

It's something with which a lot of writers struggle, especially beginning writers. I mean, they're our words, our ideas - so what's the problem?

For some of us, the issue is we fall in love with a favorite author, and suddenly? We appear to be writing with the same tone, the same cadence, the same use of metaphor.

Or maybe we're not writing with authority. We're trying out different things and searching for something that feels authentic.

Truth is, we all have our own unique voice. There is no one on earth exactly like us, and we carry our original selves into our writing.

But our writing voice isn't necessarily the same as how we speak. For instance, you may be a loud, extroverted bawdy girl. Your writing? Is gentle and introspective. And vice versa.

Think of your favorite novelists. Why do you like them? If they have written more than one book - even about completely different things - what do the books have in common?

Now think of your favorite or some well-known bloggers. Could you read an excerpt and know for sure it was Dooce or Pioneer Woman?

The two have very distinct voices: Heather Armstrong of Dooce uses a lot of run-on sentences, a lot of smilies, a lot of ALL CAPS. Ree Drummond of the Pioneer Woman uses approachable conversational snippets, always illustrating her pictures with running commentary.

They don't try to be who they're not. They are just themselves, when it comes to writing.

And that's also who you must be.

What are YOUR biggest issues with finding your voice? Do you have any great advice on the topic? Let's start a conversation.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Link Up - Your Best Written Posts

Every weekend we'll do a McLinky where everyone can link up their best written posts. It can be something you've written recently on your blogs or a blast from the past (so to speak). Please be sure to read the pieces listed and make some new blog buddies. And for those of you who don't have blogs, read anyway. You never know what will inspire you!

**UPDATE** Sorry there are two mclinky's. Please enter your post into either one!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Red Writing Hood Meme - Your Mother

It's time to link up your Red Writing Hood memes. Let's see how many ways "Your mother" can be used to start a short piece of fiction.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

It Starts with the Pants

She was perfect.

Maybe it was her flower print pants, her too tight shirt that let "the girls" breathe, or maybe it was my third cup of early afternoon coffee, but the woman who walked across the floor of my college's welcome center quickly became my muse.  A midday burst of inspiration if you will.   

So I wrote a narrative poem about her and I named her Helga.  Here's an excerpt:

Still, Helga had no use for change, she only
smoothed over the situation with compliments
and false good feelings as if icing a
cake to hide its imperfections. She bought
new clothes, accoutrement for her brand new
figure. At first, she attempted to try
on clothing two sizes smaller than she
was, like the flower print pants that enfolded
her legs like sausage casings. Sometimes she
succeeded like the time she squeezed into
that Nicole Miller tube top. She had a
full two minutes of victory until
she realized the top would not budge and she
had to cut herself out of it with the
hot pink Swiss Army knife Richard bought her
last Christmas. It was embarrassing stuffing
scraps of a perfectly good tube top into
her hand bag and even more embarrassing
being chased by store security.
Helga was not two sizes smaller.

Developing a character is always a tricky business because it forces a writer to play therapist.  We have to turn off our own thoughts in order to listen in on those of another.  And although a character's thoughts are important to keep track of, there's also their clothing, their schedule, the way they pick their nose, the amount of time they spend brushing their teeth.  In order to focus in on the nitty gritty, I make sure to do the following:
  • Observe.  You don't have to "live" to be a writer, but you better make sure you're good at keeping tabs on people that do.  You never know who will pique your interest whether it be the girl making your sandwich or the elderly gentleman in front of you in line at the bank.  Other people's experiences are yours for the taking so keep your eyes open and your notebook ready.
  • Remember the details.  Like I mentioned before, it's not enough that you know what your character's thinking.  Everything that makes your character tick needs to be chronicled.  Now don't get me wrong, you're not going to publish a laundry list of your main character's daily dealings but you need to envision what his day would be like in order to get into his or her brain.  Even if the majority of this information doesn't leave your notebook, you still need to make note of it.  Like Ray Bradbury said, "Find out what your hero or heroine wants, and when he or she wakes up in the morning, just follow him or her all day."
  • Hone your character's voice.  You are not your character unless, of course, you're writing a memoir.  But in fiction, you need to define boundaries between what you'd say and what your character would say.  Would your character use slang?  Would they refer to their parent as "Mother" or "Ma"?  Is your character a half glass empty or half glass full kind of person?  Details such as these usually filter into a person's speech and lend themselves to the tone of a narrative.  Be sure to make these decisions early on so that your piece flows.
You have to be willing to exist beyond yourself to walk in someone else's shoes and the notion is often intimidating.  But if you take the process step by step and take care to remember the specifics, you can create a person your audience wants to know.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Me Want Cookie!

We will be bringing you guest posters who can speak to the art of writing or offer practical knowledge of the publishing world. Today's guest is Cheryl's good friend, Mike Downs. They were co-workers back in the early 90s when both were sportswriters for The Hartford Courant. Mike left the biz and headed out to Arkansas, where he received his MFA in Creative Writing. 

I’m thinking about the Cookie Monster, blue-furred and googly-eyed, who wandered through my childhood in a desperate hunt for oatmeal raisin or chocolate chip. Sometimes he’d come across a plate, oven-hot and fresh, but that gooey-melty first bite was thwarted time and again by the need to spell something or to count to ten.

This story played out episode after episode, and I watched – never bored, always laughing at the mad desire and frustration of our hero.

Years later, I realize Sesame Street and the Cookie Monster were teaching me a basic of storytelling. It’s a fundamental, but I re-learn it each time I write something new, and it has to do with character and plot and desire.

Say I’ve got a great idea, or maybe a dramatic scene, or maybe just a sharp line of dialogue – or I’m writing nonfiction and I’ve got a real-life situation everyone says I should write about. In essence, I’ve got inspiration. But then I get stuck. Because I still don’t have a tale. I still don’t have a plot.

Kurt Vonnegut defined plot in this elegant way:

1) A character wants something. (Say, a cookie).

2) The character can’t have it. (Has to count to ten, but only knows numbers up to six).

3) What does the character do next?

Whether I’m writing fiction or nonfiction, I use Vonnegut’s instruction to get me through those hard first drafts. His model connects a character’s desire and actions to everything that happens in a story. Think Odysseus trying to get home to his wife, Penelope. Think Juliet wanting her Romeo despite her parents’ opposition. Think Joan Didion wanting to understand her husband’s death in The Year of Magical Thinking.

But how do we know (or learn, or imagine) what a character does? We should be guided by our growing understanding of the character’s weaknesses, strengths, and general qualities. Given his cleverness and pride, we can imagine how Odysseus will escape the Cyclops. The character’s action in pursuit of her desire should tell the reader something about the character’s strange and mysterious qualities. In The Year of Magical Thinking, for example, we learn how Joan Didion copes with her grief by learning every detail about her husband’s death – including an examination of his autopsy report – so she can write about it.

And note here, in this video, how we learn Cookie Monster’s obsession is so strong it at first thwarts his own desires. But we also learn that when a cookie is at stake, he can wax eloquent.

That’s character and plot and desire, the heart of every story, and well worth five cookies.

Michael Downs is the author of House of Good Hope (University of Nebraska Press), which won the River Teeth Award for Literary Nonfiction. He’s also the recipient of a literary fiction fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He teaches creative writing at Towson University in Maryland. He can be reached via his web site: He also blogs with his wife, Sheri, at Him+17.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Red Writing Hood

Time to flex those muscles. Those writing muscles, that is.

Today we are announcing the first meme at TRDC. The directions are simple: write a blog post - of short fiction - following the directions for the prompt we provide. Link up here on Friday. Then try to comment on as many of the linked-up posts as you can.

It's a great way to get exposure for your own writing, and to be inspired by others.

Please grab our button and include it in your post. That's it!

Now, your assignment: Write a short fiction piece starting with these two words: "Your mother."



Monday, July 12, 2010

Why I Write

I was in seventh grade. I think. Maybe eighth.

My friend Paula would know. She has a better memory than me. The advantage of not having kids, I guess. You get to keep all the brain cells.

Paula would come over my house and we'd hole up with an overflowing bowl of peanut M&Ms in my bedroom, each of us lying on the matching twin beds. I had a composition book. Not the ones with the black-and-white mottled cover. This was the one with the soft blue cover. The kind I later used in college. It was a state university, so they couldn't afford the hard-covered ones I guess.

We'd write.

Well, I'd write. Paula would add in her ideas. The story? Was about a girl our age. Only she was beautiful and popular - things I wasn't. But wanted to be. So I wrote and wrote about a life I imagined.

I don't know that it had a particular ending. I think we just lost interest (Paula was more popular than me. Boys wanted to kiss her) and the book remained hidden in my closet.

I moved on. I used to spend hours - HOURS - alone in my room, sitting on my red carpet with the threads of pink in it and making up stories in my head.

And that is something I've never told anybody. Because it seems, well, odd. It IS odd, let's face it. I would imagine myself as a character in Battlestar Galactica. Yes I did! I had a huge crush on Apollo (this is the original series, by the way, because I am THAT old) and would create all kinds of scenarios where he was my very cute, very attentive, very mature boyfriend.

It made me feel less alone, I suppose. It gave me a world I could control when my real world felt anything but. Thinking about it now, I wonder why it was all in my head - and not on paper. I mean, I never wrote anything down; the only writing I did was a little journalling.  It's painful to look back at those entries now. Painful. Teenage angst always is, you know?

That I went on to become a journalist - a professional writer, and not just an imaginer - was by chance, but once it happened, I thought, "Of course. What else would I have been?"

A professional journalist. For 16 years. Motherhood eventually ended that career in 2005. I took a course - my first-ever writing course - about memoir soon after. And I found it tough to come up with words on my own. I was used to interviewing other people, to taking their words and weaving them into a story. And the story? Had a specific length. And a deadline.

Creative writing? Not so much. I've started and stopped. Started and stopped. I have several Word documents that contain maybe a dozen paragraphs each.

Four years ago I started my blog. It's been my outlet.

Because I have to write. I do. Yes, I can take a break when life intervenes and I'm too nauseous with morning sickness to look at a computer screen or too busy changing diapers and nursing.

But the reality is, there is something within me that always leads me back. It's part of me. For many years, it defined me.

Now that my kids are past the baby-baby phase, I feel it pulling me once again. I'm finally at the place where I want to stretch my writing wings. I want - I NEED - to put my heart out there.

I want to be 12 again, lying on my stomach on my twin bed with the pink patchwork comforter, kicking my crossed feet up behind me as I fill the pages with my dreams.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Link Up - Your Best Written Posts

Every weekend we'll do a McLinky where everyone can link up their best written posts. It can be something you've written recently on your blogs or a blast from the past (so to speak). Please be sure to read the pieces listed and make some new blog buddies. And for those of you who don't have blogs, read anyway. You never know what will inspire you!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Red Writing Hood

You didn't think we were going to have a writers blog and not have a meme, did you?

Silly bloggers! And my, what big, um, keyboards you have! Because this meme? It's called Red Writing Hood. Get it?

Okay. Let's get to it.

Starting next Tuesday, we will announce the weekly meme. It will be a writing exercise, a prompt to encourage you to stretch your writing chops a bit. Friday, we will have a McLinky here. You are invited to post on your personal blog and link up at TRDC.

It's going to be fun. It will!

Make sure you grab our button (it's over on the right sidebar).

We look forward to watching the creativity fly!

Have a great idea for a writing prompt for the meme? Email us with "Red Writing Hood" in the subject line.



Thursday, July 8, 2010

Check your inbox!

We have sent out the invitations for The Red Dress Blog, the private blog where you can post submissions for critique by other members. You should receive one in your inbox. If you applied and did not receive one, please email us so we can take care of it.

If you haven't applied yet, please do! We always have room for more!



Rejection Is Only The First Step

Cheesy right?  The whole keep writing, it will happen one day schpiel.  Receiving a rejection letter is much like falling victim to a bad hair cut, a phenomenon that forces everyone to suddenly see the glass as half full and mutter lines like "Nah, it looks fine.  Besides, it's hair.  It will grow back."

It could grow back.  It could also all fall out.  But fortunately, unlike hair, writing doesn't have a mind of its own.  We're able to manipulate words and phrases to our liking and to the liking of others.  Criticism turns catalyst when we decide to own our literary shortcomings and create something worth reading, something of which we're actually proud.

Rejection is only the first step.

I was fortunate enough to place in the top 250 of Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award contest this year, a feat for which I developed an arthritic pain in my wrist from patting myself on the back so hard, that is until the day I received Publisher Weekly's review of my manuscript.  I've only provided you a short snippet for fear of rendering you catatonic.
There are only so many bad metaphors...and pages of self-analysis one can read before it feels like slogging through the transcript of her never-ending (and going nowhere) therapy session.
The " her" they were referring to is my main character although they might as well have been referring to me.  Ericka is a horrible writer and her work is as grungy and threadbare as the black yoga pants she continuously wears.  

I'm not going to lie.  It hurt like hell to know that not everyone found my writing to be as charming and enrapturing as my parents do.  Don't get me wrong, I've had plenty of rejection letters from agents and small publishing houses in the past.  But the majority of those letters were friendly and often played to my strong points.  My parents' bribes were obviously a sound investment.

Publisher Weekly's review, however, found very little to praise although they did throw me a "Potentially interesting plotlines hint at a promising story."  At least I can hint with the best of them.

So yeah, it was a pretty brutal beating, but you know what?  They're absolutely right.  And you know what else?  I'm glad they said it because I was having the hardest time admitting it myself.

I'm now working on my third manuscript.  I've decided to stop hinting and actually flesh out a solid story line.  I've also decided to ice my wrist and stop patting myself on the back.  Writing is work, it's a messy relationship between you and the page and if you're willing to let yourself get comfortable and to burn the rejection letter without reading it first, then there's no point in continuing the journey.

But look at it this way: even if it gets too hard to be honest with yourself and to test your creative limits, you can always treat yourself to highlights.

How have you dealt with rejection?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What's Holding You Back?

You have this great idea for a novel. A GREAT idea.

And you're totally excited to get to it. But first you have to unload the dishwasher and do a load or eight of laundry. Your kids need to eat and be chauffeured around. The baby? He's refusing to nap.

Finally, when it's dark and quiet, when the children are dreaming in their beds and your husband is watching the game on TV, you have a chance to sit down at your computer.


Nothing. Nada.

Your idea that was so fabulous in the morning? Maybe you aren't so in love with it now. Or maybe you start typing and, after a few hundred words, you realize it's not going anywhere.

Also? Top Chef is on. Or the Bachelorette. And there might be a container of Coffee Heath Bar Crunch calling you from the freezer.

So there goes another day.

Rinse. Repeat.

What is holding us back?

It's time. It's energy. Things that are in short supply when you're a mom. If you work. If you do both.

But it's more. It takes drive, dedication and discipline (which I have just now decided to call the Three Ds, in case I decide to mention them again). It's sitting down and writing. Every day. No matter what. And that's not easy to do, for the above reasons. And many, many others.

It's fear. Maybe we're afraid we'll fail so we don't start. Maybe we're afraid we're not that good of a writer, or that no one would possibly want to read what we have to say.

We fear we're not original.

Or we're afraid of exposing ourselves, of putting it all out there - our thoughts and hopes and the places our imagination takes us - for others to see.

We fear it's too hard. It's too silly. It's a waste of time to pursue something that might never see the light of day. We'll do it when our kids are older, when we have more time, when we get that new computer, when this season of American Idol is over.

We're insecure.

We don't know how to begin.

Still, it's our dream. It's our dream, and the thing is? It's going to stay that way - a dream - unless we do something about it someday.

And someday? It's today.

It's today.

What is holding YOU back? Have you done anything toward your dream of becoming a published writer? Why or why not?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Welcome to The Red Dress Club

We're so glad you're here! We've been working hard to bring you this new place, and we're totally freaking out with excitement about it!

The Red Dress Club is a place for us to gather and talk shop. And by shop, we mean the business of writing.

We're not talking about blog writing, although the advice we hope to give and get on this site will certainly apply to that.

We want this to be a spot where we help each other learn more about the art of writing in hopes that we will all someday be published writers. No matter what your particular Red Dress is - and read our "About" page if you have no clue what we mean by Red Dress - we want you to take it out, shake it off and wear it proudly here.

You'll notice at the top of the blog we have a "join us" page, and at the top of this post, a link about a workshop for members. This is for a password-protected blog where you can post excerpts from your work-in-progress and get feedback from the other members. All requests for joining will be subject to approval from us (Cheryl and Ericka). We want it to be a positive, constructive space for your Red Dress!

Also, we'd love to get some live discussion going on the Writer Chat page. We're all looking for tips and encouragement, so feel free to chat away!

Take a few moments and poke around. We're on Facebook and Twitter (natch!) so make sure you're hooked up.

We look forward to getting to know you, and to bringing you lots of interesting and fun stuff very soon!