Friday, December 31, 2010

As Fast as a Bullet

In the spotlight today, we have Cristina from Not Quite Crunchy Momma.

When we asked her to choose her favorite post, she chose As Fast as a Bullet (written in response to the Pictures prompt) and her reasons choked us up.

Cristina explained why she chose this particular post: "It was the first story that I truly connected with emotionally while writing, and had to stop mid writing a few times because I couldn't stop crying."

That is why we're here. To help you to connect with your writing and to help you to find that magic place.

Thank you for sharing your words with us, Cristina, we love this post. Beautiful job.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Where I'm From

Tina from (Florida) Girl With a New Life is our special featured blogger today.

Tina chose Where I'm From, from the prompt of the same name, as her favorite Red Writing Hood linkup.

The post is so beautiful and poetic and almost mythical in its prose. We learned a lot about Tina and were left wanting to know the love story of her parents.

We are so grateful to you, Tina, for your participation in our club. We are so thankful you share your words with us.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Family Secrets

Kristy from Pampers and Pinot chose Family Secrets to feature today. She says she chose this one because she found it the most fun and also because she fell in love with all of the interesting characters. (This post was inspired by the Pick a Number prompt.)

What we love most in this piece is the way Kristy handles the dialogue so beautifully. Her lines are simply full of life.

Thank you, Kristy. You've been such an important part of the Red Dress Club and we love having you here with us.

Aunt Maggie's Wedding

When asked which post she wanted to feature here on her special day, CDG, from Move Over Mary Poppins, chose Aunt Maggie's Wedding, her very post that she linked up.

This post was in response to the Pick a Number prompt and it reflects one of the loveliest attributes of CDG's writing ... it's always relatable. She writes in a way that leaves me nodding my head, thinking, "Yes! That's exactly how I felt!"

Thank you, CDG, not only for supporting us here at TRDC, but for delighting us with your stories. We are so grateful for you.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Olive You

Today's blogger in our appreciation spotlight is Ash at Shades of Blue and Green.

After much deliberation, Ash ultimately chose to spotlight Olive You because she felt that it was the most fun to write (her post was inspired by the Seeing Your Ex at the Grocery Store prompt.)

Ash published this piece before I joined Cheryl here at the Red Dress Club, so I hadn't had a chance to read it when Ash chose it.

When I went over to check it out, I found myself immediately sucked in and even caught myself skimming ahead, I was that eager to find out what was going to happen.

Be sure to check it out and I dare you not to giggle at her protagonist's response to the store clerk's question. I dare you!

Thank you, Ash, for all of your participation here at TRDC. We appreciate you so very much.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Sharon's Freedom

Jessica Anne, from Adventures with Three Girls, has been a fixture here at the Red Dress Club for some time now and we are so grateful for her.

After some thought, Jessica Ann chose to highlight Sharon's Freedom, inspired by the Red Writing Hood Pick a Number prompt.

We love this post because it is so relatable and Jessica Ann's ability to capture the surroundings as well as the deep emotion is amazing.

Thank you, Jessica Ann ... we truly appreciate you.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Like a Songbird

Today's special blogger is Nancy, from Away We Go. Like the other bloggers in this Appreciation series, her commitment to The Red Dress Club has helped us to grow into this amazing group that we are today.

When push came to shove, Nancy chose Like a Songbird as her favorite Red Writing Hood post, which was in response to the Afternoon Party prompt. (We are so grateful that we didn't have to chose from her long list of amazing posts! We'd probably still be trying to pick one.)

Thank you, Nancy, from the bottoms of our hearts. We appreciate your contribution here more than you can imagine.

Happy Holidays!

Away We Go

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Red Writing Hood - Charity

The assignment this week was to write a fiction or non-fiction post about charity.

We figured it was appropriate for the season.

This will be the last link-up of the year. Can't wait to see what you've come up with!

The Confrontation

Carrie, from Views From Nature, is in the Appreciation spotlight today.

When we forced, I mean, encouraged her to pick one Red Writing Hood post to share, she chose The Confrontation, which she wrote in response to the elevator prompt. She said that she chose this post because she believed it helped her to truly return to writing and it made her believe in herself...believe that she could one day write a novel.

We think so, too, Carrie.

And we're not just saying that because we're a bit afraid of you after reading your post!

Go read this delicious and deadly post!

Views from Nature

The Unlikely Hero ... Blisstray Adventure

Our first post in our Appreciation Series is from Drama Mama who blogs over at The Scoop on Poop.

When we asked her to choose her favorite Red Writing Hood post, she wrote back, "You guys really expect me to pick one?" We know that it's almost as though we're asking for you to choose one of your children. It's that tough.

After some thought, she offered up The Unlikely Hero...Blisstray Adventure, which we think was an excellent choice.

This post, in response to the Trapped/Kill Them prompt, is full of description, energy, and heartache.

Thank you, Drama Mama, for your continued commitment to The Red Dress Club.

Okay, we won't hold you up any longer...head on over!

BWS tips button

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Featured Blogger - Tina from (Florida) Girl With a New Life

Today's featured blogger is Tina from (Florida) Girl With a New Life. She's a transplanted Floridian now toughing it out in the wilds (as in, cold!) of the Midwest, where she blogs and is writing a novel.

Tell us about yourself: I am a reformed workaholic who has finally turned back to my dream of writing. I love to curse. I am an incurable dreamer. On my bad days I channel Tina Turner and Joan Jett. Mostly I am living the simple married life in the Midwest.

Give us a 30-second elevator pitch about your blog: I started my blog when I left my party life in Florida behind and reinvented myself as a writer and a Doctor's wife in the Midwest. My chronicles are thoughtful, inspiring and sometimes hilarious reflections on becoming a better writer and maybe (hopefully) a better woman. Most importantly, my blog aspires to connect with other women on their journey, because life is ripe with new beginnings for all of us. I am saving the universe one diva at a time, starting with me.

What literary character would you be and why?: I think I would be Ruby Thewes from Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. Ruby is this wildly unexpected character with a tough self determination and a humble background. She is not the bleeding-heart protagonist. Ruby is the she-rebel that saves the protagonist's behind.

If you could carve your initials on a tree, which tree would it be and why?: A cherry blossom tree. Growing up with an Asian mama meant we had a house full of Oriental artwork. My favorite was a delicate silk screen of blooming cherry blossoms. I can imagine few trees as dramatically feminine.

What animal does your husband look like and why?: A polar bear. I married a big, lumbering, linebacker sized man. In the grocery store little old ladies ask him to pick things off the top shelf.

If you could only save one of your existing posts in a fire, which would you choose and why?: I would save the letter I wrote to my younger self. It helps me to keep my life in perspective.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Red Writing Hood - Charity

The holiday season reminds us of how fortunate we are - and how many need help.

There are many, many ways people help: buying toys for needy kids, delivering food to the elderly, volunteering for myriad organizations.

Your assignment this week is to write a post about charity. It can be fiction or non-fiction.

What does charity mean to you? What ways do you give? How do you teach your children? What memories do you have of first realizing others didn't have what you had? Or, have you ever been in need?

These are just some ideas to get you thinking. Feel free to take whatever angle you choose.

Link up Friday!

Unofficial Mom

Today's honored blogger is Sara, from Unofficial Mom. She is a lot of fun and we always look forward to what she's going to come up with for our prompts.

Sara chose Dump Your Junk in response to the prompt of the same name. Her post has the BEST ending - very funny and spot on!

We are so honored to have Sara's contribution to our little club. Thank you so much for being such a big part of our success thus far.


As the year comes to a close, we find ourselves so incredibly grateful to all of you for your continued commitment to The Red Dress Club.

To show our appreciation, we've gone through the archives and identified the twelve contributors who have linked up, shared their stories, and spread comment love most regularly. From December 23 until January 3, we'll be pointing you to one lovely writer each day, each of whom has been tasked with choosing her favorite Red Writing Hood post to feature.

We sincerely thank each and every one of you for helping to make TRDC such a special place.

We're looking forward to new challenges in 2011 and we couldn't have made it this far without each of you.

With hearts full of gratitude,
Nichole and Cheryl

Friday, December 17, 2010

Weekend linkup

It's time to link up a favorite post. Please, one per customer!

Please try to visit as many as you can. It's a great way to find great new blogs.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Red Writing Hood - Tradition

Whenever I hear the word "tradition" I want to start singing the song from Fiddler on the Roof.

If you don't know that song 1) that's really sad and 2) at least you won't have it stuck in your head all day.

Anyway. This week's prompt was to write a post based on the word "tradition," and/or this picture.

When you link up, please enter your email address. It will make our lives MUCH easier to contact you if you've been randomly selected to be our featured blogger!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Featured Blogger - Cristina from Not Quite Crunchy Momma

Today's featured blogger is Cristina from Not Quite Crunchy Momma. I just learned she was born in Angola and grew up in Portugal. I know this because I found this cool post!

Tell us about yourself: Let's see... I'm a wife and a stay at home mom of two boys, Uno who just turned four and Kai who is two. Being a mom is really awesome, right? There are certainly days I want to run away, and definitely doubt some of my decisions. But I'm really laid back and have learned to trust my instincts, so being a mom comes fairly natural, most of the time. The whole housewife thing though? So not for me. I'm a hater of all domestic activities :)

My husband is a freelance illustrator and works at home, so as a family, we spend a lot of time together. It's really great, for the most part. I have a masters in Marriage and Family Therapy and pre-kids I worked with families with children with psych issues. Reading and writing have always been my passion. Since starting blogging just a few months ago, my passion for writing has resurfaced and it's been truly awesome.

Give us a 30-second elevator pitch about your blog: I started my first blog not quite crunchy momma earlier in the summer when a friend introduced me to hers. I thought, hey this is fun, I want one too. It was a fun way to record and share my family's daily life. Then, I came across the Red Dress Club and really got into writing fiction. Eventually, I decided I wanted a place just for my fiction and created Once Upon a Time ... this is my "I'm a writer" little world.

What literary character would you be and why?: Oh boy, I have been trying to figure this one out ever since you guys have been featuring bloggers. I have two picks: Clare from The Time Traveler's Wife, I'm a hopeless romantic and what's more romantic than meeting your husband when you are five? and he time travels.. that's way cool. And then I think I would want to be Katniss Evergreen from "The Hunger Games" trilogy. If you haven't read the books, GO read them. She is resourceful, brave and kicks butt.

If you could carve your initials on a tree, which tree would it be and why?: Definitely a fig tree. My grandparents had a fig tree in their yard and I remember climbing it with my cousins and eating figs. Great memories.

What animal does your husband look like and why?: Seriously, I have never compared my husband to an animal, so I had to ask him. He said wolf. His reasons? He has canine teeth like a dog, he comes from a family where men like to be the alpha males and are aggressive (not in a physical way) but they get what they want and.. the best reason... he doesn't like people touching his food, just like a wolf! HA! he's crazy!

If you could only save one of your existing posts in a fire, which would you choose and why?: I think I would choose the first piece I wrote for Red Writing Hood. Blogging has really become about developing my writing skills and I remember the excitement when I wrote No Show. I felt like a 5 year old waking up to find Santa had stopped by Christmas Eve. I knew then, writing fiction was what I am passionate about.

Enjoy It Now

As most of us are knee-deep in the craziness that is December, we realize that free time is sparse. So, we're keeping things easy for you.

Enjoy the simplicity now, because in the new year, we're going to push and challenge you. ;)

This week, we have one word and one photo for you. Pick one (or both), write a piece of fiction or non-fiction, and then come back on Friday to link up.

Your word is tradition.

And here is your photo:

For more beautiful shots and the story behind this ornament,
see her wonderful post from yesterday, Generations.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


So I wrote my 50,000+ words for NaNoWriMo. Some of you did, too. Or maybe you already had your first draft of your manuscript done.

Which leaves you with one question.

Now what?

Because NaNoWriMo is just about getting words out, and I have found, upon re-reading, some, um, problems with my story.

I have characters who completely change personality. I have a main character who becomes an alcoholic - even though I didn't plan that in the beginning, so it comes out of the blue, like she just decided one day to toss back a glass or 12 of wine.

I have timelines that don't work. I have characters who play an interesting role and then disappear. I have two main characters who need to intersect, to teach each other something, and yet...they don't.

In other words, I have a hot sloppy mess.

So the other day I actually had a couple hours of quiet alone time. Shocking, I know! And I totally kicked it old school: I got a notebook and a pen and I started trying to figure stuff out.

I did character sketches. Time lines. Notes about relationships. And even a "to do" list.

This is the beginning of the real work.

I don't like it as much as the writing part Writing is work's very sexy cousin.

Also, I am not an organized person. So the task of putting all these words in some semblance of order that actually makes sense is daunting.

Here are a few things that can help, whether you're digging out from under the NaNoWriMo mess or if you're looking to edit your rough draft manuscript.

1. Write a sentence about what your story is about. Then make it into a paragraph or two, like a cover blurb. If you can't do this, than you don't have a clear idea and your writing will probably be a bit muddled.

2. Make an outline. Some people like to make this formal, with topics and subheads. Others make it more organic. But it can give you an idea of where your story is going and help you stay on course.

3. Character sketches. The better you know your characters, the better you can use them for your purposes. What are their motivations? What are their goals? Their conflicts? Their epiphany? Also, I find it's helpful if their eyes don't change colors in the middle of the book, or if they actually age rather than get younger.

4. Create a storyboard. Use index cards or post-it notes and write key points on each. Then you can lay it out in order and see your story - literally - in front of you. This can help you see where it's going and what parts seem slim or too much.

5. Let someone else read it. I know, you probably don't want anyone gazing at your imperfections, but it's helpful to get opinions on what works and what doesn't. Also, we tend to fall in love with certain things and will try our best to make them work. When the reality is they just don't. Your reader(s) can help you flesh this out.

I found this excellent post by Tamera Lynn Kraft which has great links with tons of information on the topic.

We'd also love to hear any tips you might have. Just leave 'em in the comments section.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Weekend linkup

Time to link up a favorite post. Please - one per customer!

Please visit as many as you can. Or, at least, the one in front of and/or behind you. It's a great way to meet new bloggers and find some great writing. And everyone loves a little comment love!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Red Writing Hood - First Love

Love is in the air - at least, around here it is. It's time to link up your posts based on the prompt: Write a short first-person story about your first love, or write a short fiction piece about a character's first love.

Try to visit as many link-ups as you can.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A little help

We are looking for people interested in guest posting for us. If you have a topic you think would be of interest to our readers, please email us!

Also, we are in need of submissions for The Red Dress Blog. Please email us if you've got a piece you'd like critiqued.

For those of you who've applied and are still waiting to hear back, know that we are working on accommodating everyone who is interested in joining.

Thanks for your patience!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Featured Blogger - Sara from Unofficial Mom

Today's Featured Blogger is Sara from Unofficial Mom, where she writes about lots of stuff, especially her daughter. Also, I'd say she's pretty official, but that's just me.

1. Tell us about yourself: Oh how I wish I had some clever, pithy answer to this question. I totally don’t. So I’m stuck with the basics. I’m a daughter, sister, wife, etc. But this year has been all about my daughter. We adopted a perfect, little girl in January of this year. She has been my tunnel-like focus, and like so many people, the reason I started blogging. Well, my daughter in particular probably isn’t the reason anyone else started blogging…but you never know…she is awesome.

2. Give us a 30-second elevator pitch about your blog: I’m a mommy blogger. There, I said it! My name is Sara and I am a mommy blogger. {Hi Sara!} I know mommy blogger is often looked down on, like chick lit, but I think both are valid. And it’s totally not because I write both of those things either. I’ve wandered away from the point. I write about a little of everything. It’s started out about my daughter and our open adoption, but has evolved into that, plus writing, plus things that entertain me. I hope it entertains other people too.

3. Who is your favorite literary character and why?: This one is so tough. But I’d have to say Roxane from Cyrano de Bergerac. Despite being distracted by appearances she ultimately falls in love with true beauty. Cyrano is not an aesthetically pleasing guy, but he has wooed Roxane for his entire adult life, giving her beautiful, longing, soul satisfying words. And at the end of his life, when Roxane realizes it has been Cyrano writing her all along, his appearance is of no consequence. She loves him because of the way he made her feel. I like that.

4. What kind of tree would you carve your initials on and why?: An oak. I’ve talked about this a little before, but it’s a very full circle tree for me. I fully intend to get an oak tree tattoo when I find the right design. I was born in Royal Oak, Michigan and then later discovered that the oak tree is symbol of good luck in fertility. See? Full circle.

5. What animal does your husband look like and why?: According to some gay friends he’s a total bear. Heh. But I’ve always associated him with an anteater. When we first started dating I was struggling with how different we were, how differently we had grown up. He said to me one day, “It doesn’t matter how different we are, we’re supposed to be together. If I was an anteater and you were an ant, I’d just carry you around on my nose all day.” Cue the awwws.

6. If you could save one post in a fire, what post would it be and why?: Another tough one, but it would certainly be one of the Pie {my daughter for any new readers} stories. I think ‘I Do Not Remember THAT From 8th Grade Health’ though. It’s the details of the day my daughter was born. I know as the years go by, some of the minutiae will get fuzzy and I would hate to lose any of it.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Red Writing Hood

Ah, love.

Lots has been written about our favorite emotion. It IS our favorite, right? Unless it's gone bad. But that's a different prompt. Or is it. You tell us!

This week's prompt: Write a short first-person story about your first love, or write a short fiction piece about a character's first love.

Filth and Flowers

This week, the amazing CDG, from Move Over Mary Poppins, is here to share her experience and advice with us about walking a particular fine line when writing a romance novel.

Thank you so very much, CDG!

We don’t all aspire to works of important literary fiction, to writing The Great American Novel. I, for one, am writing a single title romance novel. Think Nora Roberts in hard cover. That said, I do want it to be literate. I want characters who reach out and take you by the hand and pull you into the story, just like any author of fiction. I want a story that resonates with my readers.

But romance has a peculiar challenge.

There’s a certain expectation in romance novels: the physical side of the love story. Yes. The sex scenes. If you’ve ever picked up a paperback romance, a good old fashioned bodice-ripper, you find a lot of references to throbbing members and quivering womanhood, but really? Really? That just doesn’t resonate with me.

And yet, I’m not entirely satisfied with chaste, closing the bedroom door, end-scene love scenes, either.

I want to be turned on. I want to fall in love - dare I say in lust? - along with the characters, but I don’t want to feel icky reading it.

So, where is the fine line between filth and flowers? As George Michael so aptly phrased it, “What’s your definition of dirty, baby? What do you consider pornography?”

This is what I have struggled with in writing my first draft.

How to tap into sensuality and sexuality without cliché or ridiculous euphemism or clinical onlooking.

So, here are my own personal guidelines, the ones I’ve used, for the most part, in crafting my story:

Sex scenes should both complement and progress the plot. If we’re going to be in the room with them, there needs to be a reason.

Emotions, reactions, and sensory experiences can tell it like blunt physical description never can. More touch, taste, scent, less size and shape and motion.

Unless you’re going for outright humor, if writing it makes you giggle like a thirteen year old? Chances are it’s not that sexy. (Caveat: funny can be incredibly sexy, so by all means, go for that!)

In reality, sex can be serious or playful, sweet or angry, intense, spontaneous, premeditated, and sometimes it doesn’t go as planned. Let all of that into the story.

Allow for anticipation. As in real life, sometimes the journey is more fun than the destination. Let a scene get hot and steamy, build up the moment gradually, and maybe make them wait. Let life intrude, as it so often does. The characters will find a way to get back there, and won’t that be fun to write!

If you feel uncomfortable or awkward writing it, your readers will clue into that pretty quickly, and you lose the moment.

Obviously, no one has a perfect sex life like the characters in a romance novel, but, unless you actually are Prince? No one’s going to buy into twenty two positions in a one night stand.

Of course, in the end, what’s sexy to one might be dirty to another, or, on the flip side, too tame. What turns you on?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Weekend linkup

It's time to link up a favorite post. Please, one per customer.

We hope you'll get a chance to check out some of the other link-ups. It's a great way to find some fabulous new blogs!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Red Writing Hood - Trapped/Kill them

We had two different options this week: write flash fiction based on the prompt "Trapped" or "I truly enjoyed spending time with them. I just had to decide which of them I would kill."

We hope they inspired you to write some good stuff for today! Link up!

Second Wind

Perhaps it's just that time of year, or maybe it's NaNo exhaustion for many of us, but the word that I'm seeing and hearing more than ever is burnout.

Several people have written about it lately. There's a general exhaustion floating about in the blogosphere.

To me, burnout is burnout. And writing is writing. Whether it's on our blogs or on our other pieces, we all reach that crazy point of lethargy at one point or another.

Cheryl wrote about it on Mommy Pants recently, in Toast. She so perfectly described what so many of us go through: "[t]wo blogs. Stat watching. Fretting over stats. Losing confidence. Wondering if it's worth it. Wondering why nobody likes me. Pretending not to care. Not caring. Then fretting about not caring. Over-caring. Caring so much it hurts." (Cheryl has been working through it and we'll have to get her to share her tips with us.)

Natalie, from Mommy of a Monster, also wrote about it in Bloggy Burnout. She described the signs of burnout as when "[b]logging has become just one more thing that is always on your "To-Do" list. It has become a chore." Natalie has since made some changes that seem to be working for her. (Perhaps she'll weigh in in the comments to share some insight.)

Jane, of Aging Mommy, has decided to stop blogging so that she can focus on the rest of her life. She explains that she has begun to feel that blogging "feels too much of a job rather than a hobby." (We'll miss you Jane, but we wish you a world of happiness.)

We blog, we respond to comments, we read other blogs, we comment on other blogs, and we try to craft something, something bigger, on the side. And often, it all begins to feel like an endless pit.

Many of us who struggle with this burnout work through it and get our second (and third, and fourth, and...) wind. But how does that happen, exactly?

What makes you keep at it? The blogging? The writing?

For me, it's knowing that although I neither see myself as the next up-and-coming novelist, nor do I believe I'm a threat to the likes of The Pioneer Woman, I do hope for something more than what I have now. And that won't happen without work. It just won't.

So, when I feel burnout, I take a few days to regroup. I sulk, I wallow, I complain. Then I get sick of myself and get back to it. The sulking, wallowing, and complaining are critical to my process of getting back on track.

Whether it's the blogging, or the work in progress that we all seem to be tending to, burnout is real and we all need some coping strategies.

I'm curious to know how each of you deal with it. I'd love to build a list of ideas that we can all mine, just in case our own methods grow stale and we're feeling adrift and discouraged.

What do you tell yourself when you just don't feel like doing writing anymore?

What motivates you to just do it?

How do you keep plugging along?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Featured Blogger - Kate from Sluiter Nation

Today's featured blogger is Kate from Sluiter Nation. She is a woman after my own heart because she's as much of a grammar police as I am.

1. Tell us about yourself: I hate this question. Seriously. I swear this is the reason so many of my past job interviews have gone amok. I just don't know what people want to know. So here I go guessing what you want to know. Well, my name is Katie. Most people call me Kate. I am married to an awesome guy I have known since elementary school. I have an 18 month-old who has my personality and his dad's stunning looks. I teach high school and college. I blog here and there. I tweet a bit. I enjoy Pearl Jam, reading, and running amok.

2.Give us a 30-second elevator pitch about your blog: Since I have three blogs do I get 90 seconds? My "main" blog is Sluiter Nation. Like most people, I started my blog for family and friends not knowing there were many blogs out there. Since this spring, Sluiter Nation has become my "mom blog," I guess. I write about my family, what it is like to be a working mom, and all the stuff in between.
This summer I started Katie's Bookcase as a place to review all the millions of books I read. When it became clear that people wanted more than one post a month (because I can't read much faster than that with all I do), I took on a team of readers and writers. It's a pretty happening place if you're a bookworm. And recently, I started Exploded Moments as a place to do all my "me" writing. It's more my creative outlet. I usually do my Red Dress Club posts there, but sometimes you'll see them on Sluiter Nation.It's where I can try new things (like...gasp...FICTION) that really don't go with the niche I've created on Sluiter Nation.

3. Who is your favorite literary character and why?: Honestly, I have been thinking about this question since the very first time I read a featured blogger here. I have no idea how to pick! My favorite period is the American ex-pats of the 1920's/30's, but most of those characters make me crabby (in a good way, if there is such a thing). I would have to say right now it's a tossup between Owen Meany from A Prayer for Owen Meany and Pi Patel from Life of Pi. I like characters that have to overcome great odds. Who have to prove society wrong. Who stick to their convictions. And I like screwed up stories. So Owen and Pi fit nicely.

4. What kind of tree would you carve your initials on and why?: I don't usually go around carving my initials in things...ok, that is a TOTAL lie. In college I consistently carved my initials (or the words "Pearl Jam") into the trays in the cafeteria. Anyway, if we are talking about a tree, I would probably go all classic with an oak tree. Once carved in it will last the longest there. And I like to think that I leave a lasting impression on people.

5. What animal does your husband look like and why? I don't know about look like, but Cort most resembles a sea horse. The male sea horse is the one that cares for the young while the female goes out of the "home" for provisions. That is the case in our house. I work a TON (too much if you ask some of the ladies who hang 'round these parts) and Cort stays home with Eddie since being laid off over a year ago. This isn't by choice, but it's what our life is right now. And he probably won't admit it, but he is really good at this child-rearing thing.

6. If you could save one post in a fire, what post would it be and why?: The post I would save probably seems randomly chosen at first glance. It is called The One Where I Tell the Truth and it is the first time I told the world of my postpartum depression. And it is the first post where anyone in the bloggy world (that I didn't already know in real life) came and left a comment--actually 25 of them...which was like an explosion to me. Who am I kidding, that kind of turnout is still massive to me). It is the post that I think of as when I *really* started blogging. It is when I found the power of writing. When I realized what kind of outlet this blog thing was and what sort of people are out there--people like me. In fact, I met my blogging bestie--my etwin, Miranda (of Not Super Just Momof ). That post brought me all the way to a featured blogger on The Red Dress Club. Something that I am beyond honored to be.

Free time? What's That?

It's been a busy month.
December promises to be even busier.

So let's have some fun. Let's do some flash fiction this week.

If you're unfamiliar with flash fiction, think of it as a condensed short story. Shorter than short. The word count for flash fiction typically ranges from 100 to 2000 words.

We have two prompts for you to choose from this week...



I truly enjoyed spending time with them. I just had to decide which of them I would kill.

And go!

Be sure to come back on Friday and link up.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Feeling tense?

I was not an English major.

I was not schooled in the intricacies, the nuances, the pluperfects.

As a professional journalist, however, I had to know how to write clean copy. And that meant, among many, many things, using correct tense.

Most of the time, this isn't a problem. There are occasions I get turned and twisted a bit, but for the most part, I get it.

Some of you have expressed interest in learning about tense. I've also noticed, through Red Writing Hood linkups, posts that switch tenses - incorrectly.

It shouldn't be confusing, but the truth is, it definitely can be tricky.

Most fiction is written in the past tense. The key is to pick a tense and stick with it. If you want to try writing in present tense, that's fine, but you must be consistent.

I found this link to explain tense:

How to Choose Your English Tenses.

So, if something happened, and it's done, then it's in the past tense. "I ate all the cookies."

If something is timeless, it's present. "The sun rises every day." Unless you're saying, "The sun rose at 6 this morning."

Did I totally confuse you all?

If you have specific questions, leave it in the comments and we - or other knowledgable readers - can answer.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Weekend linkup

Time to link up your favorite post! Please only one per customer.

Try to visit as many blogs as you can. It's a great way to meet new people and discover some fantastic writing.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Red Writing Hood - Thank you

What are you thankful for? Or for what is your protagonist most grateful?

Link up and let us know!

Thank you

Nichole and I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your support over the past five months since this little place was launched.

We hoped it would be a place for women with a dream of writing to gather and talk and encourage each other and maybe learn a few things, too.

We have plans to make it even better. And you make all our effort worthwhile. We have been amazed by all the positive comments and interest. It's been wonderful reading all of your work through Red Writing Hood and Weekend Linkup.

We've really, really enjoyed getting to know all of you.

Thank you for bearing with us, especially over the past week or so as Nichole and I hammered away at NaNoWriMo. Your patience is appreciated more than you know.

We hope you all have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Featured Blogger - Grace from Arms Wide Open

Today's Featured blogger is Grace from Arms Wide Open. Grace writes about appreciating motherhood, especially as a survivor of PPD.

1. Tell us about yourself: I am a 29 year-old wife of 7 years and mommy to a sweet 2 year-old boy. My husband and I have lived in Mexico since 2006 to fulfill a life-long dream of immersing ourselves in another culture and language. I love to write, swim, travel, run and cook. I am somewhat of a self proclaimed sun-worshipper, but always an Oregonian at heart!

2. Give us a 30-second elevator pitch about what your blog is about: My blog is a public journal of my struggles with postpartum depression & my subsequent journey of healing. I write my personal thoughts on marriage, mothering, and the challenges of living thousands of miles from "home." I strive to write with authenticity and truth in the hope that my words will resonate with (mostly) women who thought they were alone in their struggles. On a light-hearted side, I also post gorgeous pictures of Mexico and my adorable son, recipes and beautiful things that I drool over on the internet.

3. What literary character would you be and why?: I would love to be Anne from Anne of Green Gables. She is bold and fiesty and lovely and brave and intelligent and strong. This was my absolute favorite childhood story. I love most that she overcame rejection, fear and insecurity to become successful in life AND love.

4. If you could carve your initials on a tree, what tree would it be and why?: It would be a huge tree on the shore of the Puget Sound in Seattle's Discovery Park where my husband proposed to me 8 years ago. It is a magical, magical place.

5. What animal does your husband look like and why?: Good grief I have sat here for about five minutes racking my brain and cannot come up with a worthy animal. I suppose I will have to settle on a buffalo because he is quite hairy, stocky... and stubborn!

6. If you could only save one post in a fire, which would it be and why?: The first post I thought of would be this one: Thoughts on Bonding. The post represents a huge turning point for me in my postpartum journey, when I truly began to love motherhood (or at least realize I did!) and feel confident in myself as a mother to my son. The memories that inspired this post are unforgettable and still fresh in my mind and heart. (the sweet comments were lost in my switch to Disqus :( ...)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Gratitude All Around

Happy Thanksgiving!

As we are all gearing up to count our blessings and celebrate Thanksgiving with those we love, we're certain that this week is crazy for everyone and our "to do" lists are ridiculously long.

We're about to give you something else to be thankful for.

This week's prompt is simply to write a post expressing what you or your protagonist are grateful for this year.

Come and count your blessings with us.

Write up your post and come back on Friday and link up.

We wish you all the happiest of holidays.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Weekend linkup

Time to link up your favorite post! Please, one per customer!

Try to check out as many links as you can. It's a great way to find new blogs and fabulous writers!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Red Writing Hood - Sing it

It's that time again. Time to link up your posts, fiction or non-fiction, inspired by music.

We look forward to seeing what you've come up with and hopefully getting some sneak peeks from those of you NaNo-ing the month away.

Again, we apologize for our lack of coherence during this time.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

14 Things That We've Learned While Doing NaNo

That's right. We're rebels. Also we're tired (see yesterday's post). So we present to you the 14 things we've learned so far this month. Feel free to add any more in the comments.


1) I really miss watching television. There, I said it. Desperate Housewives, The Good Wife, Parenthood, and House all beckon me and my DVR is steadily filling up.

2) I miss my two blogs and my lovely bloggy friends. There hasn't been enough time at the end of the day to make my rounds and I am counting the days until December, hoping that they still remember my name.

3) I can either shower or write 1400 words. Doing my hair and makeup cost me an additional 2000. Can you guess how this month has played out?

4) I miss Twitter. She's a seductress and I love her so.

5) Our mailbox can hold precisely five days worth of mail that I can't make time to retrieve.

6) It is impossible to write with any elegance while doing NaNo. I'm writing at what I have to assume is a fifth-grade reading level.

7) I am more determined and tenacious than I realized and I wouldn't have known that unless I'd taken on this challenge.


1) Those voices that constantly chatter in my head? They actually can be typed right into the computer.

2) I can tell my husband, "No, I'm not BLOGGING again" and not be lying.

3) This fiction thing is fun. Really, really fun. Especially when it doesn't matter if it doesn't make sense and I totally don't have to edit it.

4) I can't help editing some of it.

5) I think about the characters more almost as much as I think about my kids.

6) Excuses for not writing are just that: excuses.

7) Taking a step toward a dream is scary. But not as scary as not trying at all.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Red Writing Hood

Inspiration can come from many, many places as I'm sure you all know.

For this week, we're going to turn to music.

Your assignment: write a piece (fiction or non-fiction) inspired by a song. It can be any song of your choosing. If it is not clear from your story what the song is, throw us a bone and put a note at top or bottom of your post to let us know what you picked.

Rock on! (Or, you know, country up, or reggae, or a get the picture!)

Link up this Friday.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Guest Post - Elizabeth Flora Ross

In today's post, Elizabeth tells us about NaNoWriMo's more serious cousin, WNIN.

The name of the game is WRITE FOOL!

While I am having a great deal of fun flexing my writing muscle and pushing myself out of my comfort zone through the writing memes for The Red Dress Club, the truth is my specialty is nonfiction. It’s what I enjoy, and I believe it is what I do best.

When I started to hear all the buzz about NaNoWriMo and saw how many of my writer friends were participating, I was feeling left out. Then I discovered Write Non Fiction in November (WNFIN) and had a major Ah Ha moment!

The focus of NaNoWriMo is to get down as many words as possible on a “from scratch” novel during the month of November, with a goal of 175 pages or 50,000 words, while resisting the urge to edit. The focus in on output. I believe this is a great way to begin a new writing project. In fact, it is the first step of my own writing process.

The parameters of WNFIN are a little different. WNFIN challenges participants to focus on writing and polishing a piece of nonfiction. It does not specify the piece be new, nor does it focus on word count. The goal is to have something that is complete and ready to submit by month’s end.

This worked perfectly for me, because I was basically at that stage already with my book. I had completed the 10 pre-steps recommended by WNFIN. All I needed was to flesh out my work, adding more depth and editing the overall piece.

I have been incorporating the feedback I received from members of The Red Dress Club through its critique process. That is something I had been eager to do for some time. And let me tell you, that feedback has made my work much better! I love how taking some of the constructive criticism from other talented writers has helped me improve.

So basically what I am doing with WNFIN is using it as motivation to take what I started some time ago and finish it. I have posted an update on my progress so far on my blog today. If you are interested, please stop by and check it out.

And if you are a nonfiction writer, or have always been interested in trying your hand at it, the WNFIN website has been posting fantastic resources all month. Be sure to take some time to browse through the articles.

Happy writing! I can’t wait to see where we all have ended up by the end of this month…

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Weekend linkup

It's time to link up your favorite post. Please only link one - we know it's tough to choose!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Red Writing Hood - Picture it

It's time to link up your posts based on your choice of two photos from Easy Street Prompts. You were to use these pictures as inspiration - they don't have to be literal.

Also, please be sure your email address is easy to find on your blog. We pick our featured blogger randomly from those who link up today, and if we can't contact you, we have to choose someone else.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Featured Blogger - Jackie from With Just a Bit of Magic

Today's featured blogger writes about her insanely busy life at With Just a Bit of Magic.

1. Tell us about yourself: Hello! I'm Jackie and I work full time as a product manager at a small software development company in Michigan. It's a great company to work for and very family oriented. And as most people know I'm also a wife and mom to four great kids; Caitlin (14), Natalie (11), Lauren (8), and Andrew (9 months). And it all keeps me busy! I would love to be a stay at home mom or just work part time, but it's not in the cards right now! I love the time that I'm able to spend with my kids and family and make the most of it.

2. Give us a 30-second elevator pitch about your blog: Life is full of surprises, twists, and turns! You may as well enjoy the ride! I'm a mom to 4 kids, a wife (to my 5th child sometimes), and I work full time and it takes a bit of magic to keep my sanity and things running at my house. You may find things here about family, kids, work, cooking, or just about anything. It's my life.

3. What literary character would you be and why?: The first character that came to mind was Elizabeth Bennett from Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. Now, I'm not sure why she came to mind either. It's one of the books that I really love and have read within the past year and one that I suggest that anyone read if they haven't yet. Elizabeth is a strong and independent woman that many can identify with. One that I can identify with as well.

4. If you carved your initials on a tree, what tree would it be and why?: It would have to be a huge old oak tree with large arching branches that seem to go on forever. The old oak would be the kind you can't reach your arms around, you can build a really cool tree house in, and spend an afternoon lounging underneath it in the shade reading a book.

5. What animal does your husband look like and why?: This is kind of funny! The first thing that came to mind was one of the circus monkey toys with the cymbals that it claps together! And I thought this because of a joke at work when we still worked together. But that's really not him. He's more of the big, warm, cuddly teddy bear. He's always there no matter what with open arms and an open heart.

6. If you could only save one post in a fire, which one would it be and why?: his is a tough one. I like many of them and at the same time there are some that are just crappy. But I selected one that isn't all that old. It's titled 10 Things I Believe.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Red Writing Hood - Promises and Resignation

It's been a while...we think it's time for another photo prompt!

This week, we'll use inspiration photos from Easy Street Prompts, a site that we mentioned in yesterday's post.

We'll do this just like last time we used photo prompts. if you're a fiction writer, use the photo as your inspiration. If you are in the mood for some non-fiction, write a piece based on a life experience that the photo brings to mind.

Here are your two photos to choose from (click on a title to see the photo):



Your post needn't be a literal translation of the photo; you may find that it simply serves as a jumping off point.

Then, come back and link-up on Friday.

Monday, November 8, 2010

We All Have a Bag of Tricks

We all need places where we can go for inspiration, answers, motivation, and insight.
So, I thought I'd show you a handful of my favorite sites and I'm hoping that you'll reciprocate and leave your favorite in the comments.
Ready? Here are mine:
If you're feeling that evil writer's block, stop by and check out:
Interested in checking out a site that fosters a connection between women writers, authors, editors, publishers, and readers? Stop by and visit:
Want a not-so-gentle nudge to get moving? Try:
Looking for a fun writing exercise? Hop over to:
Interested in joining in an amazing writing community? Don't miss:
Want to get inside the head of a former literary agent? Visit:
If you're in need of some grammar refreshers, check out:
Okay, I've shown you mine, now you show me yours!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Weekend linkup

It's the weekend (finally!). Don't forget to turn your clocks back early Sunday morning. An extra hour of sleep, or YAY! Your kids will STILL be up at an ungodly hour on the weekend!

Link up your favorite posts and have fun visiting others - it's a great way to find new blogs!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Red Writing Hood - Dump it

Time to link up so all us Nosy Parkers can see exactly what you - or your character - has in the bag!

One quick reminder: make sure your email address is accesible through your blog. Some of you have been selected as featured bloggers, but when we couldn't find an email, we had to run again and pick a different person.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Read much?

I used to.

Just ask my husband. The bookcase in his office literally overflows onto the floor. Okay, the floor part is because a certain toddler likes to pull them out. But seriously. I love love love books.

And I'm a fast reader. So I devour them like a kid eating candy on Halloween.

But ever since I had children, I stopped reading novels - mostly due to exhaustion and too much Goodnight Moon and, of course, severe lack of "me" time. And now that I have two blogs, there's even less time for myself. Browsing a bookstore without chasing a toddler or helping the older kids select a book is a luxury I don't have.

I last read a book when I flew this August to New York City for BlogHer and had many uninterrupted hours on planes and in airports. My Kindle was my best friend.

The truth about being a good writer is you also have to be a good reader. You have to read a LOT.

So, I wonder - would I be better served spending the hours reading instead?

To many, writing is catharsis. We have to do it, otherwise words would explode in our brain and run out our ears.

And yes, we need writers or else there would be no books, right?

Where is the balance?

I miss losing myself in a book. It's been too long.

Do you read? Do you wish you read more? Do you carve out time for it or just grab a page or two when you can?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

featured Blogger - Stephanie from The Scoop on Poop

Today's guest poster is Stephanie from the often funny, sometimes touching, but always real blog, The Scoop on Poop.

Tell us about yourself: Hi. My name is Stephanie. I’m a stay at home mother to a 10 and 3 yr old. I am a wife, a daughter, a healer, a taxi driver, a coach, a cheerleader, a short order cook in a 24/7/365 kitchen, a maid. I am a loyal friend, a playdate, a teacher, an artist, a daydreamer…of George Clooney, a clean house, well-behaved children, a million dollars, and seeing my name in print on the New York Time bestseller list.

Give us a 30-second elevator pitch about your blog: It’s a daily account of the sometimes ordinary, always dramatic, never dull adventures in my crazy-happy life.

What literary character would you be and why?: This is a hard question from me as I love to read. There are many characters I used to wish to be (or play in a movie as an aspiring actress as a kid), but when it all comes down to it, there is one character I would want to be above all others. Her name is Meggie, and she is the child heroine of Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart. If I were Meggie, I wouldn’t have to dream and wish about being a part of this story or that one. I could just read myself in and out of them---the girlfriend Mark Twain never got around to writing about for Huck Finn, or traveling with a star on a Wrinkle of Time, or surviving a long, cold winter on the prairie with Laura and Mary Ingalls. I would have the ability to write and read in to the stories the bits and pieces that are missing that I always longed for.

If you carved your initials on a tree, what kind of tree would it be and why?: It would most definitely be a weeping willow tree. Every single one of my daydreams has a willow in it, with its long branches reaching out to snuggle you in, providing a place of warmth to feed your imagination underneath. I have escaped to places called Narnia, chased unicorns, and flown in fairy dust underneath the willow tree. I have built sanctuaries, and dreamed of kissing my Prince Charming, all under the boughs of the willow tree.

What animal does your husband look like and why?: When I think of this question, a picture of my husband comes to mind, followed by a picture of Donkey, from Shrek, when he is smiling. My husband has a personality like Donkey too, with his quirky sense of humor, and always positive nature. Like Donkey, he’d give you the shirt of his back, he married a dragon, and he has a huge affection for sweets.

If you could save one post in a fire, which would it be and why?: I’m going to have to go with the cliché’ and say my very first post is the one I would save. It isn’t particularly interesting. It isn’t even particularly good. It is funny, but it’s where I started; the beginning of the wonderful world I found myself in, full of friendly faces, supportive backs, and hearty handshakes.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Dump Your Junk

We're borrowing this week's Red Writing Hood prompt from NaNoWriMo Prompts, a blog dedicated solely to National Novel Writing Month.

Here's your prompt:

"Your protagonist empties the contents of his/her pockets, purse, and/or backpack onto a table. What all was dumped onto the table?"

But, we're going to ask for more than a list of contents...this is merely a jumping off point.

While not all of you are taking part in NaNoWriMo this time around, this prompt will work beautifully for fiction and non-fiction. Don't have a character? Empty your own purse and tell us what's in it and why.

And if you are doing NaNoWriMo, be sure to poke around on the blog if you should get blocked...there's some great stuff over there.

Fiction or non-fiction...tell us your story.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Guest Post -- Punctuation and Pumas

Okay, you asked for it, so here it is...the dreaded grammar lesson.

Today, we're bringing you a refresher on comma usage from Katie, a ridiculously busy woman, with a full-time job, a husband and child, and two blogs, Sluiter Nation and Katie's Bookcase (though there might be one other project that you can ask her about).

Katie's background is diverse, including, but not limited to, teaching English and Spanish at the high school level and English Composition at the college level, and freelancing for her local newspaper.

Alright students, today I am here to talk to you about the most exhilarating part of writing: MECHANICS!

::waits for cheers and applause::

::hears crickets::

Wait. What? You are not interested in the mechanics of writing? You would rather sit on a chair of nails while typing than worry about comma placement?

You know what? I sort of feel the same way, but it’s something that can make or break you when you are trying to gain a following and/or the eye of any sort of publishing contact.

One of the best compliments I ever received was from my editor at the newspaper I worked for. She told me she loved having me write pieces because she never had to fix a thing in my articles. Guess what that meant? I was her first choice for most projects. Never a bad thing, people.

So today I will talk to you about quotation marks and about commas.

First are the rules of quotation marks. Most people already know that they go around a line of dialogue, quotes, and various names of short stories, articles, essays and so on.

But what about that pesky punctuation WITH the quotation marks? Here are some simple rules:

1. Periods and commas ALWAYS go INSIDE the quotation marks.

2. Question marks go INSIDE the quotation marks if the question is in the quotation marks.
Example: “Do you know how fast pumas run?”

3. Question marks go OUTSIDE the quotation marks if the question is NOT part of the quotation.
Example: Do you know who wrote “The Gift of the Magi”?

In most writing, those will be the rules you’ll use most. For more rules, you can go here.

Next we have our comma rules. I find people tend to have one of two problems with commas.

They either have comma diarrhea or they are comma constipated.

There are either commas spewing everywhere, or there is a complete absence of commas.

Comma-phile or Comma-phobe.

To avoid this problem, there are four basic rules that can get you through most comma situations. This is what I do to remember them: I like to think of a comma as either a small little cut or slice in the sentence or a little string tying things together.

Let me explain.

When a comma is like a cut:
When it is setting of introductory “stuff”. You could “snip” at the comma and get rid of the introductory part and you STILL HAVE A SENTENCE left over.
EXAMPLE: Before running through the jungle, the pumas packed a healthy lunch to take along.

When you have an interrupting phrase that isn’t absolutely necessary to the meaning of the sentence you can put commas around it to “snip” out and STILL HAVE A SENTENCE left over.
Example: The pumas, who got up quite early, traveled all day to get to the picnic area.

When a comma is like a little tie:

When you have items in a series, a comma ties them together.
Example: The pumas packed sandwiches, fruit salad, and chocolate cake for lunch.

When you have two complete sentences joined by a coordinating conjunction*, put a comma before the conjunction to “tie” the sentences together.
Example: The pumas** were all set for their day trip, but the weather just didn’t cooperate.

Are there any questions?

I am here before and after class to help, or you can always email me at ksluiter(@)hotmail(dot)com for any mechanics or usage questions.

Class dismissed.

*coordinating conjunctions are the short ones. You can remember them by remember the acronym FANBOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so).

**I don’t know how this turned into a puma-heavy lesson. I apologize. No pumas were harmed in the creation of this lesson plan.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Weekend linkup

Time to link up a favorite post! Try to visit as many as you can. It's a great way to find new blogs!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Red Writing Hood - Villains


In honor of Halloween, let's see all your bad boys and girls and, you know, other creatures.

Link up and go trick-or-treat at as many blogs as you can!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Everything you need to know about NaNoWriMo

Today's guest post is by Cheryl's brother. Andrew has recently completed the first novel he's going to submit for publication and is participating in NaNoWriMo for the fourth time. He is here to share his wisdom with us. He blogs about writing over at Write Runner.

What is NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to writing a 50,000-word novel (or longer) during the month of November.

How do I sign up?

Simply go to and sign up. Be sure to register with your local region.

What’s the prize? What do I win?

The first draft of your next masterpiece. Seriously, it’s just a challenge, not a competition. Yes, if you go to the NaNoWriMo site there are all kinds of friendly wagers and challenges, but it’s all in the spirit of motivation.

So, why should I do this? How?

Here are my top 6 reasons for doing NaNoWriMo:

1. At the end of the month, you will have the first draft of a novel. From there it’s just a short step to edit, polish, and sell it! (but not really...I’ll save editing and marketing for another blog post or ten). The point is that you will have something to work with. And even if you never touch it again, it may inspire you to write other works. It may become the seed for a new project.

2. It’s the start of a great writing habit. Most “habits” take 3 weeks or so to take hold. By writing 1667 words a day (7 pages) for a month, you may start a writing habit that lasts a lifetime.

3. It’s just a month. And a boring month at that.

4. The pressure of forcing your brain to generate that much prose in such a short time is a major spark to creativity. I find that it actually adds a sense of urgency to my characters and forces them to get stuff done.

5. The pace of NaNoWriMo also does not allow your brain to rest, meaning that you will start to think about your story all the time. During breakfast, important meetings, in bed.

6. For me, I like using NaNoWriMo to explore new areas of writing. Last year I wrote my first Steampunk novel. This year, I’m planning on writing a contemporary Mystery.

How do I come up with an idea?

Usually I start with a character or a conflict, sometimes setting. For character, think of 2-word descriptions. Ex. Heartbroken romantic. Desperate spy. Hungry artist. Weatherbeaten retiree. Think of what situations those simple descriptions evoke.

For conflict, use “vs”: Man vs wilderness. Love vs responsibility. Mother vs daughter. Loyalty vs desire. Or use those descriptions above. Deperate spy vs weatherbeaten retiree.

For setting, think of something romantic yet dangerous, using 2-word descriptions: Forgotten Island. Abandoned Spaceship. Mother-in-law’s bedroom. 

Now put all three together: Desperate spy chooses between love and responsibility when faced with caring for her weatherbeaten retiree mother-in-law who lays dying, refusing to reveal the secret that could stop the alien invasion.

Uh, so how do I do this thing?

Tips for a successful NaNoWriMo

1. Do a little pre-planning. Some people literally sit down on Nov. 1 and start from a blank page. I suggest that you have at least a bare outline of the plot and a few character sketches. Who is the main character? What are the major conflicts? Who are the “bad guys”? What are the stakes? What’s the genre? Where does it take place?

2. Write every day. Even if you only squeak out 100 words, or half a page one day, it keeps the story alive in your mind.

3. Turn off the TV, internet, phone, spouse, kids. I know, easier said than done. Just find a way to dedicate some time each day to uninterrupted writing. Go out for “coffee”. Sit in a park or library. Participate in “write-ins” organized by local NaNo-ers.

4. Do not go back and edit. If there is stuff you know is wrong and needs fixing, just jot down some notes and keep moving. Editing is for December. Characters may change names and disappear entirely. Missions are forgotten. Conflicts unresolved. You kill off your main character. Don’t worry about it, just keep going.

5. Crap is good. Especially if this is your first fling at novel writing. They say it takes a writer 1,000,000 words to expel the crap from their system. Well here’s an easy 50K. Seriously though, don’t try to make every word perfect. Your first draft is more like a detailed outline, subject to revision and wholesale cuts. Polishing it now is wasted effort, since you don’t know what you’re keeping or tossing.

6. Do not give up. The first week is amazing. You’ll have great characters and conflict. Week 2 kinds of drags. By week three, you’ll have no idea why you started. That’s kind of where the magic happens. That’s when you sit down with yourself and figure out how to drive the story to its natural end. If you get past that barrier, then week four is a delight as everything comes together in a thrilling conclusion.

7. Backup your work! It’s amazing how often people lose their entire novel because they never saved it, or their disk dies on Nov. 29. Email it to a friend, save it to the cloud (Google Docs and Windows Skydrive offer free online storage of docs), or print it out.

Why do you NaNoWriMo?

I just work better under pressure. I keep charts and things to measure my progress. I spend so much time editing, that I literally have very little time to write something new. This is why I love NaNoWriMo so much. It’s just one month out of my life to create something new. I also like the comraderie of 100,000+ people all working towards the same goal. It makes me feel that I’m doing something important.

How do I find out more?
NaNoWriMo website:
My NaNoWriMo blog page:
Includes a summary of my past NaNoWriMo projects, as well as links to all my blog posts on the subject.

Add me as a friend here.

Good luck, and good writing! See you on December 1!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Featured Blogger - Jane from Aging Mommy

Today we are very excited to feature Jane and her thoughtful, inspiring blog Aging Mommy.

Tell us about yourself: I'm a 47 year old stay at home Mom with a 3 year old daughter. I spent 22 years building my career in finance and business management mainly within the Telecoms Industry, climbing the corporate ladder. I am a transplanted Brit who came here from England via Belgium and Ireland six years ago when I was offered what I thought was the job of my dreams as a Director of Sales Operations at the Global HQ. I never thought I would be a Mom, I was too busy having fun, traveling the world and living a very self centered life. But then at the age of 43 I found myself free falling from that ladder into the very different world of Mommyland. I love good food and eating out, good wine, photography, keeping fit and hiking. None of which are especially compatible with life with a 3 year old unless you class pasta and pizza as good food. Life now is certainly very different but I honestly would not want it any other way.

Give us a 30-second elevator pitch about your blog: Hmmm....when I started my blog in February I wrote in my bio that I was looking to poke my head over the parapet of Motherhood out into the world again and was also hoping blogging would suffice in lieu of some much needed therapy. I had no clue about the blogosphere when I started blogging, so for me the biggest surprise was finding this amazing community of fellow bloggers. The therapy became a very real attainment as I found myself talking about my experiences of Motherhood, the highs and the lows and realized there are so many fellow bloggers who have had similar experiences and "get" where I am coming from. Also blogging reignited a love of writing which I had parked at the school gates some 30 years ago. So what started out as a place to record my thoughts and experiences as a Mother has become a place where I do that but also now I am increasingly posting photos, stories and even poems as I try to figure out where I want to take my writing and photography.

What literary character would you be and why?: Alice in Wonderland - wouldn't you just love to go to the Mad Hatters Tea Party and meet all those amazing characters. Of course, if the Mad Hatter turned out to be Johnny Depp in disguise then that would be even better :-)

If you could carve your initials in a tree, what tree would it be and why?: Those of you who already know me know that I am a lover of nature. So it will come as no surprise to know that I love trees. I think they are beautiful and awe inspiring accomplishments of nature. So I really could not bear to carve my initials into any tree. But I wouldn't mind having a tree planted above my grave. My favorite tree is the Acer, so one of those would be just perfect.

What animal does your husband look like and why?: I had absolutely no idea how to answer this question as after almost 17 years together he just looks like my husband to me. So I thought I would ask Mirabelle. Her first answer was pooh pooh diaper and her second was wee wee (toilet humor is a big thing around here at the moment). Her final answer was a growly silly bear. I think that is a pretty good answer although I think if my husband does resemble anything other than a basic homo sapiens then it is definitely a Hobbit. 

If you could save only one post in a fire, which post would it be and why?: There are lots of posts that mean a lot to me for many different reasons - be it because they are about Mirabelle or my experiences as a Mother or about getting to grips with PPD and finding myself again. This is a really tough one to answer. I know the most popular post of all time was my Thankyou For Being a Friend post, about a play date that went horribly wrong. But I would have to say my favorite post is Will you still need me when I'm 64.I  submitted this post to Write for Charity along with a couple of other posts and it was accepted for publication in the anthology recently published entitled From The Heart. The stories I submitted represent my first ever appearance in print and all profits from this publication go to Children's hospitals. Seeing something I had written in a book was almost surreal. This particular story was about the ways in which parents embarrass their children and I included some stories from my childhood. I blog anonymously and none of my friends or family know about my blog. A few weeks ago on a skype call with my parents I told them about the book and they asked me to read one of my stories to them. As I read about my father wearing long wool socks, short shorts and Jesus boots to cut the grass in summer my parents laughed. As I read about my Mom coming to pick me up from school when I was, in my opinion, too old for such nonsense, my mother said "I remember that day, it was raining and you had just a thin cotton summer dress on and no coat." My mother is not one to heap praise on anyone. Ever. As a child I wrote stories and poems all the time. Throughout my life my mother has repeatedly said how she used to love reading my stories and that I should write a book some day. As I grew older it used to annoy me - it seemed like such a ridiculous and impossible notion. But she persisted. When I finished reading my story to my parents my mother said "that's a good start but now you need to write a book." So I guess I'd better get on with doing just that.