Monthly Archives: July 2010

Who do YOU write like?

Okay, so, it’s almost Friday and I’m in for a little brainless fun. How ’bout that (as my grandfather would say). Simple. Writing. FUN.

Do you ever wonder which famous writer you write like?

I WRITE LIKE is a site with a statistical analysis tool, which analyzes your word choice and writing style and compares them with those of the famous writers. So, I gave it a go and plopped my first paragraph of my Middle Grade novel into the program:

Excerpt: BILLIE BOOTS, YOUR ROOTS ARE SHOWING by B. Jas

It all started with the man in the pinstriped suit. The kind of suit you get off the rack—and on sale. This man was Mr. Andy Beers and he turned my world upside down. He was a salesman of sorts. He sold my house. I saw the fateful handshake, the smiles, my dad’s bobbing chin and my mom’s perky performance at the kitchen table. I saw it all unfold from the relative safety of my swing. My parents had been washed over for sure by this stranger in the Lincoln Town Car. For a girl, I knew my cars, and as soon as I saw Mr. Beers drive up in that big boat, I knew he’d take my parents for a ride.

There ya have it.  Analysis complete. Apparently, I write like Corey Doctorow—a fellow Canadian (also a blogger, journalist, & sci-fi writer). If you’d like to give it a try, visit www.iwl.me. Any text in English will do: your latest blog post, journal entry, comment, chapter of your unfinished book, etc. For reliable results paste at least a few paragraphs (not tweets).

And while you’re at it, let us know your results. Which famous writer do YOU emulate?!

Beckie

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Filed under Inspiration, Motivation

Festivals for lovers of the written word in Ontario

A path in a foggy fall woodThis fall, Ontario writers and book-lovers should keep a weekend bag packed and ready to go for impromptu trips to any of the literary festivals happening across the province.

I just missed the Stephen Leacock Festival (thanks a lot, herniated disk—you ruined everything!), but there’s plenty more to come. Here is a sampling of some great festivals happening this fall within an easy drive of the Greater Toronto Area.

  • Eden Mills Writers’ Festival: September 17-19, 2010 (Eden Mills). Featuring a young writers’ workshop and readings from adult (Peter Robinson!), young adult (R.J. Anderson!) and children’s (Patricia Storms!) writers.

  • Words Alive Literary Festival: September 18, 2010 (Sharon). Featuring spoken word artists, poets and writers, including acclaimed author Nino Ricci.

  • Kingston WritersFest: September 22-26 (Kingston). Featured authors include Trevor Cole, Sandra Gulland, Steven Heighton, Guy Gavriel Kay and Lisa Moore. The website will be updated soon with more details.

  • The Word on the Street: September 26, 2010 (Vancouver, Kitchener, Toronto and Halifax). A national celebration of literacy and the written word.

  • International Festival of Authors: October 20-30 (Toronto). Featured authors include Sandra Birdsell, Giles Blunt, Dany Laferrière, Yann Martel, Louise Penny, Jane Urquhart and many, many more.

  • BookFest Windsor: November 4-6 (Windsor). Featuring readings by Susan Juby, Alexander MacLeod, Stuart Ross, and many others.

And of course, to learn more about cultural destinations in Ontario, check Ontario Travel.

Maria

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My burnout recovery strategy…and other tips for over-worked writers

I just wrapped up several hellish weeks that included a busy schedule at work, some rush freelance work, writing group activities, a dozen birthday parties, one sick cat and a herniated disk. I have a feeling that final item was brought on by everything else. 

Those few weeks capped off a busy year that never seemed to take a breather. It wasn’t the kind of stress that a glass of wine and good night’s sleep could fix. I felt worn out every day. Some days I questioned what I had been thinking when I decided to pursue my writing. I found myself wishing for swine flu just so I could have a few days to do nothing but sleep. 

Being in a creative field means that you are vulnerable to burnout. It’s not the kind of work where you can simply check your brain into a locker, slog through your eight hours, and then reinstall your brain at the end of your shift. And for those who fit their writing in after an eight-hour-or-more slog…let’s just say that carpal tunnel isn’t the only thing you have to worry about.

Burnout can lead to long-term health problems that can spill over into all areas of your life. But here’s the good news: there are things you can do to prevent and treat burnout.

HelpGuide.org has some great resources for dealing with burnout. This resource takes the “Three Rs” approach to burnout: how to Recognize it, Reverse it, and build your Resilience.

For me, I found three things that really helped:

1. Learning to say “no”. I’m a people-pleaser by nature, and as a part-time freelancer, it’s like cutting off my arm to have to turn down a paycheque. But no typing means no working; no working means no income; and no income means I have to cancel HBO. So some “preventative nay-saying” was my first step.

2. Getting professional help. Luckily, my injury was in the early stages and some treatment will have me back up and working in no time. (Update: Chiropractic treatment? Meh. Massage treatment? Heavenly.)

3. Leaning on my informal support group. If I didn’t have the Restless Writers (even their odd new habit of calling me “Sultry Monkey”), I wouldn’t have any outlet for the stress of juggling a day-job and the writing life. Lori and Beckie—and yes, all our blog visitors and Twitter folk—are all a part of my mental-health care action team. I’m grateful to have you.

Thankfully, I’m on the mend. Have you had an experience with burnout? How did it happen? And how did you deal?

Maria

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Filed under Life and stuff, Trials and Tribulations

The Dance of Dialogue: 21 Tips for Writing Great Scenes

Writing conversations that sound natural can present a challenge for some writers. It’s akin to composing a melody, which clearly, does not come easy to everyone. Unless of course you run with Brahms or Beyonce. Yeah…

We (being: me & Maria) attended Brian Henry’s (Quick Brown Fox) dialogue workshop this week and have some useful advice for others trying to perfect the knack of writing good dialogue.

We managed to collect some useful tidbits, like: 1) the plot is the superstructure for entertaining the reader; 2) if two characters are too similar, you must kill one of them; and 3) forget show-don’t-tell, instead show what’s important; tell about the stuff that’s not! Gotta love new takes on old rules—go Brian go!

So, now dripping of dialogue do’s & don’t’s, I’d like to share them with you.

21 Tips for Writing Great Scenes:

  • Dialogue and narrative must play off each other.
  • Every scene must have a point and advance the story. Subject your scene to the “so what?” test.
  • Always make your characters interesting. Like, give ’em a verbal quirk.
  • Characters should always have their own agenda.
  • Treat your characters as “tour guides.” It’s their job to guide the reader.
  • Dialogue is dynamic. It should not travel in a straight line.
  • Remove extra words! Use words that are pithy & colorful.
  • Do not overdo narrative interruptions.
  • Use contractions freely in dialogue (and in narrative too).
  • The simpler the dialogue tag, the better. “He said” and “She said” are the most common. They’re also so unobtrusive that they’re almost invisible.
  • Trust your dialogue and resist the urge to explain everything.
  • Use narrative to keep characters grounded in their setting.
  • Cut greetings, intro’s, inquiries into people’s health, and/or the weather.
  • Aim to have more than one thing going on at once.
  • Milk the tension! Good dialogue requires tension or conflict.
  • Engage characters in another activity while talking (avoid the obvious: smoking & leaning).
  • Employ irony: create a gap between what your characters say and what the reader knows is the truth.
  • The more dialogue you have, the more readable your story.
  • Ask yourself: Will readers pay $ for what I have just given them?
  • Hook the reader from the beginning; hook the reader as the story develops; and hook the reader by leading them into the next scene.
  • Umm. Did I mention, hook the reader?

 List compiled from: Writing Dialogue Workshop, Brian Henry, July 17, 2010.

The best thing you can do is to READ IT OUT LOUD. This is a great way to test your dialogue. And when you do, perhaps lock yourself in a sound-tight room to avoid the people in white coats…

Beckie

Need more help? Dialogue Writing Resources:

Writing Dialogue by Tom Chiarella

Writing Dialogue for Scripts by Rib Davis

Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time by Jordan Rosenfeld

Upcoming Writer’s Digest Webinar (July 22, 2010): Write Great Fiction: Craft Sizzling Dialogue

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Filed under Motivation, Writing resources

Restless Writin’ Rebel


Last week was a big one for this Restless Writer, with two major happenings: first, I launched my blog (www.loridyan.com), where I can wax poetic on such lofty topics as middle-aged bra shopping and the perils of giving up sugar; the second, a direct result of the former, was getting my site flagged via Facebook as offensive.

As many writers know, the moment you start putting your work out there (through the web, public readings, or print), it’s fair game for people to judge. The idea of someone evaluating your best efforts can be terrifying, but the exhilaration that results from connecting with a reader can’t be beat.

Finding out that a person had taken the time to report me, because he or she was so offended by what I’d thought was funny writing, was a soul-crushing feeling. Like being kicked in the spiritual nuts.

I wanted to turn off the computer, put down the pen and never write again. All of the positive comments from those discovering my words didn’t matter in the face of such public rejection.

I soon gave myself a reality check – being dissed by a disgruntled relative or friend-of-a-friend wasn’t so bad. It’s not like I’d had a fatwa placed on my writing. Also, if I’m going to be a professional fiction writer, I need to get a thicker – I’m talking rhino thick – skin. Reviews will never be uniformly positive (they may even be uniformly negative) and I must learn to take the bad with the good, or at least ignore it. So really, this whole episode was a wonderful lesson. A gift, even.

But then, as often happens, I got feisty. And a feisty Restless Writer is not to be messed with. I promptly dashed off this comment on the (now defunct) post link:

Apparently someone reported my blog link as offensive. It can be accessed here: loridyan (dot) com. Whoever it is that finds me so offensive, may I suggest that you either don’t click the link or perhaps read the sentence in context (not just the word “clock”, which was mispronounced without the “L” by a 3 yr old). Also, you can suck it.

I’ve promised myself that, should I ever be lucky enough to have my work professionally reviewed, I will never tell any critics, not matter how critical they are, to suck it. But I can still think it.

Lori

How do you deal with negative reviews?

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Filed under Life and stuff, Motivation, Starting up, Success stories, Trials and Tribulations

Your blog is being used to predict the future

In the time it takes you to read this sentence, more than a thousand tweets will have been twittered and dozens of blogs posted (according to Jim Giles @NewScientist). Most of it is fluff, yet possible this information will be used to make predictions about our society. And you thought you were just rambling senselessly…

Okay, so a rather serious post for Restless Writers, but hey – you’re still reading! And this IS a blog! It’s true, research scientists are analysing the population’s state of mind by looking through blogs and tweets. They are being used to forecast sales of homes, cars, products and even how the stock market may behave. Blogs are providing a sample of what is going on in society.

Even more bizarre, your words (a.k.a. web data) are being analysed to create an index of national “mood.” This is called the Anxiety Index—a measure of frequency with which a range of words related to apprehension (e.g. nervous) appears in your posts. Same goes for twitter; it holds similar predictive power.

I am relatively new to the whole blog & tweet world, and of course, once online, it’s inevitable that we are all being mined. So knowing this, will I change my tweets or blogposts? Absolutely not. Nor should you. What a wonderful world we live in that we may speak and express ourselves freely.  

Blog away. Tweet til dawn.

In the words of Voltaire, “think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too.” 

Beckie

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Filed under Life and stuff

Locked. And. Loaded.

What can you wear as a necklace and is cheaper than a boob job?

Give up?

Find out here:

Locked. And. Loaded., by Lori Dyan

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