Author Archives: Lori Dyan

What Every Writer Needs to Know

Thank you to the lovely Empress over at Good Day, Regular People and the equally fantasmic San Diego Momma for sharing this link. And, of course, to Ira Glass for sharing the best-kept secret to writing.

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Filed under Inspiration, Motivation, Trials and Tribulations

Beautiful Goodbye

Sherwood Schwartz died yesterday at the age of 94. For those of us who grew up glued to a TV set in the 70s, “Sherwood Schwartz, Executive Producer” may have been the first words we learned to read. He was the prolific writer behind Gilligan’s Island and Brady Bunch, among other things.

Many people judge a successful writer as one who stands the test of time, resonating with readers hundreds of years after publication. I’m not suggesting that the writings of Mr. Schwartz are up there with Ms. Austen; however, my children have just discovered Gilligan’s Island and they can’t get enough of it. It was one of my favourite shows growing up, too. And my mom loved watching it before I was even born.

Mr. Schwartz wrote a farewell letter that was to be published upon his death (source: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com). Here is the letter, which offers his humorous and timeless insights into writing. And living.

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Filed under Life and stuff

Your Beta Readers Don’t Have to be Toilet-Trained

For a variety of reason, we Restless Writers have been a bit lax of late, both in our meetings and pages, so I’ve been e-mailing my WIP (a chapter book aimed at those aged 7 to 10) to the ladies for some eFeedback.

This latest project is very dear to my heart, not to mention heaps of fun, because the entire family is involved: my husband came up with the initial character; my three-year-old daughter coined some catch phrases; and my eight-year-old son has provided me with key plot points.

When I received suggestions from Beckie and Maria, they were as usual, spot on. However I’ve noticed after reading the outline to my son that he had very similar comments regarding the pacing, characterization and even setting.

Obviously he didn’t use these terms; more often than not they were along the lines of, “That part’s boring, mommy…” or “Why wouldn’t they do (insert his better idea here) instead of (my idea)?”

I mentioned my son’s critiques to Beckie and she offered me some sage advice: “Listen to your kid!” I’ve decided to do just that. He doesn’t realize it, but my son and I have been having regular editorial meetings at bedtime.

I’ll still need my Restless Writers as I complete this manuscript, but they won’t see any pages that haven’t already passed the kid test.

LD

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Filed under Writing ideas, Writing resources

Confessions of a Reformed Pantser

(That's not my scrunchie)

I hate outlines. I prefer to write like I read: with no idea what will happen next. While writing without a plan may be thrilling, it is also a very time-consuming, painful process for me.

My last manuscript was written in a few months; however I then spent the next year revising it, which included scrapping the first seventy pages. Although I liked the idea of pantsing my way through a manuscript along with Stephen King and Nora Roberts, in practice I ended up writing myself into all sorts of corners.

For my newest WIP, I’ve gone the planning route and the results so far have been outstanding. The feedback I’ve received from my fellow Restless Writers on my outline has allowed me to control the pace of the story, delete superfluous scenes that haven’t even been written yet and flesh out my protagonist (thereby ensuring that the first seventy pages of this WIP aren’t full of unnecessary character sketches).

In one sense, it feels like this process takes a lot longer, but I know that the bulk of my work is already done. If only I could apply this newfound organization to things like grocery shopping, I figure I’d have three or more hours a day to actually write.

Are you a planner or a pantser? Are you committed to one method? Why does it work (or not) for you?

LD

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Filed under Inspiration, Motivation, Starting up, Success stories, Trials and Tribulations

Ditch the Follow-up Phobia

Querying agents is a humbling and pride-sucking process, but it’s also just plain weird.

You slave over your manuscript (sometimes for years), then craft a 300-word letter that perfectly encapsulates everything about your book, and it’s sent out to a multitude of strangers with the hope that one of them might want to take a closer look. If you aren’t used to tooting your own horn, the process can feel a bit…icky at first, like arriving for a first date in your wedding dress. Or showing up for your first day of work, resume in hand, without benefit of having been offered a job. Or sending your kids to college without admittance. Or…you get the picture.

Many people send their query letters and then hide under the bed sit back and hope for The Call. That’s what I used to do. Now I know better.

Beckie is the person who encouraged me to follow up with agents. She is relentless as well as restless in her pursuit of writing, and she shows no fear in gently reminding agents that they have her manuscript. Half of me was worried about bothering the agents and the other half just wanted to forget I was even querying. In my twisted logic, not thinking about it would make it happen (see also: a watched pot), but that wasn’t working out so well for me and I decided to do some following up.

And guess what? Ten sent e-mails led to three requests for more pages! It also led to seven “thanks but no thanks” responses, but at least it gave me some closure. And one of those rejections was the nicest “no” anyone has ever received. Ever. It actually made my day.

Rather than appearing desperate, sending a brief follow up simply demonstrates professional courtesy, and often encourages positive reciprocity. Worst case scenario? I get another “no” for my pimped-out, colour-coded, agent-tracking spreadsheet.

Best case scenario? I get an agent.

LD
What’s your follow up strategy? Do you have one?

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Filed under Getting published, Inspiration, Motivation, Trials and Tribulations

The Last Post

Blogging is a funny thing. Most people (okay, me) start as a means to get their writing out to the masses, even if “the masses” consists of five family members. It is an opportunity for creative expression, professional promotion, archiving family memories and good old-fashioned venting. It can also act as an obituary.

Today I read the about a blogger named Derek K. Miller, who lost his battle with cancer in Burnaby, B.C. at 41. His final request to his family and friends was for them to publish  ‘The Last Post’ and allow him to be the one to notify his readers of his passing.

Miller’s final post went viral the same day it was posted on May 4th,  drawing three million visitors to his website. The message was prepared weeks in advance of his passing, as he and his family both knew his battle with colorectal cancer was not going to have a happy ending.

I’ve been struggling to get my new blog design up and in the process had to move to self-hosting. Long story short, I had a very frustrating weekend that left me wondering why I’m doing any of this in the first place. Was it worth it? Would anyone even notice if I pulled the plug on my site?

I still don’t know the answers to these questions, but here I am, blogging away on two different sites. Reading about Derek obviously put my petty challenges in perspective while offering inspiration: “Pursue what (you) enjoy, and what stimulates (your) mind, as much as possible—so you can be ready for opportunities…”

Like Derek Miller (and every writer I know), not writing is not an option. The reason we write doesn’t really matter, provided that we keep doing it until we no longer can.

LD

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Filed under Uncategorized

The Restless Writers Regroup

We Restless Writers gave ourselves a long-overdue collective bitch slap at our last meeting. We had become negligent in our pages and, more often than not, we were holding meetings at a pub rather than our houses. This was very conducive to discussing the state of our butts, jobs and marriages, but our writing? Not so much.

In addition to laying down some serious ground rules (heads up, Wordbitches: we’re timing ourselves now!), we discussed what exactly each of us is hoping to accomplish at our monthly meetings. This is what we came up with:

Maria:
Our short story maven and resident smarty pants. Maria is an excellent editor and enjoys brainstorming elements of other people’s work to make them better. She’s hoping to turn one of her many amazing short stories into a novel, but is happy to act as sounding board/coach/motivator until she finds her writing groove.

Beckie:
BJas continues to kick some serious query ass on her completed YA novel and has also started a new project. This is particularly exciting for me (Lori) because when I met Beckie, she was already revising her YA novel. Being involved in her process during these early stages has been very fun and inspiring.

Lori:
I, too, am in a querying hell phase, so it’s great to have fellow writers with whom I can commiserate/celebrate. I’ve embarked on a new project for children and having Beckie’s experience in the genre is proving invaluable. Between her savviness and Maria’s editing prowess, I may just get something on the shelves.

We also decided that a writing retreat is in order this summer – the objectives of which can be summed up thusly: B&B; laptops; and wine.

LD

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Filed under Group meetings, Inspiration, Writing resources

Link Envy

It’s that time of week again and if these links were margaritas, we’d all be in rehab by now.

Restless Lori:
Everyday Fiction
This online magazine specializes in bringing you fine fiction in bite-size doses. Every day, they publish a new short story of 1000 words or fewer that can be read during your lunch hour, on transit, or even over breakfast. This is a great way to get some publishing credits. And to keep things interesting, readers vote for stories (although nobody is voted off the site).

The Good Greatsby
Here I thought I’d discovered the greatest humour writer and I see that Ironic Mom already has dibs on him. Dammit! Go and read about the things he carries in his pocket for the sole purpose of confusing the police in the event of his untimely death.

Restless Maria:
Online Etymology Dictionary
This website draws on classic sources such as the “Oxford English Dictionary” (OED) and “The Dictionary of American Slang.”

A Writer’s Guide
Check out the word origins posts, like a recent one for the origins of the word April.

The Grammarphobia Blog
The authors respond to questions about the origins of words and phrases, like “the cat’s pajamas.”

Restless Bjas:
EcoPressed
Kinda loving this new portal highlighting the best environmental blogging across the WordPress community.

TreeHugger
On the green theme this week. Check out TreeHugger’s up-to-the-minute blog dedicated to driving sustainability mainstream. Check out BookHugger while you’re there!

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Filed under Friday Links, Link Envy

Taking a Vacation from Myself

I spent last week in a drunken stupor with my family and some friends in a rented condo on Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. It was away from the touristy all-inclusives and my kids were thrilled to spend every day in the pool (fun fact: I totally could’ve taken them to the Hilton in my hometown for a week and saved a few bucks). My point being, I had some free time on my hands.

I expected to make progress on outlining my current WIP, but had zero interest in pursuing it. I’d scheduled some prewritten blog posts and even managed to scribble some off-the-cuff blog entries, but those were done in under ten minutes while my kids showered. It wasn’t writing as much as a public e-postcard.

For the first few days I was like an antsy college student the week after school ends, when your brain won’t turn off and you feel guilty for not studying or finishing a paper. Although I had my journal with me at all times should the muse strike, a funny thing happened: it didn’t. At all.

Instead I read a ten-year-old John Grisham novel I found in the nightstand.

It’s not like I was too relaxed to write – too drunk maybe, but only after five o’clock (p.m.) – I think my brain just needed a break. From me.

I’m back now and it’s not like I’m suddenly invigorated with dozens of new ideas. I’m not even that relaxed (anyone who has kids or watches Modern Family knows how stressful vacations can be…for the moms, anyway). But it was nice to get out of my head, put the iPhone away and stop tweeting for a few days. Focusing on other things (i.e. does a Mojito taste the same with Splenda?) may be just what I needed to re-focus on my writing.

What about you? Does getting away help you connect with the muse? Tell us all about it…

LD

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Filed under Inspiration, Life and stuff, Motivation

Link Envy

Here are some links that make us swoon like a forty twelve-year-old at a Bieber concert:

Restless Lori:

Four Chicks and a Muse
These chicks are hardcore. They are blogging (and vlogging!) their way through Julia Cameron’s “Walking in this World: The Practical Art of Creativity.”

Here’s how it works:

  1. The 4 Chicks read a chapter.
  2. The Chicks meet and discuss the chapter.
  3. Over the next month or so, the Chicks do the tasks in the chapter and blog about it along the way.
  4. You’re invited to do the same and/or comment on the blog, sharing your own experiences and Chick Stories.

Men With Pens
We love pens almost as much as we love men, so obviously this is a site for us. I recently enjoyed a piece focusing on what to do when you forget to post on your blog. I was thinking to myself, “Typical male forgetfulness,” until I realized that it was written by a woman. #ironic

Restless Maria:

Full disclosure: I’m a capable and unflappable communications manager by day, and a rambling Restless Writer by night/weekend. Both roles mean I need to have a way with words. Sometimes I’m at a loss, so I defer to the following pros.

Grammar Girl
She’s the one to whom I turn (is that right?) when I can’t figure out if I should use a dash or an ellipsis, to get validation on my efforts to eradicate the old-fashioned habit of putting two spaces between sentences.

Copyblogger
The insightful and entertaining writers at Copyblogger offer bang-on advice for writing excellent content that keeps readers coming back. Plus their post titles and analogies are cool.

Ragan.com
Although the site and its newsletters are geared to professional communicators, I find the writing and editing tips to be helpful when I’m wearing my Restless Writer hat as well. I also enjoy reading about PR gaffes and social media snafus.

Restless Bjas:

The Liar’s Club
This is a blog by people who lie for a living (a powerhouse marketing partnership) of 13 Philadelphia-area authors, including two New York Times bestsellers, who basically lie for a living. These dudes are just plain cool.

Afternoonstorm
A beautiful blog about one woman’s journey in search of an inner calm. Every post—thoughtful and poignant; it might just make you cry (in a good way!). Read her latest post: Focusing on the Light.

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Filed under Link Envy