Stepping into the forest of my mind

Stepping into the forest of my mind
Just as every journey begins with a first step, every story begins with the first word.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Insecure Writers want to know: How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader?

It’s true. I can no longer just read to enjoy a story. It was in reading other stories that first helped me to create some of my own.  When I read, I look to see what it takes other writers to create fully complex plot lines, fully fleshed out characters in their stories.

I read to understand how the writer sets up the story, connects the plot lines, builds the characters, and introduces backstory.  I can see all sides of the story now that I’m a writer. I can appreciate the hard work the author did to create the story line. I learn new insight in how to draw readers into my own stories. I read between the plot lines to see if I can obtain a better understanding of how the author put the story together.

Being an avid reader, I can see the importance of small details in stories. However that being the case, I find the plot holes in storylines; find errors in logic that shoves me out of the fictitious dream as John Gardner says in The Art of Fiction.

Writers should be readers, because reading can open the mind, can offer an opportunity to learn something new. We learn about myths and traditions, other cultures and other worlds when we read. We get story ideas from reading journals or essays, other histories or other adventures.  

All writers learn from other writers through the reading of their stories. I know I do. Reading a new novel or memoir, we can understand how a story flows, how it builds momentum, how it comes full circle. Writers should be readers—especially in the genre that they are writing. Read award-winners as well as popular writers and small presses and indie writers.

Should a writer read while creating her own story? I say we should always read, if only to give our minds a rest from our own story creations. All the luck with your own stories in 2017. Thanks for stopping by Adventures and leaving a note. It’s greatly appreciated.   

This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s SupportGroup.  We post on the first Wednesday of every month.  To join us, or learn more about the group, click HERE.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Story Genius Writing Course: One Ticking Clock in Story
Crawling along in the
Story Genius method for
my college memoir.
A story is one external problem that grows, escalates, and complicates from beginning to end, Lisa Cron says in our Story Genius class.  Jennie Nash concurs. And, the ladies tell us, the writer needs to develop one overarching ticking clock with real life consequences. 


It sounds easy, doesn’t it? Try it in memoir.

So I started with my misbelief that I shouldn’t attempt college because I’m inadequate to those seeking a college education. This was instilled in me when I was growing up and struggled in school. This belief kept me out of academia and away from failure, humiliation or displaying incompetence. Or so my father told me. I chose the successful path of secretary with a regular paycheck and married and became a mother like my mom, sisters, and friends.

I was safe in my cozy box of motherhood, safe from any fear of failure until my disabled daughter signed up for high school classes. Then I needed to choose whether to be a failure at guiding my children or disabled child or a failure at attempting college.

The ticking clock begins as I am forced by a comment made from a high school guidance counselor, an educated person respected in society, to either re-teach my daughter as best I could, the material needed to pass high school by educating myself first through college classes, or condemn her to only special education classes in high school.

So you may ask why I was so afraid of failure in college.

Because, in my mind, if I fail at my attempt to obtain a college degree, I have wasted the time I could have spent with the family, trying to achieve a goal that was not possible for me. My father would be right. I am not college material. 

But my family is everything to me. If I failed college, I would have wasted my family’s time, which is more precious to me. It’s ok to waste your own time but not someone else’s, especially when you love them.

So what do you think of my memoir problem and ticking clock? Any comments you offer are greatly appreciated. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Insecure Writer’s Support Group asks: What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?
          Memoir must be told in story with all the story elements in place.  But of course, everything must be true.
And that’s why memoir is so difficult!

            Up the ante, build, complicate, add twists and turns, find resolution—in memoir.  Nuts! It’s extremely difficult when it is all personal and needs to be true.  And then add insight. Yes, insight in memoir as well as in fiction.  The protagonist must share insight into her actions.  The reader must follow along her inner thoughts to see how she works out her story problems.  How she grows; how she changes. 

            To get emotion on the page, the protagonist must be vulnerable.  Easier when it is a fictitious character you are writing about than yourself.  But I understand that to be able to connect with readers, to get that “me too” feeling, I must allow them into my mind, my worries, my thoughts, my decisions.  This is what makes memoir so powerful, so transformative to others.  It’s about why the situation or action matters to the protagonist.  Why does it matter that Victoria goes to college at this time?  What does going to college mean to Victoria?  

            Memoir as in fiction, tough questions need to be asked and then answered.  And the content of these answers need to be important to the characters.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is what I’m struggling with.  And this is why I’d wish I didn’t know that memoir needs to be told like a story.  Then I could write my memoir like a collection of humorous anecdotes.  But then it wouldn’t be as meaningful to others.  There’s the reason why we authors keep looking to better our skills in writing. 

This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s SupportGroup.  We post on the first Wednesday of every month.  To join us, or learn more about the group, click HERE.  

 May publishing be offered to any writer who seeks it in 2017.  Have a wonderful New Year! 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Insecure Writer’s Support Group asks: In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?
If God is with me, this confounded memoir will be published and successful.  To that end, I must trudge on with a redraft of my adventures in college showing why it matters to both me and the reader.  I’m signed up for the Extension Course of the Story Genius method of writing and creating story with Lisa Cron and Jennie Nash, the two key editors and writers in the course.

Like with any other profession, writers need to keep current in their careers.  We need to keep publishing and keep ourselves abreast of publishing trends and active on social media.  We need to demonstrate our knowledge base and share it with the public both online and in person.  I’ve just started giving writing presentations and workshops locally for teens and adults.  If I’m lucky, in five years I will have increased my writing workshop reach.  

Writers also need to build their online platforms.  This is what I am attempting to achieve through my connections with fellow writers at Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  I try to help my friends in the blogosphere by joining or following their blogs and connecting with them on facebook and Goodreads.  

May I please request that if you have not “followed” my blog, please do so now.  And if you could, please connect with me on my facebook author page and Goodreads page. Thank you so much.  If I haven’t connected with you on social media, please feel free to give me the links in the comments section of my Adventures in Writing blog.

This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.   We post on the first Wednesday of every month.  To join us, or learn more about the group, click HERE. 

Have a wonderful holiday season!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Story Genius Course: Internal and External Plots
I'm still hammering away at
the Story Genius course. It truly
is a difficult but impressive way
to analyze your writing.
Besides the constant thinking of “why does [anything and everything] matter to the protagonist” in the Story Genius method of writing and creating story, Lisa Cron and Jennie Nash, the two key editors and writers in the course, want us to develop an internal and external conflict for the protagonist to battle.

            I have no problem with this in my fiction. In my YA short stories, my protagonist is always battling some familial or friend issue on the inside while she is traipsing through a national park battling real life problems trying to save both herself and usually a younger sibling on the outside. These two conflicts, the internal and the external, converge and sometimes clash at the epiphany or “aha” moment where our hero discovers how to overcome both problems and save the day. 

            But in my memoir about attending college as a mother of five, it’s not that dramatic. In memoir, everything must be true. I can’t make it up.

            So I told my editor, in order to find resolution to my internal and external problems and struggles with inferiority in the memoir, I graduated from Penn.

            Guess what she said? …Right! “That’s just surface,” [wait for it] “go deeper.”

The internal problem must become a new way for me to look at a particular situation in life.  In other words, the editors of Story Genius want to know what college MEANS to Victoria.  What is pushing and driving the protagonist to go on – what’s making Victoria go to college? What keeps her continuing to complete a degree?

College was a method to better educate myself in order to help my children, especially my firstborn who is perceptually impaired.  She was the impetus for me to begin college at that time.  Ever since the school counselor implied that my daughter couldn’t handle college, that the special education department felt she would never be able to obtain a degree, I decided to be sure she can at least have that opportunity because I never had the opportunity to attend college.   

What does college mean to Victoria?  Although Victoria always wanted to attend college herself because in her mind college equaled intelligence, by the time she is a mother of five children, college equals the voice of reason in the educational journey of her children.  Teachers, counselors, and the learning consultants at school gave their educated opinion that my daughter, with her learning disabilities and ADHD should not go to college. But she wanted to be a kindergarten teacher. How can a mother not allow her child the opportunity to at least try to see if she can do it with my assistance as I’ve helped her all through her school journey thus far?

Fellow faithful blog followers, did I go deep enough this time?  What does college mean to you?  Thanks so much for any insight you may offer. 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?
For me, I like creating new adventures to explore in my YA short stories. I like finding ways to get my kids—in the stories, in the stories!—into trouble.  Of course, I always find a way out for them.  Sometimes I need to be ingenious about it. But that’s the fun of story writing. Creating a believable world and populating it with genuine characters the reader can connect to.

            It’s not only the sci-fi and fantasy writers who need to create a world for their stories. All writers need to create a logical world where characters and creatures alike live out a storyline.  I’m a concrete thinker, so my stories are based in reality, yet I control what happens. I love nature and mountains and forests and hiking, so some of my stories take place on mountaintops or in forests. But the beauty of fiction is that I can create the tension; I can create what needs to happen to make the story interesting. I can create the inner struggle of the protagonist. And I can create a satisfying ending, because it doesn’t need to be true.

            I also write memoir.  While the writer knows what happens in memoir because it’s a narrative from life, it still needs to be written like a story and offer insight. I believe this makes memoir a bit more difficult to write than fiction. 

What do you think? Is fiction easier to write than memoir where everything needs to be true?

Thanks so much for stopping by Adventures in Writing and leaving a note. This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  We post on the first Wednesday of every month.  To join us, or learn more about the group, click HERE.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Story Genius Course: Starting with Backstory
The Story Genius course started
as a book. Lisa Cron uses concrete
methods to guide story creation.
That’s right, fellow writers!  Before you begin to write forward in your story, you need to understand who your protagonist is and why she acts the way she does.  What happened in her life before the story opens that makes her think and act this way?  Just like real people, characters are molded by prior life experience. 

Understanding the backstory of the protagonist [as well as secondary characters] is vital for fiction writers to create believable characters for their stories.  And that helps readers to connect with the characters and care about them.

Lisa Cron of Story Genius believes that writers must understand their characters before they can even begin to write the story present.  Cron believes stories are character driven as opposed to plot driven.

Cron’s concept of a character-driven story helps me to see that a particular story can only happen to this character because of how the character was raised or because of specific events that have happened to this character in her life before the present story action occurs.     

It’s a concept of specifics:  this particular story can only happen to this particular character because of her past and how she interpreted it.  It’s the character’s beliefs that drive the story forward and help the reader to connect to her.   

A particular character with her own beliefs and specific backstory works in memoir as well, although I must admit that I feel like I’ve been on a therapist’s couch for weeks now.  Looking for the “why” of my insecurity in college is giving me a complex—now, in my life’s present story. 

I need to discover why I didn’t attend college right after high school and how and where my insecurities developed. 

Oooo!  I thought.  I can tell you why I didn’t go to college right out of high school.  We didn’t have any money for college.  And my family didn’t believe in loans for college.  We went to work after high school. 

My editor writes back:  “Think deeper.  Why?”

My response:  I was signing up for high school courses at the time I found out there was no money for college.  It was the early 1970’s.  I grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood.  This was the norm—especially for females.  

The editor wrote again:  “A deeper why?”

Me:  Dad said you only go to college if you want to be a doctor or a lawyer.  [But we still didn’t have any money for it.]

Editor:  “Why did he think that?  How did this make you feel?”

…Do you see why I’m developing a complex over this? 

“Dig deeper into your feelings and memories,” the editor said.  “Pull out how you developed your insecurities.”

I wanted to write back:  Stop picking on me!  You and Story Genius are adding to my insecurities.  I might require a real therapist couch at this rate.

But I didn’t. 

Thanks so much for stopping by.  Feel free to visit Adventures in Writing again to learn how I make out with all these questions that are invading my dreams right now.  Please leave any insight you may have.  It is always greatly appreciated.