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.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Flawed Characters in Memoir #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Yes, even in memoir, the protagonist needs to be flawed. Flawed in her understanding, her logic, and her actions. Other characters may be flawed as well. This can be difficult for writers. In memoir, you are writing about yourself. And it needs to be true!
http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com


            Okay, you may say. But which flaws do I include? How do I know which events to put into the memoir story and which ones to leave out?

We choose the flaw/s and events to include that pertain to the point we are trying to make with the memoir story as a whole.

            This is why you need to know the overall point of the memoir. What are you trying to show or prove? Which insight do you wish to share with the reader? It is very important that you know where you’re going in your memoir story. Knowing the point of your story will save you from writing pages and pages that go nowhere. By knowing the overall point, you also know whether you’ve made it or proved it through your writing, and—most importantly—you know where to end the memoir story.
           
This is true whether you are writing fiction or essays or memoir.

But trying to find the point to convey through your memoir can be difficult to discover. It can take memoirists and writers a long time to find. At least it did with me because I overthink everything—one of my many flaws! And I’m still not sure if I have it right.

When you start out, in fiction or memoir, your point may be vague; like, forgiveness takes time or love conquers all. The point of my memoir about attending college as a mother of five is “to seize opportunity so as not to be left with regret.” I’d been instructing my children to do this ever since they were born. But maybe the point needed to be a bit more specific to my story. I came up with: “Don’t let fear and doubt stop you from taking a chance at seizing your dream.” Still kind of heavy.

The flaw I’m tracking and dramatizing with this memoir is my inner struggle with inferiority, that I was not good enough to attend college. I need to show this through concrete events in my life. Much of this is through backstory, beginning with the origin scene. We’ll address that in another post.

 Writers need to consider their readers. In considering the readers of my college memoir, I believe feelings of inferiority are universal. But is it deep enough or specific enough for my memoir story purposes? I need to ponder this. Your thoughts on this would be beneficial to my memoir progress. 

As for seizing opportunity and having a second chance at my dream of a college degree, I learned about community college from another parent who was attending part time. This seems ridiculous now in the age of the ubiquitous internet, but back in 1998, when I was knee deep in kids—five, remember, the oldest with social and learning difficulties—this was new information to me. When I attended high school, going to college meant going away to study, fulltime.

In the story present—the time when the memoir story opens—I thought college had passed me by. I had no time for it now.  Then the Ivy League showed itself on the horizon in scholarship form because of awards earned at the community college level. And Inferiority moved into my home to live with me—permanently—taunting me daily: The Ivy League? You? A mother? Are you crazy? You got lucky in community college.

            Memoirists and writers may start with a general point to their story and then make it specific to the protagonist. Why her? Why now? Why does it matter to her?

This is where specific backstory comes into play. Through backstory, we find the why of the present story you are telling. We’ll address this next month. Please feel free to ask me anything about memoir and I will explain what I know through my blog posts.  


Thank you for visiting Adventures in Writing. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already and connect with me online. I’ll be sure to do the same for you. To continue hopping through more amazing blogs or to join our Author Toolbox blog hop, click here

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Insecure Writers want to know: What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

            What really gets stuck in my computer keys is this mindset, usually by non-writers, that writing a story is easy. Now wait! We are writers. We understand how things in our story worlds must be logical. So let’s look at this assumption logically.
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When you think about it, writers must create a whole new world that didn’t exist before in story, no matter what the genre. Historical fiction begins with the facts. Then the writer leaps from there to create a fictional world and situation. Fantasy and science-fiction work this way, too. The more the writer grounds the story base in fact or myths or beliefs, the more realistic the story seems. Each world needs to follow a logical set of rules just like in reality. Even in contemporary stories, writers must research facts and details to base their worlds in possibility. And this all takes time and effort.

Once the writer has a genre and sets up the world, she needs to populate it with characters; a protagonist, an antagonist, and secondary characters. Each character then needs his or her own backstory and belief system and personal problems.

Note: Worlds or characters or situations, begin with what works best for you. There is no one way to write. However, the worlds, characters, and situations must seem realistic to the reader.

Creating art from words requires discipline. Like any profession, one must commit to completing a project. That means devoting the time to the task, whether you are learning new skills and methods through workshops and courses, or quieting that nagging critic in your head so you can move forward in your story.

Writers are very brave. They must allow their characters, and thereby themselves, to be vulnerable on the page for all to see. Writers make mistakes. But they figuratively pick themselves up, put Band-Aids on their kneecaps if necessary, and dig in again. And sometimes, again and again. For writers understand that raw and true emotion intensifies tension in story. It connects readers to characters.

And the bravery continues when the writer begins to share her newborn story in critique sessions or with a critique partner. A writer is a fragile creature, as I’ve said before. The courage to “bleed on the page” as Hemingway said and then show it to others for their opinions is what makes writers so brave. The writer must be open to other’s thoughts on their creation, however, before sending it out into the world to see what agents or editors think or stepping into self-publishing. They should seriously consider any comments that come up more than once.

Maya Angelou had it right when she said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Writers are compelled to create stories. And they need to do it again. And again. And again. Writing a story is hard work. It’s the writer researching and calculating and understanding difficult phenomena. What do you think? Do you think writing a story is easy? If so, PLEASE, share some tips.

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, July 26, 2017

Adventures in Writing wins the Liebster Award!

Thank you so much for the Liebster Blogging Award, Raimey. You really made my day. I am truly honored! Blogging can sometimes feel like a lonely gig. However, Raimey Gallant’s brilliant Author Toolbox Blog Hop helps writers of all stripes connect and support one another. Thank you for this too, Raimey!
http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com


Readers and nominees, here are the rules for being nominated as a Liebster:

Liebster Award Rules and Nominees:
Rule 1: Thank the person who nominated you for the award.
Rule 2: Answer the 11 questions the person asked you.
Rule 3: Nominate 11 people (comment on their blog to let them know)
Rule 4: Ask the people you have nominated 11 questions (My questions are at the bottom of this post.)

Here are my answers to Raimey’s questions. I must admit. Some of them were tough.

1. Who is your favourite author that you haven’t listed as a password backup for a financial institution.  
Mary Higgins Clark

2. Invent a hashtag that you would like to see gain traction.
#ContemporaryYAAventurestory

3. The wackiest writing prompt you can think of on the fly.
A parrot led a boy into a cave to find a treasure chest. When the boy broke the lock and opened the chest, he discovered…

4. What genre(s) do you write in, and what subgenre(s) do you spice in?
Adventure and Mystery,    Subgenre- throw in romance

5. What does your plotting/pantsing technique involve? Please describe using morse code. Kidding. You can use letters. 
I always need to know where I’m going in story. Scene cards are very helpful with this. In other words – I only wear pants, not write by them.

6. Using only three-word sentences, tell us about your childhood (i.e. I hated hockey. Mom re-married dad. Toaster broke window.)
School was tough. Helped at home. Watched little sister. I prepared dinner. Was not popular. I loved mysteries. I wrote stories. I loved music. Acted in plays. I loved hiking. Sea shore adventures. Work, no college.

7. Write the eulogy for one of your characters in less than 100 words.
Yikes! I don’t want to kill my characters. [OK, so that’s one of my problems!]
He was famous for his wood carvings, at least the family thought so. And when he tapped danced in the living room, all the children’s card houses collapsed. He made his world laugh. He held them with his voice. He was a protector. No one cared more for his family.

8. Tell us something quirky about you.
Each summer, I journey and explore the United States and parts of Canada, from coast to coast, in a small conversion van with 5 noisy kids, camping in a tiny pop-up trailer that sleeps 7 in three beds. …And having the time of my life. I think the children are too!

9. I’m gonna need you to dig deep for this one. If chances are slim, how can something be fat about it (fat chance)?
Wow! Good point. A literal person, I’m going to ignore the sarcasm in this question and assume it’s psychological. Humans are usually positive creatures. I know I try to be. It’s hard when writing, though. We are always looking for the big—or fat—chances in life. At least we should try, for how can we better ourselves if we never attempt difficult endeavors?

10. If you could change one thing about a social media site, what would it be?
New comments, posts, or pop-ups continually surfacing when I’m trying to read or comment. My husband says I take too much time to think about what I want to say. True! But I want to say something pithy—or at least not embarrass myself.

11. How many plots do you have in your head on any given day?
A full plot? Only 2 or 3. Possible various threads or themes to plots? Oh…maybe about 50 or 60.

Here are 11 more wonderful bloggers who deserve the Liebster Blogging Award and what they write about. Congratulations, everyone!

http://gilbertcuriosities.blogspot.com Marie Gilbert writes about life, family, and her sci-fi series.
http://www.obligatorytraveler.com/ Sarah is a world traveler and recounts her adventures here with gorgeous photos.
www.miriamdiazgilbert.com Miriam writes about the running life. She offers tips and experiences.  
https://lorettasisco.com/ Loretta writes about pets and animals and life.
http://dawnbyrne.blogspot.com/ Dawn writes about the writing life and family.
http://positiveletters.blogspot.com/ Hilary Melton Butcher writes fascinating posts on English culture, food, and history.
https://ematimar.com/posts/ Erika writes about social media, writing, and technology.
http://jenniferrhubbard.blogspot.com/ Jennifer writes YA literary fiction and ponders the writing life on her blog.
http://taratylertalks.blogspot.com/ Tara blogs about the writer’s life and her fantasy and sci-fi books.
http://christianediting.co.nz/blog/ Iola writes about technology and social media and Christian topics.
https://onceuponatimeinhaz.blogspot.com/ Morgan talks about her camping fun with the family.

Okay everyone; here are my 11 questions for you to answer. Don’t get lost in details. Just have fun!

1.     You are thrown into a favorite story. [Not your own.] Which story and who would you be?
2.     What is the hardest part of writing for you? Why?
3.     When and where do you write? How did you discover that was best for you?
4.     If you could be anybody or anything, who or what would you be and why?
5.     How do you push forward when the inner critic won’t shut up?
6.     Do you need to write inside a bubble or library [like me] or do like to listen to music or other inspiring background sounds or “white” noise to write?  
7.     How do you keep the wolves…ahem…I mean convince your children or other people to leave you alone to write? Does it work? Provide tips—please!
8.     Who was your favorite author as a child? Who is your favorite author now?
9.     If you could have a superpower, what would it be? Why that?
10.  How do you find inspiration?
11.  What book or movie or writing workshop or blog post has affected your work the most? Why?

Once again, thank you, Raimey, for nominating my Adventures in Writing blog for the

Liebster Blogging Award. It is appreciated more than you realize. Thanks for stopping by, everyone!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Memoir Made Easy: What to Remember When Starting Out #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Hello and welcome, everyone, to Adventures in Writing and my first Author Toolbox Blog Hop post. Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Victoria Marie Lees and I write YA short story adventures, poetry, and memoir.
http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com


            Memoir is a story—yes, even though it’s about the writer’s life, it is a story. “Just the facts, Ma’am,” is autobiography. Memoir is usually about one specific time period in the writer’s life, a period where discoveries are made. Memoir interprets the events for the reader. Occasionally, the timeline of memoir may be scattered throughout the writer’s lifetime, but the focus will be narrowed to one topic.

My memoir is about the ten-year journey I took through academia to acquire a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania while still being a mother to my five children during their growing-up years. It encompasses the trials a parent needs to face and understand when attempting such an endeavor and how to survive it successfully.    

Memoir needs to be true. You must include the fiction elements of:
protagonist vs. antagonist[s], even if the antagonist is a concept like time or academic understanding;
tension and problem resolution;
an overall-story ticking clock;
setting and pacing;
the creation of believable characters out of real people.

This is what makes memoir so difficult to write. You are telling a story about yourself with all these fiction elements in place.

Then you need to consider that memoir is not all about you. Memoir needs to offer critical insight for the reader.
So how do you do this?
By looking inside yourself to understand why you did what you did at that time, why you thought what you thought at that time.

Remember. Just like in fiction, the reader needs to be in the scene, understanding your every move. Everything from why you think it’s best to drop a course, as in my memoir, to why any parent would ever attempt an Ivy League education after starting her education at a community college close to home.

            The often misunderstood “Show, don’t tell” helps with this. “Show, don’t tell” means to show the reader why what’s happening matters to the protagonist. Fiction or memoir, you need to show how the protagonist came to that decision—internally. Inner thoughts are at the heart of any story or memoir. In other words, to borrow from Hemingway, to write a memoir, you need to “bleed” on the page.

            Readers want to be in the head of the protagonist, hearing the inner thoughts and understanding any logic for decisions made, no matter how flawed that logic may be.

            Remember, the protagonist is flawed. This is the most difficult part for memoirists.

Now you’re thinking: “Me? Flawed?”

Okay, so I don’t know about you, but I’m greatly flawed. Just ask my children.

As in all creative writing, the writer must decide what to put in the story or essay and what to leave out—especially in memoir. Memoir is not your whole life. That’s autobiography. Memoir is only a small piece of it.

For me to choose which flaw to showcase in my college memoir, I needed to consider the flaw that would resonate most with the story question of why I waited until I had five children to attend college. My youngest, twins, started second grade and the oldest, who is learning-disabled, started high school when I began my college journey.

            To dramatize that moment in the memoir, I needed to consider my own personal backstory, my past, my growing up years to discover the origin scene for the flaw in my own logic.  

            There is so much to consider when creating a memoir. This should get you started if you plan to write one in the future. I’d like to continue this topic for next month’s Author Toolbox blog hop.


Please feel free to share any good memoirs you have read or leave any questions you may have about memoir or writing in the comments section. Again, thank you for visiting Adventures in Writing. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already and connect with me online. I’ll be sure to do the same for you. To continue hopping through more amazing blogs or to join our Author Toolbox blog hop, click here

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Insecure Writers want to know: What is one valuable lesson you've learned since you started writing?

            So many valuable lessons, so much still to learn. I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned since beginning to write is to believe in myself enough to send a story out. And if it comes back, to brush it off, and send it out again. And again, and—yes—even again.
http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com


            Many times, writers are a fragile creature. I know I am. We try so hard to believe in ourselves, in our stories, in our writing. And in my case, I’m crushed again and again. To be able to pick yourself up and continue to believe is a power all writers have. It’s just difficult to find sometimes. 

            Where can we find this inner strength to continue calling ourselves writers, to actually be writers? Here are a few tips that help me.

            Safety in numbers. Writing groups help writers find confidence. I belong to South Jersey Writers Group, a friendly group of writers in many genres who support one another, critique one another’s work, and offer presentations about writing, publishing, social media, and other tools of the trade.

            Writers helping writers. When writers learn something new, they don’t keep it to themselves. The very nature of the writing beast is to share what they’ve learned with others in their number. I do this through South Jersey Writers Group and reading other Insecure Writers Support Group blogs and sharing information on my Adventures in Writing blog and through workshops I present.
            Here are a few excellent writers and bloggers that I have come across: Jennie Nash, Lisa CronWriters in the Storm, The Editor’s Blog. You might like to follow them as well.

            Finding a quiet space to think. We are a multi-tasking society, and writers are no different. I believe writers need a peaceful place to leave the world and all their obligations behind in order to look within and consider what’s working and what’s not in their writing in progress. Some writers attend writing conferences, which not only allow for the first two points in my post, but also some time for uninterrupted thinking and writing. I realize they are expensive and some writers don’t have the money or time to go away to write.
I find thinking time in chunks, a few hours lost among the stacks in a library—away from the five children and home obligations. But I also find quiet in a walk through the woods or around a local lake. Sometimes just a walk in my neighborhood gets me away from the computer screen and into my thoughts about story flow, pacing, and logic. Writers can’t be afraid to look within to find answers; both for their writing and in life.

If writers are lucky enough to share these three key pieces of the writerly life, then they can find the courage to let go and send their stories and essays out into the world time and again, whether through traditional publishing or self-publishing. No. It’s still not easy. But it can be done.

I wish you all a solid belief in what you are doing in your writing life. Thanks for stopping by Adventures in Writing and sharing any thoughts you might have about this or about writing. Writers sharing with other writers. It’s what the writing life’s about.

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.  

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Story Genius Writing Course: The Origin Scene

http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com
Sometimes I feel so small in revision.
If you think about it, all stories begin with relevant backstory. For just as real people deal with the present based on their past, so too must our characters deal with the story problems based on their relevant past experiences. The key word here is “relevant” past experiences. Jennie Nash and Lisa Cron in my Story Genius course asked:
What was the pivotal moment in your character’s past that changed her outlook on life? This will be the “origin scene” that sets the character up for interpreting the present story problems. Even in memoir.

In my memoir about attending college as a mother of five, I felt highly inadequate for college—and amazingly so at the Ivy League level. Attending college is not something rational people do on the spur of the moment. Not even when the prospective college student is a mom challenged by an all-knowing educated person who determines that her child shouldn’t attend college because she’s not good enough.

In my mind, people who attend college spend years preparing for it. At the Ivy League level, students spend their entire lives in preparation for it. No, college isn’t something to take lightly. After all, I could fail out, proving that educated person and extended family members that I am, in fact, unable to succeed and therefore my child might be as well.

It all came back to me. The origin scene for my college memoir, that is.

It was early spring in 1973, and I was perusing the high school curriculum booklet given out by the counselors, dreaming of going away to college. At that time, I thought everyone who attended college went away to be able to concentrate solely on their college education. At least that’s what they did in movies and on television.

Boy was I naïve! We never heard of community college or college loans. My family had no money for college.

I sat at the kitchen table, selecting college prep courses from the curriculum booklet for high school. I was the second child of four in my blue-collar family, the first who wanted to attend college. Then my father, a machinist by trade, the realist in our family by necessity, took note of what I was doing.

“Vic,” he said. “What makes you so sure you can handle college?”

My hand went numb, the course selection form blurred on the kitchen table. Why couldn’t he forget about my earlier struggles in school? I tried to.
“Dad,” I choked out. “I’m on the honor roll now.”

“It takes more than that to succeed in college, Vic.”

The scene continues as my father hammers into my consciousness that our family goes to work after high school. As someone who struggled earlier in her education, I should accept that I wasn’t college material and move on in life.

Finally, Dad’s realism became my realism. I wasn’t cut out for college. I was inadequate to those attempting higher education. It ate away at my confidence to succeed in life. I needed to settle, not strive. This was my present, my future, my life.

This origin scene works in conjunction with a post on the ticking clock of a story.  

It wasn’t until I was a mother of five with a special needs daughter that I finally realized if you don’t take any risks in life, you have already failed.

I think the choosing of my high school curriculum scene was the first “relevant” past experience, the origin scene, that formed my belief of not being good enough for college. I also feel it shows the effect a significant adult can have on a child. It forced me to be sure not to do the same to my children.


Please offer any comments or questions regarding this scene or your own college preparation, for they truly help me to define the moment and improve the writing. Thanks again for stopping by Adventures in Writing and leaving a note. It’s greatly appreciated. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Insecure Writers want to know: Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?

            Did I ever say “I quit” being a writer? All the time!
http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com


My logic always is:

There’s no one out there waiting to read the next Victoria Marie Lees story—or blog post for that matter.

No editor or publisher asking for another YA adventure story or camping anecdote or wondering where my memoir about attending college as a mother of five is.

I’m wasting my family’s hard-earned money taking courses and seminars and attending conferences.

I’d have so much more time with my family and friends, neighbors and co-workers, even for myself, if I wasn’t always writing.

My personal stress level would greatly diminish, and I could become that somewhat calm person I was before I started concentrating almost every waking minute on creating something saleable, or building my writer’s platform.

            But then my mind starts arguing with itself. Telling stories and family anecdotes live in my heart. They breathe in my soul. Will I always be able to sell what I create to the traditional market? Nope! Is that a reason not to try?

            To some, maybe. To me, I needed to search deep within myself to find the answer.

            Because I can’t hike the entire Appalachian Trail or Continental Divide Trail at one time, should I not try to hike portions of the trail when I can?
            Because we don’t have a lot of money, should we not create special moments with our children or tell them that they can’t go to college, can’t better themselves through education?
            Because we don’t have a fancy motor home—much to the children’s dismay—should we not take a vacation and camp with the children in a well-used, crank-up trailer or tent away from media distractions, spending precious time creating lifelong memories?  
                      
These questions come up whenever I try to convince myself that I'm better off not writing. Not trying. Writers need to believe in themselves, a difficult task for sure.

Life forever moves forward. Changing us in small ways and big every day. I can’t go back to when I wasn’t concentrating most of my time on creating stories. Story telling is a part of who I am. Hard work is a part of who I am. For profit or only peace of mind, I will always be a writer. My poor family will just have to deal with my moods and time constraints—and so will I.

I can’t wait to learn how many of you deal with this. Thanks so much for stopping by Adventures in Writing and offering a comment. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already. 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.