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, January 14, 2020

Loglines and Taglines for Fiction or Memoir #AuthorToolboxBlogHop


First, I’d like to wish you all health and success in 2020. Happy New Year, Everyone! As I continue to crawl forward in revision on my college memoir, I’m thinking about loglines and taglines. When I researched online about these pitching tools for fiction or memoir, I gleaned the following definitions from blogs and webinars at writerly sites:

A Logline gives the gist of your book in a sentence. It tells something about the main character, the conflict, and the stakes. So, the WHO, the WHAT, and the WHY of your story.

A Tagline is a catchphrase that sucks the reader in. It’s the idea behind your book. Also known as the hook. It might be on the front cover of your book.  The tagline’s job is to evoke emotion. 
https://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com


According to JennieNash of Author Accelerator, a pitch or logline is one line that gives some sense of the character arc of change; who they are, what the plot is, and where the plot goes.

Okay, so how do we do it? I found some questions that are helpful to answer when creating a logline and/or a tagline. So I answered them.

WHO is your main character?   Victoria, a mother of 5 young children
WHERE does the story take place?   South Jersey home and college campuses
WHAT is the situation?   Victoria tries to allow her special needs daughter Marie a chance at living her dream of attending college, but they are told Marie would never succeed.
WHY does it matter?   Victoria was told the same thing when she wanted to attend college.
HOW does the character solve the problem?   By swallowing her own fear of failure and beginning college herself first.

Now that we know who, where, what, why, and how, we condense it into what we as writers hope is a pithy logline.

“A South Jersey mom of five gives her special needs daughter the opportunity of college by swallowing her own fear of failure and beginning college first.”

            Does it work?
I think there’s an arc of change in the protagonist, the mom, from a paralyzing fear of failure to actually beginning college.
We know what happens; she’s going to attempt college.
And we know why it matters to her; she wants to help her daughter.

            Of course the story is much more involved than just these few pieces, but does it make someone want to read the whole book?

The tagline, the idea behind the book, according to our definition, the hook. The tagline is supposed to evoke emotion. I came up with many, but here are two I’ll share for your comment.

Every important journey begins with doubt.
Find permission within yourself to begin a difficult journey.

What are your thoughts on these? Do they evoke emotion? Is doubt even an emotion? Does finding permission within oneself sound more personal? Can other people [readers] relate easier to it than the more general statement about journeys beginning with doubt? Is finding permission more original?

These are necessary questions for all writers to consider as they try to condense their stories into pithy loglines and taglines.

*Please feel free to offer any insight or ask any questions regarding the details of my college memoir logline or taglines. It would be truly appreciated.* 

Has anyone prepared a logline or tagline for their story? I’m interested in how you came to condense your story into a sentence or two. Please share any tips you may have about loglines or taglines in the comments section of Adventures in Writing. Thanks so much!

And thank you for visiting Adventures in Writing. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already and connect with me online. Leave your blog link in the comment so I can 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


Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Insecure Writers Want to Know: What started you on your writing journey? Was it a particular story or person? Did you just "know" suddenly you wanted to write?


First, I’d like to wish you all health and success in 2020. Happy New Year, Everyone! I am honored to co-host this month’s question. My gracious co-hosts are T. Powell Coltrin @Journaling WomanReneeScattergood, J.H. Moncrieffand Stephen Tremp

Insecure Writers Support Group offers an excellent opportunity to pitch your stories, if you are ready. You can find details about the #IWSGPit, which is January 15th, here. Good luck, everyone! 

You can also find details about IWSG’s new anthology Voyagers: The Third Ghost here. Congratulations to all the writers included in the anthology! Writers helping other writers. That’s what Insecure Writers Support Group is all about.

Now about our January question, I have always been a storyteller, like my father before me. I love adventure and romance, and I always envisioned myself in the story I read or watched. I was the protagonist, the main character who saves the day and wins her man. And I always did it with style. But getting it all on the page and hoping others would like the story? Well let’s just say this is why I’m part of Insecure Writers Support Group.  
http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com/


             When I was growing up, my father would tell wild tales of adventure in our patio to me and my siblings and any neighborhood kid who hung around. We’d wait until dusk. He’d light a candle on the picnic table and begin his fanciful tale. The characters were whoever came to listen to the story. It didn’t need to make sense. His baritone voice kept us rapt on his every word wondering what would happen next.

            Because of my father, I took to telling my own children stories, but my stories would be based on anecdotes. It started when we went camping as a family. You can find many of our adventures on Camping with Five Kids

In the evening, sitting around the campfire, I’d tell the children stories. And they would ask for the same stories based on the same anecdotes. Then I started the “what if” stories. These were not actual happenings. These were pure fiction. My children liked those as well, and I started to think maybe I should try my hand at actually publishing these stories.  

            As you know, many of my short stories are based on adventures my family and I have had camping around this beautiful country of ours. But to make them worthwhile for others—and to keep within word count—I had to ditch the parents and any extraneous character and cut the time frame.

Right now I’m working on an adventure in the Adirondack Mountains where a teen and his younger sister are taking their first hike without their father who died in a car accident. It’s a familiar hike, but they’re both grieving. *Internal struggle* One external struggle is the younger sister keeps comparing her older brother [protagonist] with their father. Then I include a flash thunderstorm at the peak of the mountain, a flooded trail that takes them off course. Now there’s a swift river they need to cross on huge narrow boulders. And their mother is waiting for them at the foot of the trail. No cell service in the forest. I’m trying to get the pacing right, so feel free to offer comments or ask any questions on this. Thanks!   

I’m at the beginning of another short story that deals with an allergic reaction and the use of an EpiPen.
Does anyone have information as to what truly happens in an allergic reaction to a bee sting? 
Does anyone have any experience with using EpiPens?
Do you know of a reputable site to reference to help me learn about allergic reactions or EpiPens?

I’ll be interested to see how you’ve tackled this month’s question. It’s great having a topic to share our thoughts on each month. I am extremely thankful for all of you for being my sounding board and advisors in this writing and publishing game.

Thanks so much for visiting! Please follow Adventures in Writing if you haven’t already and connect with me online. Leave your blog link in your comment so I can be sure to do the same for you.

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.  


Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Insecure Writers Want to Know: How would you describe your future writer self if you were living the dream?


            Wait! You mean without the family constantly interrupting me, wanting their piece of my time? You mean not feeling like I’m wasting precious time writing because no readers are waiting for my stories? Wow! Let’s see… It’s not like I want to be stranded on a deserted island with internet hook-up and a fresh pot of hot tea and scones or anything, but a little uninterrupted thinking time would be great. And maybe if I could just stop comparing myself to other writers who seem to have an infinite amount of time to complete stories that people are waiting to read, and have infinite time to do social media. 
http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com


            But if I were “living the dream” of a prolific, published writer, I’d probably have an assistant who was tech savvy to help me keep up with social media and marketing. I’d have an editor and/or agent whom I trusted with my newborn stories and memoirs, who would understand my concreteness in concepts and who would continuously affirm that I was on the right path and that I could complete my next story. I’d enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that whatever I was working on would, in fact, get published.

            And who knows? I might even have someone to field all the questions and calls from family and friends while I’m working on my next story to be sure I only need to answer the desperate ones. I might even find someone to help out around the home and gardens while I wrote. Ahh…in the words of Eliza Doolittle, “wouldn’t it be lovely”?
           
            But as it is, you dear followers and commenters, you are my assistants, my sound writing and tech savvy advisors. While I write and pray that what I have written will sell, I turn to you all for advice. And I trust all of you to share your experiences with me.

So, could anyone advise me about getting a short story ebook published? These are YA stories, about 1,800 words, where I assume I need pictures that either I create [Yikes!] or have created for the story. Could anyone suggest a reputable online ebook provider for me to check out?

Eventually, I’d like to make a hard copy collection of short YA stories. Perhaps I’ll start with traditional publishing for the hard copy. I don’t have that infinite following or social media groups. Any advice on either of these endeavors? Feel free to leave links that might be helpful for me in your comment.  

I’ll be interested to see how you’ve tackled this month’s question. It’s great having a topic to share our thoughts on each month. And I am extremely thankful for all of you for being my sounding board and advisors in this writing and publishing game.

Thanks so much for visiting! Please follow Adventures in Writing if you haven’t already and connect with me online. Leave your blog link in your comment so I can be sure to do the same for you.

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.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Insecure Writers Want to Know: What's the Strangest Thing You've Ever Googled in Researching a Story?


The strangest thing I’ve ever Googled for a story? Recently, that would have to be rip currents in the ocean. I sold a story to Cricket Magazine about a rip current. Rip currents are different from rip tides. Rip currents happen suddenly, which I needed for my story. 
http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com


You know how I like to place my teen-aged protagonists in danger; a danger they have skills to overcome. I researched rip currents and how to escape them at National Geographic. In my research, the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) defines rip current as:

“A strong, narrow jet of water that moves away from the beach and into the ocean as a result of local wave action. They can flow quickly, are unpredictable and are a result of the shape of the coastline. A rip tide is caused by the Moon's gravitational pull and is a predictable rise and fall of the water level.”

            I love Google to answer a question I might have and for initial research, but people—especially writers—need to remember that not everything on the internet is true. Allow Google to be the start of your research, but not the only resource. I still believe in books and experts—real people—to nail down any understanding of situations in life or in the life of my stories.

            Always be sure that you begin researching on a website you trust. I know! That’s getting harder and harder these days. So I go to names I trust. Since my stories mostly deal with nature, I start with the National Park Service and National Geographic. I talk to park rangers; I talk to police departments. It depends on what my question is at the time.

            As for my memoir about attending college as a mother of five, I’m crawling through what I hope will be my last major revision of the manuscript. At the same time, I’m considering titles for it.  

Educating Mother: A Journey from Community College to the Ivy League was my first consideration. It speaks of who the protagonist is and where she is going and where she ends up—at the Ivy League. Okay. Should it be An Educated Mother? But the main story is about Victoria actually going through college.

How about:
Educating Mom: The Power to Believe in Oneself. No journey. No mention of going from community college to the Ivy League. This memoir is about the power to believe in yourself over what others tell you. This title speaks of the internal struggle Victoria deals with in addition to struggling with college classes and family obligations.

*Please offer any insight you may have about these titles for my college memoir. I realize you have not read the manuscript, but if you’ve been reading my blog [thank you so much!] you know the main struggles of the protagonist. In that regard, do you suggest different wording or to focus more on the internal or the external struggle? I truly appreciate all your comments. They help me to move forward with my work.*

I’ll be interested to see how you’ve tackled this month’s question. It’s great having a topic to share our thoughts on each month. 

Thanks so much for visiting! Please follow Adventures in Writing if you haven’t already and connect with me online. Leave your blog link in your comment so I can be sure to do the same for you.

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.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Boiling the Story Down for a Synopsis #AuthorToolboxBlogHop


            I’ve been trying to condense my college memoir story into two double-spaced pages for a synopsis. Not an easy thing to do, as many of you realize. How could you condense all the tension, the action, the angst, the characters of a 200 page story into two pages? Many writers have longer works of fiction or memoir. The key is you don’t include everything.  
https://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com


Writer’sDigest defines synopsis like this:
“A synopsis conveys the narrative arc, an explanation of the problem or plot, the characters, and how the book or novel ends. It summarizes what happens and who changes from beginning to end of the story.”

I’d like to add that a synopsis should still read like a story and showcase your voice. But how does a writer do this in a short document? The information I’m sharing here is a combination of what I’ve learned in books and online about synopses.  

Just like in your full-length book, the reader of a synopsis needs to know where we are in space and time and who the main players are in the story. Please notice the words “main players.” You can’t possibly include every character in a synopsis. My suggestion is to include the protagonist, any antagonist, and any character who guides or changes the protagonist in his story journey. Think about the characters who take up the most space in your story, the pivotal characters who help to change your protagonist the most.

If we use Harry Potter as an example, for a synopsis, you would include Harry Potter, Voldemort, Dumbledore, Ron, his first real friend, and Hermione. Many other characters have helped or hurt Potter through his journey to adulthood, but I feel these are the main players. And where are we in the Potter books? Mainly in the wizarding world at Hogwarts, a school for wizardry. As for time, it deals with each school year.

 In a synopsis, we also need to include why the story begins where it begins. If we turn again to Harry Potter, the real story begins when Harry reaches the age to begin wizarding school, his 11th birthday.

 An important point to include in the synopsis is the protagonist’s internal struggle. What is the internal angst the protagonist is dealing with throughout the story? We need to include emotion and feeling in our synopses. I think the internal angst Harry deals with at the beginning of this series is finding people to love him, to help guide him to find his place in this new wizarding world.

Don’t forget to give the whole ending of the story in your synopsis, whether it is fiction or memoir. Write the entire synopsis in present tense and third person regardless of how you wrote the story, according to Jennie Nash of Author Accelerator.   

            In the synopsis I’m writing for my college memoir, I include myself, my special needs daughter and her situation as the impetus for my beginning college at this time, my father and his powerful words that lock me in feelings of inferiority and my other children and husband in general. By way of emotion I talk about Victoria’s struggles to be a role model for her children and her failures at college, her journey through community college and its awards making the Ivy League on scholarship a possibility. By way of an ending, I include that in Victoria’s ten-year academic journey, she learns that determination and hard work help her overcome her father’s powerful words and graduate cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in May 2009.

*Please feel free to offer any insight or ask any questions regarding the details of my synopsis for my college memoir. It would be truly appreciated.* 

Has anyone prepared a synopsis for their story? I’m interested in how you set it up and what you included from your story. Please share any tips you may have in the comments section of Adventures in Writing. Thanks so much!

And thank you for visiting Adventures in Writing. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already and connect with me online. Leave your blog link in the comment so I can 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, October 2, 2019

Insecure Writers Want to Know: The Benefits of Being a Writer Who Reads vs. a Writer Who Doesn’t


            I tried to simplify this month’s question a little in my blog post title. IWSG’s question is: It's been said that the benefits of becoming a writer who does not read is that all your ideas are new and original. Everything you do is an extension of yourself, instead of a mixture of you and another author. On the other hand, how can you expect other people to want your writing, if you don't enjoy reading? What are your thoughts?  
http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com


Let’s look at a phrase in the first part of the question, “all your ideas are new and original.” Think about this. Haven’t we all read—I know, but “read” is not a dirty word for writers—that there are no original plots or ideas for stories? I have. It’s the way we interpret what happens to our characters and what the character’s flaws and strengths are that make our stories unique. In other words, the basic framework may be the same, but the details are different.

As a writer, I do not see any benefit of NOT reading other stories, essays, or blog posts. For myself, I’m not reading to take any other writer’s idea, passages, or plots. I’m reading to learn through other people’s, or character’s, experiences in life. And yes, I read for enjoyment. I love stories, be they fiction or non-fiction.

Think about it. The stimulus for story is all around us. It comes through our day to day lives, our interactions, our adventures, and yes, in our readings. Many times I’ve read that writers ask “what if” when they read or hear a news story or a friend’s anecdote or experience. In fact, many of my YA adventure stories begin with my family’s adventures camping at national parks.

            Another reason to read fiction or memoir stories is to find comp titles when putting together a proposal for the publisher. As writers, we need to know what’s out there and where our works in progress fit into the literary landscape. I’ve been looking for recent memoir titles to read dealing with education or personal experience in college. I’m currently reading Lab Girl by Hope Jahren. I may need to broaden my searches. I should consider inspirational works; the power of choices, of believing in yourself, of finding or beginning a dream and seeing it through with perseverance.

*Please offer any recent memoir titles you’ve read that deal with life experiences; trying to better yourself or learning to believe in oneself, so I can add them to my reading list and see if they could be used as comp titles for my college memoir. I truly appreciate all your comments. They help me to move forward with my work.*

I’ll be interested to see how you’ve tackled this month’s question. It’s great having a topic to share our thoughts on each month.  

Thanks so much for visiting! Please follow Adventures in Writing if you haven’t already and connect with me online. Leave your blog link in your comment so I can be sure to do the same for you.

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.  

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Universal Themes in Memoir or Fiction #AuthorToolboxBlogHop


            Universal themes in story can start out as statements. Love conquers all. Order leads to harmony. Heroes are always right. Loyalty to family is absolute. Universal themes are understood in any culture. They are assumed to be straightforward. Correct. Concrete. But in the writer’s hands, themes become human. They become specific. In other words, writers deepen these general themes and give them power by creating compelling stories.  
https://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com

           
            By building stories around themes, writers personify them. Think of any romance where “love conquers all,” Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, many wonderful present day romance stories, and the ever-present Chicken Soup for the Soul books. What they all contain is the human side of the theme. The writer shows through actions and characters how this theme holds up in the real life of a story.

            But showing the theme to be true or false is only the surface of the story. The difficult job for the writer in creating a memorable story is to add tension. Tension drives the story. Conflict, both internal and external, shows the deeper meaning of theme. Conflict should be specific to one character or a small group of characters in the form of a belief. If we think about the theme of family loyalty, we can see how easily it can become misguided; abused spouses staying with their abuser for family reasons; children believing it is their fault they are being abused. Of course the theme of loyalty can be political or faith-based too.  

            The struggles you show in the story branch off your main theme. They show the inner conflict and why the character behaves as he or she does. Story events show the literal obstacles the character faces in life that are hampered by that internal, often misguided belief of the theme.   

            If I use my college memoir as an example with a main theme of believing in oneself, through backstory, the reader learns that Victoria had struggled through elementary school and finally makes the honor roll [good grades] by eighth grade. But when she comes to her father, a man who has always shown her love, to have him sign off on her choice of college prep courses for high school, he wouldn’t do it. Instead, he told her college wouldn’t work for her. She wasn’t smart enough.

It comes to the power of words from someone you trust and love. Because her father didn’t believe she could survive college, Victoria becomes locked in a vicious cycle of not believing in herself, in what she could accomplish. What Victoria comes to realize in this memoir story is that the power to believe in oneself comes from within. This power to believe in oneself, to obtain it and keep it, is a constant struggle for many people of all cultures.

            Well, what do you think? Please feel free to offer any insight or ask any questions regarding the universal theme of believing in oneself for my college memoir. It would be truly appreciated. 

Thank you for visiting Adventures in Writing. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already and connect with me online. Leave your blog link in the comment so I can 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