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, May 19, 2020

Tell Me a Story: The Voice of Narrators in Memoir #AuthorToolboxBlogHop


When writing gurus talk about voice in a story, they are referring to the narrator’s voice, the protagonist’s voice, the person telling the story. And many times this has a lot to do with the author voice as well. We tend to infuse our narrators with wit, poignancy, or anything needed to tell our stories, whether fiction or memoir.  
http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com/


There is so much to know about the different narrators in story; omniscient, limited, first person, etc. For this post, I’d like to concentrate on the voice of the narrator in memoir.

There are two kinds of narrators in memoir and the author needs to decide where she is standing when she is telling her story. The importance in memoir is “what the narrator knows and when she knows it.”

According to Jennie Nash of Author Accelerator, there are two narrators in memoir:
the writer, the person who lived the experience
and
the writer, the person who is telling the experience.

In story, it is who knows what, and when they know it. In memoir, there is the narrator at the beginning of the story arc and narrator at end of the story arc. In most stories, the character needs to grow and change no place more so than in memoir.

In my case, the narrator at the end of the story arc is the Victoria after her experience of attending college and graduating. What did she get out of it? Was it worth taking time away from the family to obtain that diploma?

But to tell this college story, I needed to choose:
Was I going to tell the memoir story as a narrator standing in the present time looking back on my college experience? Was I going to tell my college story as a narrator with the experience of having gone through college?
Or
Was I going to tell the story as an unknowing narrator actually going through the college experience for the first time?

Nash explains that a narrator in memoir who knows what she knows presently, after her experience, looking back is a more powerful narrator for the story.

So as memoir writers, we have to know:  who in the story knows what, and when they know it. In memoir you have:

The Narrator – unknowing before the experience or knowing after the experience
The Character in the memoir story
AND
The real Person who lived the memoir story.

Three different selves the memoir writer has to master. This is the difficult part of memoir story. If you don’t know the roles those three different selves are playing, you’ll struggle. And believe me; I struggled tremendously with this understanding. I still do.

As a writer of fiction, you have:
The narrator and
The character
NOT the person who lived the tale. This doesn’t come into play in fiction. But you still need to decide who in your story knows what information and when do they know it?

This is not an easy concept to understand. I hope I’m making sense here for you. It's ONE narrator then in my college memoir. I needed to choose how to tell the story; whether I was looking at the experience at the time of attending college as an unknowing narrator
or
if I was telling the story in the present time, after attending college with all the knowledge and insight gained since, looking back at my experiences.

            I chose to tell my college story as a knowing narrator after my college experience looking back on my experiences. I still have my character Victoria going through the experiences. I still have the real person Victoria who actually lived the college experiences; how she felt, what she did, how she coped. But my narrator is an experienced narrator who can infuse the manuscript [story] with knowledge gained from college and life experiences.

I’d like to thank Jennie Nash of Author Accelerator for helping me to understand the different narrators and character selves in memoir.

Please ask any questions about my college memoir and share any insight you may have in the comments section of Adventures in Writing about the voice of the narrator in your story. 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, May 5, 2020

Insecure Writers Want to Know: Do You Have Any Rituals to Help You Get into the Writing Zone?

Rituals to help me get into the writing zone? I don’t know if these are rituals, per se. But chocolate and a fresh hot pot of tea go a long way to help me write. Now if they could only give me the structure of the story and the words, I’d be good. To find those, I usually need to go for a walk in the woods. By myself! That’s the hard part. Especially now with everybody home.   
http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com/


            And even when I’m in the zone, hammering away at a YA short story, hoping with all my heart this story might bring in another published clip, Cricket Magazine cuts me down with a form rejection email. Each time I think it will get easier to take, but for me, rejection still stings.

            So another walk ensues to talk to the Lord about why I try so hard and seem to get nowhere. It’s better than yelling at my family. It’s not their fault no one’s waiting for my stories. But I always come crawling back to my computer to begin again. That’s the courage we writers need to find again and again. And it’s not easy to find!

          
http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com/
A hot pot of tea and chocolates!
 
But if we’re lucky, we get a yes for publication. I have a Cricket story coming out in the June 2020 issue, if they can get the magazine out with this pandemic. Sometimes we may receive positive feedback from editors or critique partners about our stories. This truly helps to build our confidences as writers. At least it does for me.

            My college memoir editor told me I’ve found my voice in the story. When we speak of voice in story, we are talking about the character’s voice, which shares much with its author—even in fiction. I’ll talk more about voice and narrator in my Author Toolbox post later this month. But for now, I wanted to mention what my editor shared with me. She explained that my memoir character’s voice is how I would normally speak, especially the wry wit part.

As a highly insecure writer, I needed my editor to confirm--and she did--that my memoir story held:
tension,
obstacles,
questioning of what I was doing,
wondering if I'll succeed.

But it needed to be interesting, and what makes it interesting, the editor says, is hearing me tell it in my own way—in my voice, with all the funny parts with family and classes that made the editor smile and root for me.

You see, I thought for a book-length project [this is my first], I needed to fully paint a scene, to delve deeply into the why of the story, to stress over the needed tension, and worry that I’ve solved my problems too early. But my editor let me know it is all there. Not perfect, but it is there. As I continue to revise, I hope to be ready for beta readers by fall 2020. I’ll keep you posted! Let me know if you are interested in beta reading for me. This is a short memoir. I’ll be lucky if it is 60,000 words. Please contact me with your email address.

As for now, 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 journey.

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, April 14, 2020

How to Get the Reader to Care About Your Protagonist #AuthorToolboxBlogHop


Getting the reader to care about your protagonist is important to the success of your novel or memoir. Yes, the action of the story is important, but if the reader doesn’t care what happens to your protagonist, the story falls flat.  
https://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com


People care about people or any thinking creature you create. But they need a reason to care. Lots of things can happen in a story. We as writers need to make the story personal by telling the tale of one specific person. The reader needs to see how what happens in the story affects one particular character. Make the story specific to someone the reader cares about.

But how do we do that?  How do we get someone who doesn’t know our characters the way we do, care about what happens to them? Now I’m not saying that I have all the answers. Wouldn’t that be nice? I wouldn’t need to struggle to get my own stories down on paper if this were simple.

Let’s start by asking a few questions.

Who was this protagonist before the inciting incident, before the story present? There’s a broad question. Rein it in and try and think of answers, or scenes, that relate to your story situation or problem, both internal and external. What type of family or friend relationships did she have? Were these relationships important to her? Why?

Think about your protagonist’s profession before the story began. Why did she choose that profession? What were her beliefs at that time? Why did these things matter to her?

Whatever the internal problem is in the story, how did the protagonist come to deal with that problem? What happened in the first place to make her believe in this internal problem?

And most importantly, how did those around the protagonist feed that internal problem?

If we look at my college memoir, how did Victoria go from having trouble in third grade to not going to college?

Think in scenes or summary:
Victoria struggled throughout elementary school.
Victoria did better in middle school and wanted to sign up for college prep in high school.
Victoria’s father didn’t think she was capable of college work just because she was on the honor roll by middle school.
Victoria took secretarial courses in high school to be a secretary like Mom and friends.
Victoria’s siblings did not go to college either.

How did Victoria meet her husband? Where did she work after high school? Did she consider going to college after getting married?
No. She still believed she was that girl her father claimed was “not college material.”

How about after having a few children? Did she consider college then?
Nope! She was knee deep in babies and running the home to consider college.

Didn’t Victoria struggle with her inferiority before attending college as an adult?
All the time. She saw herself in her learning-disabled first born. Victoria struggled to help her daughter with her education and therefore her younger children as well. But she felt totally inferior to those college-educated people in the public education system.

There are more questions to ask to explain to the reader who Victoria was; how she got that way; and why it matters in her life. When I started writing my manuscript, I didn’t believe these questions were pertinent to my college journey, my memoir story. But they are!

As a writer, you are looking for personal information about your character to answer these questions. Readers are inquisitive. They want to know what makes your protagonist tick. Why she believes and acts the way she does in the story present. Good things, bad things. The reader wants to cheer for your protagonist as the story moves forward. We want readers to care what happens to her. Win or lose. Readers want to care about someone specific.

Please ask any questions about my college memoir and share any insight you may have in the comments section of Adventures in Writing about how you get readers to care about your characters. 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, April 1, 2020

Insecure Writers Want to Know: How are things in your world during this troubling time?


In my little corner of the world in my home, we are well. Thank you, God! I’ve had four writing presentations at area libraries and assisted living homes cancelled so far. My next presentation is scheduled on April 10th. Here’s hoping life will be up and running by then.

However as New Jersey shuts down around us, my children are home. Once again, they turn to me for something to do. I have always entertained my children in the past. But they’re grown now. The ones who have left, bring their little ones home to visit. I adore them all. I can’t resist my grandbabies. And my children know it. My husband is home, too. I am extremely lucky.   
http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com


But.

I’m searching for solitude to write. To create. The state has closed my library. I hide in my room, with the door locked. But everyone in my family still remembers how to giggle the doorknob and call my name. It’s amazing!

My oldest, who has learning issues, is trying to sign up for unemployment. Yes! Like thousands of other people in the United States. And guess what? She can’t do it alone, so we are trying to assist. And we are having trouble getting through. No surprise. But another part of her disability is no patience—and whining.

With all the difficulties in the world, it’s important to stay positive. So I’m starting with my thoughts. We are healthy. We are together, for the most part. We share meals. We check in on our friends and the elderly by phone. Flowers and trees are popping and spring is here in the northern hemisphere.

And if the Lord blesses me with a scrap of dialogue or a sentence of illumination for my memoir about attending college as a mother of five, or if I have another short story idea, I write them on pieces of paper and stick them in a binder with two labels: Memoir and Short Stories. Then I shove the binder under my bed and lock my room.

            I truly hope you and your loved ones are safe and well. How do you find time and space to write in these difficult times?

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, March 17, 2020

Developmental Editors and Beta Readers—the Need for Both #AuthorToolboxBlogHop


            Revising a manuscript can be a nightmare, or it can be a calm reevaluation of your story.
           
I know, I know. To combine the word calm with writer in revision sounds like an oxymoron. Like freezer burn or bittersweet. An oxymoron is a combination of two contradictory terms. Or maybe I’m the only UN-calm writer. I’m usually flustered about something. 
http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com


But staying calm during revision doesn’t need to be an oxymoron in terms. A solid revision requires a good reader for your story. Someone who knows story and what makes it work. This could be an editor, a book coach, or a trusted fellow writer or two.

This revision reader looks at your story as a whole. This reader needs to make sure the story holds together and the characters act consistently with the backstory you have created for them. And it’s a good idea to allow this trusted reader in on early versions of your story.

What I’m talking about is Developmental Editing. This should be the first step in the revision process. It can be done by a professional editor or a book coach. And can be helpful near the beginning of your story’s journey. Developmental editors or book coaches are there to be sure your story has no major plot holes. They make sure the characters are well-developed.

Developmental Editing is very important to your story’s success and shouldn’t be left for Beta Readers unless you have a trusted, accomplished story-writer friend who can show you what’s missing in your story.

Beta Readers are a wonderful part of revision AFTER you have your story down. I can’t wait to offer my memoir to Beta Readers. Usually writers want Beta Readers to address specific questions in their manuscripts.

For example:
Is the timeframe and location clear in each scene?
Where do you lose interest? Why, do you think?
What questions remain unanswered about the plot or who’s who?
Is the emotion on the page?
Do you get lost anywhere?

Beta Readers offer their opinions on sections of your story. They are great to give feedback from the point of view of an average reader to the author. This feedback is used by the writer to fix remaining issues with plot, pacing, and consistency.

I prefer an open dialogue with anyone who reads my stories. If they have questions about a passage, I like to have an opportunity to explain what I’m trying to say in the scene. Then I ask the reader what his interpretation of the scene is. Only then can I see what’s missing from the story.

As writers, we are very close to our stories, our characters. What we think is in the story, may not be when someone who does not know the story reads it. And yes—Developmental Editors tell you these things too.

You pay for Developmental Editors. You shouldn’t pay for Beta Readers. You are paying for the Developmental Editor’s expertise in the business of storytelling, of creating viable books for sale. They are the more expensive editors, when preparing a book for publication, as opposed to line editing—which is done at the completion of all other revision work for the story. Another important step to have completed.

I have used a book coach, originally from Author Accelerator, to create a solid version of my college memoir. I took a few months off from my memoir to create more YA short stories for the magazine market, to give myself distance from the memoir story. Now it’s time to pick up with my editor, Michele Orwin, and finish a final version of this memoir story.

Has anyone ever added scenes to their stories or memoir about what the protagonist was like before the inciting incident or before the story present? I’m interested in how you set up the scenes and where you placed them in your story. Please share any insight 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

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Insecure Writers Want to Know: Have you ever included personal traditions/customs in your stories?

            What an interesting question. I guess the problem with answering this question is; I don’t consider any of my personal family’s traditions or customs unique.  
http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com


            I start many a story or blog post with a family experience or two. From my personal experiences of Camping with FiveKids, to the national parks and forests we’ve visited, many of my YA short stories come from our adventures. But traditions and customs? I don’t think they are any different from anyone else’s.

            Let’s consider:
            Each summer, we camp with seven people in a tiny tent trailer that needs to be set up at each campsite. What’s different about that? We travel coast to coast and up into Canada for a month with those seven people—all sharing the duties of food preparation and clean-up for meals, accomplishing the laundry, hiking together for hours in the heat and the rain. Is that a tradition? Or is it just plain insanity?  

            In my memoir about attending college as a mother of five, I share how I made accomplishing a college degree and child rearing work. In this memoir, I share my belief that family comes first, that I am a mother first and a college student second. As a parent, I demonstrate to my children how to accomplish difficult goals, how to persevere through trial, and how to seek out assistance when necessary. But most of all, I believe I show my children how to stand up for themselves when they feel they are right. Is that sharing a custom or tradition out of the norm? Or is it a crazy person just trying to survive in a world, that in the beginning of the memoir, she felt she did not belong?  

You be the judge, cherished followers of Adventures in Writing. 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, February 18, 2020

The Importance of Comp Titles for Fiction and Memoir #AuthorToolboxBlogHop


Finding comp titles for the novels or memoirs you are creating is important for a few reasons. First, seeking similar titles helps the writer actually see what has been published recently in their genre, on their topic. It shows the writer what’s selling and perhaps why. 
https://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com


However, you are not only reading a possible comp title to see how it is like your work-in-progress. You should be reading the title to see how your book fits into the literary landscape on the topic or in the genre. How is your book different from the titles that are already out there? It’s not that we want to write something that is exactly the same as what is already out there. We want to write on the same topic, or in the same genre, but handle the problem—or tension—in a unique way.    

This is what makes writing so difficult. Creating a story with both internal and external tension is not cookie-cutter science. Yes, as writers we realize that certain plot points—I call them movements—need to happen at certain times in the story. I know particular genres need their “specifics” in stories, too.

But as far as I can see, it’s not the same old, same old—even in specific genres. In my YA adventures, I need more than just a different setting, a different national park. I need different external problems, different family situations, different characters who have specific internal troubles they are trying to overcome.

We read comp titles to see how our stories are similar just as much as to see how they are different.

Comp titles are also necessary for preparing a book proposal for traditional presses. Book publishing is a business. Gone are the days in which writers just sat and wrote. 

Nuts! I was born too late. That’s what I like to do.

Now writers need to be marketers as well. That’s a whole other topic I’m just learning about. Please offer any tips you may have. Thanks!

However, I believe comp titles can help even small presses or self-publishers because comp titles show the writer what’s out there in that literary landscape. And knowing what’s out there will help the writer to market his or her books. Writers will know where to place their titles.

I’ve been looking for recent memoir titles to read dealing with education or personal experience in college. I’ve read Lab Girl by Hope Jahren, Educated by Tara Westover, and J.D. Vance’s memoir, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. They all deal with the protagonist realizing he or she needed an education to move forward in life.

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. I think there are different genres for memoir. I think there is one called “Life Experience.” I should go to Amazon and take a look at life experience memoirs.

*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.*

So how do you look for comp titles for your books? Please share any insight you may have here at Adventures in Writing.

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