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 16, 2018

In Memoir or Fiction: Story Is Internal #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

            Happy New Year, Toolbox Writers! I hope you enjoyed some quality family time during the holidays.

            My last Toolbox post talked about “What Exactly is the Origin Scene in Memoir or Fiction?”  The origin scene starts a misbelief in the protagonist, a misunderstanding about herself.

Think about Harry Potter. When the series opens, Harry Potter believes he is an unwanted child. Insignificant. Nothing. Why does he feel this way? The adults who are raising him, the Dursleys, tell him and show him so.
In the first book, Harry is just looking for acceptance, in my opinion. He’s looking for friendship, and hopefully someone who will tell him he isn’t worthless. A deceptively difficult goal for an 11 year old boy.

Now let’s consider what Lisa Cron, the author and teacher of the Story Genius method of writing, has to say about story.

Cron teaches that story is internal. It’s about how what happens in the plot, the physical action of the story, affects a character who has a deeply ingrained misbelief about himself or about his place in life. And this character perceives his goal in the story to be difficult to attain. The internal change will be at the heart of your story and will make your point.  

            This is true in fiction, and this is true in memoir. The writer is telling a story. And there needs to be a point to the story, the universal theme. The uniqueness of memoir is how it’s a true story first and offers insight second. The hardest thing for memoirists to remember is that the memoir story is not really “all about them.” They need to think about their readers and how this particular slice of life can help the readers in turn.

            I believe that I have the “difficult goal to obtain” part in my memoir story about attending college as a mother of five. It’s to believe in myself enough to, in fact, obtain that Bachelor of Arts degree while still raising those five children, while still being the main teacher of my special needs daughter.  My internal struggle is constantly fighting doubt; it’s fighting inadequacy. It’s [mis]believing that I am not college material, not smart enough to succeed in college.

            The plot, the story present, is learning how not to allow someone else’s judgment of me to color my world, whether it’s my father, one of my children’s teachers or counselors, or the many professors I encounter at college. And my story present begins when my special needs daughter wants the same dream that I had once allowed my parents to convince me that I was not worthy of.
Everyone wants to be seen as worthy in someone else’s eyes—especially someone important or close to them. Someone they feel who knows more than they do; whether it’s about education, about life, or about them specifically.

            This memoir is about a younger Victoria, an inadequate Victoria, finally coming of age. For I believe that attending college—at whatever age a person attends college—can help her to believe in herself, in her life choices, in her parenting skills. At least it did for this Victoria.

            The theme of “coming of age” doesn’t necessarily deal with only children becoming adults. I believe it can be realized whenever a life-altering event takes place in someone’s life—even if she is already an adult with children.

            Please offer any insight you may have on a “coming of age” theme for my college memoir or about my thoughts on allowing someone else’s judgment to affect you. Any thoughts you wish to share are truly helpful to me in writing my memoir journey.

            Next month, I’d like to discuss the transformational arc of the protagonist. I wish you all every success in 2018.

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

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Insecure Writers want to know: What steps have you taken to put a schedule in place for your writing and publishing?

          A publishing schedule? Wouldn’t that be nice! Publishing is up to the magazines I submit to. I’ve been blessed that Cricket Magazine will be publishing another of my YA adventure short stories in their April 2018 issue. It never ceases to thrill me!

            As far as my writing schedule goes, it’s getting everyone else to adhere to it that’s my problem. Sometimes my family needs to understand that I AM, in fact, writing and require thinking time. You know, peace and quiet.

            Okay, it’s true! My husband and five children, as well as my extended family, have all taught me how to work in short spurts. But no matter how many times I try to tell them that I work best in the morning—and if things are going well, maybe the afternoon too—they continue to “need” me at different times. In fact, they have this interruption thing all timed out. Of course, they change it up a bit so it’s not the same person calling, stopping by, or requiring my help or insight at the same time during the day. The funny thing is that they each think they’re the only one interrupting me throughout the day.
            No! It’s not simply a matter of not answering the telephone. They know where I live. Most of them still live with me!       

Does an empty nest happen to everybody, or only a select few? When I run off to the library, the family seems to know where I hide among the stacks.

            My husband says it’s because “we all love you.”

I love them, too. I really do. In fact, sometimes I ask for their opinions on how to describe a certain action to a young reader. I’ll ask them about my word choice or the steps in a scene. They can be very helpful. Then at other times, they just get stuck staring at me as I try so hard to hammer out a scene in my story. I can stay in my chair and write if they’d only stop boring holes in my head, waiting for me to “finish” so they can ask me something.

I’m thinking about moving to a deserted island. Of course I’ll need internet service…and electricity for my laptop. And maybe my teapot and a teacup. Some tea and cookies… Anyone have a better solution?

Thanks so much for stopping by Adventures in Writing and offering your advice. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already. It’s greatly appreciated. I wish you all every success in 2018! 

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 5, 2017

Insecure Writers want to know: If You could, What Would You Do Differently in 2017

Many writers are insecure, lonely animals. The publishing industry has changed drastically in recent years. Gone is the support system of old for writers when they had agents and editors who gave them courage to continue and help to shape their stories, where famous writers gathered at cafes or went abroad to write.

Most of today’s writers have full time careers and write on the side. We need to find our own support group. We need to swallow our fears—most times by ourselves—and search for the perfect critique partner or groups and pay for professional editing and more if we go Indie. In the old days, publishers nurtured their writers.

But as writers, we can’t cry over blotched ink! We need to make sure it doesn’t happen in the first place. To do that, the authors of today need to find like-minded individuals and form true connections in order to share information on writing and options on publishing.  

I have been blessed in 2017 to have connected with many wonderful writers online, mostly at IWSG and AuthorToolbox bloggers. I seek out your guidance, your experience in publishing and writing through reading your blogs. I also look to Writers Helping WritersJennie Nash, and Writers in the Storm blogposts for help in writing stories. I hunger for my local South Jersey Writers Group meetings and events and the camaraderie I share with them.

What would I have done differently in 2017? I would have liked to figure out this e-mail list building thing. How do I set it up on my blogspot blogs or is it only something you can do with a website?
Must you have a newsletter to send out to an e-mail list filled with information different from your blog posts? I assume the letter should be filled with tips like I try to do with my blogposts.
I don’t know how to have the popup appear for visitors to sign up for an e-mail list. Some of you have a box that pops up and I need to enter my name, email, and website in order to comment. Is that an e-mail list gathering tool and does it work with blogspot? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks so much for stopping by Adventures in Writing and offering your advice. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already. It’s greatly appreciated. Enjoy your holiday! 

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, November 1, 2017

Insecure Writers want to know: Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?

            Unfortunately, I don’t participate in NaNoWriMo. I simply don’t need more pressure to write. I write almost every day; poetry, short story, blog posts, memoir, and writing workshops and presentations. Yes, sometimes I stare more than I write. I get up and go through the motions to get the action correct for my protagonist and thereby the reader. I fuss and fudder. I cry. I tell myself I’m no good at writing.

Okay, so now you know why I’m part of Insecure Writers Support Group.

Then I return to that blasted blinking cursor and try again. I fight with my logical self and that stupid editor in my head who, many times, holds me back from beginning a new project until I know exactly what I’m doing. Does any writer know exactly what they’re doing at the beginning of a project? If you do, please share some tips! 

            I’m not a pantser. I can’t just bang out words, although I admire those who can. I can’t seem to disconnect that confounded editor in my head. I’m constantly re-reading what I’ve already written. Deleting here. Tightening there. Adding specifics and emotion. I can’t simply move forward in a piece of writing.   

I need to know where I’m going, what the point of my piece of writing is at the beginning. Now that’s not saying I know specifically where I’m going all the time. Quite often I only have an idea—sometimes just a glimmer—of what I’m trying to show through this essay or story, or demonstrate through sharing this incident. Hence, I do a lot of staring, like I said. And walking around my neighborhood. Yes! Even in the rain.

            Yet, I admire the camaraderie shared through NaNoWriMo, the need for a safe community that isn’t pitting themselves against their fellow writer, but rather cheering them on to success. I think NaNo is a wonderful thing, and I truly wish everyone who participates in it great success.  May all your stories come to fruition. Write on, dear fellow IWSG friends, write on!

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 Support Group. We post on the first Wednesday of every month.  To join us, or learn more about the group, click HERE.  

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

What Exactly is the Origin Scene in Memoir or Fiction? #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

The inciting incident is the start of story present. In my case it’s when a high school guidance counselor challenges me to help my special needs daughter through her high school years and I realize I can't do it without a college education myself.

The origin scene is where my misbelief about not being smart enough to handle college work originates. The origin scene and misbelief started when I myself tried to sign up for college prep courses in high school and was told more or less that I would fail if I attempted college.

Writers need to consider what the key origin scene is that starts the belief in a flaw that is so important to their particular protagonist in the fiction or memoir story they’re trying to tell. The origin scene is where the protagonist’s flaw first comes into play, and it usually happens during childhood, according to Lisa Cron, the creator of the Story Genius method of writing.  

A flaw develops in the protagonist’s logic in the origin scene to help the protagonist cope at that particular time in his or her life with the situation at hand.

Why did Victoria believe she wouldn’t succeed in college? In 1973, she brought home the course selections book for high school. Her parents needed to sign off on the courses. 

*Rough origin scene, Victoria’s 13 years old:

 Dad picked up the folder.  “What’s this, Vic?” 
He pointed to the curriculum path I chose.  College Prep.
I was all smiles.  They should be so proud of my choice.  Me, the daughter who had so much trouble in school before.  Now I was considering college.
            “Vic,” he said, “We don’t go to college.”  He placed the folder back on the table.
            “What?”  Can’t just anybody go away to college?  I didn’t get it.  “Dad.”  I looked at my mother.  “I want to be a writer.”  And an actress, I thought, but I couldn’t tell Daddy that.  He already told me that was stupid when I had mentioned it to Mom last year.
            “College is for doctors and lawyers,” he said.
            That’s all?  Really?  I was at a loss of what to say.  I shook my head.  “But all the authors I read about…”
            “They must be rich,” he said.  “We’re not.”  He leaned forward on the table.  “There’s no money for college, Vic,” he informed me, in that definitive tone I knew so well.  He pushed the folder back to me.  “We’re a working class family.  Everybody goes to work after high school.”  He rose from the table.  “At real jobs,” he added. 
But why can’t working class people go to college?  I felt my dream slipping away.  I searched my brain for some proof.  “Dad, Betty’s sister wants to be a teacher, and she’s going to college.”  I glanced up at him. 
He was looking at my mother.  Neither one said anything. 
“Vic,” Dad said finally.  “What makes you think you’re smart enough to do it?”
I felt like it was the middle of summer instead of early spring.  I wanted to run outside into the darkness to cool off.  Or was it to hide from my past? I struggled so much in school before 6th grade.  Mom told me that the school had wanted to hold me back in 3rd grade but Daddy wouldn’t let them.  He had worked with me in math for hours after his night shift had finished.  Yet I continued to struggle in 4th and 5th grade.  But somehow in 6th grade I finally got it, although it took much studying and work on my part.
“Dad,” I said desperately, “I’m on the honor roll now.” 
“You need more than that to survive college, Vic.  Play it safe.  Go to work.”  When I didn’t reply, he left the room.
I sat there dumbfounded, trying to make sense of this. My parents didn’t go to college. And neither did my girlfriend’s parents.  Mom’s a secretary.  And Dad’s a machinist.  They have a house and cars.  They’re successful.  So are my friends’ parents.  College isn’t necessary for success. It didn’t matter what other writers had done.
            Daddy’s right.  If I tried college and failed, I’d embarrass them.  And Dad wouldn’t be able to help me this time with math.  It’s good to know this now before I have trouble with college prep courses.  And even if I did all that work, I wouldn’t have anything to study at college because I don’t want to be a doctor.  I don’t like blood and guts.  And I don’t want to be a lawyer because I’m afraid of the bad guys.  And I don’t need to struggle in college and then fail, proving to Dad that I’m not smart enough. 
*End of scene.

The origin scene begins a misunderstanding in the protagonist’s life. This misunderstanding must be connected to the main thrust of the story. And the misunderstanding should become a way for the protagonist to save herself from future problems. In my case, the misunderstanding that I’m not college material would save me from failure in life. I needed to choose a more secure path without the need to struggle further in my education.

Does this sound overly dramatic to you? Your insight is always appreciated.

The origin scene’s misunderstanding blooms into the flaw that the protagonist carries around with her for the rest of the story. But remember, to the protagonist, this misconstrued logic shows her how to interpret life so no harm or bad feelings come to her in the future.

Victoria’s father made it clear that doing well in the basic classes does not prepare one for college, in his mind. Victoria needed to be smarter. And she wasn’t. He instilled in her that failure in life is not good. Victoria interpreted this as “don’t attempt anything that you might fail at.” So she stayed away from college until her own daughter wanted the same dream.

Remember that many times, the antagonist’s intentions seem logical to him. They’re from his own life experience. The antagonist, many times, is just trying to help the protagonist. 

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, October 4, 2017

Insecure Writers want to know: Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?

I think all writers do this, although sometimes without realizing it. I know I do.

            In memoir, of course personal information is shared. That’s what memoir is all about, allowing your reader to share your experience. But in my fiction, when a critique partner asks why a particular character didn’t do what the partner expected, I answer, “Oh, that’s because he would never do that.”

            And my critique partner would say, “No, Vic. It’s YOU who would never do that. Your protagonist must do that so the story can move forward.”

            And that’s the point. All writers need to have their stories move forward, no matter if we share a part of ourselves in the story through a character or an event or experience or make things up. Stories must move forward to interest readers.

            But writers must also remember that sometimes real life isn’t easy to believe. This happened in a few of my short adventure stories for teens. I usually set my story in a national park my family has visited. When my husband and I camp with five kids, we try to take in as many of the park ranger hikes and talks as possible. That’s where I get my knowledge that’s shared through my YA adventure stories.

            In two of my stories published in Cricket Magazine, the editor contacted me about the reality of the situation. Remember that I write contemporary and not sci-fi or fantasy. The first story question was easy. I simply sent him links to prove my point: one to the park webpage and one to a blog post that explained my family’s experience with the park and had a photo of trees and pine cones with people to give perspective. Writers always want to make things as easy as possible for busy editors, right?      

            The second question the same editor had was in a later story. The only proof I could tell him was that we heard a similar situation from the park ranger on a hike in that particular national park. I gave the editor a link to the park’s website. The editor bought the story.

            I wonder if this particular editor thinks I send my own children into all these risky and scary situations alone as I do my protagonist. I hope not. Therein lays the fiction part.

            Whether writers use personal experience or beliefs or events in their writing or not, we writers need to be sure those personal experiences sound logical in the stories we tell, even in fantasy and sci-fi. Good luck in your story telling!

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.  

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

What Does Backstory Do in Memoir or Fiction? #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

The question of “why” continues in memoir and fiction. Why this protagonist? Why now? Why does what happens in the story present matter to the protagonist?

Through backstory, we find the why of the present story we are trying to tell, according to Lisa Cron, the creator of the Story Genius method of writing. The reader wishes to understand why the protagonist behaves as she does. What is her backstory?

In memoir as in fiction, backstory shows the reader why what’s happening in the story—the story action—matters to the protagonist.

            In Victoria’s memoir story, she had always revered those who went to college. College graduates were smarter than she was, she felt. They were successful, in her mind. And, the college-educated were in charge of her children’s education—especially her special needs oldest daughter.

            Victoria dealt with these feelings of inferiority until the high school guidance counselor told her that her oldest daughter shouldn’t go to college. She wasn’t capable. She wouldn’t be able to handle the work.

This is where the writer brings in “why this matters to Victoria.” Without the “why” of the story, the memoir would be merely surface. Who cares? Just stick the child in special education and let the educated people deal with teaching the child.  

            But Victoria had never done that. She was a team player and always supported all her children through their education. Until now. Until high school. Victoria didn’t feel knowledgeable enough to teach her children high school subjects.

            Okay. But why let this bother Victoria? Why did what the counselor tells her matter so much to Victoria?

It matters because Victoria has always wanted to be included among the college-educated. She feels she could be a better mother, if she is college-educated.

Then go to college, the reader thinks.

But Victoria believes, at the time the memoir story opens, that the opportunity to attend college has passed. She has five young children, the oldest special needs. Her husband travels for work.

To go deeper, Victoria was told by her father she wasn’t smart enough herself to succeed in college because she too struggled in her early education. Her father felt he was saving his daughter from possible failure in life.

This is why what is happening in the present memoir scene with her daughter’s high school guidance counselor matters so much to Victoria. This is where specific backstory comes into play.

            You put story-specific backstory into the scene at a moment when something triggers the protagonist to think back to a particular past situation or action in order to make sense of the present situation.

A protagonist may use his or her personal backstory to make a decision on how to respond or how to act in a specific confrontation or situation in the story. Backstory helps the reader understand why the protagonist is reacting the way she is.

            Think about it in your own life. We use our own personal backstory; how we were brought up, our experiences and learned life lessons, to make sense of our present world and personal life. Our past—our backstory—helps us to decide what to do next in life situations. Our past helps us to make meaning of our present.   

            Backstory can be a few words, a few paragraphs of explanation, or even an entire scene to explain what happened in order to show why a character acts the way she does in story present.

Backstory is uniquely tied to the origin scene in story. In the origin scene, a flaw is found in the logic of the protagonist. Where is this scene in the life of your protagonist, the particular flaw that is addressed through your story or memoir? Why did Victoria believe she wouldn’t succeed in college? We’ll address this next month.

Please offer me any feedback about the logic of Victoria’s memoir story, for it truly helps me to move forward in my work. Also, feel free to pose memoir topics. I will share 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