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, April 17, 2018

What is the Aha Moment in Fiction or Memoir #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Lisa Cron, in her Story Genius course, states that your protagonist’s “aha moment” near the end of your novel is when the protagonist finally overcomes her misbelief. This is where your novel makes its point. A writer needs to know the point she is trying to make in her story to be sure each scene is focused on that point.

If I analyze my college journey experience, I notice that throughout my experience I am the mother of five children first and a college student second. My life has always been about the parenting of my children.

            This brought me back to how my parents raised me and my brother and sisters. It made me reconsider deeply my father’s words in the origin scene. You can find my post on origin scene here.   
“What makes you think you’re smart enough for college, Vic?”

Because Victoria struggled in her early education, her father felt he was saving his daughter from possible failure in life. Perhaps he thought he could save all his children from failure by choosing an easier path for them; a path, he thought, without unnecessary struggle; a path, it seemed, without a college education in it.

Victoria’s initial interpretation of the origin scene was that those who struggle in school should not go to college because they’d have a higher risk for failure.

But what if Victoria realizes near the end of her college journey that success in college doesn’t depend only on how quickly you learn but rather on your determination to succeed? Doubt and fear of failure are a part of life. Many people struggle to better themselves. Parents shouldn’t keep their children from attempting new and difficult goals solely to keep them safe from the risk of failure. We must realize our full potential, and to do this, many need to struggle; like Victoria does in her quest for a college diploma.  

Maybe becoming a parent myself solidified my work ethic. Perseverance matters in life. Those who struggle early in their education learn this as they move through life. Perseverance can overcome obstacles. Victoria learns this through her college journey. She learns differently. Others may learn faster, but Victoria keeps chipping away at education and understanding of course material to receive her Bachelor of Arts degree from an Ivy League university.

The takeaway message to readers could be:
Effort counts in life as in college.
Perseverance matters.
Don’t let fear and doubt keep you from your goals.

*In your opinion, which sentence encapsulates what Victoria has learned from the info I provided above?*  

While researching concrete evidence about what Victoria learned during her ten-year college journey, I came across two great TED talks:
Angela Lee Duckworth defines “grit” as passion and perseverance for long-term goals.
And Dr. Carol Dweck speaks of a belief called the “growth mindset” and how we can improve in learning.

            In memoir as in fiction, the protagonist needs to deal with her misbelief scene by scene by scene in order to earn her “aha moment,” that point in the story where the protagonist discovers that her misbelief is in fact a misbelief. This is usually an “internal realization” according to Lisa Cron in Story Genius, an internal realization that is prompted by an event in a fiction story or memoir. Thanks for reading.

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, April 3, 2018

Insecure Writers Want to Know: When your writing life is filled with rain, What do you do to dig down and keep writing?

Please understand that any time I’m struggling with my writing, it pours. Thunder and lightning included. Hail, many times. I mean the storm clouds just won’t leave me alone. My children and husband even scatter! It isn’t pretty. Eeyore has nothing on me.

But I try to convince myself that I’m not alone. Drenched souls don’t mind sharing umbrellas or fluffy beach towels. That’s why I treasure IWSG. I’d be lost without you guys!

The first thing I try to do is remain at my desk, fingers at the ready on the keyboard, eyes focused on the computer screen. I turn off any outside noise. If only I could find that hidden off switch on the children!
Then I attempt to inhabit the story or memoir situation, asking myself:
If I were the protagonist, what would I do?
How would I feel?
What would I remember to help me cope with the present day action of the story?
What meaning would the story action have for me?

However when the rain is really pelting me, it’s time to save my work and close the document. Then turn to other writers to learn. Mostly this means reading stories and blog posts, essays and how-to books, and listening to the writing gurus’ podcasts.
But in so doing, I try to remind myself that they, too, might have struggled to write their stories or posts or essays or memoirs or podcasts.

When I can’t see where to go in my story or memoir, I turn off the computer and take my brain outside. The weather doesn’t matter. I’m really just thinking and walking; looking at the real world to be able to make sense of my fictitious world or the past memoir world that I’ve lived. I’m taking my eyes away from the page; noticing the sky and the trees; smelling the flowers and the earth; listening to the song of the birds and my thoughts. I’m a concrete thinker. I need to understand the logic of what’s happening before I can transcribe it into story or memoir.

 As I return to my work and my computer, I consider any knowledge that I might need in order to move forward in the story or memoir. I’m talking about research here. And while I believe in the power of the library or any expert interviews you may be able to acquire, the internet is a fine place to begin a research campaign.
Now I don’t know about you, but I need to remind myself that I’m working here and not get interested in what’s happening on social media or suddenly want to discover what my favorite movie star is up to or the royals. I try to console myself saying it’s only because I don’t know where to go in my WIP. Yet, I’m a writer. There’s a time to play and a time to work.

Writers work incredibly hard to make their creation a reality. How do you climb out of the mud puddles of your WIP when you don’t know how to proceed? Humor me please. I’ve moved to higher ground and still I’m drowning trying to make sense of my college memoir.

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.

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, March 20, 2018

The Transformational Arc of the Protagonist in Fiction or Memoir #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

In fiction or memoir, the story needs to be about the protagonist taking the reader through an arc of change and letting the reader feel that experience, feel that change within the protagonist. Writers need to remember that the internal story arc of change for the protagonist, the transformational arc, needs to unfold slowly, scene by scene, and it needs to be interpreted for the reader through the protagonist’s thoughts.

But in order for the writer to construct a story to change the protagonist, the writer needs to understand how the protagonist interprets her story world. That’s where the origin scene comes in. Remember the origin scene from a prior blog post? The origin scene is where the protagonist’s misbelief about the world is born. This is a misbelief about how the world works according to the protagonist. This guides the protagonist’s life from the moment it happens—the actual origin scene—according to Lisa Cron in her Story Genius course.

In memoir, the protagonist is you the writer. You need to think:
How am I going to show one explicit arc of change in the protagonist’s memoir story?
Think what particularly is Victoria’s arc of change in her college memoir?

            Victoria begins the memoir believing that if you struggled in school, you’re not smart enough for college because her father said as much in the origin scene when she attempted to sign up for college prep courses in high school.

As a writer, I need to show the protagonist’s change from someone who doesn’t believe that she can handle college—because she’s unprepared and inadequate—to someone who does in fact graduate from an Ivy League university. I need to show the daily struggles with fear and doubt—and what they mean to the protagonist—through scenes in the memoir.

In order to do this, writers need to set the place, the time, and the context of each scene moving forward. Scenes need to be specific. Writers can’t simply focus on what happens externally in the story. We’ve got to let the reader know what our protagonist is thinking as she reacts, internally, to everything that happens in the story according to Cron. And we need to help the reader understand why our characters are thinking and believing what they do. We need to put the character’s inner struggle right on the page so readers can experience her internal conflict themselves.

The misbelief needs to be at the forefront of the internal struggle in the story. Backstory scenes need to reinforce Victoria’s misbelief; scenes that show her feelings of fear and doubt and inadequacy that if she went to college she would surely fail. My blogpost about backstory can be found here

            A few backstory scenes to reinforce Victoria’s misbelief could be:

A scene with a college-bound high school friend where the friend tries to explain her science classwork to Victoria and Victoria is completely lost, believing her father correct. She could never understand the subject material.
Note: Victoria comes to realize, as she struggles through college herself, that she needs to be taught the subject matter visually to be able to understand.

After the birth of her first baby, Victoria discovers that a fellow secretarial student friend from high school graduates from community college. Victoria interprets this as her friend probably didn’t struggle in school. She was simply smarter than Victoria.

Victoria fails the math portion of the College Entrance Exam.

However, to chip away at her struggle to believe she can succeed at college, Victoria learns that the college offers basic skills math courses to help her build a math foundation.  
            Another scene that chips away at Victoria’s misbelief is when the Phi Theta Kappa advisor informs her that she should apply for All U.S.A. and All New Jersey Community and Junior College Academic Team awards. The professor believes in Victoria, but Victoria is more worried about what would happen if she won the awards.

Fear, doubt, and inadequacy in my particular memoir story can manifest themselves as inferiority or even feeling like an imposter. When I attended the University of Pennsylvania, I didn’t feel like a real Ivy Leaguer. I felt like I didn’t belong.

*As before, please offer any insight or comments you may have about my college memoir. Thank you! * 

Lisa Cron states that the protagonist’s “aha moment” comes near the end of the novel. It is when she finally overcomes her misbelief. This is where your novel makes its point. I’ll talk about the “aha moment” in the next post.

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 6, 2018

Insecure Writers want to know: How Do You Celebrate When You Achieve a Writing Goal or Finish a Story?

            Celebrating at each juncture in our writing journey is important for self-esteem. I do this in degrees like when I celebrate my children’s accomplishments.

If I’ve had a great writing session; you know, not too much staring at the computer screen, I go out for a walk by myself. Ahh…peace and quiet! This only works when the kids aren’t home. And the weather doesn’t matter. I’ve hiked in the snow and rain. You just dress appropriately.

If I finish revising a story to the best of my ability and send it for critique, I brew a fresh pot of tea and pick up a book I’ve been planning to read. Again, this only works when my husband and the kids aren’t home. Otherwise, I can’t hear the words I’m reading. You need to have kids to understand this.

If I submit a story to a publisher—once I start breathing again—I become the nice Mom the children knew before I started writing and submitting stories. There is a difference between the stressed Writer Mom and the “So, how was your day?” Mom. We prepare favorite foods together and play board games, remember them? We like Clue and Scotland Yard best. They’re mystery games. We plan our next camping adventure as a family and I truly listen and participate in the discussion.   

If a publisher accepts one of my stories, once I get up off the floor, I celebrate with the whole family. That’s right! It’s pizza all around. Well, I don’t want to spend all the money I make selling my stories on dinner for 7 at a restaurant. We usually watch a movie, too. And yes, I analyze the plot, seeing how the writer created the plausibility of the story. And, unfortunately, I discuss it with the family. One of the twins told me I was more fun to watch movies with before I started writing so many stories. She’s probably right!

Wow! Did you notice how each celebration benefits me physically somehow? I just noticed it. I exercise. I rest my eyes from the computer screen. I learn about story from other writers while analyzing their books or movies. I spend quality time with the family, giving my mind a rest, focusing on fun games and cooking.

Hmm… when I consider my degrees of celebration for the children’s accomplishments, I find benefits as well. It just proves that celebrating accomplishments is good for you. So…how do you celebrate writing goals?

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.

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, February 20, 2018

What’s your point in fiction or memoir? #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

What’s your point? How often do we find ourselves asking this of a show we are watching, a lecture we’re listening to, or even of a friend’s anecdote?

The point of a piece of writing could be considered a theme or an idea you are trying to put forward. All writing needs a focused point to help guide the reader, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction.

I recently read a wonderful guest post on Writers Helping Writers by Daeus Lamb in which he offers a distinction between theme and the point of your story. Lamb posits that theme is the “moral topic” of your story and a “message is the point” you are trying to “make about that theme.”

I don’t think it really matters what you call it so long as you do in fact have a point to your story or essay. And nowhere is this more important than in memoir. 

Remember that memoir is told as a story. It’s one thin slice of life, one arc of transformation for the protagonist—the person writing the memoir story—as Jennie Nash ofAuthor Accelerator likes to say. The writer needs to step back and look at herself as a character and actually put herself through that arc of change for the reader.

How does she do this? By carefully selecting specific events from this certain time in her life and making sure the change is shown on the page through these experiences for the reader to understand. Readers need to be in the socks of the protagonist, experiencing this specific arc of change along with the protagonist.  

But which events from that specific time in life do you choose to include in the memoir? This is where the point of your story comes into play. The memoirist chooses the real events that prove the point of the memoir story.

Make no mistake. Finding the point of a story in the beginning when you are trying to write forward is extremely difficult. I’ve been playing with the point of my memoir about attending college as a mother of five for about two years now.  

I believe the point of my memoir is not to allow my world to be colored by how others see me. We shouldn’t give those around us permission to influence our feelings about ourselves. We need to dream. And then go after that dream and learn from our failures.

            My father said I was not college material when I tried to sign up for the college prep track in high school.
            My children’s school teachers/counselors/special education department said they knew more than I did and therefore I should listen to their instructions on how to raise and educate my children when they faltered academically; specifically, my special needs daughter.
            The doctor and the neurologist knew what I should do to deal with my special needs daughter’s ADHD and her social and learning problems.
            A few community college profs seemed to talk down to me, a mother who didn’t know higher level math or science, didn’t know literature, didn’t know psychology. [As I said, no college prep foundation.]
            A few Ivy League profs decided they were wholly better than I and told me I was wrong in my views—again and again.
            Even some of the Ivy League students thought they were better than I, especially in the higher level courses. After all, I was an older college student, not someone who earned the right to be at the Ivy League right out of high school.

            The events once I began my college journey furthered my inferiority complex, making me feel like an imposter. My misbelief was that college was not for people like me; someone from a blue collar family who struggled in school. I was a nontraditional college student, one who didn’t attend college right out of high school.

The point is I gave these people permission to influence how I felt about myself. I didn’t have the needed confidence to understand that anyone could have a “know-it-all” prof or come across students who felt they were better than others. I did this because I felt they were all smarter than I was. After all, they went to college right out of high school.

*Please offer any insight or comments you may have about this. Thank you!*

Memoir is a specific story about a specific person’s life and a specific arc of change that person goes through. But the writer needs to elevate that personal story beyond one person’s experience. She needs to elevate the story to become a universal story about how someone can overcome the circumstances she finds herself in; in other words, make the point of the memoir universal in scope. The writer needs to think of the protagonist’s situation with her eye on the horizon, looking ahead for what it all means.

I’d like to thank Jennie Nash for helping me understand this concept. Nash has an “Ask Me Anything” [AMA] on one Tuesday morning [Pacific Time] a month. At that time, participants may literally ask Nash anything about publishing and writing and she answers them live. It’s free. Her calendar may be found here. It’s definitely worth your time.

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, February 6, 2018

Co-Hosting Insecure Writers Support Group’s February Question

Happy February, Insecure Writer's Support Group! Writers helping writers. I’m pleased to be a part of this world-wide support group for writers created by our heroic leader, Alex J.Cavanaugh

This is my first time co-hosting our group’s monthly question along with wonderful fellow writers Stephen Tremp, Pat GarciaAngela Wooldridge, and Madeline Mora-Summonte. Thanks for this opportunity, Alex!

Our February question is: What do you love about the genre you write in most often?

            What do I love most about writing YA contemporary adventure? Who doesn’t want to experience a life-threatening adventure [vicariously, of course!] and come out the other side changed both physically and mentally? Okay, it’s true. I would never allow my five children to actually experience the adventures I write about; however, the children’s actions usually do trigger my next YA short story.

            Like a lot of story ideas, my YA adventure stories begin in truth. Sometimes I change up the initial experience my family had; place it in a different national park or in a different season. Then the research begins. All stories should be researched—even fantasy.

The best stories begin with something that could be known to readers—even if it’s a little known fact. Writers should delve into science, sociology, mythology, philosophy, or history to name only a few subjects to ponder. I enjoy research because I love learning something new. And there’s a good chance your reader will, too. I believe both children and adults come to story to learn something, even if it is to consider a universal idea or subject through a new perspective. 
Then the story-building happens. This is the best part for me. Fiction is much easier than memoir. In fiction we create events and actions and emotion to build a story. In memoir, the writer needs to look for the story in life’s truth—explicitly.

In my YA adventures I know no one will die. Children’s magazines usually don’t like it when characters get into dangerous situations and make a mistake and die. That’s not to say that children’s magazines don’t deal with death in a family or friendship. I sold a short story to Cricket Magazine about a protagonist whose parents had died, and she needed to cope with grief and deal with living with her grandparents. Of course, I did add my signature danger that the protagonist had to face to help her realize the importance of her grandparents.

Story is internal. In writing my contemporary adventure stories, I need to find a realistic method to get my protagonist out of danger. Usually, the protagonist needs to realize that it’s up to him or her to save the day or be the hero of the story, and the protagonist changes internally as a result.

Thanks so much for stopping by Adventures in Writing and offering your insight. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already. It’s greatly appreciated. I’ll be sure and do the same for you.

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, 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.