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, 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

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Insecure Writers Want to Know: Has a single photo or work of art ever inspired a story? What was it and did you finish it?


            My family camping photographs of national and state parks, in caves or mighty forests or on mountains or rivers and lakes have inspired many an adventure short story. You can see some of these photographs at my Camping with Five Kids blog.   
http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com


Most recently, hiking in the Adirondack Mountains in New York inspired one of my current works in progress that I spoke about last month. 

I think I’ve got the pacing, when the protagonist finally realizes that because his father believed in him, he needs to believe in himself. I’ve got to make sure the emotion is there. That’s the difficult part for me. I’ve got so much going on in the short story—only 1800 words, remember—that many times I forget to leave word space to show emotions. How do you tuck in telling emotions in story?

http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com
The boulder scramble to the
top of Mt. Marcy Adirondack
Mountains in New York.
Thank you all so much for sharing your experiences with allergic reactions and helping me understand why and how to use the EpiPen last month. I’ve learned so much and hope to get back to that story shortly. First I need to be brave enough to let go and send out my Adirondack story. One story at a time, Vic, one story at a time.

I find photographs, especially of personal experiences, extremely helpful in story creation. Not only can they give you a visual reminder of a place, but if you study the photograph or a painting of a particular place, you can wrap your mind around questions to ask through story. What if questions. Deeply penetrating questions. Why is the protagonist here? What is he doing? What is he running away from or trying to hide from? What is he trying to make sense of in his life?

Try it yourself. Pick up any photograph or gaze deeply into a piece of artwork. Study the faces of the people in them. What could they be thinking about? What problems are they trying to solve? Describe them. Better yet, create them!

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, 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.