Humpty Dumpty (Poe Style)

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As a new technique I am going to rewrite a nursery rhyme in the voice of a legendary author. This was way more fun than I thought it could be. I’m still laughing at how easily Poe’s voice seemed to connect to a nursery rhyme.

Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall.

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men

Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

Humpty Dumpty revised (in the voice/style of Edgar Allan Poe)

On a dark and dreary night upon a high wall of the city sat a man.

His soul still broken from the death of his lover.

Atop the city’s great wall he sat peering into the distance

Hoping one day to glimpse his bride.

She was taken too soon.

As the cloud of night grew thick and gathered about him

The young man wrestled with the notion of sleep.

Could he finally quiet his soul?

Would rest be upon him?

Or would he forever be tortured by visions of Lenore?

With heavy lids he began to sway.

And from the wall with great force he fell.

On horses did men from the kingdom come.

Rushing through the streets with doctors

Clearing the path through bystanders to attend to the man.

No one was able to revive his shattered body.

Not the king. Not his knights.

Because Lenore came down and woke him from his slumber.

And forevermore he danced with his bride.

The Ameri Brit Mom

Build: Five Minute Friday

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I’m getting my butt kicked by my February schedule.

Can you relate?

For some reason I keep double-booking myself even with my efforts to keep a bullet journal. There just isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done. That’s why it is even more important than ever to build into that schedule some time for me.

A few months ago my husband and I agreed on an arrangement that allowed both of us ample time to focus on our hobbies. On an ideal day, we would each get ONE HOUR to ourselves. For him, it would look like a run to the gym or a drill session with five basketballs. For me, that time would be sitting in front of the computer like I am right now and allowing myself some time to write.

Now, it doesn’t happen this way every day.

There are days when my kiddos interrupt that time and days when my husband never makes it out the door. But, our goal is to make this time a priority every day.

As parents it can be so easy to lose ourselves. I could spend over half a day cleaning messes or changing diapers. But one thing I’ve learned after six years of this gig is that I am a much better mom when I’ve taken some time to focus on  me.

I am thankful for a husband who is supportive and encourages me to take that time.

I am grateful for a daughter that understands when Mom is writing she really needs to be left alone.

This ONE HOUR trade-off with my husband has helped to curb my anxiety and given me a renewed sense of purpose in writing. I’ve taken time to dream again. I’ve taken steps toward reaching that dream. And I’ve begun feeling more accomplished than ever.

How do you build time for yourself during the day?

*This post is part of the Five Minute Friday prompt for the week. Be sure to check out the link in order to see other positive writer’s explore the same word prompt.

The Ameri Brit Mom

Supporting Archetypes

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Every story has ONE protagonist. Sure, there are stories out there told from the perspective of multiple characters, but every reader connects to a single character more than the others. They root for their success above anyone else’s.

That’s where the idea of a supporting character comes from.

Supporting characters are those that help us to see the protagonist better and function to bring out their qualities.

In her book, DIY MFA, Gabriela Pereiera explains a few archetypes of the supporting character. Those archetypes are the villian, the love interest, the BFF, the sidekick, the mentor, and the fool. It must be noted that not every character fits nicely into those categories, but can be under the umbrella of one.

My favorite supporting character archetype to write is the mentor.

I think the reason I gravitate toward the mentor is because this is a character whose wisdom and experiences help the protagonist to see reason. This character is helpful and is generally the type of person I would like to spend time with in real life. My current Work-in-Progress features a mentor character. He lends support and helps to showcase a softer side of a troubled protagonist.

The only thing I’ve had to be cautious of in the use of mentors is making sure that they don’t solve all the problems for the protagonist. Their purpose is to shed light on solutions, but ultimately the protagonist must learn from their selves how to overcome the conflicts of their tale.

The Ameri Brit Mom

 

 

Write One Short Story a Week…

“Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.”― Ray Bradbury

Sounds easy enough.

Short stories could be something as short as 500 words, so how hard can that really be? Well, I’m here to say that for me a short story a week is far from what I’ve achieved over the years. In fact, I’ve probably finished six short stories EVER.

The writing world is full of “professionals” trying to give inspiration to other writers. They mean well when they talk about their own magic formula, but writing is not a tried-and-true craft. What works for one writer may not work for another. We all live different lives, write different genres, and use different methods to reach success.

When I first started writing I was tempted to follow the formula of other writers, but I have since learned that every writer is unique. Additionally, every phase of the journey is unique. What works early in the writing process may not be the best rule to follow as you grow.

Adaptation is imperative for the writing life. If you find a formula that works for you it may not always be that way. If you are still trying to build a system keep the focus on yourself. Ray Bradbury’s method of a short story a week obviously worked well for him. He was a renowned author and his pieces were influential in so much of the sci-fi genre. He’s not a name soon forgotten. I wrote a post about him a few years ago because I am a fan. (5 Reasons to Read Ray Bradbury) But I am not Ray Bradbury. I cannot beat myself up for struggling to produce a short story per quarter (that’s my current goal.)

Gabriela Pereira, founder of DIY MFA, says it best when she explains that the only rule for writing is that there is no rule.

What about you? Have you ever found yourself tempted to take someone else’s advice?

The Ameri Brit Mom

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My Writing Superpower

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The Underdog:

You are the quintessential underdog storyteller and your superpower is creating relate-able characters who have a deep desire to change something in themselves or in the world around them. From rags-to-riches narratives to epic David-and-Goliath-style battles you craft stories with high stakes and compelling characters your readers can’t help but love.

What about you? Take the quiz

The Ameri Brit Mom

Honor Your Reality

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My writing journey hasn’t been a linear one. There have been months of motivated writing sessions and others where I’ve nearly fallen off the map. I’ve taken detours and shortcuts. I’ve even abandoned route several times. While my mind cursed itself for losing focus I’m learning that in those times life needed to come first.

When my heart was breaking for those I love.

When my body was growing a baby.

When work zapped all of my energy.

When anxiety crippled me.

Those are moments in my reality when I set the pen down and just lived. Getting through each day was hard enough I couldn’t push through word counts and pages as well. Some call it survival mode–those days when you do the bare minimum in order to keep your sanity. I’m a human and I find myself on the survivor’s path every now and again.

If you have followed my blog for a couple of years you will remember the year I took off in 2017. My energy was focused on growing my family and my health. I did write here and there, but I put no pressure on myself to produce things for other people to read. I journaled every now and again, but I took that year for ME. Life was changing and my soul was aching. I didn’t live that reality on the page of my blog because it wasn’t the encouraging me that I hope to be as an online writer.

Luckily, that period didn’t last forever.

I returned in June 2018 with a venegence. Strengthened by the trials I resurrected my presence in the writing world. I re-established goals, re-appeared on my blog, and started to think of myself as a writer again.

There will be a day where once again I will have to step away.

We go through periods where the path has been cleared and we can focus on the road before us. Other times, we have to clear that path before we can go any further. We are not robots. We have souls that need rest.

So give yourself some grace. If you find yourself walking through a storm in your personal life it is okay to put your writing life on hold (or at least in neutral.) We have to honor the reality of life. It’s okay!

The Ameri Brit Mom

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I’m working my way through a DIY MFA program based on the book DIY MFA by Gabriela Periera. Throughout the course and book study I will be posting periodically in response to prompts

Fearless Writing: Critiques and Workshopping

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The theme of this book I am studying is that writing is personal and your work will never please anyone (so stop trying.) As I dive further into the pages of this work I am feeling myself gain confidence as a writer. I’m worrying far less about what people think and I am embracing writing for my own pleasure.

There are obvious benefits for allowing others to critique your writing.

They can help a piece to be accurate in conveying our intended emotions and tension. Each story first created in our minds is never the one another reads. Everyone carries their lives when they read. Sometimes it is a struggle to step out of our own mind in order to convey a story the way we intend to.

Giving someone permission to comment on the accuracy of your work is helpful. It is a healthy exchange so long as you keep the perspective that you are not your story.  Advice may critique our work, but it does not critique the writer.

So write what you are curious about–write what you love. Then let another in on the experience.

Practice: Get into a workshop

I’ve workshopped a few of my pieces in online critique groups and in live groups at my local SCBWI. It is helpful to do so with the right mindset. This year I want to jump back into more critique groups and workshops and not allow my ego to respond to negative or positive feedback.

In the past I have gained immense wisdom from published authors that I continue to carry with me every time I write.

Put your work out there too!

The Ameri Brit Mom

Fearless Writing: Write What You Love

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“Now here we are, this attractive idea and me, going somewhere together, and it doesn’t matter at all that I don’t know the destination, because I’m already someplace I want to be.” (Kenower 49)

The most successful writers are those who love the stories they write. They don’t write to someone else’s standards or for any expectations. They don’t measure their success by followers, royalties, or sales. No, they are content with the production of something they love.

When we use other people to create the standard for our writing we forfeit our happiness. Choosing to focus on craft over passion turns a hobby into a job and quickly puts out the fire that brings us back to the page.

Each story we commit to is like a marriage. There are days full of elation and all the things of fairy tales, but more often there are challenges and struggles. None of us would face life with just anyone and stick it out unless we truly loved our partner. It’s the same way with a story. If we are choosing to write something for anyone else and not because we love it then we will quickly find ourselves signing divorce papers with the story and going our separate ways.

So if you love to read stories about Kung-Fu pirates write about them.

If you love to create southern recipes write them.

If you love graphic novels about garbage men, then go for it.

Write about what your mind keeps returning to. Each time you sit down to write make it something that you are excited about. Let curiosity guide your tales. Don’t get caught up in the promise of money or fame. Get caught up in writing your passion.

(Side note- I follow a very famous children’s author on Facebook who is asking for donations this Christmas to pay her bills. So if you are waiting on a story to pay your bills–they won’t. This particular author has many, many best sellers.)

Practice: If I could tell only one story what would it be?

I love to read stories that restore my faith in humanity. I read a lot of YA fiction as an English teacher…there’s so much to love and learn from teen protagonists.

Most recently I’ve loved The Hate U Give, All American Boys, When We Collided, and Words in Deep Blue.

When I am reading a book that reminds me that this world is a good place full of amazing people I am drawn in. I hate to leave those characters on the final page. They become friends because they’ve spoken to my soul.

So if I could only tell one story it would be similar to this.

It would be one where the teen protagonist overcomes hate or prejudice. Where love wins and society is changed. It would be a tale that brings readers together with a common experience of love and where the last page isn’t the end of a story, but the beginning of a journey for the person who just finished it.

One day you may get to see some of my manuscripts turned into a novel.

But if not, if nothing ever comes of them I will have the pleasure of meeting my characters myself. Writing cannot be about agents, publishers, or readers. I will never be happy if that is the case. I cannot control those things. All I have control over is my own heart and diligence. And if I do not love my own stories then the world never will either.

The Ameri Brit Mom

Fearless Writing: A Writer’s Worst Fear

A couple of years ago I did a chapter-by-chapter review of several different books on writing. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is still one of my very favorite writing books. It’s been a while, but nine months after giving birth I am starting to feel like myself and ready to get back in the habit of writing on a regular basis. I ran to my bookshelf to Fearless Writing, a book I received last Christmas but haven’t had a chance to read yet.

Fearless Writing was written by William Kenower, Editor in Chief of Author magazine, he is most known for his teaching on the craft of writing. This book focuses less on craft and more on the thought-process necessary to develop in order to be a successful storyteller.

I look forward to re-establishing a weekly routine of cracking open a good book, sharing some thoughts, and practicing new skills. I will approach each week with some thoughts I had while reading the chapter and then I will also post my 5 minute practice that follows the prompt at the end of the chapter. I hope that these posts inspire you as a writer. Feel free to follow along with the prompts and if you should post in response on your own page I’d love for you to send me a link in the comments.

Welcome to Chapter 1.

A Writer’s Worst Fear

Most writers fight a battle before they ever touch pen to paper or open a new document on their computer. For some, the battle is in finding the time and space conducive for writing. But more often than not the battle is one waged within the mind of the writer. Its weapon of choice is doubt and it attacks every creative thought or ambition before it lands on the page.

The biggest fear affecting writers is What will other people think of my work?

It feels great to receive positive feedback. But when readers aren’t singing your praises after a heartfelt post, story, or chapter it can damage the confidence of the mind behind its creation.

Rejection is part of the process. If your writing is intended for anyone else to see there will be rejection–there is no question about it.

Writing fearlessly is all about approaching fears in a new way. Instead of allowing fear stifle your creativity use it to propel your writing into bold confidence. Start your writing with accepting the fact that someone will dislike what you have to say, but don’t let that become an excuse for censuring your creativity.

Writing is a highly personal venture.

Every writer picks up the pen with a different purpose. Every reader approaches a piece with their own experience and lens as well.

Getting beyond fear already puts you at a 1-0 record. And when you start your writing session with the mentality of a champion then fear is pushed down to its healthy dwelling place and your imagination has the license to embrace every idea.

5 Minute Practice- Create two characters. One is a confident, experienced writer while the other is struggling. Through their conversation offer advice to the struggling character. Then heed that advice yourself.

“Stacey, it’s so good to see you!” Mel reached around her friend’s back balancing the paper cup in her hand. “I’ve missed you so much.”

Stacey’s face emitted a small smile contrasting with that of her friend. Through layers of clothes and a large coat Stacey allowed the warmth of her friend’s embrace to throw off a little of the weight she was bearing that morning on the ride over to the coffee shop.

“Go ahead and order. I’ll find us a table.” Mel spoke as she left Stacey at the counter in search of an empty corner of the shop for the two to sit down and work.

What am I doing here? Stacey thought to herself. It’s been months since I’ve thought about writing. Why did I agree to meet Mel?

She allowed her eyes to browse the menu and settled on an order of hashbrowns, since she skipped breakfast, and a hot mocha to sip on as she worked. After placing her order Stacey joined Mel at a small table in the corner of the shop.

“Oh, it’s been so long. Tell me what is going on. How are the kids?” Mel jumped right in as Stacey peeled off her dark coat and pulled her laptop from her secondhand bag.

“The kids are great. Bill has them this morning so let’s hope they survive.” Stacey pretended that had been a joke and not the reality of her thoughts on the ride over. This was the first time she left Bill alone with both girls since Becca had been born nine weeks earlier.

“I’m sure all is well, Mama.” Mel chuckled. “I’m just so happy you could escape for a little girl time.” Mel pushed her paper cup to her lips as the waitress approached with Stacey’s order.

“I hope you don’t mind I ordered some food. I’m starving.” Stacey said apprehensively.

“Not at all. I get it.” Mel smiled. “So tell me about your work. Any new chapters since we’ve spoken?”

“Well, there isn’t much to tell.” Stacey began as she picked up her fork and weaved it through the shredded hash browns. “I haven’t powered-up my laptop in three months. Let’s hope I still have the magic today.” She placed a hand on the closed computer in front of her. The companionship she once shared with the device had been replaced by a layer of dust that she only removed that morning before packing up for the date.

“There’s nothing wrong with that, Stacey. And I’m sure as soon as you are ready all of your magic will return. I love your work and I cannot wait to read something new.” Mel encouraged.

Stacey smiled back doubt and shoved her mouth with a forkful of potatoes.

“Don’t be so hard on yourself. We all go through seasons and even the best authors need some time away. Having a baby is a perfect excuse for taking a breather. It’s not like you’ve been sitting at home doing nothing. You’ve had a baby to feed and care for. I think you will find that the confidence will return and you’ll be back into it very shortly. How about coming with me this week to Writing Group? I’m sure seeing everyone again will help.”

The Ameri Brit Mom

Lesson From an Aspiring Author: ONE Question

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You may be wondering where I’ve run off to. My posting schedule has been on hiatus and it’s been weeks since I last talked writing with you. Don’t fear–I haven’t given up on my blog and its readers, however, it has been a struggle to balance blogging with intensive personal projects. Since the last time I provided a lesson I have started a new  manuscript, been accepted to write published book reviews, met non-fiction picture book writer Linda Stanek, and had the first two chapters of my first book critiqued by a free-lance editor.

The writing life is a busy life.

One thing I strive to do despite the high demands for my time is to continue to educate myself on craft. Before plot and characters can impact readers I have to be sure that my craft is on-point. I love running into great books on craft at the bookstore. While some of you may think books about writing sound about as dry as the Sahara, I find joy and passion in studying writing.

Lately, I’ve been reading through the Gotham Writer’s Workshop: Writing Fiction. It is a practical guide from New York’s acclaimed writing school. As I read through the book it helps with my character descriptions and plot development. One thing that I’ve focused on in my second manuscript is the idea of one major dramatic question.

Each work of fiction should be written to answer ONE pressing question. The answer to that question is what drives your reader through the pages of the book. Their hunt to know how the question will be resolved should guide the author’s writing. Stepping outside of the information pertinent the question bores readers, and concluding your story without answering the question reader’s asked throughout will leave them confused by what the book was really about.

I started to think about some of my favorite books and how the one question is revealed and answered in each work.

In The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, the question is: Will Liesel survive the war in Molching? This question arises early on as the narrator for the novel is Death and from its onset, the reader knows someone is about to die. Each page turn is a step closer to the impending Death promised in the first pages.

In The Selection by Kiera Cass, the question is: Will America be the next Queen of Illea? This question transcends the first three books of the series. At times, it seems the answer is clear, but other times the unpredictable nature of the protagonist leaves the reader wondering.

In Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis, the question is: Can Lynn survive on her own in a world without water? From its earliest pages this book describes life in a post-apocalyptic world where people are dying in a war for water. Lynn’s mother has been her rock and helped her to defend their pond from the thirsty. When Lynn’s mother is killed Lynn is faced with the challenge of survival on her own. This conflict-packed story finds its roots in the major dramatic question and all of the plot returns back to the essence of that question.

What are you writing? What’s your ONE question?

The Ameri Brit Mom