Wednesday, January 14, 2015

When Mars and Venus Collide. Romance for Romance Sake?

By Keith N Fisher

I started writing contemporary fiction and graduated toward romance. I thought I knew the reasons then, but I’m not sure, now. I believe it’s one of the most popular genres. Perhaps that’s it. Whatever the reason, its been a wild ride.

Being asked to write about romance from a man’s perspective is hard. I want to express a testosterone filled opinion, (one you might expect), but there really isn’t one.

Men fall in love and get all googley eyed too. They get chills down their spines, goose bumps, and their knees grow weak. Flower, the skunk in Bambi, called it getting twitterpated. Most men, however, can’t describe it in ways that make women sigh.

Many men cry in movies and feel elated when boy gets girl in the end. So, when I set out to write romance I was confident. That’s when the confusion set in.

When I started down the road of writing romance, I discovered many conflicts. And came to some conclusions. As the only male member in my critique group, I’ve been lucky to get women’s opinions of my love scenes. I took my work to them and was told I’m writing women’s fiction, not romance. I wrote about that experience on LDS Writer’s Blogck,

I asked them to tell me what romance is. To subsidize my lessons, I consulted a book called How to Write Romance, published by Writer’s Digest and edited by Romance Writers of America.

I found many answers, but my group said it has to follow the formula.

1. Boy meets girl.
2. Boy gets girl.
3. Boy loses girl
4. Boy gets girl back.
5. They live happily ever after.

“But what about Nicholas Sparks?” I said.
“He doesn’t write romance,” They said.
Now, I’ve seen, Nights in Rodanthe, and I consider, The Notebook, to be one of the most romantic movies of our time. They said, since Sparks mostly ends his stories with tragedy, they’re not considered romance.

I shook my head. Okay, I admit it’s a guy thing, but I always assumed that when two people meet and fall in love, it’s romance. I learned that even though a story could have romantic overtones, it has to follow the formula.
Through reading old books and watching old movies, however, I’ve learned the formula is subjective. No two love affairs are the same and opinions vary. One woman’s perfect match might be repulsive to another woman. Stories are like that. Some writers touch your heartstrings, some don’t. It doesn’t make one story any less a romance than another.

So, I can follow the formula and write romance for romance sake. Or I can write stories that, hopefully, touch your heart. If they also, touch your romantic side, It’s icing on the cake. If that happens, you might think of me as a sensitive guy, but in the long run, I’m just a writer who’s listening to his characters.

Saturday, January 10, 2015


By Keith N Fisher
Now that we’re up and running again, and promoting the Blogck with a renewed push, I’m intimidated. Before, when I was almost alone, I didn’t worry about my writing. Who was going to read it, right? Also, have you seen the list of guest bloggers we have lined up for the next couple of months?

Not only do we have editors and authors. (Did you see Jeff Savage in there?), but I thought it would be fun to bring back the original writers on the Blogck. The response has been wonderful, but as I said, I’m intimidated. These guys are my heroes and I will be sharing the page with them. Still, I want to thank them for agreeing to share their wisdom with us.

Recently, I implemented an idea that has helped my writing and I wanted to share. How many of you write with a dictionary or other reference books at the ready? These helpful resources are invaluable in getting the sentences right.

While free writing, many will wait until they edit to check the dictionary, thesaurus, baby name lists, etc. When you are OCD, however, it drives you crazy until you look it up. I try to use red XXXX’s then come back later and get on the Internet, but spell check and other “Helpful” technologies make me stop and fix it.

I have a link on my computer desktop that goes straight to Webster’s online. Then, of course there is Wikipedia. Many of you know, however, most of my writing is done away from an office. In places where the Internet is not available the red XXXX’s come out.

Also, in the past; little snippets that need to change to make the story better, the ideas for plot twists I might want to explore, bits of information that came to mind, were put into a new document and saved into the project file. Doing this was helpful, because writing something down always helps me remember, but sometimes it was forgotten. Who checks their notes every time they sit down to write?

Recently, I wrote about my experience at a writer’s retreat. While at the event, I acquired three reference books that have changed my writing. I keep wondering how I ever lived without them. Of course I’m talking about the emotion, positive trait, and negative trait, thesaurus’ (Thesauri).

The action lists in those books have helped me show rather than tell in ways I only dreamed about before. The problem I had, though, came when I couldn’t bring the books with me to write. My solution occurred on Christmas morning while I waited for my family to get out of bed. I purchased the PDF version and put it on my desktop. Now when I find myself telling and not showing, I open the thesaurus and find an action that shows what I’m trying to say. It goes with me, anywhere I happen to be writing.

There are PDF versions of many references that I plan to put on my desktop in the future. Also, a page can be saved from the Internet that will open on your computer even with the WIFI turned off. I’m developing a whole library of instant references that go with me.

As for the info snippets, my new, (old) tool is sticky notes, both literal and digital. I heard a story once, about a Franklin Planner executive walking into another man’s office and watching the man work. the man had placed sticky notes everywhere and scraps of paper were scattered all over the office. Yes, sticky notes can get out of hand, but here’s what happened to me:

I was editing at my desk, during lunch, at work the other day. I suddenly remembered an important plot point I’d left out. I didn’t want to leave what I was working on to go back and fix it. I grabbed a sticky note from my desk, wrote down the thought, stuck it on my keyboard and went on.

The note stayed there for two days. Every time I opened my laptop, It reminded me. I kept moving it out of the way of the keys I needed to use. Finally, I implemented the changes, but I had been thinking about the best way to write it, so I’d made it perfect.

In the interim, I was writing in a coffee shop when a plot point sprang to mind. I didn’t have any sticky notes. Suddenly, I remembered the digital version that comes with Windows. I opened one up and made my note. Now it reminds me, every time I turn on my computer. Yes, I could end up like the man in the story, but the secret is to deal with the notes, then delete them.     

Good luck with your writing—see you next week. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Speech Tags and Giving Thanks

By Keith N Fisher

I met a new character this week. His name is Simon and he’s big Hawaiian, with a heart of gold. Even though Simon hasn’t got a large part in the plot, I like him. I will, however, need to change his name.

When Simon came into the story, I thought he was a refreshing character and the name fit perfectly. I soon found out why people don’t use the name very often in fiction. Did your ever play a game called, Simon Says?

You guess it. My speech tags are killing me.

Now, onward and upward, In the USA this week, many people celebrated family dinners. We had the biggest feast we could manage, mingled with the reminder that we should be thankful. The idea of course, is the concept of gratitude for what we have, rather than dwell on what we don’t have.

I could delve into political deep water and mention that as a people, our standard of living has dropped. Many Americans work longer hours for less money than ever before. Yes I could write about that, but . . .

If I wrote that, many of the polar factions would claim it’s the fault of one party or the other, when the fault really lies in the pockets of the greedy. Too many wealthy people are unwilling to admit their wealth was a blessing from deity. Then, not admitting that, makes it easier to ignore that God charged them to help others. Yes I could write about that, but . . .

Well, since I wrote about that, I should also point out, the wonderful blessings that we have. It is very true. God might not grant us the luxuries of life or the basics for many, but there are blessings, even in our extremities.

What are the blessings? Well in light of what I didn’t write about above, I will name one. At least we don’t have to worry about the condemnation of being given much and not giving back.

So, I hope when you took that quiet moment of reverence before digging into whatever constituted your feast. I hope you remembered the guy who can afford a cruise for Christmas while his employees work two jobs to pay the mortgage.

Remember that God sends blessings to help us, and to try us.

With that being said, I thank God for the blessings in my life. May you never have the burden of deciding whether you should build that second house or give gifts to those cherished people who work for you.

Seriously, I hope your holiday was filled with answers to your prayers. May God bless you. Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

That Irritating Employment Thing

By Keith N Fisher

At the end of a recent writer’s retreat, I asked many of my fellow laborers a question. "Did you have a productive weekend?" One of the answers was, "I wish I could’ve been here Friday."

"Didn’t you come Thursday night?" I asked.

"No. I had to do the work thing."

"Me too," I said.

The answer to my question made me think of all the times I’ve had to put my story away, in order to
do the work thing.

Unfortunately, paying the bills is a necessary evil. It has to take precedence to writing. In the past, when I filled out tax forms, I listed the day job first, and the writer thing after. A few years ago, I changed to, Freelance writer/current bill paying job.

This year, I have three jobs. I will put, Freelance Writer/Inside Salesman/Convenience Store Clerk. Even though I’m busy, I still find time to write. Of course I have to write. The problem comes when writing is going so well that I curse my other job for taking me away.

The retreat was great, but it was the first time I ever really hit a wall. Having the plot worked out beforehand helped, but I had so much time to write, I wrote myself past what I had planned. In some books, I know where I’m going, but I have to work out logistics along the way. In my current book, I had the logistics worked out to a certain point. My character took us to Las Vegas where, since I’d been there so many times, I thought I’d have plenty to write.

My character left Las Vegas before I had to chance to write her into the casino. She didn’t know where she was going, neither did I, so I hit the wall, and played Nine-Ball on the pool table for a little while.

The fact that the retreat house had a well-furnished game room and theatre, that went largely unused, is another blog.

Anyway, that’s how discovery writing goes sometimes. It makes you do other things while you think about the plot. After a while of editing my cookbook, We reached a compromise, my character and I, we moved forward into new territory, Places I never dreamed we would go.

By the end of retreat, I’d written thousands of words, got well into editing my cookbook, renewed old friendships and made new ones. Having time to write was rejuvenating. It reminded me of how I started writing, and why. I still write in spurts during brief moments between responsibilities, but I’m looking forward to the next retreat. If writing really is life sustaining, It’s too bad I have to interrupt my life for that employment thing.

Missed you at retreat. Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Good Morning & How are You?

By Keith N Fisher

I wrote a blog, which I didn’t post last week. I agonized and debated whether it was too offensive. Like the time during the bombing of Pearl Harbor, emotions and innuendo run high. I didn’t post it, but that ship hasn’t sailed, I still might.

Today, I’m at the Authors Incognito writer’s retreat. I didn’t sleep much last night. I did get some writing done, but I’m afraid I socialize too much. This is a great experience for writers. Periodically, we have sprinting periods. Like the name implies, we write for a time then the person with the highest word count, wins a prize.

Years ago, during the first AI retreat, I was one of the instigators, but as it turned out, I couldn't go. Nevertheless I still paid for my spot. I figured it was the right thing to do. Now there are many writers in the group I don’t know.

This morning, I’m working on my suspense novel, this blog post, and my cookbook. Do you remember a few posts ago, when I talked about the manuscript being scattered across the floor? Well, it happened again. I spent more than an hour last night sorting and collating. Today, I’m cooking a new dish for the critique of twenty-two people so I can get it into the book.

Maybe I can persuade the publisher to print the pictures. It would increase sales from writers who want to see themselves in a book. Perhaps that wouldn’t work though, I don’t want to get permissions and pay for the privilege.

Anyway, that is where I am today and why my blog post hasn’t been well edited. I didn’t think there would be Internet access up here, and I’m still debating the other post. Either way, Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Beginning, Ending, and Plot

By Keith N Fisher

We did it again. We successfully passed through All Hallowed Eve and into All Saints Day. Now, we’re running headlong into Thanksgiving. After that is, dare I say it? Yes, there are only fifty-one shopping days until Christmas. Assuming you don’t leave the family feast to get in on the big sales.

This year, as in other years, we went from October to November without incident. Many of my writer friends began their ritual. They stashed their treats and supplies and locked themselves away to spend the month in the writing marathon, called Nano-Wrimo.

From November first, to the end of the month, they write, hoping to reach their word goals. For some, it’s a chance to unleash their imaginations. To climb into the zone and start a journey with their characters. I’ve never done Nano, and there are reasons, but I won’t talk about them now.

In the comments on Facebook and other media recently, I’ve read about the drafting and advanced planning, some writers were doing. Their idea is to make a plan so they don’t get stuck in the middle of the month, with nothing to write. That meticulous kind of writing can be liberating. It can also stifle creativity.

We’ve been over this ground before with the drafting versus seat of your pants debate, but isn’t Nano supposed to be about seat of your pants? Like I said, I’ve never done Nano, but I think drafters are cheating themselves.

There is a pure rush of creativity that comes from discovery writing. It’s addicting, and I hate to see others miss out on that feeling. With that being said, however, You should know, I have written books that were in my head, beginning, middle and end, before I wrote a word. Other books have been entirely written by the seat of my pants.

To place yourself in front of a blank page and write words that beget other words is like watching your child walk for the first time. Then again, we are. Aren’t our characters and stories like children? Some of them are our greatest accomplishments.

The hardest writing I’ve ever done is trying to follow an outline. When the beginning and ending is written and I must write a scene that gets me from point A to point B. I have to rein in my characters so we don’t drift from the plan.

I’ve written a couple of books that way. In one, the ending turned out different because the characters had other ideas. The other was pure labor. The lesson there is be flexible. It’s true, you might come to the end of a concept without anywhere to go from there, but most times, following your internal vision makes the plot far better.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Writerly Things and Style

By Keith N Fisher

I know—I’m late—I didn’t post last week. To be honest I hadn’t done enough writing to think of anything to write about, then I had a dream and read a Facebook post the next morning. Now, I have a couple of things to say. I’ll save my comments about the Salem witch trials for my other blog.

Even though I can’t afford it, I’ve been planning my attendance at the Authors Incognito writer’s retreat. On a side note: I would still rather attend a retreat that is planned around camping somewhere, but it’s a new generation . . . the ones in charge . . . they just don’t know how to be hippies. J

Anyway, I must’ve been thinking about it when I went to sleep last night, because in my dream, I was attending some kind of writerly function. The rock stars of writing were being housed in trailers. (Maybe it was my camping retreat?) Anyway, at one point as I entered Jeff Savage’s trailer, he came up from behind me. I told him I came to steal his morning newspaper. He was accommodating and said he would be right back.

The next thing I knew, I had fallen asleep in his trailer and he hadn’t come back. I had earned the dubious reputation of the deadbeat who fell asleep in his place. There were other authors with their own trailers and Tristi Pinkston had me come fix something in hers. I woke up before I found out what.

I don’t know what the dream meant. I do know how embarrassed I was. Then I got up and turned to Facebook.

When I first started writing I broke all the rules. To be fair, however, I didn’t know the rules. As I continued, I discovered the Chicago Manual of Style and myriad books about writing. I went to writer’s conferences, formed a critique group, and learned many of the rules.

I also learned that some of the more successful writers break some of the rules. When I mentioned that to a group of writers, they weren’t surprised. I learned that if you’re a famous best seller, you can break rules. Although I realized that was true, and their readers overlook the mistake, those readers still notice. If enough of the rules are broken, even the most avid fan will give up and quit reading.

The implication is clear. Those of us who aren’t best sellers must keep the rules. We must keep a higher standard. I get a kick out of hearing the excuses of writers who want to bend the rules. The excuses are all valid, I used them before, when I didn’t know the rules.

What is really fun, is the number of writers who self-publish, thinking they can break any rule they want. You don’t hear it much anymore, but one of the major criticisms of LDS and other small fiction was the quality of writing. If we break the rules, what does that do to our reputations?

I’ve heard many in our culture complain that with the Internet, We are losing the language. People just can’t speak properly anymore. A retired editor once told me she’d seen so many mutilations of the written language she worried about literature. Keep in mind, our conversation happened in nineteen ninety.

I’ve said it before, but when I read a book and find broken rules and bad grammar, I toss it against the wall. It hurts to be held to strict standards and find published writers who weren’t.

Write what you want, the way you want, but please don’t break the rules. Keep the language pure.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.