Saturday, August 26, 2006

An Holy Calling

By Keith Fisher

Many of you have callings in your ward or stake. Some have more than one calling. Everyone has been called to be a parent, a child, or a brother or sister. I want to discuss a calling that LDS writers have but they may not know it.

Recently I was attending Sacrament meeting as several of the members of my ward were released and other members were called. Some of them were shifted from one job to another. A few of the positions were left open giving our Stake Presidency and Bishopric time to fill them. When this happens it is always an interesting time. There is much speculation in regard to who will be called to fill which position of authority.

While sitting there, it occurred to me that I wouldn’t be called to fill any of those vacancies. I heaved a great sigh of relief knowing that I wouldn’t be asked to step out of my comfort zone this time. Suddenly I had an epiphany. I realized that I was given a calling years ago.

As writers, it is natural to labor under the delusion that we will someday be another J.K. Rowling or Dan Brown. Many would like to be Mark Twain. But the truth is the odds are against us, and writing in the LDS market won’t net us the number of readers that J.K. Rowling has. In other words: Don’t quit your day job.

With that in mind, what is the purpose of the inspiration? Why are we awakened in the night by a concept that touches our hearts so much, we must write it?

In Paul’s second letter to Timothy he cautioned the young man to never be ashamed of his testimony and remember he had been called with an holy calling to do the work. 2 Timothy 1:8-9 Perhaps we can paraphrase that and have a little fun:

Be not therefore ashamed to be a writer for our Lord: Who hath saved us, and called us with An Holy Calling.

Many of us have been inspired to write. We have stories in our hearts that if told correctly, will touch the hearts of many with comfort and love. I suspect that those who have chosen to write in the LDS market were given a calling. Like many callings in the church, this calling is not easy. In fact, it can take time away from family and career. Magnifying this calling will leave you with a sense of fulfillment and joy.

Many of the published LDS authors not only write pearls of pleasure for those who have been touched by the spirit of which they were written, but the authors also speak at firesides and other venues, spreading the good news of the gospel. That description sounds like ‘An Holy Calling’ to me.

So there it is, I know that many of you will be published soon, if you haven’t already. I can think of no better way to make a living than to write good works that are not necessarily LDS doctrine, but good works for which you can be proud. When you cash that royalty check or get that rejection, you might consider that maybe . . . just maybe . . . You were called of God before the foundations of the world began. If the Lord decides to help us make a living at it, then that would just be icing on the cake.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Looking at Life Through a Writer’s Eyes

By Keith Fisher

Have you ever watched the look on someone’s face as you try to explain why you love to watch people? (Connie Hall did a wonderful job of explaining in her recent blog). Have you ever watched a person’s expression and thought of a whole scenario that will explain it? When you were a child, did you love to play make-believe? Did you ever look close at a clump of grass and see a whole world that exists below your feet?

Have you driven someone crazy by asking them questions about their area of expertise? Have you sat down to write for ten minutes before bed and suddenly realize that it’s 3:30 AM and you have to go to work in three hours? Have you skipped the second hour of church while you wrote down an idea you had during sacrament meeting?

If you answered yes to these questions chances are you look at life through a writer’s eyes. Now that you know about it I recommend you expand the talent God has given you and write down the story you created in your mind. The stories you created while playing make-believe will be great middle-grade fiction that will delight the teenager in us all. Think about that clump of grass and imagine you are traveling through Tolkien’s Mirkwood Forest. That little stick down there is a huge log that must be crossed. How is your character going to do it?

When you get to work after only three hours of sleep, remember that wonderful feeling you had when you were in "the zone". It was almost like when you spent hours digging in that dirt pile with your toy trucks. Or when you invented whole life stories for your Barbie and Ken or GI Joe and played them out to conclusion before bedtime.

If you are concerned that you have an illness or something and you just found out about it, don’t worry, you do . . . but it’s treatable . . . And there are support groups that will help you. Just associating with like-minded people will provide validation and education that will help you know that you are perfectly normal for a writer.

You will find that your writer’s eyes allow you to look at life and see things other people miss. Things that open up myriad of concepts, plot twists, character traits and sometimes whole stories, not only can be, but will be gleaned from a simple experience. Remember who gave you the talent and never abuse it. Keep your content clean and uplifting. Build others, the way Your Father in Heaven has helped you.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Living Happily Ever After

By Keith Fisher

Have you ever wondered what happily ever after means? In the old days, stories always ended with "And they lived happily ever after". Or for the not so imaginative was the plain old, "The end".

I am about two weeks away from finishing the final edit before submitting my manuscript to a publisher. (Give or take a few weeks.) I have been living with this particular manuscript and the characters therein, for about 10 years.

When I started writing I had the whole concept in my head. I knew how it would end and I knew where it would go. I was wrong! I soon found out about plot holes and character dictation. The book I wrote is a pretty good mystery story but I didn’t submit it. Fifteen years later, I’m glad I didn’t.

Over the years, I have learned what good writing is and what it isn’t. That first story is a good story but not well written. I have plans to rewrite it and hopefully turn it into a thriller but I have many other projects in different stages of development and I’m not sure which characters will want their story told first.

The book I am finishing has been submitted and rejected before. But then . . . it’s really not the same book. After the first rejection I rewrote it. After the second rejection, I began to get help. I felt that it was a good story, and I felt I had some talent. I knew I lacked the knowledge that wise old authors have, so I consulted with them. I found their books in the library and let them teach me.

From Sol Stein I learned how to capture a reader in the first sentence and keep their attention at the end of a chapter. There were many lessons learned from him and others. Of all the lessons I learned, perhaps the most important lesson was realizing that I look at life "through a writer’s eyes". I discovered obvious flaws in my writing and I got to work correcting it.

I have been associating with good people who want to write in the LDS market and they have been teaching me volumes. They force me to relearn lessons I should have learned before.

Now I feel the book is ready. It’s basically the same story I started with but it has evolved. The characters have asserted themselves and they have grown. They are living "ever after". Not necessarily happily, but ever after just the same. And I cannot bring myself to write "the end" because I know it’s not. The story will begin again every time someone turns to page one and begins to read. My characters WILL live ever after, sometimes sadly, but then, it all turns out OK, in the end.

Saturday, August 5, 2006

“That Which Does Not kill Us”

By Keith Fisher

Years ago, while serving a mission, I heard a sister missionary say that she loved when things got hard and she was persecuted because it always meant there were tremendous blessings on the way. In other words the trials brought blessings.

I have been noticing lately that many of my writer friends are having trouble. Something comes along that takes them away from their writing. It usually comes in the form of life and time spent with the family but sometimes it is more severe.

We all know that trials are part of life, but those trials can persuade us to curtail the tranquility we achieve while we write. So not writing can cause more stress than the original trial. I have heard it said that writing is life for the writer. I believe that everyone who has ever had a character come alive will agree with that.

If our writing is necessary for survival, then it only makes sense to suspect that some of our trials are designed to keep us away from our life’s blood. Of course we can also remember the teachings found in Ether 12. Moroni was giving a lesson on faith and said: For ye receive no witness (or blessing) until after the trial of your faith.

I have a friend that recently experienced this kind of trial and she gave me permission to use her experiences in a blog. She was called as camp director one week before girl’s camp. It took three weeks. One to prepare, one to camp, one to clean up. Then her son got baptized and you know how that takes your attention. Then was her anniversary, a huge ward party, a 4th of July breakfast, all of which she was in charge of. Then that night, her sons almost burned down the house while playing with matches. Thankfully everyone was OK. Then there was a four-day family reunion that she was in charge of. On top of that she got stuck and wrecked her van.

All of that is interesting when you consider that she is waiting for word from a publisher about the novel she sent. Eight weeks and counting. Of course she may have gotten word or a rejection even as we speak, but the point is that we should give the Lord a chance to bless us.

I, for one need to hold to the promise and remember another quote: That which does not kill us will only make us stronger. I hope I can always remember the sincerity of that sister missionary when she told us how happy she was to have trials.