Saturday, April 28, 2007


By Keith Fisher

In Microsoft Word there is a keyboard shortcut you are probably aware of. When you open a document and use it, the cursor will go to the exact spot where it was when the program was closed and you saved your work. Just hold down the shift key at the same time hold down the F5 fuction key.

This is very useful when editing, because you don’t have to remember where you left off. I’ve been doing this a lot lately, and I have discovered a weakness that I hope you can avoid in your writing. I can edit a 600-word article or blog with no problem—I just read it out loud five million times, correcting as I go.

My problem comes when I think of my 80,000-word novel. I have purchased books to assist in the process and they are helpful, but they do nothing to help me tackle my 80,000-word mountain. It seems hopeless and I fear I’ll be stir crazy and blubbering to myself after reading through it five million times.

This is where Shft-F5 comes in. I’ve discovered that if I go scene by scene, I can tackle the task in bits and pieces and once I get one scene perfect, I can move on. Of course this is for the line edits. (The time when I find a better way of saying something, or correct grammar and misspelled words). If I find a hole in the plot during the process I can mark the spot where I was, and come back to it by using the edit/find function. (ctrl-F) I use a %%% mark, because I’m not likely to type the percent symbol in simple prose.

Does this method sound crazy? There are many methods used by writers, such as checking the content first, then the line edits, etc. I have used those methods, but with my latest work in progress, I’m having a hard time. Every time I look at it, I find myself crossing methods and getting confused. I can’t help it, my attention span is getting worse, do you think it’s the old age thing?

So, with tools like shift-F5 to help me, I will take my 80,000-word mountain and climb it; chuck by chunk, scene by scene, until I reach the top and look down upon my masterpiece. My friend reminded me of alt-tab because when I get reader’s feedback in an electronic format, it helps to have two windows open, then I can switch between windows. Switch to see the comment—switch back to fix it on your manuscript.

I’ll use F7 to ask for a spell check, then ctrl-S to save it. I hope you find an editing method that works for you and don't be afraid to try a new way.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The History Tag Game

By Keith Fisher

There are many fun tag games floating around these blogs. The other day, Marsha Ward honored me by tagging me in this game. Oh how fun it is to find out something new about yourself. As always, to give all my fellow bloggers a chance to tag someone, I will only tag one.

1. Go to Wikipedia and type in your birth date only - without the year.

December 9

2. List 3 events that occurred that day:

1793 - New York City's first daily newspaper, the American Minerva, is established by Noah Webster.
1958 - Red Scare: The John Birch Society founded in the United States.
2006 - Shuttle Discovery launches on the STS-116 mission at 8:45 P.M., the first night launch in 4 years (STS-113 being the last).

3. List 2 important birthdays:

Like Marsha, I am also surprised at all the actors and musicians born on MY birthday—Notice I didn’t say I was born on theirs?

I already knew this, but I share a birthday with Donny Osmond —Not just the day, but the year too— I don’t know what time he was born, but I came into the world at 5:45 AM. Here are the other two births I found:

1608 - John Milton, English poet
1942 - Dick Butkus, American football player

4. List 1 death:

1165 - King Malcolm IV of Scotland

5. List a holiday or observance:

Scandinavia (specifically Sweden): Anna's Day. Recognizes everyone named Anna, and marks the day to start the preparation process of the lutefisk to be consumed on Christmas Eve.

As you can see, I went a little further with our history game. I found the Time Magazine website and found a cover for the day I was born. I found an article inside:

Short of a hot war, or imminent danger of one, illness could hardly have struck the President of the U.S. at a worse time.
Along with the endless daily flow of documents and visitors and decisions, plus weekly policy sessions of the Cabinet and the National Security Council, the year end brings to the presidency a heavy seasonal load: 1) drawing up the Administration's legislative program for the congressional session ahead, 2) preparing the massive federal budget for the coming fiscal year, 3) drafting January's State of the Union, budget and economic messages, and 4) briefing congressional leaders in advance on the Administration's planned requests for legislation and appropriations. In December 1957, with Sputnik still orbiting, and the U.S. economy showing signs of droop, the President faces a crushing array of special major problems.

Now I get to tag another blogger:

I choose . . . Inky . . . CL Beck come-on-down.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Getting Feedback

By Keith Fisher

When I was ten, I wanted a guitar for Christmas. Not just any instrument, but a Fender Stratocaster. Santa Claus compromised and gave me a Harmony Rocket. It’s a hollow-body, double pickup, electric guitar that never stays in tune.

It was the nineteen-sixties and Santa couldn’t afford an amp. Hence the reason for the hollow bodied guitar. Well, to make a long story short; my dad built me an amp. It was just a wooden box with a car radio speaker and an electronic circuit board.

I plugged into the amp and quickly discovered that I couldn’t face toward it with my guitar, or turn up the volume because the feedback would blow my family out of the house. I wonder if that was by design?

I never got a proper amp and I learned to love playing a 12-string acoustic that I purchased from a second hand store. As I once expressed my artistic desires in music, I now lose myself in the worlds of the characters I have created. In the effort of learning to write, I have acquired a taste for a different kind of feedback.

The feedback that writers get is a good thing. We learn better ways of writing and arousing the interest of our readers. We talk about how the loving brutality of the red pen can be so helpful. We ask our proofreaders to be brutal. Meanwhile we try to develop a thick skin and continue the process of honing our craft on our long climb to the summit of our righteous desires.

There are times however, when feedback can be like the noise from my amp. In our exuberance as readers, we want to be helpful, but we forget to remember to add the positive, along with the critical. People need to feel they’re improving or their effort seems futile.

In like manner, the recipients of the red pen sometimes forget to sift through the advice, gleaning the positive from it. We CAN be better writers, but it will take time and practice. We can help others by being sensitive when our friends have those weak and in the basement moods. In turn, they can help us through our low points. Together, we will become the writers we were meant to be by encouraging each other.

I want to thank all those who lift me. I am becoming a better writer and reaching my goals because of my mentors and friends. Positive feedback left in the comments trail of this blog have been helpful. I hope I have lifted you in the process.

Good luck in YOUR writing career.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Part two: “Please don’t burn my Book!”

By Keith Fisher

A few weeks ago I started a two-part blog. Since part one only drew one comment, perhaps I need to spice it up a bit.

I was drawn into an argument at work the other night. The subject was homosexuality and whether is should be shown in an LDS novel. The comment was this:
“You mean a person can’t show real life in a book?”

Do I have your attention yet? Or are you yawning with anticipation, preparing to skip over my thoughts to laugh at the great humor of C.L. Beck? I don’t blame you, but since you’ve read this far, you might as well read on.

I was going to include quotes from JK Rowling, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and others but in the interest of shortening the subject and finishing the promised two-part blog, let me just say:

I know there will be a time when my children read other works, written by authors who for whatever reason, find it necessary to use language or describe situations that are not needed to tell the story. When they do, I hope they will be able to understand, without embracing those lifestyles but for now I will privately ban certain books in my family.

To sum up, I would never publicly ban a book. Banning only increases sales for undesirable literature and burning a book is so adversarial to me; I would be tempted to take retribution if I witnessed a book burning.

There is some bad Literature out there. There's a lot of good also. My suggestion is to leave the bad alone, and keep your standards, both in reading and writing. Try to convince other writers to write good stuff, then someday everyone will write books that we wouldn’t be afraid to let our children read.