Saturday, September 29, 2007

Just Sing, Sing a Song

By Keith Fisher

If you were born close to when I was, you probably remember Karen Carpenter giving advice. She sang, "Don’t worry that it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear. Just sing, sing a song." (see the lyrics)

Recently, I was talking with a young man, (about twenty-three) and the conversation turned to career choices. He didn’t know I was a writer when he mentioned his desire to be an author.

I asked him what he was doing about it, and he told me he was planning to take some classes and go on the internet to learn how to do it. I asked if he reads a lot. He said, "of course not, who has time for that?" Since he’s addicted to World of War Craft, I understood his reasoning.
I asked if he was writing and he referred me back to the earlier part of our conversation when he mentioned he’s going to learn how.

Since I’m not a writing instructor, and since others may be searching the internet for writing advice, I’m going to share with you some of what I told him.

Certainly, there’s a need for education—get all you can, but the best advice I’ve ever read from published authors is to write. When you’re not writing then you need to read. Books about writing will help, but books written in your chosen genre can help you more. Reading and writing are necessary in learning to write. If you aren’t writing something I question your desire to be an author.

Most of the authors I know were very good at playing make believe when they were children. Now that they are adults, it carries over. The stories are still in their heads trying desperately to come out. If you think about it, you’ll realize you’re already writing those stories, they just never get put on paper.

So, who cares if what you write is full of grammatical errors? If you’re reading, you will see first hand how sentences are fashioned and paragraphs are put together. Just write what’s in your head.

Then, after you write it, get help. Ask a trusted friend to give you advice. Preferably someone who will be honest with you. It doesn’t matter if the person has any expertise in writing or not. If what you have written is difficult to read they will know it, and you can learn from what they tell you.

While you write, take classes and go to writer’s conferences. Learn how to perfect your craft and submit what you write. If you wait until you get training you’ll never do it. To paraphrase the song above, don’t worry that you’re not good enough to write that magic book. Just write, write the words.

On a previous note, I lost count in the BIAM but I finished another book to edit. I’m turning back to another one this weekend. Pretty soon all my projects will be waiting for editing. Wish me luck and start writing.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Market Has a Feminine Feel

By Keith Fisher

I’ve heard it said that the LDS market is mostly female. At a workshop, I heard Willard Boyd Gardner say he discovered he was writing books for men to be purchased by women. I’ve also heard other male writers say they write for women.

I was told one of my books was written for women and I thought I wrote it for everyone. My editor suggested women want to see the feelings of my characters. Since then, I’ve been having a hard time wrapping my male mind around the idea of being motivated by feelings, but then again, I always thought I had a sensitive nature. (Don’t laugh guys, you should try it sometime).

Anyway I started doing a little research and discovered the people who buy and read fiction are predominately women. Not just LDS fiction, but national market too. I don’t actually have any numbers, but let me ask you, how many men do you know that read fiction?

While you think about that, let me remind you of another fact: There are more women on Planet Earth, than there are men. I heard the statistics came in around three to one.

With a market like that, perhaps we all should write stories for women to read. I’m not just talking about romance, but all genres. On the other hand if more men wrote for men in the LDS market perhaps we could persuade more men to read. (If you write it, they will read.)

I’m still going to try and write for universal audiences. Hopefully we can persuade more men to read, but I’m going to put on my analyst’s suit, get my characters on the couch and ask them how they feel.

By the way, I have written about 10,000 words in the BIAM challenge. I know others have larger numbers but I started late.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

I’ll do it Later, I Promise

By Keith Fisher

I don’t know how you do it, but my writing largely consists of what many call free writing. I sit down and start typing sentences, knowing where I want the story to go. It’s tremendously gratifying when I get into the zone and ideas flow faster than words. Lest you think it’s like that everyday I should mention, I have days when I know where I want the story to go, but I have no idea how to get it there. When it happens I usually put the story aside and work on one of my other projects.

It’s because of all those projects, and the need to edit them, that I resisted the BIAM (Book in a month) challenge issued by Nichole Giles from this group, and by Tristi Pinkston. I felt I needed to finish editing.

With the myriad ideas for other projects and three books that need to be finished, the call of the zone was haunting me. Editing is the most important job we can do as a writer. Good editing can make or break a book, but it’s drudgery. I’ve never been in the zone while editing, and as I said, the promise of flowing words was sitting there, alone on the shelf . . . Well, I couldn’t just leave it there, now could I?

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. I escaped to the joy of the open range of writing. I put my edits aside, and began to climb the mountain.

I remember when, as a kid, I put my chores aside in favor of going camping, riding horses or playing make believe. "I promise, Mom, I’ll get it done later," I said.

In like manner, I promise I’ll get the edits done too . . . later. I’m going mountain climbing with my friends. I’m a little late getting started and I haven’t set my goals yet, but I’ll keep you informed if you’re interested.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Mystery Solved

by Keith Fisher

Recently, in another blog, there was a discussion going on started by Julie Coulter Bellon. It was about the mysterious disappearance of socks when they go through the cleaning process. After careful deliberation, I believe I have the answer to the mystery.

Unfortunately, the solution doesn't solve the problem. There is an unseen force in the dryer, something that is performing a sock makeover.

I had a pair of matched argyles, the only one I owned. One of them came up missing until I discovered it had magically changed color. It still looked like the original, but was a different shade, therefore unusable together. Since then, I have discovered more socks that have met the fate of the rogue sock plastic surgeon.

I have heard that some identical twins spend their whole life trying to distance themselves from their twins. Maybe it's a psychological sock problem. It couldn’t have anything to do with washing them with whites.

Now with that solved, we can move on to other things. I started reading False Pretenses by Carole Thayne this week and I love it. I met the author at the LDStorymakers conference and I was ashamed to admit I’d never read her work.

I found a copy, and I’m in awe of the masterful way the author brings the reader into the lives of the characters. I began to care about these people from the moment I met them. Don’t tell me how it ends I’m looking forward to savoring the story.

Now about me, I followed the link in Tristi Pinkston’s blog and found that in the year I was born,

  • Dwight Eisenhower is president of the US.
  • The First civil rights bill to protect ‘Blacks’ voting rights since reconstruction is approved by Congress.
  • Hurricane "Audrey" destroys Cameron, Louisiana killing 390 people.
  • National Guardsmen bar nine black students from entering a previously all white Central High School in Little Rock.
  • Russians launch Sputnik I, first earth orbiting satellite.
  • The FBI arrests Jimmy Hoffa and charges him with bribery.
  • Vanna White, Osama bin Laden, Sid Vicious, and Melanie Griffith are born.
  • The Milwaukee Brewers win the World Series.
  • The Detroit Lions win the NFL championship.
  • The Montreal Canadiens win the Stanley Cup.
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac is published.
  • The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss is published.

I hope you have a great Saturday. Perhaps I’ll see you at the Utah State Fair. Look for the Dutch oven cooking.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Good News/Bad News

By Keith Fisher

Do you remember the old cliché of the mechanic who assessed the damage on your car and said, "I’ve got some good news and some bad news . . ."

I went to court the other day. Before you start worrying about me, I was there to give moral support to my friend who was being charged.

The bad news is he didn’t show up, the judge issued a bench warrant and set bail. The good news is I stayed for awhile and watched the human drama unfold for longer than I had intended to be there.

I work nights and the session was cutting into my valuable sleep time, but I watched as ordinary people dealt with some of the more difficult circumstances in their lives.

I found myself wishing I’d brought a notebook because the stories unfolding before my eyes were rich with conflict and reality more than I could ever dream up. The characters standing before me were as diverse as they were complicated.

I stayed until I absolutely had to leave or suffer from sleep deprivation, but I’ve got material for many stories to come. I have ideas for plots that I may never be able to write.

I also gained insight into how court is conducted these days. I sat in on court sessions before, but things have changed. For one thing, they show a DVD before they begin. It tells the accused about their rights and explains the procedure. Another is the addition in the state of Utah of an interpreter.

I watched a police officer and the bailiff stand up and approach the clerk in an effort (I assume) to protect the court from the more volatile of the accused. Others may have missed the drama in that moment, but I wrote whole stories about it in my head.

The point, if you missed it, is take notice of simple moments. Glean something from every event. Get out and experience life. It will help in your writing.