Saturday, June 28, 2008

Walking the Line

By Keith Fisher

Her family was going fishing. Oh, how she wanted to go too. She pulled a floppy hat onto her youngest son and made sure he promised to stay away from the lake. She kissed her husband good-bye and turned to go back to her self-imposed exile. She wondered what she ever did to deserve such an understanding family.

When she sat in her chair, she glanced at the framed letter she’d placed on her desk after her first book was published. The hand-written note explained how the fan’s life had been changed after reading her book.

"That’s why I do it," she said. "That’s why I put up with deadlines."

How was your week? It seemed that no matter what I did, I was behind. I published my Monday blog late, barely finished my chapter before critique group, and published my Friday blog late too. Now here I am, It’s Saturday morning, and I’m late again. If I didn’t have deadlines, I might never get anything done.

Lately, I’ve been listening to some of my friends who submitted three chapters and then had to finish the book when the publisher wanted to see the rest. The deadline they imposed stretched their talent and helped them grow.

The point is all writers are going to have a deadline at one time or another in their career. It’s a given, but it can be a good thing. Deadlines take us out of our comfort zone. We emerge from the refiner’s fire, a better writer. We develop habits that will help us throughout our career.

For our edification I looked up deadline in Wikipedia. I copied and pasted the results. You might find it interesting:

The context of a due date originated in journalism, probably from an earlier usage in printing, representing a guideline marked on a plate for a printing press (inside which all content should appear). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, early usage refers simply to lines that do not move, such as one used in angling; slightly later American usage includes a boundary around a prison which prisoners must not cross

The second definition is the one I’m going with. Imagine the hallway outside of your writing space as the deadline. Now, if you step outside of your writing space, the guards will open fire with a machine gun. You’d be cut to ribbons.

Does that help? Remember the Berlin wall? In other places in East Germany it was a 12-15 feet high fence. On either side of the fence, they had cleared the vegetation for several yards. Even if you got over the fence, you still had to cross the demarcation, or deadline.

So as you struggle with writer’s block, imagine the deadline outside of your writing space. Plot your escape, make plans, then stop and realize you are drafting a story in your mind. "Aha," you say.

You see? Deadlines can be a good thing. If you’re currently laboring under a deadline let me say, I’m sorry. Then let me tell you, congratulations—you have cleared the fence—someone wants your work—you’re about to grow. When you stop to catch your breath in the trees, just beyond the cleared space, remember me. Now you’re free to walk and enjoy the journey. I will still be struggling to get over the deadline.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Hidden Vistas

By Keith Fisher

I opened my eyes and beheld one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve seen . . .

Because of working nights, I often miss out on needed sleep. I was trying to catch up on some of that sleep the other day when my eyes popped open. It was like my mind knew what my eyes didn’t, and it showed me a beautiful sunset just outside my bedroom window.

Streaked with red and orange, and set against the dark blue of the sky, the clouds were really only wisps, but the centers held a deep purple hue. It was beautiful, and I was impressed. I watched for a moment, but I needed the sleep so I closed my eyes again.

A few moments later, curiosity opened my eyes again. By now, the colors were fading, the sun had fallen farther away, beyond the mountains. I looked again after a few minutes, and found the sun had set—the world had returned to normal.

I closed my eyes and pondered the metaphor. As writers we spend hours learning our craft. We learn about hooks and sentences, self-promotion and marketing. We often overlook the beauty that lies just before our eyes. The drama, waiting to be described and preserved in our memories, and written on the page.

Much of life is spent collecting memories, little snippets of time we can draw from to give our characters depth. How many of us trudge through our busy lives in too much of a hurry to see what lies before our eyes, if only we would open them. Like my sunset, things happen, people do things, there is beauty. If my mind hadn’t shown me what my eyes refused to see, I would have missed the sunset. Good luck in your writing and observation—see you next week.

P.S. In the comments section of my blog last week Annette Lyon said:

I take it that the Dead Authors Society doesn't include only dead authors, then? I love Ray Bradbury. It'll be a sad day when he dies, and that day can't be too far off, because he's getting up there in age.

Yes, you are right, Annette. Thanks for noting that Ray Bradbury is alive and publishing. His new book, Now And Forever, looks very interesting. Maybe I should pull Bradbury from the list of the Dead Authors Society, I included Farenheit 451 because it was required reading in High school and I weaseled my way out of reading it.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Three Subjects

By Keith Fisher

Yes, I thought it was great too. Since everyone else has already talked about the CFI 6-7-8 conference, there’s not much else I can say. I would like to add my thanks, however, and kudos to the staff at CFI for the hard work. About the only way it could’ve been better would be for CFI to send us on an all expenses paid trip :). Life is good and thanks to Eloise Owens for helping me remember there is a bigger wave.

On another subject, I brought my 10-year old daughter to critique group this week. She came to play with the host’s kids, but they had something else come up. My daughter decided to sit in with us, and since we were missing one member, we gave my ten-year old copies of our chapters.

She followed along with us and made comments on the manuscripts. I’m told she caught some things we didn’t see, but she was too shy to talk about it. I asked her how she liked critique. She said she really liked Nichole’s new book.

I’ve got to tell you I’m impressed. First that my daughter has a working knowledge of what makes good writing, and second; Nichole’s new YA fantasy holds her attention. I have told my daughter she can’t see the new Narnia movie until she reads the book first—she chooses not to—which gives you an idea of how good Nichole’s new book is going to be.

What can I say? I’m a proud father, but it occurs to me that our next generation will be wonderful writers. I hope they choose to be.

Now onto the third matter, I’ve been posting entries that I call The Dead Authors Society. This week I was planning to start A tale of Two Cities, but I put it aside because of prior reading commitments. I still haven’t gotten to Frankenstien by Mary Shelly, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is waiting in the wings, and there is still Moby Dick.

I’ve seen summer reading lists posted on other blogs and it occurred to me, I could do the same thing with my old classics. You can read along and we can talk about them. I’m going to compile my list, but for now, look above.

I did want to note, however, that even though much of what he wrote is not politically correct by today’s standards, I admire Mark Twain. In Huckleberry Finn, he dealt with the slavery question at a time when his opinions might have gotten him hanged. He did it through the eyes of young white boy and the message is still poignant today. Even though the language is hard to read sometimes, Huckleberry Finn is a good read.

Good luck in your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Learning how to write

By Keith Fisher

Are you part of a critique group? Several months ago I wrote about my dreams for a group that would meet once a week and help each other write correctly. After the LDStorymakers conference, I became part of one that exceeds my dreams. It’s great to get together with other writers who understand, but I discovered an added benefit I hadn’t planned on.

We patterned our group after the example we saw at the conference. The group that J. Scott Savage affectionately calls “The Ladies of Wednesday Night”. When we meet, we bring a copy of what we’re working on for each member. We mark each other’s manuscripts as the author reads it, then we discuss why we marked it.

I was editing today and discovered several places that needed changing. I knew this because members of my group have drilled it into my head. I went ahead and made the changes in my manuscript. Then I began to pore over the marked suggestions from the group, and found I had already changed most of the mistakes.

It’s obvious my group is helping me. I hear their voices when I’m writing, and I fix the bad sentence before it appears on my blog. I’m learning how to write, but more importantly, I have a group of friends who care about each other. When one of us is going through a problem, everyone is there to help.

Have you found a group yet? In our group, we have two published authors who lend experience. We have a beginner, but you’d never know it because of talent. Two of us are on the verge of greatness, and then there is me. In honor of President Hinckley and his ‘B’s, I listed a few of my own below.

Be humble—accept the fact you might be wrong. Be helpful—make helpful suggestions. Be open-minded—not everyone writes the way you do. Be quiet—don’t try to re-write their book the way you would write it. Be yourself—remember you are the only one who decides how your book is written. If you don’t agree with a suggestion, you don’t have to follow it. However, keep the first ‘B’ in mind.

Good luck in your writing—see you next week