Saturday, September 27, 2008

Writing for the Fun of It

By Keith Fisher

When I started writing fiction, I was getting up at five a.m. Mostly, because my restless mind wouldn’t let me sleep longer. I had a stressful job and the workload seemed overwhelming. Every morning I’d show up at six, even though I didn’t need to be there until eight. I would go home each evening and run my house design business. My home office was stacked with blueprints and books on standards, codes, and beam stress.

One night I came home and turned on my computer. Instead of CAD, I loaded word and began to tell a story about a young girl who gets an unbelievable job offer. Is there a hidden price to pay? Are there secrets best left undetected? Will she choose the life of a rich recluse, or follow her dream of being a star?

At the time, I didn’t have any houses to design, so each night I went home and told more of the story. I finished it three months later. In the world of published fiction, at one hundred thirty-six pages, my book stood out as a mediocre first draft. I thought it was fantastic because I had lived the story in my mind. I never considered the reader, and whether others would want to read it too.

As I mentioned last week, in the interest of getting publishing credits, I put the first book aside, and started another book. It wasn’t until after my second book got rejected, that I realized I didn’t know anything about writing a book. I could plot a good story, but I was a terrible wordsmith. I also discovered an increased desire to tell stories. I found myself plotting whole books in my head, from beginning to end while attending sacrament meeting.

I was hooked. How could I turn my back on this? I began to seek help in books about writing, and to rewrite my second book. I created lives just outside my realm. My characters came alive for me and I continued to struggle and tell their story. My day job had become manageable. The stress hadn’t disappeared, but I found release in solving the problems of a character in an impossible situation.

After a while, cheap software products made it easier for homeowners to design and draw their own houses and I didn’t have the necessary resources to build my design business so I put the blueprints away. The design standards and engineering books got moved to a higher shelf. The writing and grammar books came down to a shelf within arm's reach. My office gradually transformed into my writing space.

In 2005 I lost my job, and every time I asked myself what I should do, it kept coming back to, finish my book. I was in the middle of re-writing my second book and writing my third. I submitted my second book to a different publisher. It got rejected—I was devastated—I kept writing. I attended my first writer’s conference in March of 2006 and felt gratified to know there were many others, just like me. I discovered I was normal.

Now that I’m about to submit my sixth book, I look back over the long list of works in process. I have fifteen books in different stages of development. I have been taking chapters of my first book to critique group. I’ve re-written it several times. The last time I took it apart and rebuilt it from the ground up. I hope you will like it.

With all these books I’ve started, you probably guessed, I like writing more than editing. I still have ideas come to me in sacrament meeting, and everywhere else I let my mind wander. I get excited about a new idea and if I can’t persuade someone else to write it, I start drafting it. I write for the pleasure of writing.

I used to mentally walk through the rooms of houses I designed. And see it transformed into the real thing. Now, I launch my mind into a story I have written, walking through scenes as if I was there. Like when someone built one of my houses, my stories will be books and I'll be thrilled when people read them. I want to touch hearts with my books, but in reality, I touch my own heart every day.

Jeffrey S Savage, in his blog, said: . . .writing should be a joy in and of itself. If you don’t love doing it, why bother? I love doing it. I hope you do too. If I looked at my writing with a feudalistic view, I might be tempted to quit. Again from Mr. Savage: Seventy percent of getting published is how well you write. The other thirty percent is pure dumb luck. I write for the fun of it. My completed story has its own rewards.

However, like driving past a house I designed, seeing one of my books on a bookstore shelf will be icing on the cake.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Expanding Horizons

By Keith Fisher

I finished reading a national market book this week. I think I’ll keep the title a secret, since it was a romance and I have an image to uphold. Anyway, I discovered something interesting.
We all have different reasons, but some of us write for the LDS market. The blog you are reading, in fact, indicates that. As for me, I consider it a calling.

I started writing in the LDS market because, as a neophyte, I assumed it would be a good vehicle to get my national market stuff published. I had written a book for the national market, and I thought it would be easier to get publishing credits through the LDS market first. Then get more attention in the national market. So, I wrote another novel.

Neither of those books has been published. About Three years ago, I attended my first LDStorymakers conference. It was great to hear prayers said in that setting, but I had an epiphany. I looked around at my fellow laborers, and felt we were all perched on the edge of a precipice waiting for God to use us. We were ready to influence humanity for good. I wanted to be part of that. I wanted my books to touch hearts and change peoples lives.

So I began to write for the LDS market. Who knew it would be so hard to get published. I continue to hone my skills and I watch LDS writers cross over to the national market. Would that I could write full time and quit my other job.

Then I read the book I mentioned above. It ripped my heart out. I’m still recovering. With IV’s in my arm, and heart monitors making sure I’ll pull through. In a small way, the story touched my life, but it wasn’t an LDS market book. I thought of all the books I’ve read in my life, and remembered how some of them touched my life in one way or other. Most of them were written for the national market, and many of them were not best sellers.

Even with this revelation I still consider it a calling to write in the LDS market. But I’ve decided to dust off my first manuscript and rework it, or toss it. Either way, I’m going to write for both. I think the key for me, will be to keep it clean and work towards touching hearts for good. I don’t want someone reading one of my books and attaching the word Mormon in a negative context to it.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Bringing Up Baby

By Keith Fisher

I sat on the stage in the Multi-stake conference the other day and watched a young mother come into the cultural hall and sit down. I assumed she was a mother because she clutched a baby to her chest and tried to calm him.

The act of her embrace spoke volumes to me. She protected her baby and it was obvious she’d come between him and harm with her dying breath. Also evident, was her quiet joy in her responsibility. She was at peace with her decision to be a mother.

I glanced to the other side and noticed another mother. Her toddler strained to get away and explore the wilds of the cultural hall. It had to be an effort for her to let him explore, keeping him at arms length, ready to snatch him back, if need be, before he got too far from her.

There was another mother behind me. Her boy wanted to climb the ladder on the back wall that leads to the storage room above the stage. This mother waited patiently while her son tried his ability to climb the rungs. But she kindly established the rules of how high he would be allowed to climb. She pulled him off the ladder each time he went higher than she felt comfortable with.

After a while I noticed a mother on the front row. With two returned missionaries, her family is in transition. They stand on the edge of adulthood. Soon she will enjoy the blessings of weddings and grandchildren. Her family will expand and her joy will be full.

It occurred to me that as writers, we are all mothers. Our infants come in the form of a book idea not yet drafted, an article, written but not ready for publication. We tend to protect that work. We would never allow another person to read it. We need time to perfect it, to let it grow.

After a while, with a lot of hard work, our toddler takes on a life of its own. It wants to explore paths you never intended it to go. As a good mother, you listen to the characters. Ideas come to you that would make the story better, but it would change the story and would mean painful revisions. You keep the story at arms length, letting it take you to different places, but ready to pull it back when it goes down paths that would make the story too long or would confuse the reader.

Later, we're ready for others to read and offer suggestions. We take it to our critique group, but like a mother, we establish the rules. If we feel comfortable with the suggestions made, we can write them in or keep them out, if we don't like the suggestions. We are the mother, and we decide how high our baby can climb. You never know, with too many revisions it might fall off the ladder, and become a weak story, with no chance of ever being published.

After a life of revisions, editing, and total re-writes our baby is ready to be published. It goes on a mission and converts some, but it touches the hearts of others. It brings joy into our lives, but it’s not the end. Just like the mother with a family of children ready to expand. We will have a family of stories in different stages of writing. Each one getting ready to be published, getting ready for their place in the sun.

Keep writing, have faith, nourish your stories and like children, they will make you proud.

Good luck with your writing---see you next week.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Which Book First?

By Keith Fisher

I’ve been helping a friend plot a book lately, answering questions like, what do I think would happen if . . . I’m glad to help, and hope my suggestions are of value. With all the talk about my friend’s new book, I found myself wishing I could write it. I’ve been doing edits until they are coming out my ears, or leaking from my brain through some other opening.

Anyway, I’ve discovered I like writing more than editing, (go figure). I’m on a deadline and my book is almost done. I’ll keep you informed.

Editing is a necessary thing, but writing, especially plotting, can take me to the heights of imagination. I can go to exotic places and be an unusual person. I can take myself back into my own past and do it right this time. I like solving plot holes and conjuring alternate ways of achieving a happy ending. I like it more than deleting was’ or spending hours in a thesaurus looking for non-repetitive words.

My preference for writing vs. editing became evident when my critique group finished my current book and I tried to decide which book to bring next. I looked through the writing folder in My Documents and found all my works in progress. As I’ve mentioned before, I have several books in different stages of development.

The first week of critique, I brought the first chapter of The Trophy, a finished book, but it needs revising. It’s a story about a woman, and I knew the ladies in my group would make me put in more emotion. So the next week, I brought the prologue and first chapter of All That Glitters, a book that’s only half finished. The story is about a man who deals with outlaws and such during the California gold rush, but as I said, it’s only half finished and I don’t have time for free writing right now. Remember my editing deadline?

I considered all my other books. Two are finished but need revising, others are, as I said, in different stages. I went back to The Trophy because it’s ready, and I didn’t want to confuse my group too much.

So here I sit, with three edited chapters in two books and I can’t get to those revisions until I finish with the book I’m on deadline for. It feels sooooo good to write this blog. At least I can ignore my deadline for a little while. But I’ll have to work through the night to make up for lost time.

I must admit, however, I am grateful. I have been blessed with a vivid imagination and eventually I’ll have learned enough to write things correctly the first time. Until then, thank you my friend, for allowing me the opportunity to stretch my imagination a little. I hope I have been helpful.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Oh, No, Not another Blog

by Keith Fisher

Yep, another blog. I’ve been on LDS Writer's Blogck since 2005, and I created The Camp Cook in Your backyard for Dutch oven and Camp cooking. I'm also, the author of three current websites, but they aren’t interactive. I needed a blog dedicated to my writing career. An author's drawing card—a place to post book reviews, and contests.

Since I'm almost finished with, The Bed and Breakfast, I'll need a place to keep you informed of the progress as it goes to the publisher. I also, intend to post articles for inclusion in magazines and Newsletters.

So, I launch this new blog knowing full well that there are perhaps a million writers sites. So, check back often. I need the support. I hope to show what it's like to look at life, through my writer's eyes.