Sunday, March 30, 2008

Recognition and Rejuvenation

By Keith Fisher

Since there are so many blogs about the Whitneys I wasn't going to post this. I was persuaded, however, by C. Larene Hall. So if you don't like it, blame her. Make sure you also check out the other blog below

Since I post on Saturday, I guess I’m going to be one of the last ones to say something about the latest LDStorymakers Writer’s Conference. It was fantastic. I posted from the hotel room last week while getting ready for boot camp. I was tired from the day before, but I had a smile on my face. Even though I was late, I still didn’t have to do pushups.

I was also very proud to witness history in the making as the Whitney Awards Gala unfolded. Robison Wells and his staff are to be commended for listening to the spirit and making it a reality. Recognition for LDS writers has been sorely needed for some time. When we gave Dean Hughes a standing ovation, I cried. He and others deserve high praise for being the pioneers of the LDS fiction market.

Before the awards were presented, Robison read from the talk given by Orson F Whitney that inspired the Whitney Awards. I looked around the room and could not see any writer who was not touched by those powerful words. Bishop Whitney was speaking to us when he said,

We will yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own. God's ammunition is not exhausted. His brightest spirits are held in reserve for the latter times. In God's name and by his help we will build up a literature whose top shall touch heaven, though its foundations may now be low in earth.

It touched my heart when Robison read, Ye are the "hope of Israel." The heavens are watching you, and the earth is waiting for you.

And this is our charge,

But remember this, ye writers and orators of the future! It is for God's glory—not man's. Let not vanity and pride possess you. Without humility there is no power. You must be in earnest. You must feel what you write, if you wish it to be felt by others. If the words you speak are not as red-hot embers from the flaming forge of a sincere and earnest soul, they will never set on fire the souls of your hearers.

Bishop Whitney’s inspired words from out of the past are rejuvenating to me. They help me remember the reasons I chose to write in the LDS market. I want to set on fire the souls of my readers. Great job with the conference LDStorymakers, and kudos to Robison and the others. It is worth all the rejections just to be able to rub shoulders with God’s brightest spirits.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

I’m Lost in the Genre Jungle

By Keith Fisher

I was going to post an article about the Whitney awards but I’m sure everyone is tired of that. Maybe I’ll save it and post later, when I’m too busy to write. Until then, here is something else.

I entered the LDStorymakers first chapter contest again this year. Since I placed third in the Mystery/Suspense category last year, I thought I had a chance. My manuscripts are so much better than last years, how could I lose?

I lost! Yeah, I lost because everyone else’s manuscripts were better. It’s a fact . . . you learn to deal with those things . . . I guess . . . seriously though, congrats to all the winners. I know you did a great job. After the contest, I picked up my packets and found some interesting comments from the judges. Some were good, some bad—all of them were helpful.

I learned much from those comments and I was reminded that every writer and reader has different tastes. The same paragraph can get a wide range of criticism depending on who is doing the judging. The same applies to teaching and books about writing. Everything is subjective but it is valuable—even if only for a good laugh. The important thing is to believe in your writing—glean what you can from a critique, be honest with yourself, learn from the good suggestions, and disregard the rest. From my critique packet, I discovered I’m genre-less.

No, its not a disease . . . well maybe . . . depends on which group . . . let me explain. In the past, when people asked me what I write, I told them I write contemporary LDS, adult fiction. When someone presses further, I say it's like Dean Hughes. Not necessarily historical, but have you ever read Midway to Heaven? Or his new book Before the Dawn? Basically, it’s the feel good type of coming of age or dealing with life kind of story that we all love.

Since my manuscripts weren’t mysterious or suspenseful, I asked if I could still enter the contest this year. I was told to submit it in those categories anyway. I did, and that brings us back to the comments. It was suggested by many of the judges that I put more suspense in the hook.

In the prologue of one of my entries, there is a man on death row with no explanation as to why, only vague regret and the emotions of brothers saying goodbye for the last time. In the other entry, a man plunges to his death in a mountain climbing accident while his friend fights for survival in a blizzard, trying to get off the mountain. Would you read these books? I suppose I could put a serial killer in someplace, but I think it would mess up the plot.

At the Whitney Awards this year, I cried when we honored Dean Hughes for his achievements. In light of my dilemma, I propose we honor him further by naming a genre after him. Instead of mysteries, we could have Hughes-eries. Then everyone would know the kind of story I’ve written and I wouldn’t have to write the first chapter of a mystery in order to enter the contest. Like the two I started to enter the contest last year.

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

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Counting Victories

By Keith Fisher

I’m writing from the LDStorymakers Writer’s conference this week, wish you were here. I’ll send you some pictures. I heard Tim Travaglini-Senior Editor, Putnam Books talk about some of the same things as I have written, but I wrote it three days ago, honest. So if you heard this at the conference, I hope it’s not a repeat for you.

Have you ever asked yourself what you would do if you knew you would never be published? Go ahead, I’ll give you a minute to think about it . . . good, hold that thought while I talk about victories for a moment.

I was inspired the other day by Marsha Ward. In her blog, she talked about our tendencies toward self-doubt and the bouts with depression even multi-published authors succumb to. It lifted me to know we all struggle to believe in ourselves.

There are many stories about writers who, after submitting their work umpteen times, finally get published. The lesson is simple: Never give up, keep writing, keep submitting, use rejections as proof to the IRS that you really are trying to get published.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe, especially when we see the great successes others are having. We wonder why we ever deluded ourselves into believing we could make a difference. I’m told there are thousands of would be writers with desires to write a novel, but they never actually begin.

If you are putting words together on paper with an end result in mind, you’re a writer. You have surpassed those who never start.

So, now we have established you are a writer, get on with your chosen occupation. Write for the sheer pleasure of it. If it turns out bad, file it away and start another story.

I found a quote in The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman that is pertinent. " . . . become devoted to the craft of writing, for it’s own sake. Ask yourself what would you do if you found out you would never be published. Would you still write? If you are truly writing for the art of it, the answer would be yes. And then, every word is a victory."

Be victorious. Find joy in creation. You will notice that the more you write the better you will get, and someday you will be published, although it may be a great shock.

Good luck with your writing, wish you were here. See you next week.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Writing Lessons From a Block of Wood

By Keith Fisher

When this blog began, it was called blogck in reference to the phenomenon that often happens to writers. It’s called writer’s block, and it’s when a writer tries to work and can’t seem to think of anything to write. There are many methods for relieving this condition and this blog was intended to be one of them for the authors.

In thinking about our blog name and the purpose, I dreamed up a new logo. What do you think?

Also while thinking of the name, I was reminded of a recent movie that most of you have probably seen.

In Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, Mr. Magorium gave Molly a marvelous gift. He reached into his dishwasher, removed a large block of wood, and handed it to her. Of course she was at a loss as to what to do with it. See the block in the picture?

The story unfolds and Molly is shocked to discover that Magorium is going to die and he wants to give the magical, living toy store to her. She objects because she claims to have no magic and can't run the store. Magorium asks her if she used the block of wood, she asked how, and he told her that she must believe in the block.

If we attach this as a metaphor to our writer’s block, we must imagine a set of children’s toy blocks with numbers, symbols, and letters printed on them. The words are there—the letters are in the blocks. We must believe in the blocks and place one letter in front of the other until suddenly, out of nowhere, an idea begins to form. Before we know it, we have written pages of beautiful prose. We set the blocks aside and move on in the jubilation of our craft.

In the movie, Magorium died and Maggie is left with a half-dead toy store. All appears to be lost but at the last minute, the block shows Maggie the magic inside her and she uses it to bring the store back to life.

Like Maggie, there is magic in our souls. Sometimes we think the magic is lost, but if we believe in the block and use it to learn and grow, it will show us the magic that is writing.

Good luck with your writing, see you next week.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Where No One Has Gone Before---Writing the Rosetta Stone

By Keith Fisher

Have you ever seen Star Trek? Do you like it? I’ve been a fan since the first series aired on television. I’m not sure why, but people called us Trekies. Now we’re called Trekers, and we’re proud of it. Even with the thrill of Star Trek, I’ve never been able to kindle that excitement in others. Have you ever watched a non-treker’s reaction to a conversation in a room full of Star Trek fans?

I was perusing the discount DVD bin in my local grocery store the other day and I found a director’s edition of Star Trek II, The Wrath of Kahn. Of course I bought it. I was delighted to get it so cheap and I told my friend about my treasure. I guess I was expecting jubilation, but all I got was a patient smile. I was crushed. How could anyone not realize the significance of my find?

In the Star Trek world, I believe the second movie is probably the most important piece of the puzzle. Because the original series was great, an attempt was made to transfer ST to the silver screen. To be honest, the first movie was kind of boring with scene after scene of the characters doing nothing but looking at a video screen.

"What is that?" one of the characters would ask.
"I don’t know," another one would answer.

It wasn’t a shining moment in movie making, but it brought Star Trek to a whole new generation.

When the second movie came out, those who like special effects took notice. More than that, however, was the reaction of the fans---they were thrilled. Like in the TV show, there was magic between the cast members, and the movie was tied to an episode from the series. It all made sense, and we cried when Spock died. We all knew he’d be back, but it was sweet sadness to see him hold up his hand and say goodbye to his best friend.

There have been more movies and whole TV series’ since. Some were good---some were not so good, but all of it adds to the magic that is Star Trek. Trekers are free to debate the finer points of the universe until the Nexus comes around to take us into our perfect day.

That was a little inside terminology that my friend doesn’t understand. Which brings us back to the point of this blog: How do you spark interest in Star Trek, or your latest novel, without explaining the whole thing?

We could lock our friends in a room with all the series episodes and movies then try to explain the difficult points, but some people still might not get it. We are left with feelings of frustration and we mutter under our breath, "How on earth can they not love it?"

Such is the world of writing fiction. There are those who will love everything we ever write, and there are those who will never get it. We have to accept that, but we must also make it flow. We can’t go from point A to point B in a story without providing a link between the two. Like the Rosetta Stone, Star Trek II provided a link between the original, and everything that came after it. In our writing, we must provide a plausible and entertaining link between the hook and the fantastic ending. If we do it right, our writing might develop a following. Who knows there might be a convention someday based on my story.

By the way, I heard there is a new Star Trek movie coming out this year. Time to dust off your Vulcan ears and tune up your tricorder.

Good luck with your writing, see you next week, and . . . uh . . . live long and prosper.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Blank Page

By Keith Fisher

When I sat down to write this blog two things struck me. I had no clear idea where I was going with it, and I noticed the vastness of the blank, white page. Have you ever noticed how daunting an empty page can be? I know I’m not the first to notice this but it seems a page of clean white paper can influence a writer in positive and negative ways.

It is exciting when you, as a writer, have an idea percolating and you can’t write it fast enough. A blank piece of paper, any blank piece of paper will serve as a coveted gift. Not unlike the gift of a drop of water to a thirsty man who is languishing in the desert.

On the other hand, if a writer has a deadline and nothing comes to mind to write, the blank page can be like an endless void. It sucks a writer into the dark recesses of the snow-white abyss, never to see color, or the reassuring comfort of black words filling the white page.

In an effort to eliminate the blank white page, I went into options on the tools menu in Word and turned the page blue with white writing. It reminded me of the old Word Perfect program I used to use, but it did nothing to help me get new ideas. In fact, I think it was worse. Would you rather be stuck in an abyss of white or be condemned to spend eternity in blue?

I guess it’s up to you, but I prefer to look out the window and see the multi colors of new growth associated with Spring and a beautiful day. The buds are on the trees and the crocuses are breaking free from their long winter slumber. It will be a beautiful Spring, followed by a fantastic Summer, but first, I’ve got to write an article for the blog and make it look like it flowed from my fingertips with very little effort on my part.

Ah, such is the magic in the craft of writing. It is the only job I know where a piece of blank paper can cause such an array of emotions. It is the lifeblood of an imagination that cannot be controlled. Go outside and enjoy spring, see how many worlds you can create by analyzing the growth of a blade of grass. You will be better for the experience.

Good luck with your writing, see you next week.