Saturday, October 25, 2008

Reach Out and Grab Em—Steal Their Sleep

By Keith Fisher

Since I work nights, it’s sometimes necessary to take a nap in the evening. I was attempting to do that the other day, when something happened that taught me a lesson. I turned on the television to relax for a minute and I saw the first few minutes of a Boston Legal rerun. I never watch that show but it was Captain Kirk, what can I say.

How does writing in the LDS market relate to Boston Legal, or Captain Kirk? In almost all of my writing books, I’ve read tons about grabbing the reader’s attention in the first five to fifteen words. The writers of the Boston Legal I was watching followed the rule. They introduced four or five story questions in the first two minutes. They captured my interest. I needed to know how it came out. Fifteen minutes later, I forced myself to sleep, and I might not have, if I didn’t need to work that night. Well, there was that one particularly crude joke.

As writers, we can learn a lot from television. The lesson taught by the show I mentioned, if learned, can help me sell books. If I can grab an editor or reader’s attention in the first fifteen words, I can keep them reading the rest of the book. If they finish the first book they will came back for others.

The Earth had fifteen minutes of life left in it. That’s ten words. Doesn’t that make you want to find out why? What happened that doomed our home planet? If the Earth will be gone, what has, or will, happen to the humans who infest the planet? These are questions that would make me want to read more. Did I pique your interest with the word infest? I always find it interesting to see writers struggle with this concept. I wonder if they realize they are writers and that’s what writers do. We take the reader on a journey through the land of impossible outcomes and we bring them back again. If we can do that, writing something that grabs attention in fifteen words should be easy.

I know, I know. We worry that our intriguing first lines aren’t as intriguing as someone else’s lines. How can we possibly know what kind of story questions will excite which editor? Not every editor will be interested. In the long run, all we can do, is write the best book we can, cross our fingers, and toes. Sooner or later someone somewhere, will like it.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Perfect Clarity

By Keith Fisher

In my day job, or the job I do when I’m not writing, I’m a Digital Preservation Specialist. It’s a glorified way of saying I digitize old records. Anyway, most of the time, I operate a machine that scans microfilm. It captures each frame at 200 images per minute. If my parameters aren’t set right in the beginning, there are many problems that can arise. For instance, if you don’t take time to set the focus, clarity on the whole roll can suffer.

There are times when I find a photographer’s camera has drifted off and the focus goes out of whack in the middle of the roll, but generally if I get the focus right, before I start scanning, the rest of the roll will be clear.

Writing is like that. If I establish my characters, and set up the scenes in the beginning, I can sit back and let my characters tell the story. As a reader, I hate to get halfway into a book and find the characters doing something they just wouldn’t do.

But the big problem I have in my writing, is when I make assumptions that the reader has a working knowledge of situations my characters are involved in. For example, I have a character in one of my books who plays pool for money. The first time I took it to critique group, I had to explain some of the finer points of playing pool. The Ladies in my group needed to have it explained, so I had to rewrite it, and that brought clarity to my story.

I’ve also noticed, as LDS fiction writers, we make many references in our books that only LDS people understand. It’s true we are writing for the LDS market, but I think we can benefit from taking the time to analyze our writing form other’s point of view. That, if you haven’t already realized, is one of the greatest advantages to belonging to a critique group.

My critique group helps me with their experience. I can bounce ideas off them, each member has different expertise. With their help, I can set my parameters, and write my book to the ending. Like the film rolls I scan, everything will have perfect clarity.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

catch you tomorrow

by Keith Fisher

I came home from camping and don't feel well. I'll post my blog tomorrow. thanks for your interest, readers are great! Sorry I'm late. see you tomorrow.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Blogging . . . It might be a Bigger World than You Think

By Keith Fisher

This blog is dedicated to the struggle of being published in the LDS market, and in the past, I’ve stuck to that format. Today, for a brief second, I beg your patience. I’ve been experiencing a bit of a dilemma and I need to talk about it. No, it’s probably not what you’re thinking, but it caused a debate within me and it’s time to put an end to it.

In the past, I’ve taken a tongue in cheek platform for talking about books, the mechanics of writing, and of getting published. I’ve tried to share my struggle in the hope it will benefit others who are trying to break into the exclusive fraternity of being a published author.

A few blogs ago, I wrote about a book that impressed me and I talked about how I’d like to write books that touch people's hearts. I wrote my blog in my usual way. The book was a romance, and as a man, I have a standing joke about the romance genre, when in fact I read as many romances as I do mysteries. I try to diversify my reading and get a feel for what’s out there.

After writing the blog, I fielded a comment by someone who writes romance. She demanded I tell the world the name of the book I’d just read. Now, as most of you know, I left the title out, because of my style of writing. It was my joke.

The comment, and what followed, gave me cause to think about what I write, and how I write it. At that time, I visited a blog that is supposed to be about writing. I found an article dedicated to an extreme political point of view. I commented, and expressed another, perhaps softer point.

Having piqued my interest, I went back to the blog, to see if my observation had stirred discussion. I was shocked to find my comment had been deleted. Now, if my opinion had been mean spirited, or abusive, I would understand. I wondered if I had offended.

All of this gave me cause to ponder my words. I wish I’d saved a copy of what I wrote. I’d like to analyze it. As it is, I’ve been contemplating the nature of what we do in these blogs.

As you might imagine, part of being a writer is reading. We must read, and we must read all the time. Another part, is promotion, a writer needs to get out there and promote his/herself long before being published. To this end, many websites and blogs about writing have been born, and as with the need to read, a writer should stay apprised.

Part of promotion is offering a piece of myself to the public. I would be foolish to attach my name to something volatile. If my intent is not clear, then I have shown myself in a poor light. At the same time, I need to realize that mine is not the only, or best, conclusion and if I’m going to write about politics or religion, I should expect differences of opinion. If I don’t want to deal with those differences, then I should turn off the allow comments section.

One final note, then I’m going to go back to writing about writing: I enjoyed my friend, G. Parker’s blog last week, and I whole-heartedly support my leaders, but I would like to add something to what our religious leaders have suggested.

If you’re going to blog about your beliefs in God and your views on political issues, you need to know you’re opinion will be attacked. Gird up your loins, you have entered a battlefield.

Good luck with your promoting and your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Last Trimester

By Keith Fisher

Recently, I sent a cool photo in an email to a writer friend of mine. She sent back the one you see in this page. Not only was this the better picture, but it gave me an idea for a writing concept.

I heard a lecture for gospel doctrine teachers once. The subject was the book of revelations and the symbolism contained there. The instructor was talking about the silence in heaven and suggested a way of understanding it. He said it’s more like a "pregnant silence". Like something is about to happen and we are all waiting with baited breath.

In the picture, what’s about to happen is obvious. A special person is about to make an appearance and is already trying to expand the environment. For all unpublished writers, this is a great analogy of our work. We have gone to the (writers conferences) doctor's appointments. We have done the exercises (extracted adverbs and flowery descriptions). We take our medicine (scrap the bad in favor of the good), and we continue working and promoting, because we know we will get a contract. We are not sure when it will come, but we know it will.

A friend of mine got a contract in the mail the other day. A publisher wants the book. The offer came after my friend submitted many different stories. In a way, this book has been waiting to be delivered. Like the baby in the picture, it has been struggling to be born.

The bottom line here is that any of us can be published. All of us are like the mother in the picture. We're waiting for a marvelous event. Hang in there—try to relax—the baby (book) will come, but just as with the birth of a child, after the excruciating pain, the real work of promotion and sales begins.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.