Saturday, February 28, 2009

Putting the Pieces Back Together

By Keith Fisher

Recently, I posted this on my Face Book wall.

Keith is crying buckets of tears. He did something stupid and lost two weeks of work on his new book. Never again, will he resist the urge to backup.

I received a gratifying response—mostly from my fellow writers, expressing their sympathy for the loss. One old friend offered to lend me a program to recover the files. I searched the internet for solutions. I felt stupid, but let me tell you the story.

I was loading a Microsoft Word data file and through a series of weird notes and windows, the program asked me if I wanted to revert to the saved version. I wrinkled my forehead and checked the file on my screen it was blank so I told the program yes. I knew better, but in my defense I was also working on a dozen things at the time.

The computer did what it was told. It deleted the original, in favor of the new matrix, (nothing). I was devastated. I’d spent two weeks working on that story without backing up.

As I might have mentioned, I’m writing this story in pieces, and from many points of view. Then later, I paste the pieces into chapters in the main data file. I breathed a sigh of relief because I thought I could reconstruct from the different pieces. Then, I realized there were three chapters I’d written directly into the main data file. Not to mention the strings of transition and dialog, making the POVs nest together.

I searched every inch of my hard drive for old temp files of all conceivable extension type, and managed to build a facsimile of part of the original. There was a lot, however, I couldn’t retrieve, and it devastated me.

But . . . as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been writing most of the first draft by hand, in notebooks, and transferring to the computer later. God Bless my notebooks. I went back and found the drafts, minus some minor parts.

Now, I’m re-writing my book. There are a few obscure thoughts and dialog, that will be lost forever, but I think I can patch it up again.

Some writers frown on my notebook way of drafting. It’s true, if I’d been smart enough to back it all up, I wouldn’t need them now, but I’m glad to have them.

Good luck in your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Please! Mr. Postman

By Keith Fisher

There is an old song by The Mavelettes called Please Mr. Postman. A girl waits to hear from her boyfriend in a letter. She camps out on her own doorstep, ready to jump the postal carrier. She doesn’t believe there isn’t a letter.

Please Mister Postman, look and see (Oh yeah)
If there's a letter in your bag for me
(Please, Please Mister Postman)
Why's it takin' such a long time (Oh yeah)
For me to hear from that boy of mine

There must be some word today
From my boyfriend so far away
Please Mister Postman, look and see
If there's a letter, a letter for me

I've been standin' here waitin' Mister Postman
So patiently
For just a card, or just a letter
Sayin' he's returnin' home to me

I feel a little like that girl, only I check my email every five minutes waiting to hear from a publisher. I know it hasn’t been long enough but my anxiousness has been turning into obsession. After all, what else do I have to do?

To be truthful I don’t check my email that much. I work on my new book and get carried away with it. So much, that I’ve begun to feel guilty for cheating on my other book.

Let me explain—I’m a writer. I spend hours plotting and building, visualizing my story and my characters. Characters begin to become real to me. Since, I’m the writer/creator I know the back-story. My character’s hopes and dreams are in my head. I know everything about them, perhaps more than I know about myself.

Once this information has been clearly established in my mind, It’s very hard to develop other characters and story lines. It’s not that a writer can’t come up with new things, they can. In fact it’s refreshing to start something new. It’s like moving to a new location, you get to find friends and learn new things.

But before long those old characters get your attention, and they wonder why you haven’t thought about them. "Because I’m working a new character." you answer. The old character, lets call her Mary, looks hurt. She turns away from you and you can hear a sniffle. "But Jane means nothing to me. She has a different story line. Besides, you will always be my first love."

Of course all of that is a lie. Yes, Jane means the world to you. She’s exciting and she gives you new experiences. Well, Mary isn’t convinced either. She storms out of the room and you are left feeling guilty. You can’t wait to get Mary published just to vindicate her, to make her feel worthwhile.

You catch up to her and let her down easy. "It’s over." you say. "I know I’m a pig, but I’ve moved on. I hope you can too." She cries and the guilt is stronger than ever. "I’ll write you into one more story," you say. "I’ll create a character who loves you. Then you can forget me."

Before you lock me up remember this, there are hundreds of sequels created everyday, and characters that continue to have new adventures. Odd Thomas, Harry Potter, and the Barrington family just to name three. I wonder if Agatha Christie had problems with inspector Poirot.

I’m speculating here, but did you think the writers brought Bobby Ewing back to life because of the fans? Oh no, Bobby invaded the writer’s dreams. He gave them nightmares, so the whole previous season turned out to be only a dream.

Well. I’ve managed to distract myself for a few minutes. I wonder if the mail is here yet.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

By Keith Fisher

What did you come up with? Every year, I see men stalking the stores at five or six p.m. They all have vacant expressions on their face. Their eyes darting back and forth in fear, because they know what will happen if they show up at home with nothing.

What about that guy who forgot about the day? After all, it’s been a very stressful year, and he had a lot on his mind. He comes home, parks the car, he gets angry because his son has forgotten to put his bike away. He goes into the house where his wife greets him at the door with a hug and kiss. He smiles. It sure is nice to be married.

She leads him into the dining room and tells him the kids are at Grandma’s. He looks at the table and realizes there is something special, going on here. He casts his eyes about the room, hoping for some sign, a clue that would tell him what he has forgotten.

He doesn’t wonder long, though, because she deposits a happy Valentines Day greeting card on his plate. Realization dawns and he knows he has entered the indifferent husband zone. He is trapped. There is no way to save him now. No matter what pathetic excuse he tries, he will never get out of the house to buy something.

And the sad part is he will never forget again. She won’t let him forget the day he proved he was an insensitive, boorish, workaholic. (Why did she marry him anyway?) But, he will also remember the holidays and birthdays, anniversaries, and every semi-significant day. He won’t dare forget. He will be a changed man, but it won’t matter. He can’t erase the stain of a forgotten gift.

So guys, It’s Saturday morning. It’s Valentines Day. You have the whole day to get out there and find that special gift. Don’t know what to get? Ask your daughter. Resist the temptation to have her shop for you. Daughters have a tendency toward loyalty to moms. The point is, get out there now! Don’t delay, and spend a little extra money. It’ll make you feel better, and help the economy in the process.

And to all those who never forget, those bastions of romantic fidelity. To the plotters and planners, those guys that would never forget, could never forget I say, good job. But, you are giving the rest of us a bad name. I have devised a solution. Each one of you must volunteer to be a personal shopper for at least two men who always forget. It will be your job to anticipate and provide them with a thoughtful, well planned gift that will delight his wife or significant other.

In return, the rest of us will solute you in our secret, all male, testimonial dinner. You will be kings for the day and receive the ultimate compliment, The manly grunt of approval.

I know this post doesn’t have anything to with writing, but we have a national emergency here. Oh. and by the way, any of you lovely ladies who would like to join our society of forgettors, you are surly welcome

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The One Important Writing Tool

By Keith Fisher

Today, we’re going to talk about one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make as an author. The outcome of your choice could bring about the end of life, as we know it. At least it might affect generations of our unborn children.

The conclusion I speak of, the verdict that must be reached? It is so important, perhaps we should speak about it in hushed tones. Of course you know it is … which pen will you use at book signings?

Just kidding. A few weeks ago, I told you about the new book I’m working on. I believe I mentioned the book is writing itself? Even through the rough patch I’ve been having, (and I’m happy to say I think it’s behind me now). Even through all that, the book continues to write itself. Some days it’s only a few sentences, but it wants to be written.

During the course of the new book, I’ve learned some things about myself, and the way I write. Perhaps you can glean something from my experience.

I learned that I draft faster if I use a pen and paper. I don’t stop to edit because my mistakes would keep me striking out everything. I also discovered when I transpose to the computer, I am able to cut more exposition and rearrange the narration to make it more readable. I can add stuff too. I’ve found brilliant conversations because my mind takes what I penned and adds to it, making the whole story better. I’m enjoying this new symbiosis of paper and computer. It’s currently working for me.

I also learned that even with all my best intention, I seem to be writing a romance. I didn’t know I had it in me. The entire concept of the book came to me while staying at a bed and breakfast, but I thought the story would play out differently, like a Dean Hughes saga. As I listened to the characters I discovered depth and even tears. This book will rip your heart out, then gently massage it. Lovingly place it back in your chest, and help you move on.

The point of this is simple. We all tend to climb into our private ruts. We do things the way we learned long ago. It worked then, why change? I discovered a better way for me. Not because I thought it might work, but because necessity forced me. My characters pointed out my book would be better as a romance, and they were right.

I don’t think I will be the next Nicholas Sparks, for one thing I don’t have the physique he has. I might not keep writing romance, but I’m writing a good story.

The real most important writing tool is realy two. Don’t be afraid to try new ways of writing, and listen to your characters. They often know better than you, how their story should go.

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