Friday, October 29, 2010

Drawing from My Reserve

By Keith N Fisher

I used to drive a pickup with two gas tanks. Rather than fill both tanks (too expensive), I kept five dollars worth in the back tank. That way, I’d always have enough in an emergency. I could run out and switch to the reserve in order to get to a gas station.

One night, I filled the front tank and went to a meeting at the church. When I came out I couldn’t get the truck started. I tried everything but couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Finally, I switched tanks and drove home on my reserve. I discovered later, the pump in the front tank had malfunctioned. I was glad I had the reserve to run on.

In my writing this week, I hit a wall. I’m writing the ending to a sequel and I have three different ways I could go. The end is clearly set in my mind, but I’m not sure how to get there. It’s frustrating because I’m so close to the finish. Also, I’ve been preparing the first book for submission, but editing doesn’t give me the creative boost I get from free writing.

Like my second tank, I have a project file on my hard drive. It’s full of books in different stages of development along with ideas and drafts. Like switching tanks, I wrote a great chapter for my next work in progress. I went back to editing with my creativity renewed. Now I can figure out what to do with my story.

I think we all have plot ideas and outlines in our heads. We can use them as a reserve like my gas tank. Developing those bits and pieces of plots can help whenever the creative juices stop flowing, and progress slows down. Besides, it’s nice to have a reserve when an editor asks what else you’re working on.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It All Started with Autumn Jones

A book Review by Keith N Fisher

I couldn’t put it down. When I received my advanced reader’s copy as a door prize, I hadn’t intended to read it, let alone blog about it. I glanced over the first page, however, and became intrigued.

The novel, written by Jack Weyland, is the latest in a long list of his work. It’s the story of a young couple who became friends trying to stump a dictatorial professor in college. They are concerned that his beliefs about God and the origin of man will poison the other students. Being returned Mormon missionaries, themselves, they find they must stand up for their own beliefs.

I realize my copy is an uncorrected proof of the book, but I found a few plot holes, and the similarities to Love Story don’t stop with her calling him Preppy. Still, I enjoyed the book and recommend it to readers who want a clean love story, with good values.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


By Keith N Fisher

Do you remember Charlie McCarthy? He’s one of the most famous dummies in history. His controller, Edgar Bergen, provided a voice for Charlie that was funny and thoughtful. Burgeon did it so well, many folks were almost convinced Charlie, and his cousins, were real.

As writers, we’re charged with finding our voice. At conferences, in books, and in critique group, I discovered what voice is. If we compare the writing of famous authors, we’ll find examples. Such as: A paragraph written by Kurt Vonnegut, is vastly different than Mary Higgins Clark. Also, there is JK Rowling versus Ernest Hemmingway.

The difference isn’t in the genre alone or even writing style, it’s the way the author said things. The words they used, and the way those words are arranged. They are distinct like personality. Of course, If that personality spawns catch phrases, or situations that turn cliché, many readers get tired of it and move on to other books.

A few years ago, a new writer gave me a portion of a book to critique. I was honored but quickly discovered errors in formatting. The writer had broken many of the rules we follow in our craft. I began to make notes on the pages, but about halfway into it, I realized I wasn’t correcting mistakes as much as I was restructuring the sentences. I was adding my voice, instead of letting the writer use her own.

Many ventriloquists, like Edgar Burgeon, can cast their voice across a room and make it appear to come from something or someone else. Like the ventriloquists, I found myself putting my words into another writer’s manuscript. I was changing the voice in the name of editing.

Often, we get good feedback from our critique group and others. Even though I sometimes argue, I’ve learned to trust my group. There was a time, however, before I found my voice, when an edit like the one I mentioned above, would’ve set me reeling. I would’ve tried to match the voice of the editor. Since then, I’ve learned a good editor doesn’t mess with voice. They point out grammar errors, and suggest formatting changes.

If you get an edit that attempts to change your voice, don’t let it throw you. Ask a trusted friend if they think the edit corrects voice or if it really is needed. If you’re trying to find your voice, picture yourself telling the story to a large audience. How would you tell it? What words would you use? Grammar and formatting can be fixed later. Express yourself and before long, you will find your own way.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I'm Trendy

By Keith N Fisher

I watched part of a documentary on PBS the other day. It made me think about my life and evaluate the whole of it. My sense of humor kicked in, and I discovered I’m on the cutting edge of a trend.

I was born at a time before modern educated scientists discovered fancy named causes for genetic defaults, and family tendencies. I always suspected there were certain genes that made one family unit more prone to certain things, while people with other genes had different inclinations. Environment played a part too, but now I’ve learned there is a group of perfect people who claim to know all the secrets and if the rest of us don’t follow their example, we have no hope of ever being happy.

By now, you’re probably wondering what I’m getting at, and I’m trying to figure a way of telling you without appearing to solicit a response from you. Also, I don’t want to offend my dear friends who have found their perfect way to live.

You see I was a fat kid. There! I said it. From my earliest recollection, I was always bigger than my peers. It came in handy, though, while playing football and wrestling, and people learned I was not to be messed with. As I grew up, I gained and lost weight. Sometimes, I exercised, sometimes I didn’t. Life went on.

On the television program I referred to, the narrator tallied huge numbers of Americans who were overweight. That makes me trendy. As a kid, I was out of the ordinary. Now I’m part of the movement. Did you ever hear Barbara Mandrell sing the country music song, I Was Country, When Country Wasn’t Cool? That’s how it feels to be on the cutting edge.

I could live with having so many people join my trend, but the narrator also pronounced a death sentence over us. It seems I’m one of the walking dead. One person said that anyone 100-lbs or more, over normal weight was morbidly obese. Then, that person proceeded to tell us what a healthy lifestyle should be like. Did you catch that word, morbidly? I wanted to ask her what normal is?

In the nineties I practiced a stringent program of diet and exercise. I did pretty well, but I noticed that others did better than me. Still, others weren’t as successful. The reason, I discovered, was because everybody’s metabolism is different. That means there are no, all inclusive, lifestyle directions we can follow. I think, however, if you eat healthy and exercise, you will happy, but you have to determine what that means for you.

As writers, we hear a lot of advice from teachers, mentors and other writers. There are many tried and true routines for writing, but just like diet and exercise, there isn’t an all-inclusive method that works for everyone. If you are struggling, I suggest you take the advice that works for you, and file the rest for future reference.

I had a friend, growing up, who could eat all the wrong foods, all the time. He never gained an ounce. In fact, he remained the same size into adulthood and is still thin. I envied my friend, but over time, I learned that some things came easier to me, than to him. In like manner, I know writers to whom, writing seems to come easy. Rather than begrudge them their talent, however, I celebrate my opportunity to learn from them.

I can discover the good or bad ways of my craft. I take heart in knowing I don’t have to follow any example, besides there are things I might do better than them. Both in writing, and in life.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

My Brief Visit to the Mountaintop

By Keith N Fisher

I did two days of job workshops and a licensing test this week. Finding time to write and do the things that refresh my soul was difficult. Do you sometimes envy those poor souls who sit on mountaintops? I mean the metaphorical gurus who escaped society and wait for someone to make a pilgrimage to ask the meaning of life. Those guys have nothing to do but ponder the important questions and impart their wisdom.

During busy days when I try and carve out writing time, I do envy them. It seems, however, that whenever the planets align themselves just right, giving me time to write I worry about the future and taking care of the necessary things of life. I long for time with nothing to do but write.

I’m sure retirement (if I can ever afford it) will be a nightmare of epic proportions. Unless I can inherit a box of cash and have all my obligations taken care of.

With that being said, I carved out a morning to write this week and things fell in line. My characters formed a committee and pushed away my worries. We wrote several chapters on the sequel to The Hillside. Now, I have 85,477 words and I only have three or four chapters left to write.

I tell you this, not to brag, (well, maybe a little) but to express my gratitude for the opportunity of artistic expression. Can you imagine life without something to fulfill your need to create?

Some people fill the need by building empires. Some dream of the perfect heist, then after they get caught, they dream of the perfect prison break. I get to do all three in the pages of my manuscript. I’m grateful for the blessing of writing and this week, I’m grateful for the morning when the planets aligned, and I was able to write.

Maybe someday I’ll be that guru sitting on the mountaintop of my front porch or a camp trailer near a lake. I’ll rise in the morning and make perfect paragraphs. Then, if someone comes asking the meaning of life, I’ll hand them the scriptures, and go back to writing. Then when I finish the scene I was working on, I’ll give my visitor a cup of hot chocolate and talk about life.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Are You Writing?

By Keith N Fisher

I attended the Book Academy writer’s conference this week. It was good to see old friends and meet new ones. The classes were great, but I gravitated to the ones designed for those who are already published and those about to be.

It was great to make notes from Josi Kilpack’s presentation about launch parties. I believe she was the first author to initiate that venue in the LDS market, and I enjoyed listening to her experiences.

Because of a nerve in my leg, I couldn’t sit very long on those chairs. So, I spent the last breakout session in an armchair downstairs, writing a chapter for my work in progress. It felt good to get that one finished.

When the time came for the prize giveaway and final send off, I sat down at a table and continued writing. Being interrupted wasn’t surprising. I enjoy the networking that happens at those events. I was, however, surprised by a few writers who asked me what I was finding on the Internet.

“I don’t use this computer to get on the Internet.” I said. When I explained I was writing, many of them seemed shocked. On man was particularly fascinated that I would use the time at a writer’s conference to write.

Isn’t writing what its all about? My friend even brought a laptop. He said he did his writing on his other computer. One man said it was a good idea and he would have to bring his computer next time.

I couldn’t believe there were writers who didn’t carry scraps of paper with them to write down a paragraph that pops into their head. Moreover, I felt sorry for writers who are chained to a desk. Writing must be drudgery for them.

I’m blessed to have my laptop, even though it’s a pain sometimes, but I can also write anywhere with pen and paper. I’ve written segments on napkins and the backs of instruction sheets. I wrote between the lines on a meeting agenda once. I’ve found I must write whenever inspiration strikes or I lose the thought.

Last year, I posted a blog here, about writing places. Go check it out. In the meantime, good luck with your writing—see you next week.