Saturday, April 30, 2011

Getting Better

By Keith N Fisher

When I began to blog on this site, I set up a file to save every article. Since I was writing about my struggle, I intended to perhaps, publish all the lessons I learned along the way. After reading what I wrote five-years ago, I wonder how I could’ve been so na├»ve to think it was good enough for a book.

Like many of you, I sit down everyday and labor over a keyboard, putting sentences together, hoping to find the right words. When I compare what I wrote then, with what I write now, I have to admit, I’m getting better.

That statement brings an old Beatles song to mind, but we won’t take the time to listen right now . . . Well, when you get time, it’s here, but read on.

As I write this, I’m waiting to hear from a publisher about a manuscript, I’m finishing up the sequel to that, and writing another story. I’m excited about my characters and the plots are flowing. There are occasional unproductive periods though, but I love writing and I hope to prevail.

Through it all, I’m learning my craft. Eventually, I’ll be a better writer, but will it be enough?

A few months ago, I wrote about a mentor telling me not to put much faith in being a successful, full time writer. It happened again recently with less devastation to me. To be fair, I think my mentor is trying to keep me from abandoning my day job, but It made me wonder whether he knows anything about the LDS market I’m writing in.

One of the first lessons learned by an LDS fiction author is, there isn’t much money in it. Visions of a six-figure income fade when they learn that 5,000 copies, is a good run. That’s chicken feed compared to a New York Times bestseller. Often, LDS titles never sell over 1,000.

Many of my peers write LDS fiction while struggling to succeed in the national market. I labor with keeping it clean. Like everyone else, I dream of living in a cottage on a cliff, overlooking a body of water. Writing full time, while agents fight over who will represent my next manuscript.

I accept, however, my role as provider in my family, and I work a full time job while trying to be a good enough writer to please, He, who planted a writing desire in my soul. Yes, I’m getting better, but there are so many who were born with more talent. I’m hoping He, will reward my efforts.

So, in order to clarify my intentions I say; I’m an author of women’s fiction, tailored for the LDS market. I have lofty goals, including writing a national market bestseller, or two, but I’m a realist. I work for a living and write for my soul. I have dreams to match the mountains, don’t stomp on my dreams.

Next week, I will be attending the LDStorymakers Writer’s conference. I’m not sure I’ll be able to post on Saturday, but I’ll be rubbing shoulders with people who get it. They understand my desire to write. It will be refreshing. See you there?

Good luck with your writing—see you next week, uh, time.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Here Lies?

By Keith N Fisher

Have you ever wondered what your epitaph will be? A few years ago, I wrote my father’s obituary. It was an honor, but it left me wanting to know more. I had a wonderful, rich relationship with him. We spent hours talking, and he related many stories about his past, but I still wanted more.

Back in 2005 I lost both my grandmothers. I was blessed to be able to speak at their funerals and in each talk, I wanted to give them a voice of their own. Even though their physical bodies could not speak for themselves, I wanted to let them have one more moment.

I began to search everything I had in my memory and otherwise. Glimpses into their personalities. Things I remembered from their interaction with me. I read letters from them sent to me when I served a mission. I read a testimony left in a saved Book of Mormon. I read the poetry written by one of them. I think my talks turned out to be close to what they would’ve said, assuming their modesty allowed them to talk about themselves.

When Dad died, I tried to do the same thing. I quoted things he’d said on the miles of videotape I recorded at family gatherings. I did my best to give him a voice, but he didn’t write much. I was able to relate feelings he’d shared with me about my brothers, but it was mostly from my memory.

Have you seen the movie, The Ultimate Gift? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, like in the movie, we could get a video projection of our dead loved one, expressing personal messages to each of us?

As a writer, I often feel a sense of writing across generations. Ironically though, considering I used to write every day, I haven’t kept up with my journal. The sad thing is I missed writing some of the most important events in my life. Well, I have written a few things.

While reading those meager entries, I began to wonder what someone speaking at my funeral would make of my journal. Perhaps, I’d better make a rebuttal video.

Yes, I think writing in Journals is a good idea. Beyond a treatment for writer’s block, there is no better way for people to get to know you, and understand the way you think. Perhaps you’ll have a voice at your own funeral.

While thinking about the subject, I began to wonder, what would be carved into my headstone? What words of wisdom will somebody choose to describe my life?

Here lies Mr. Fisher. He lived. Now he’s gone.

How about these sentiments to describe my argumentative nature?

The man in this hole didn’t know, although he thought so.

Perhaps this one will be right.

Here lies what’s his name.

Whatever the epitaph, I want to be remembered for making a difference in people’s lives. I want people to think of me when they remember things that affected their lives for good. Perhaps in several years after my death, they will pull out an old book and want to learn about the author.

That is the best remembrance of all. To be the man who wrote the book, or spoke at the fireside that changed a person’s life. So, what ever gets on my headstone, (mostly bird poop I think), I want my epitaph to be in the lives of those I might have helped along the way.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

You Never Know

By Keith N Fisher

As they often do, Writer’s Digest magazine recently included their list of best writer’s websites. While reading the publication, I had an epiphany, of sorts.

In jealous envy, I pondered how I could get my website on the list. Then I concluded, it would take a lot of work. It would help if I constantly provided fresh, engaging content. Also having a book on the market would be an asset.

Okay, my website is static, it doesn’t change much, but what about the blogs I write for? What would it take to get them noticed? Again, the answer lies in fresh content and following & commenting on other blogs. But we keep The Blogck updated for the most part, and we provide support for struggling writers. Shouldn’t we be listed?

That’s when I realized my possible blunder. I might’ve ruined the career of this blog site.

A few years ago, I claimed to write contemporary fiction, and I made a point of frequently making gibes at romance. It was good fun, intended to make light of my testosterone laden reading tastes, but then I wrote a blog about reading a story that tore my heart out.

The book was a national market romance and in my tongue in cheek way, I didn’t mention the title. It was, (I thought), my private joke with my readers. In the comment trail that followed, A person asked what the title was. I refused to say, and a small dispute ensued.

I felt bad about it, but I didn’t think I should have to mention the title, simply because someone thought my joke wasn’t funny. Like a bad revue, if I had to do it again, I’d ignore the comment.

Since then, I’ve wondered about the author of those comments. I really don’t know much about her. She’s published and I’m not. I’m glad she is doing well and hope she continues to find success. My dilemma, however, lies in the possibility, what if she had been looking at websites for Writer’s Digest . . .

Well, you get the point.

As writer’s we put ourselves in the public eye all the time, its called promotion. Ideally, we want our name and brand to reflect professionalism. We hope publishers and agents will recognize that professionalism and we want readers to think positively about us.

All of that could be damaged in one sentence if we aren’t careful with what we say and to whom we say it.

I look back on the aforementioned blog and wince, because The LDS Writer’s Blogck might’ve been a contender for mention in Writer’s Digest. If I hadn’t given in to my argumentative nature, we might’ve been famous . . . well, maybe. (Insert laugh track here). Really I wince, because instead of making a friend, I gave into her criticism and tired to lash out.

On Facebook and other social media, blog sites, and writer’s groups, I have to keep reminding myself that I can be dead right and still be wrong. Even though I know what I’m talking about, arguing the point with others cheapens my name and brand. You never know who might be listening or reading. Or to what effect your comments will stifle your career.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Come Saturday Morning

By Keith N Fisher

I wrote a blog this morning, but with those that have been posted here lately, mine would appear insensitive. So I'm going to save it for another day.

Since I don't have anything for today, I was looking through my files of old blogs and focused on one I posted in December 2008, when I talked about getting out of my office to write. I was reminded of a conversation we had in critique group the other day.

We were talking about laptops and that escalated into best writing places, (and comfort positions). I've always said my favorite place to write is parked in a crowded parking lot with my laptop resting on the steering wheel.

It’s a wonderful place, because I can be alone with my thoughts. Distractions, if there are any, come from people walking through the parking lot, and bad drivers. It is a veritable character parade.

I've seen people do things, while I'm writng, that I incorporated into a story. Describing characters is easy when they walk in front of your windshield while you write about them. Putting that aside, though, it’s just a comfortable position to write in. the screen is close, so I can remove my glasses, totally oblivious to the strains of bending over a keyboard to get a closer look at the monitor.

In the blog I mentioned above, I quoted the lyrics to a song that fits. Come Saturday Morning, I'm running away with my friend. Well, it's Saturday morning, again. I want to run away with my character friends.

Here are the lyrics I talked about. I'm humming the tune. Wish I could go.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

It's Subjective

By Keith N Fisher

I’ve been learning my craft for a long time. I go to writer’s conferences, workshops and a critique group. I read books about writing and try to incorporate that wisdom into my own work. I polish and worry that my manuscript isn’t good enough. I polish some more, submit, and write another great idea.

Its part of the process, some would say its paying my dues. Whatever it’s called, it makes me a better writer/editor, but the procedure has affected my reading. I can’t open a book without noticing errors. The thing is however, I might not read it the same way as other readers.

While attending, (as a spectator), the 2011 World Championship Dutch oven Cook off, I realized something I already knew. Judging is subjective and cooking is relative. I learned those facts while competing in a cook off in Southern Utah. Although perfect, our dishes didn’t score very high. Six months later, we cooked the same dishes in the same way, and took first place at worlds. We attributed the loss to the judges and unfair judging practices.

Afterward, I observed another truism, you could take the same cooks, making the same dishes, the same way, on a different day, with the same judges, and there could be a different outcome. Some people will never learn that fact. They want to attach blame. Either it’s the judge’s faults for being stupid and wrong, or its some other reason. It’s never the fault of the cooks, and it could never be dumb luck.

As a reader, I’m fairly dense. I want to get into the story and stay there so I try to overlook things like typos, spelling errors, and syntax. I even try not to notice an over abundance of foreshadowing, and phrases like, “little did he know”, but when those errors make me lose the story, I object. When the POV changes many times on the page, I lose my perspective.

Now, I’m not the best writer and as an editor, I sometimes suck, ask my critique group. I’ve been known to be wrong. I sometimes miss key sentences that explain what comes later. I’m not perfect, and neither are many proofreaders and editors.

Inevitably, we’ll all get our work in front of a reviewer or editor and they will tear it apart. Worse yet, they’ll like it, but there’ll only be a couple of things wrong. Like the cooking competition, things don’t always turn out the way we expect. It is possible to pour our heart and soul into something, to sweat blood over a project and have someone not like it. Even when we believe our work was inspired.

When it happens to us, we’re tempted to lash out. Sometimes we turn it inward, vowing to quit writing. At the very least, in no way, will we ever let that person see anything we’ve written again.

In the cook off circles, I used to hear competitors mention certain judges with scorn. They would always say something like, “If I find out so & so is judging I won’t cook.” I’m sure I said that once or twice, but I was missing the point. It’s true, the joy is in the journey as I discussed in a previous blog.

I’m not saying you have to agree with, or like the review/critique, just remember that on some days the cake will be perfect and not win. Judging and critiquing are subjective. The risk we take is in believing every word.

Sometimes reviewers can be wrong, but if we’re honest with ourselves, we might learn something. Still, how many of you read the bestseller, Nights in Rodanthe by Nicholas Sparks? Here’s a book with POV issues. In one sentence we’re in Paul’s head. In the next sentence we’re in Adrienne’s. I even noticed a sentence started in Adrienne’s head and finished in Paul’s. Who can read that without getting lost? I wonder, how many editors overlooked the head hopping because of who wrote it?

I can’t afford to make those kinds of mistakes because I’m a first time Author, trying to break into the market. And when I do, break in, I hope I’ll take the criticism with a grain of salt. I expect to remember some cook off judges are crazy people . . . no, I’ll try to bear in mind that everything is subjective. It doesn’t make rejection easier, but at least I’ll know I’m not a terrible writer.

Still, some reviewers have it in for—uh, never mind.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.