Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Last Installment

By Keith N Fisher

Because I write five page chapters, it took quite awhile to get, Star-crossed, through critique group. I took the last installment the other day, and I finished the group revisions this morning. I’m excited.

I love watching the reactions of my group when we come to the end. Some of them look pleased others not so much. Still others put on their poker face not wishing to offend. It’s like telling a joke and coming to the punch line. Jokes get laughs. Story’s get praise.

During the critique group process, I can’t wait to spring the surprise and wait for comments. It’s the moment of truth. Was I successful? Did the plot work? In Star-crossed, I wrote a love scene into the last chapter and got a thumbs-up from one member. Another one needed more buildup. In the end, I made it better in revision. Now I’m ready for beta readers.

Recently, in my blog post, I wrote about rewrites. I forgot to mention there is a difference between revising, rewriting, and editing. I’m enjoying a period of writing, when I’m doing all three on different projects. The differences are mostly in how much work is involved.

Revising is easy, because you have a guide to follow. Usually it’s a hard copy with red ink all over it. You look at the red marks and decide if you need to make a change or not. If your critique partner noticed grammatical errors, it’s easy to make those changes.

Editing can be a lot like that, except you also must restructure sentences and paragraphs to make it flow better. Deleting some of your precious words and phrases can be excruciating. Also during an edit, you must determine if your plot is sound, Are there holes where all the logic fell through? Or have you written something that seemed important at the time, but got left out later? Plot holes are usually hard to spot because the plot lives in the mind of the writer, but we sometimes forget to explain the details to the reader.

Rewriting is hardest, because you often have to delete whole chapters and multiple characters. I often think about the dark ages before computers. Hmmm. BC, Before Computers, get it? Anyway, I envision a writer during that time, taking several pages of manuscript and tossing them into the fireplace.

Now days in the AC, (after computer) . . . well it can’t all be cute. Today we can cut and paste. Hopefully you keep a file of takeouts, because you never know, you might want to put it back into your story. You might want to put it into another book. I’ve heard of writers taking characters out of one manuscript and using them in another. Keep a takeouts file.

For me, rewriting is a lot like writing a new story because I usually have an outline in my head. I know how the story will be from beginning to end. Everything else is just of means of getting there. When I rewrite, I’ve already written the story once, so I have an outline to follow. The temptation during the AC (after computer) is to capture and paste text from the first draft. Don’t do it.

Part of the reason for rewriting is the first draft didn’t work. You know where the story should go. Write it again. You’re probably a better writer now, and the story will turn out the way it should be.

A final note about rewriting, Some stories should just be allowed to die. If your plot isn’t making you excited, don’t be afraid to abandon the idea and start something new. Still, don’t give up until you write it to conclusion either. The joy/curse of being a writer is that you will always get new ideas. If one didn’t work, another will come along.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

I'm Late

By Keith N Fisher

As the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland observed, I'm late. Yes it has been that kind of week and I have a blog half written. No excuses! Good luck with your writing---see you next week.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Rewriting and Rewriting
By Keith N Fisher

I finished rewriting my first book this week. It’s called The Trophy, and it’s the story about a young girl who gets drawn into what appears to be a dangerous world and discovers the answers to hard questions. Considering I originally wrote it in the nineties, I’m a much better writer now. This wasn’t the first rewrite for this particular book, however, so it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been. It was originally written for the national market, but I turned it into LDS fiction during one of those rewrites.

This time, I took the LDS elements out and rewrote it into the national market. I fixed errors, and showed more feelings and motivations. I also added exposition in places where the plot wasn’t clear. I found errors had slipped into the text during all those rewrites. They glared at me this time through.

As the story progressed, I had to go back and see what I’d written before in order to make it consistent. I found errors had slipped in during this rewrite, so I will be bringing it to critique group, then as always, I’ll need some beta readers.

When I finished, I went back to another of my first books and started a rewrite. This one, however, has edited, but never rewritten. It’s harder, because I can’t edit what I wrote before. This one has to be rewritten from scratch. Unlike starting a new book, I know exactly where the plot is going I know the beginning from the end and I’m writing a new book.

Rewrites can be fun but they humble the writer. It’s not just craft and structure errors. Its bad writing and you wonder if the story is best buried. This book frightens me, though. You might remember me telling you about it before in this blog. I wrote the story from an idea that came to me, beginning to end, during a church meeting when my daughter was a baby.

Now as I revisit what I wrote then, I wonder if I ought to just leave it in the drawer. While writing using the old manuscript as notes, I found a scene that actually happened in my daughter’s life. I even had the names right. Now, As I said, I wrote that when she was a baby.

It’s my Stranger than Fiction, experience and it freaks me out. It’s not the only similarity either. Did I condemn my daughter to live the life I wrote? The story is full of the main character going astray with life changing experiences. Everything works out eventually, but I really don’t want my daughter to go through all that. Maybe I should rewrite the story so that the protagonist avoids the bad stuff?

Maybe I should revisit another book I wrote. The protagonists were boys, and I don’t have a son.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Sour Grapes

By Keith N Fisher

In one of Aesop’s fables, A fox who is starving, tries to get some grapes from high on the vine. He tries everything to get a bunch of grapes and fails. Finally he gives up and reasons that the grapes were probably sour anyway. We use the term, sour grapes to exemplify the fact that somebody thinks they were given a raw deal in favor of another.

When we get rejected after working hard to sell our books, we can choose how to react or not. Rejection is part of life as a writer, so we keep trying. We submit it again, and we write something new. Or, we complain to everyone that our book was perfect, and the publisher made a huge mistake. I would hope we wouldn’t start railing on the agent or publisher, especially not in public.

That would be sour grapes.

In the February2013  issue of Writer’s Digest I read an interview with Jamie Lee Curtis. She is a movie star, and the author of ten published children’s books. She also, happens to be daughter of Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis. If you don’t know who they are, I’m sorry for you. Think about the shower scene in Psycho and Tony played many critically acclaimed roles like the Boston Strangler in 1968.
TonyCurtis, Janet Leigh, and family

Anyway, the interviewer, Marcy Kennedy Knight, asked her, whether being famous helped her as a writer. Jamie left it up to the world to decide. She felt that being a public person does help you get looked at, and having famous parents may also have helped her in her acting career.

She went on to point out that people tell her the writing is great. Basically she was saying that being Jamie Lee Curtis might’ve got her foot in the door, but she does her best to deliver.

The ramifications of her story, and other famous people, turned writer, are obvious. Being who they were got them where they are. If we as writers trying to break into the business were somebody famous, We would have a better chance. People would read our books because of who we were.

We can choose to be bitter about that or not. If we choose the former, are we like the fox who complained the grapes were sour?

Jamie’s story is different, though. Being who she is might’ve got her the first contract, but getting nine more books published proves she is good. How many celebrities have written books that shouldn’t have been published? How many have you read? Being celebrities got them in the door, but I bet a self-respecting agent wouldn’t even consider a second book.

There is another type of writer who claims sour grapes. Have you ever read a book by a famous author and found myriad errors? Many authors get to the point where their grocery list could get published. They get lazy because they aren’t held to higher standards. How easy is it to develop sour grapes feelings when you get rejected for breaking a rule you’ve seen a famous author break?

Be glad you are held to a high standard. You are becoming a better author because of that measure. When you publish your tenth best seller, remember to write it well, no matter what your publisher will accept. Don’t be a fraud. When somebody excels (without paying their dues) in your field of endeavor, remember they had an unfair advantage. Someone helped them reach the grapes.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.