Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Growing Pains or Death Throes

Today, I'm writing about something that has been bothering me for quite a while.

Social media is going to be the downfall of civilization as we know it. Starting with writing.

When I first went to a writing conference, a hundred years ago, it was a small group of dedicated people willing to pay to garner advice from the professionals. We were thrilled to find others with the same interest, amazed at what we learned there, and energized by kindred spirits.

Ten years later, writing conferences are bigger than ever. So is the group of people that are writing books.

What once required dedication, sacrifice and practically blood is now readily available at any computer terminal. While I am not downing Indie authors, (since I am one, myself) it is ridiculously easy to publish any piece of work with little to no quality control. There is nothing to police whether it is original, plagiarized, true, accurate or even acceptably well written.

Writing is, by its very nature, a solitary pursuit. An author must have time alone and without distraction, to get those words on paper. But suddenly, thanks to social media, the job of writing now comes with extended staff - groups for research, cheering squads, critique groups comprised of people the writer may have never actually met and whose skills are unverifiable. Did the opponents of Gutenberg have the same concerns?

It is a double edged sword. One one side of it - I, myself, am involved in a writing collaboration made possible by the internet. On the other, that same site that makes this possible is the single biggest detraction from the writing I should be doing. On one side, an author doesn't have to rely on a publisher to put their work out there. On the other - electronic books make it easy to download, adjust and resell someone else's work with little to no effort. On one side, more people than ever are accomplishing their dream of publishing a novel. On the other, the craft is in danger of being cheapened by low quality, unedited, unprofessional quality dime novels flooding the book selling outlets.

So where do we draw the line between progress and keeping the best parts of the old ways?

Are these the growing pains of a rapidly expanding world, or the death throes of quality literature?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Perhaps There are Times to Leave the Brakes Alone


By Keith N Fisher

I was sitting in my car, parked in the shade of a tree, next to a gated community. While writing, I heard something approach. I looked up to see a little girl on a bicycle, speeding down the sidewalk on the other side of the fence.

In front of where I parked, a locked gate stood waiting, as she approached. I went back to my writing, assuming the girl knew what she was doing and how to get through the gate. After all, she lived there, right?

A thump brought my attention back up, from my writing. The little girl apparently, didn’t know how to stop and crashed into the brick wall next to the gate. She had apparently slapped the wall with her open hand because she looked at it for a long time. Next to her hand was an electrical box with the kind of switch they use for emergency stop buttons on machinery.

After a few seconds the girl pressed the button and got off her bike to walk it through the gate, but it didn’t open. Rather than push the button again, the girl looked around, apparently not sure what to do. Then after a car went through the big gate on the other side of the trees, she walked her bike over there. I assume she followed a car through the gate.

I stopped writing and thought about what I’d seen. I wondered what had been in the girl’s mind as she approached the gate. Maybe she didn’t know it was locked. Maybe she got confused and couldn’t remember how to use the brakes. Maybe, and this is not likely, she planned to hit the button without stopping her bike.

Whatever she thought. She crashed her bike into a brick wall to stop, and that made me think. I considered many similes and metaphors, and remembered my childhood when brakes were hard to apply, like when I crashed the tote-goat into the garbage cans because I got confused and forgot about the brake. I wonder if that’s what happened to the girl.

As a metaphor brakes can have a double meaning. Some of us prefer the freedom of going through life full throttle, never giving the brakes any consideration. I have been one who used the brakes often. Sometimes the brakes were on when they shouldn’t have been, but it’s easier to avoid crashes if you’re already going slow.

To be accurate, however, there have been times when I ignored the brakes. While thinking about those times, I remembered a fond story from my childhood I’d like to share with you. 

I think I was twelve, when I built a three-wheeled go-cart. It was what it was, because I only had three wheels. Built from my father’s scrap pile, I used a school bus seat and the frame was made from galvanized pipe that I welded together. The rear axle was from a boat trailer. I’m not sure where the front wheel came from. I steered with a piece of pipe made into a lever, and as I said, I made the poor welds. I was kid after all. I intended to mount an engine in the rear, but never had the chance.

I was proud of my creation but mostly proud of the brake system. It was no more than a lever with rubber pads made from old tires. When applied, the brakes pushed against the rear tires. It was like the brakes on a covered wagon.

During that time, I lived next to vacant lot, and it was a hillside . . . well, you know where this is going. One day, my friend helped me push the cart up the hill, and we got in. I held the brakes on for a second, then let go. The fantastic ride got out of hand. We were going faster than I’d anticipated. With an ashen face, my friend looked around. He still denies it, but I think he was going to jump ship. As you might’ve guessed, the brakes had no effect.

Keeping my head, I steered toward the spot near the road where the hill leveled out and our driveway began. As we had done with sleds in the winter, I intended to take the cart down the road and stop naturally where the road intersected with another road and everything leveled out.

We never got to the road. I miss-judged how far my rear wheels extended away from me and one of the them ran over an obstacle my father had placed at the end of the hedge to keep people from driving on the plants.

Moments later, the cart lay in pieces. The bus seat rested on top of us, and my friend was okay. We sat up and started laughing. All my work on that cart had been undone in seconds. The irony was hilarious.

Sure, getting killed in a cart crash wouldn’t have been good, but it wouldn’t have been as much fun if the brakes had worked. Just think of the terrifying ride we could’ve had. Down the road, under the freeway toward Utah Lake. When I think of the grin on the girl’s face, just before she crashed her bike, I wonder if we put on our brakes too much.

I’ve been weighing the benefits of caution VS the glorious life with no brakes. Of course I’m older, and have less to lose, but . . .

Yes, it would be crazy to not use the brakes. But there are times when perhaps we should leave them alone. Does caution inhibit our success? As writers, do we hold back on our careers, waiting for just the right moment?

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.    

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

WRITING PROMPT WEDNESDAY


"You have the opportunity to correct a mistake from the past." 

"Any mistake?" 

"Any mistake you, yourself, have ever made. Only one. Choose wisely."

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

On Being a "Real" Writer

There is still a huge stigma about self publishing. I've come across it's venomous attitude myself, rather recently.

You see, I am an indie author. I chose to do so because my project could not be printed the way I'd envisioned it when done through a standard publisher. Years later and a second edition later, I decided that putting the workbook together by hand was more work than I really wanted, so I turned it over to Amazon. I also didn't have the capital to sink into a professional print, so now it is available print-on-demand.  It's still a pretty nifty book, and it sells well enough for me to receive fairly regular, if small, royalty checks.

And yet, a couple of months ago, someone actually said directly to me that I don't need to worry about plagiarism because - paraphrasing here - we small, worthless, indie authors aren't going to be worth plagiarizing.

Really? Talk about a slap-down.

Until very recently, though I have two published works - one indie and one part of an anthology- I was denied membership into a certain, well known, local writing group. Because I wasn't a "real" author I didn't qualify. (I'm sorry to say, but I'll never join now, no matter how successful I get, because I've been excluded too long.)

Well, this "real" author is available at Barnes & Noble. I know some traditionally published authors that can't say that.

What I would like to say next to all these people, I can't say out loud because my mother taught me not to talk that way...

Don't every let anyone get you down. If you feel the need to write, then you write!! If you feel that indie publishing is the way to go, then you do it! It can be done, and is being done, successfully every day, by many people.

I'm one of them!

So to every writer struggling, working hard, and still being told you're not "real" enough to qualify as a writer, I quote this ancient and well-worn saying:



(I can't translate this here due to a G rating requirement. If you don't know what this says, you'll have to google it...)

Saturday, July 18, 2015

A Personal Thing




By Keith N Fisher


Do you remember kindergarten, when the teacher taught you to paint? Everybody stood behind a big easel with a huge sheet of paper and we were taught how to use the paints without making a mess.

Later, a model of some kind was placed in the center and we were told to draw it with paints. During a timed session we were left to transfer what we saw onto the page. Wasn’t it interesting?

No matter what the teacher used as a model, every painting was different. Not only because of artistic ability, but interpretation as well. As in adult life, we focus on different aspects. With a bowl of fruit, some artists paint the bowl, others place the banana in front of the apple, obliterating evidence that the grapes ever existed.

This is a great representation of individuality. It proves that unless somebody gives specific instructions and watches the progress, the results can vary. It also proves that people will follow their own heart.

God in his wisdom gave us a set of instructions and left us to follow our heart in fulfilling those directions. As we fulfill our destiny, we must allow others that freedom, too.

Just as there is no right or wrong way to draw the bowl of fruit, the final drawing is up to the individual. Therefore nobody has the right to criticize another person’s painting. Why do we think we are free to judge and direct another?  As writers we tend to insert bits of personal ideals into our fiction. The rules of craft state we must remain apart, but we tend to put things into our character’s mouths the narrator must not say.

I am as guilty as anyone, but I found a problem. What if my opinion is wrong or offensive to somebody? Will the reader of my story grow to hate my character and by extension, hate me?

Even if you are not wrong, be careful with preaching through your characters. Even if that character is an antagonist, and you want the reader to hate them, there are some things that are best left unsaid.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Saturday, July 11, 2015

When Talent Overcomes Training


By Keith N Fisher

I started the new job last week. Basically, it’s something I’ve done before, but the technology is different. While working, I realized I have a talent for something I really don’t like doing. Because of nondisclosure agreements, I can’t elaborate, but I learned something about myself and realized it can’t be taught, but practice makes perfect.

As writers we practice. We read everything we can find, listen to presenters at conferences, and learn the rules of writing. Yes. We’ve all heard the stories of overnight success, but training and practice are still the best ways to succeed.

Even so, I believe there is something else responsible for the longevity of a writing career. Talent shows, and those who have it, are some of our favorite authors.

“If that’s true,” you ask, “Then why are so many career launching books poorly written?” That’s a little harsh, but I’ve heard many authors agree about their first books. Look at Jeffrey S savage for example.

Jeff wrote two career-launching books. He refers to Cutting Edge, like a parent talks about a disappointing stepchild. It’s a good book, but when he discovered his Shaundra Covington character, Jeff’s talents really began to show. Now, as J Scott Savage, Jeff writes books the rest of us try to emulate.

I think every writer, when they start their career, works at getting it right. It’s an obsession, drilled into them, and that’s the way it should be. We keep to the basics, and try to remember lessons from English classes we attended. We follow the rules and write the best books we can.

As we learn more about the craft, we write even better books. Then one day, we arrive. There seems to be a marker in time when that instant comes, but most authors don’t realize the moment. We praise their talent, and we call them great. Anyone can be taught the craft, but there is a moment when talent overcomes training.

I believe that every writer has talent, because they write. Thousands of others claim, they always wanted to write, but never found the time, or whatever. If you write, you’re a step above thousands. Talent must be polished or tarnish will render it unusable. Don’t despair. Very few authors were blessed with perfect prose when they started.

Keep writing. Finish that book and move on to the next. You’ll know when you’re ready to be published. Revel in rejection, and keep going. It takes a lot of rubbing to polish silver. In like manner, it takes a lot of writing to polish talent. 

Then one day, after you write that best seller, somebody will ask for your secrets. Like many before you, your labor of love will be foremost in you mind. That’s why the best authors will always tell you to keep going. Learn the rules and follow them. Don’t let anyone discourage you.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.     



Wednesday, July 08, 2015

WRITING PROMPT WEDNESDAY


You're standing in a room with one door at the center of each wall. You just came through the one behind you, and you can't go back that way. 

Which door do you choose, and what happens?

Saturday, July 04, 2015

A Different Feeling



By Keith N Fisher

I got another rejection this morning. No big deal right? It comes with the job? My first rejection, several years ago, was encouraging. It was full of great advice, which I used to start a writing career. I learned more about my craft. I attended writer’s conferences and workshops. I started another story.

The second rejection hurt. My cliché reaction was classic: I made copies and bought postage for this? How could they say that about my baby? Are they out of their mind? Don’t they know I was inspired to write that book? (I did believe God would intervene, but then again, who hasn’t?).

When I decided to chuck the whole thing and quit writing, I realized I was hooked. I couldn’t quit. I started another book. That was several books, and many rejections ago. For awhile, I went into a, writing, (not submitting), mode. I wrote like the wind. With several new books and revisiting plot ideas, I lived in the zone.

Then recently, I pulled up my bootstraps, revised my submission logs, and started back down that road.

As I’ve mentioned here before, I could pursue self-publishing, and I intend to go there, but something inside of me needs the confirmation of the publishing credit. Besides, I lost my critique group and flying solo is scary.

So, I was rejected again. Or was I? Every rejection is hard and we have a tendency to take it personally, but is it? I submitted an edgy story to an LDS publisher. Well, Starcrossed isn’t that controversial, but there are depictions of a lifestyle that must be told in order to see the character growth. Then, at one point in the story, my character hits on a married, LDS Bishop, but he was the unrequited love of her life.

While rejecting it, the editor praised my book and idea, but . . . 

Since many of my plot ideas come from life experiences, My mind could construe a rejection of my life, but . . .

Emotion surged through my body as I read. The old feelings of wanting to quit rose up. I was sad, but . . .

Of course I want to cry, but there is a different kind of feeling in this rejection. The editor liked my story, but in a strictly conservative market, especially with the changes in publishing. Well, you get the message. The point here is I wasn’t rejected. My book was, but the story is good.

I am both happy and sad today. I’ll take a moment and cry, then I will submit my book to another publisher. Starcrossed might end up being self-published, but Rebecca deserves to have her story told. After all, She overcame alcohol, drugs, and abusive husbands, to find a better life.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.