Saturday, May 01, 2010

My Five-Year Plan

By Keith Fisher

Recently, I sat listening to a writer talk about his five-year plan for becoming the author he wants to be. He emphasized goals and hard work. I turned to my friend and whispered, “I gave up on my five-year plan twenty years ago.”

My statement made me reflect on my intentions and the realities of the publishing world. Actually, I’m not sure when I abandoned the plan, but several years ago, I wrote a great story. I thought it would be easier to get that book published in the national market, if I wrote another book for the LDS Market. How foolish was that thought?

Now I sit, with five unpublished books, fifteen more in different stages of development, and a fulfilled sense of destiny. Notice I didn’t say unfulfilled? I’ve come to the conclusion I’m writing in the market where I need to, I’m fulfilling my destiny. Yes there are times when I doubt that conviction, but I’ll talk about that some another time.

My original plan went by the wayside when I realized three things. The first was, the LDS market isn’t a means to an end. I thought it would be easier to get publishing credits in that market, but I was wrong. If anything, it might be harder. It’s definitely harder with the content restrictions imposed on the writers.

The second realization came when I sat in church, during a ward reorganization. You know, when the bishopric makes a ton of new callings in order to give everyone an opportunity to serve? Some of the positions from which people had been released, had not been filled. I listened with a profound sense of confidence. I knew the Lord didn’t need me to serve in those callings at that time.

I wondered about that, though, and a new thought came to mind. I felt my calling was to write in the LDS market. Then I heard a touching story by an author who received a poignant letter talking about how his book literally saved the life of someone who read it. I was hooked. I wanted to touch lives, and hopefully, help God love his children. I can do that by writing in the national market, but it’s easier, if I can refer to spiritual things.

I haven’t totally abandoned the national market, but writing LDS fiction is what I’m supposed to be doing now.

The third realization dawned, when I went back and read my first book. It was terrible. I’ve improved over the years, but I’ve discovered, contrary to many opinions, a good story does not cover up bad writing even if it gets published. Five-year plans are great for making business goals, but learning the craft often takes longer. It has for me.

Following a plan and working toward a goal can help you stay focussed, but in a business ruled by subjective opinions, it might not be wise to make unrealistic expectations. If I were to offer one piece of advice to every aspiring writer, it would be, work like you expect to be published tomorrow, but don’t beat yourself up if you have to wait. Keep looking for ways to improve. Listen to critique partners. Listen to contest judges. Throw out the advice that doesn’t ring true, and hold onto the suggestions that make sense.

Keep writing and remember this:

In, The Screwtape Letters, by C S Lewis, Wormwood notes there are more tempters around one man than another man. He assumes the one with the most tempters is the really bad man. Wormwood’s uncle, Screwtape, corrects that assumption with the note that it takes more tempters to turn the good man away. It only takes one to keep a bad man in line.

If your talent has the capability to touch hearts for good, there will be opposition. Discouragement will come at some of the oddest times, in some of the oddest ways. You, however, have the power to overcome.

In the Bible I found this: For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, fear not; I will help thee. –Isaiah 41:13

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

4 comments:

One Cluttered Brain said...

Wow. There's some good stuff here.
Thank you for writing this! I'm pretty sure my first book is crap that I wrote, When I re-read it, I get it, but I'm not sure others would. It needs SO much, imagery, better dialogue, better verbs.

But as I have continued to write, I see myself getting better. Someday I will feel my writing is polished enough to submit to a contest OR a publishing company. But until then, I will keep revising and editing and making the BEST darn novel I know how to write. :))

Thanks for the pep talk Keith.

Krista said...

Beautiful and poignant post. Thank you.
I didn't set out to write an LDS story, but I soon found there was no avoiding it. It's what the story was. And now, there are six.
Follow your intuition.

Amanda said...

I believe I have a lot to work on. WORK is the key word. I think it's funny when my husband says "When are you going to write your bestselling novel?" Haha. After a lot of HARD WORK and a lot of LUCK. Even if I don't sell well, I hope that what I write is worthwhile. I feel like reading others' writing is a part of that work. I don't know if he quite gets that when I'm enjoying my reading time. Anyway, can't rush it either.

Anna Maria Junus said...

I thought once I got a book published it would be easy.

But it isn't. The first book I wrote got published, and it fell flat and it's been years since of failure.

Why? I don't know. I'm told I'm talented, I feel this is what I'm supposed to be doing, but I guess it's just a case of patience and preserverence and starting over and over again.