Saturday, September 30, 2006
At one time in our life, my wife and I were living in a one-and-a-half-bedroom house with a nice yard. It was in a great neighborhood and we liked the ward. Since the house was too small for us, we decided to remodel.
I wanted to keep my garden space so the plan called for a second story. In order to accomplish that, I needed to shore up the foundation. (Now don’t laugh). Since I had to dig around the foundation, which was on top of the ground, I decided I would dig a basement by hand under the house.
(I asked you not to laugh.) I’m sure you can imagine some of the problems that arose. I was even knocked to the ground and partially buried by a giant dirt clod (about 4 feet by 8 feet by 2 feet). I was more careful after that.
Anyway, the point is, that while I was digging I discovered many wonderful things; cool rocks I haven’t Identified yet, tools and antique gizmos that were left behind by 90 years of occupancy, I even found a can of arsenic that was almost full. That sounds like the makings of a good plot for a book doesn’t it?
One of the things that I found was an old root, suspended in the ground between several rocks. I was resting between shovels full and looked it over. It occurred to me that there was a great object lesson in that root. That old root was once young and trying to grow perfect and round and in a straight line, but because of the rocks in its way it grew crooked. The real lesson for me was the flat spots where it had forced its way between two hard objects. It continued to grow even though it had to change the plan.
There are many lessons we can learn from the root but here is one that you may like: when plotting our stories we often write ourselves into a corner. We get to a point when we know our plot won’t work or it’s too unbelievable. We need to remember the root and grow around it. Make our story fit and take it in a different direction. When we discover we can’t go around it, we must make it work by going back and rewriting the beginning. In that way we are like the root as it flattened out and filled the small space between the rocks. The root fulfilled a purpose and overcame obstacles that were placed before it.
I finished the foundation, but never put a floor in that basement. I didn’t finish our renovation plans. Instead, we moved two blocks to the north. When we moved, I brought that wise old tree root with me. It sits on a shelf above my desk and reminds me of the changes I must make, to be the writer (the person), I want to be.
Friday, September 29, 2006
Why does Inspiration choose the most inconvenient possible time to strike? Really? Is there a Muse of Literature sitting around just waiting until I’m up to my elbows in either dish soap suds or shampoo?
“Oh, she’s going to just love this idea for the road-show,” I can hear her say from Mount Olympus, “but she can’t have it yet, no. No, not just yet. Wait….. wait for it…. Ha-HA!! She’s in the shower!”
“Good shot, old girl!” Ares, the god of war, congratulates on his way past. “Right in the head!”
“Why, thank you, I’ve been practicing!” She bats her eyelashes.
“Oh, and it shows! Shall we have tea?”
…and they stroll off arm in arm, leaving me wet and dripping, wrapped in a towel, scrounging for a pen and paper—knowing all the while that when I look at it later, that same paper will be so wrinkled and covered with blue smudges that I’ll have to decipher the writing like ancient Greek!
All I can say is it’s a good think I’m not ancient Greek! The Greeks believed in gods that were vengeful, mean, and ornery - not at all like our Heavenly Father – and I really can’t see the Holy Ghost hanging around my bathroom just for the kick of inconveniencing me.
If you think about it, you’ll know exactly why you get really great ideas at times like that. For me, my mind is free when I’m doing dishes or in the shower – there’s nothing to really think about, and I can just let my mind be quiet while my body does other things. When one’s mind is quiet, the Still Small Voice doesn’t just bring testimony of the Book of Mormon and warnings of earth-shattering importance, though I have experienced and am truly grateful for both of those. He also brings good thoughts and virtuous ideas.
Philippians 4: 8
“…whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Isn’t it amazing that the scriptures can shed such light, even on something as mundane and worldly as the task of writing a book? “Think” is the operative word for us. Give yourself time while you’re in your writing mode to let your mind be quiet, to let yourself hear those really great ideas the Spirit can lend you.
If you can do that, then he won’t have to resort to smacking you in the head while you’re unawares—in the shower!
Thursday, September 28, 2006
By Nichole Giles
Last week when I was uninspired I picked a word. I used that word to create more and more words until I had a page. This proved to be a great exercise for me. (And my brain needs all the exercise it can get!)
This week, I’m working on the same concept with picking a title. I know it sounds backwards to pick a title first, but I’ve discovered this is a great way to make your brain start working.
First, pick a title out of thin air. One that sounds outrageous, or funny, or crazy, or has absolutely nothing to do with your subject of focus. Pick a title that would spark your interest if you were the reader. If you were skimming through a magazine, or an anthology, or a newspaper, would that title catch your eye?
Next, begin writing. Take whatever subject you’re supposed to be writing about, and start going. Whether you’re telling a story, or stating facts, go through the process of writing.
Then, look at your content and find a way to make the title fit the manuscript. This can be tricky if your title has nothing whatsoever to do with what you are writing about, and to be completely honest it doesn’t always work. But it does get your brain moving, and shaking, and trying to work it through. And while your brain is working out, your writing is going to have a variation of results.
You could change your mind about the content of your article or story. Or you could find a title that is better than the one you started out with. You might come up with a completely different beginning, or end, or middle. Maybe you’ll decide you need to add another character, or interesting fact. Good things happen when your body exercises, and the same goes with your brain.
The next time you need to write, but don’t know how to get started, move backward. Pick the title first. Who knows what you’ll end up beginning with.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
This summer has been the most hectic I remember having for many years. Anyone that knows me realizes how important time is to me. I don't plan anything if it will waste my precious time. Usually I try to be an organized person, but something happened after my vacation. I don't like the way things are going and now I realize I should stop, and look at my life.
In May, I taught a time management class for the Oquirrh Writers Meeting, and I need to follow my own advice and get back on track. I asked those in the class if they let someone or something else control them. Another question I asked was did they spend their time the way they really wanted to. Now I have to ask myself these same questions. My answer is yes I am letting others control my time, and no, I'm not spending my time the way I want to. I need my writing time back.
It's not going to be easy getting back into good habits. I need to remember; you make time, you don’t find it. First I need to re-set my goals, and start planning my day in order of importance of what I need to do to accomplish them. Actually, I guess that is the second thing I need to do. The first thing is to re-organize my cluttered office. Third I have to learn to say NO all over again, and not let interruptions take me away from my writing.
Along with writing, I need to schedule more time to be like Nichole, and get submissions in the mail on a more regular basis. This week I have started planning my meals the evening before. I get home before five and can start dinner, and then I can work on writing while dinner is cooking. Only problem is I usually don't want to stop, so I need to come up with a new plan. Thank goodness for a flexible husband because I need to cook dinner slower and move dinnertime to seven. Things used to flow smoothly before the vacation. I must have left my organization skills in Europe, but I'm not going back for them or I'd be farther behind.
Life is still hectic, but I’m stubborn and I’m taking back my life. To me life is writing.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
My Dad has a girlfriend. I don’t quite know how I feel about that. Two months after my mom died from cancer, my Dad was dating and talking of marriage. It’s too bizarre and too early for me to accept or to really understand. My two siblings have similar feelings.
So now let me ask you: Why are you reading this? Did the subject title or the first paragraph jump out at you and make you want to read further? Did it grab your attention or conjure up feelings of a possible controversy? Of all of the things in this modern world of information overload, why are you reading this blog entry at this moment? Don’t you have something better to do?
All good writing is compelling and is often created with powerful passion and extraordinary emotion. A good story should be based upon strong core elements that draw the reader into the story. Take, for example, the success of Dan Brown’s novel The DaVinci Code. Controversial? Yes. Compelling? Sure. Something that angers some people, intrigues others, and even drives some to foster faith in religion? You bet. And it becomes a best seller because of these things? Well, DUH!!!
If you want your writing to be compelling, you need to find something to write about that really drives your passions, makes a compelling story, and maybe, just maybe, something that’s a little controversial. Or a lot controversial.
So, am I getting a new Mom? No. I don’t think so. My Dad will likely marry soon, but the new woman in his life won’t be my Mom. I already have one of those. This story is certainly not a wicked stepmother story by any means, but it is a story filled with controversy and passion. Or in other words, it might make a good story.
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Twenty years ago, I lived for Saturdays. It was my special day. Weekdays were okay and Sundays were great because I could worship, serve, and rest. But Saturday was the day I could do my thing. I enjoyed camping, fishing, and extra curricular activities but most of all I loved yard work.
My routine was great until other things began to take over my Saturdays. I started planning family reunions, teaching Dutch oven cooking, and cooking for groups. Yard work got shuffled to the back burner. Although I enjoyed the other things, I felt the pangs of regret when I saw the weeds in my lawn. I started referring to my once beautiful garden, as a "weed patch" and I kept promising that next year it would be better.
Recently, on Saturday morning I woke up and bolted out the door. I had a free morning so I planned to try and salvage my "weed patch". After mowing the weeds and testing the sprinkler system, I started with the easy jobs. I discovered my yard needed far more than one day to get it back into shape but I was working on it.
Far too soon, I had to put my tools away. I remembered a prior commitment. Before getting ready, I sat at my desk to make some phone calls and eat my sandwich. Of course, I turned on the computer and opened Word as always. Glancing at my project folders brought to mind the scene I‘ve been planning. "It’ll only take a few minutes," I said.
I was in heaven. The words were flowing from my fingertips faster than my mind could formulate them. I had reached a state of nirvana that I dream about, but can’t quite reach during my usual writing time.
It was beautiful. The things my characters were saying amazed me. They were solving their own problems and neurosis’. I was having a great day. Then, I remembered my appointment. With sweet sorrow I dragged myself away from my desk and rushed to one of those other things I mentioned above.
I began to wonder if the yard work is really that important to me. If I could write every Saturday, as well as I did the other day, who cares if my lawn grows to be four feet tall? Maybe I could schedule my life so I could write on Saturday morning. Of course as some friends have pointed out, I would probably get a visit from the lawn police.
Then I discovered a connection. Maybe the yard work had the effect of clearing out the cobwebs in my brain.
I thought about my weekdays and how I come home from work and try to write after a long day of filling my brain with cobwebs.
"Aha," I said. "Maybe if I schedule my yard work for an hour before I write . . ." You know where I’m going with this. I can have my cake and eat it to. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Even if it doesn’t help me to be a better writer, it’s better than having the neighbor’s Virginia Creeper vine take over my house.
(Note: I wrote this in advance and as I post it this morning I have to postpone my yard work due to rain and colder weather. Perhaps I can clean out the basement storage? No, that would be too scary. I heard there are things growning down there.)
Thursday, September 21, 2006
I’ve heard it said that a bad page is easier to fix than a blank page. I’ve found this statement to be inherently true. A bad page can be picked apart, analyzed, rearranged, and rewritten until it is far from bad, and possibly even publishable. A blank page cannot.
The trick is turning that blank page into a bad one, thus beginning the cycle of cut, paste, and delete.
I’ve heard writers who have despaired the workings of their own brilliant minds. “I’ve got nothing,” they say, and then close the document, or notebook, and turn away, hoping to be struck by inspiration that will chase away the blank page blues. The problem with waiting is that while inspiration does occasionally strike in that very manner, more often it is the writer who stirs it up.
A neighbor recently asked me, “Where do you get your ideas? How do you know what to write about?” I could think of so many answers to her question, and at the same time, none. It made me wonder, “Where do I get my ideas?”
I get them from life. Every day, I wake up and face a world full of hardship and sorrow, triumph and joy, laughter and happiness. The newspaper and the television are full of unbelievable stories and strange happenings. When one stirs me, I write it down. Eventually, I’ll use it for something.
But on the days when I feel like “I’ve got nothing,” I pick a word. It could be a title, a subject, a feeling, or a thought. It doesn’t matter how it starts, as long as you focus on what that one word makes you think about. Take that word, and turn it into a paragraph, then two, and then a page.
There are days when a page is all I get, and that’s okay. The point is on a day when I had nothing, I wrote a whole page more than I would have written if I had shut down and waited for inspiration to strike. Occasionally, the pages started by one word turn out to be usable work. Sometimes it is even good. Someday the pages I haven’t already found a use for will be the inspiration for something else. Continuing the inspirational cycle I started without any inspiration at all.
Imagine the ideas I get from an entire page of ramblings. One piece of writing often inspires the next, and the next, and the next…all because I determined to pick one word.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
As a young girl, I sometimes went to my grandparents to help with the chickens. I didn’t mind the work, but I hated the chickens pecking at me, then spreading and flapping their wings in my face. I enjoyed watching them from a distance, and liked cleaning the eggs as I prepared them for market. The stories I write are similar to the hatching of an egg.
First, you have to prepare the nest. I preferred doing this when the chickens were not nearby. When you get ready to write, you set your computer up in a comfortable spot, or you get comfy before you begin writing in your notebook. Make sure you have plenty of pencils, and have your reference books nearby.
Select eggs that are well developed. Make your story good by developing the ability to improve your work. When you write, learn to communicate your thoughts and ideas to your readers.
Avoid excessively large or small eggs. Sometimes we make our long stories too long and our short ones too long as well. Many writers end up putting information in the story that the reader doesn’t need, or using unnecessary words.
Stay away from eggs with cracked or thin shells. Every story needs a good beginning with something sneaky and persuasive. Once you get a persons attention, that is the time to throw the hook. Do it while he is willing to read, or you may lose him as a reader.
Next, you place your eggs under the hen. Sometimes I hide my story in a drawer or ignore it on the computer. That’s okay to do, but eventually you must pull it out.
Remember; don’t wash your hatching eggs. No editor is going to take a second look at a manuscript that is full of grammatical errors. You do need to fix them, and tie up all loose ends. Sometimes you can edit a story more than necessary. Know when it’s time to stop editing.
You can recognize a Broody hen by their behavior – they spend most of their time on a nest, and when you get close to them, they ruffle their feathers and cluck. Does this sound like anyone you know? Do you spend most of your time in front of your computer? I do, and yes if anyone bothers me when I’m writing my feathers are ruffled.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Have you ever read a story and gotten confused by what characters were doing what? Was it because the names weren't memorable or maybe they were too close to each other? Did the author have fifteen characters named Joe?
Naming fictional characters is hard. When I write, I like to get a good mix of names that sound random—like in the real world—and having names that have special meaning. Some writers like to have meanings for all of their character names, but since most people I know don't name their babies because of the meanings, I tend not to do that.
Even so, naming your characters is an important issue. Like, for example, I gave a character in a primarily mainstream young adult novel the name of Nephi. Readers who are LDS will immediately recognize the name. I've taken a bit of criticism from those who think the name doesn't fit the national audience, but I named the character after the city of Nephi, Utah, near which most of the story takes place. I argue that LDS readers will immediately have the impression that it is LDS-friendly writing and non-LDS readers will simply not notice the LDS reference. There's even more significance in the last name, which is Newman. I hope it works.
I also tend to pay homage to young adult books I read as a child, by naming characters Nancy, Joe, and Frank, after Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, though the names are common enough to not be readily associated with these timeless classics. I also tend to use the common names of people I know, though the characters themselves are rarely based upon the people after whom they are named.
Really, though, I'm not good with names. People say this phrase often because they don’t think they can remember names, but I say it because I still feel intimidated by the process of naming of my characters. Having a unique first name myself, I understand how important a name can be, yet I honestly don't feel adept in naming my fictional babies.
Fortunately, I had my wife's help in naming my real babies. Perhaps I should ask her advice more often in my fictional worlds.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
I sat at my desk the other day, intent on finishing the edits to my manuscript submission and something crossed my mind. In the business world, it is common to hand out business cards so your clients and contacts will remember you and your contact information.
Over the years it has become almost second nature for me, to hand out a business card or a hat or something to those I do business with, so it occurred to me that I need an author’s business card to put in the package with my manuscript.
Being one of those people that won’t let unfinished work dissuade me from starting a new project, I started work almost immediately on the new card. Of course I needed a copyright free image so I spent some time on the library of congress website. (That’s part of my day job anyway, so I wasn’t really wasting time).
After finding four images that I liked, I couldn’t decide which to use. Naturally I tried them all, but which style and design worked best? About half way through the style thing I remembered I had a program on my old computer that would help me. My daughter wouldn’t let me use my old computer because it’s now her computer (at least she thinks so).
I spent some time finding the software and setting it up to run on windows XP. When I finally got it running, I was making really cool business cards. Now I need to take my design to a printer in order to do it right. While I was fine tuning my business card, I read parts of LDS Storymakers Publishing Secrets and realized that "Oh yeah, I’m going to need book marks and stickers and flyers and…"
I know that I need to wait for an actual cover picture of my book in order to do those last things, but I started to play with designs. I came up with an awesome bookmark that lists the titles of the seven "soon to be released" novels that are in various stages of development. I also listed my website on the bottom.
That created another problem. I don’t have a Keith Fisher the author website. I always planned to start an author site but I was waiting until after I get published. It occurred to me that it would be better to have the site running now. That way, a publisher can check it out. Which brings us back to the reason for business cards.
I know a little about Html and using software to build a website so I spent the better part of a week working on the site and tying it the other sites I work on. I knew I needed server space so I went shopping for that. I knew I would need greater security so I began to study the ins and outs of scripts. (A monumental task for me.) I want my site to be really cool like Rowling’s or Dashner's, not like the other sites I’ve done…
Did I mention that I haven’t finished the editing? To be fair to myself I did do some writing. I had a great idea about changing the hook in one of my novels. It’s really cool, and it gave me the solution to the mystery. Now I know how it turns out… did I mention I need to finish those edits? Well maybe tomorrow… I am reminded of a scripture in Ecclesiastes, "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven".
All of these things are good business practices but I need to get my edits done. Wish me luck.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
I walk around my house with bare feet. It’s not that I dislike shoes, because I love shoes. But they don’t spend much time on my feet. My closet is full of shoes I only wear once in a while. But my cream colored carpet has yet to turn brown from the dirt that inevitably travels from shoe to floor.
The same thing goes for socks. I love socks. My favorites are the striped toe socks you can find in every store during the fall and winter months, and the ultra-soft fuzzy socks that make your feet slip around and are not practical for wearing inside shoes. I have several pairs of these as well, but I only wear them once in a while. When I’m at home, my feet are usually naked.
Which is why I was rolling on the floor laughing when my writer's group got into a discussion about washing machines that eat socks. Our topics usually vary on a pretty wide spectrum, especially since we all write different things for different genres. But really, lost socks? That topic moved on to become (or maybe it started out as) a discussion about laundry.
I don’t remember the discussion word for word. What I do remember is I could literally hear my own pile of clean clothes calling my name, begging me to step away from the computer and fold them. Even today, my laundry is watching me—tempting me to take time away from writing to do housework. It’s screaming, “Fold the socks! Fold us, please. Just a few pair…”
And while I’m tempted, I am determined to resist temptation. My shoes won’t be going anywhere without my feet in them, and neither will my socks. The same thing goes for my toilets, which need scrubbing, and my kitchen floor, and my windows, my flowerbeds that need weeding…. You can see how many distractions I could find. But if I did, I would put off writing indefinitely, maybe forever. And that, my friends, would be a tragedy.
So, I’ve decided to form the Barefoot Writer’s Club, and you’re all invited. If you are a writer who has the strength of will to ignore your talking laundry, you can be a member of this elite group. There is no group list, no contact requirements, no writing goals to reach, and we only require two things:
Willpower and vision.
The vision to see our projects through, and the willpower to not allow our daily lives to make us forget why we write. Now that’s my kind of club. I’m signing myself up right now. I can always mate those pesky socks later. Resist temptation, and you can be a member too.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Visiting Scotland in the upper portion of Great Britain was beautiful and unlike anything I’ve seen before. The clans and tartans, lochs and legends of this country were intriguing. In England, I saw many ruins of ancient medieval castles, abbeys, and stone circles standing as though they witnessed centuries of happenings. In Wales, there were towering hills that have stood for centuries with waterfalls cascading down their hillsides. The ancient things I saw have made my imagination run wild.
I wish I had a magic wand that would make my dreams come true because now I dream of living in a big castle with over one hundred rooms, secret staircases, and treasure chests filled with jewels. I want to meet a handsome prince and have knights with armor guarding my magnificent castle.
Do you live in a world where magic is real and legends come true? Can you imagine a peaceful land where unknown evil lurks? For me living in a fairytale land of kings and queens, knights and ladies would be great fun. Maybe you sometimes wonder if you are crazy. You’re probably not crazy; you are a writer.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
As I have mentioned before, I’m a Dutch oven cook. My wife and I have traveled around Utah and Wyoming competing in Dutch oven cook-offs for many years. It can be an ego boosting experience to win one of those competitions and realize that you have done well and other people think so too.
At first, we never thought much about it. We just did what came naturally and we prepared the food the way we liked it. Then we found we had to make it look pretty. Sometimes it seemed that we were being judged more on artistic ability than the taste of the food. We were lucky to be blessed with an idea of what good food tastes like, and I was blessed to have an artistically talented wife.
At this point I could tell you about some of the things that I have seen others cook but I don’t want you to salivate all over your keyboard. I could tell you about the way that I slow cook a pork roast to make it so juicy, that when you slice into it, the juices run and it’s so tender it almost disappears on your tongue. But I’m not going to do that (grin).
Besides this is a writer’s blog.
During our second year of competition, we noticed a nice little lady who attended almost every cook-off. She visited with all the cooks and watched what they did. She asked questions and tasted the free samples. She took notes in her constantly changing notebook.
Her note taking wasn’t unusual in itself. We often had spectators taking notes about how to make this or that, and how many coals to use for which size Dutch oven. Those people would go home and try our advice, perhaps build a cooking table like mine, or just get the courage to get their cast iron out of the basement, remove it from the box, and try it out.
What on earth does this have to do with writing?
Then one year at the World’s Championship competition, We discovered the same little lady who had taken so many notes was cooking and she was very good. A couple of years later, she and her daughter won the World’s Championship.
When am I going to get to the writing part?
When my friend took first place, I listened to one of my Dutch oven peers as he told me "She is good because we taught her everything we know." He seemed disappointed, like his secrets had been stolen, but I chose to look at it another way. I agreed with him that she had learned from us, but I pointed out that she had improved on our collective wisdom and made it better. I consider it to be a great compliment to know I had a small part in her success. The beautiful part is, she has gone on to help those who will listen, and she continues to take notes.
As writers in our little circle, we help each other and we learn from the masters who consider themselves one of us. If we are smart, we will take notes. If I ever amount to anything in the LDS publishing world, I hope that all my published author friends will consider it a great compliment because I admit, other than blessings from our Father, I owe it all to them.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Last week I took a trip. It doesn’t matter where I went, or why. Only that I had to fly there. I showed up at the airport at 7:00 am expecting to check in and be on my way with no problems. But there was a problem—a big one. The airline attendant informed me, “Ma’am, your flight left two days ago.”
Okay—I admit, I am not the most brilliant person on the planet, but I knew what day it was. I stood there and argued with the woman, certain there was a major mistake.
Of course there was. They claimed it was mine, and I had booked the wrong flight. Hmm, bad deal. She continued to tell me my ticket was non-refundable, which meant I couldn’t re-book for the flight that morning. Well, actually that’s not exactly true. She said, “I can get you on a flight today, but you’ll have to purchase another ticket.” Guess how much? “It’ll be $1247.” Oh, ouch! Who can afford to pay that much for a flight they’d already paid almost $400 for in the first place?
As I stood in the airport with my bags at my feet and a computer over my shoulder, I was more than a little distressed. It was extremely important that I arrive at my destination that day.
So I prayed. Right there in the middle of the airport—in front of the check-in lady—I closed my eyes and silently begged my Heavenly Father for help. Guess what? Within five minutes that lady was on the phone making special arrangements, and basically jumping through hoops—all for me. The charge for the flight change turned out to be $100, and a short lecture.
After all this and the lines at the security checkpoint, I made it to the gate on time.
My first thought after boarding the plane was—I should write those people a letter. My second was—I should do a blog. It isn’t often that you find someone who is willing to help you at his or her own expense, and I got the feeling that this woman did just that.
I still haven’t been able to pinpoint the problem at the airline. My flight numbers were all correct, and my times were exact. The best I can figure is computer error, although I will admit, I could’ve been at fault. I may never know. The point is, I had a real adversity on my hands, and was sent immediate help from above.
Today, I’m using my writing skills to send a thank you letter to the airline. Whatever that woman did, she did out of kindness. That night, after arriving safely—and without any further stress—at my destination, I remembered to thank my Heavenly Father for his help. Without Him, I would not have arrived where I needed to be.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Not all writers write right. I always find a mistake in the books I read. How do you know who to listen too? Should you look for direction from other writers? Some have written lists about the mistakes writers often make. I found one list that had 35 common mistakes of a writer. Next, I found a list that had over 25 things writers do wrong. The amazing thing was there were few similarities to the lists. The skills’ a writer needs is endless. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to master them all. No two writers have the same idea.
My own experiences have taught me many things. You should be careful you don’t confuse your reader. They will notice when you change tenses in mid-sentence, and may even quit reading when you change points of view without warning. A good rule of thumb is in one scene, use one point of view (POV) character.
You have to care about the reader because they are the one to whom you are telling your story. As a writer, you care about the way you write your story. Structure errors are important and it does matter how you put the story together.
Some new writers don’t think you need to worry about the grammar. They think the only important thing is the story. I think that if you have poor grammar, maybe you should take an English class because grammar does matter.
I’ve read many times that passive voice is the single most common error. More people make this mistake, and make it more often, than any other error in the writing of fiction.
Another problem is with the apostrophe. When in doubt about an apostrophe, leave it out. The omitted apostrophe confuses meaning less often than the needless one does.
So who should you listen to? Which writing mistakes do you look for? Not everyone can be right. If you follow all the rules, you would never finish your story.
Saturday, September 02, 2006
One day at work, I was involved in a "what will happen in the new Harry Potter book" conversation. I enjoyed listening to all the theories and conversations about plots and who has done what in which book. I came up with the totally off the wall suggestion that Harry is re-living his life and in reality he is his father and Hermione is his mother. "Ew," was the comment expressed at my off the wall plot.
You should know that I’m not a fan Harry Potter . . . Before you decide that I’m weird and string me up for misbehavior, think of this: I‘ve seen every episode and all the Star Trek movies. I glanced at few of the books too but I don’t enjoy them as much as the video media.
I have been involved in many discussions about Star Trek and seen others turn away with grins on their faces because of our obsession. The conversation about Harry Potter was like that except we kept getting more people into the conversation and no one was shaking their heads or turning away. I have a working knowledge of Harry Potter because of what I hear people say about him.
I was listening the other day when I was struck by a realization. I thought about the series of HP books and all the mania that has risen from them. I watched as my friends recited this or that about HP. And I thought about the author. What a great sense of power she must feel to have the reading public in the palm of her hand.
She is successful, not because of the money she has made, or the castle she lives in, and certainly not because of being published; she’s successful because she created believable characters and made everyone care about them. Not only do they care but they obsess. I learned a lesson about my own writing while I listened: I realized I want my characters to come alive for my readers as they have for me.
So to that end, I attend classes and conferences, read books and write. Now that I’ve got your attention,
"Shut up and go to sleep," said one of the boys as they passed by. She looked like a cornered animal, ready to strike out at anything that came close to her. Denise noticed the girl because she had shared a class with her in high school. Denise thought her name was Amy.
Crouched on the ground with her back against a large stone, Amy had beads of sweat on her forehead. Her hair was matted and dirty, like she had been rolling in the dirt. She was crying and clutching her jacket as if it were her lifeline. Her eyes were wide open as if she was frightened by something Denise couldn’t see.
Feeling sorry for Amy, Denise kneeled down next her to try and help. She turned and glared at Denise as if she were waiting for an attack. Denise carefully stretched out her arm and tenderly touched her cheek to wipe away a tear. The action was met with a shriek and a backward lunge that caused Amy to bang her head on the rock.
If Jeffrey R Savage can do it in his blog, I ought to be able to do it here. Seriously though, How am I doing? Do you want to read more? Do you care what happens to these characters? What was your opinion of the boys who passed by?
I want to be remembered for what I wrote like the author of Harry . . . what’s her name? You know . . . the author with the castle? Oh yeah, J.K. Rowling.
Friday, September 01, 2006
Okay. We’ve all experienced it at one time or another–post vacation blues. I thought this time it would wait until I’d been home for a couple of hours. . .like 24. But no, it hit me the moment we walked in the door and I realized there would be no more catering to my every whim. No more meals someone else had cooked to perfection, no more having a bed made by someone else, or not having to pick up my own towels and clothes. No bed turned down at night with my very own chocolate to consume. No more smiling, attentive servers who placed napkins on my lap and made sure my water glass was continually full. (Although, I have to admit my husband does a pretty good try at that venture)
Back to reality. The type of reality that sinks in when you know no one else has done a lick of laundry while you’ve been gone. The cats have probably thrown up somewhere in the house, the sink had dirty dishes left in it that have grown someone’s science experiment and the fish is on it’s last breath. Let alone the fact the garden survived simply because of the blessing of rain almost everyday you were gone (since the children didn’t remember they had promised on a stack of Book of Mormons that they would be there three times and water everything). I was simply amazed that the plants were all still green.
It’s reality. And this is the time you have to get a grip on your emotions before you burst into tears and tell your husband that you want to get back on the plane and go somewhere else. ANYWHERE else beside the drab everyday life you suddenly feel is looking you in the face. You have to remind yourself all the reasons you should be glad to be back. The children (although there were times when they were what sent you packing in the first place–grin), the garden, the story you were working on. . .oh yeah, the story you were working on. The work in progress that you have everyone waiting with great anticipation for the final words to grace the screen (or paper).
I think it’s something like the post-submission blues. The way you feel a little empty when that envelope (or email) has left your hands and now it’s waiting time. You have finally finished the story that you’ve been working on for the past year or 10. . . The characters that have become such a part of your life are now off in someone else’s world. What are you going to do without them? What are you going to do with that empty feeling in your heart?
You make new ones. You go through your files, find old stories you haven’t finished, or find story ideas you’ve written while trying to focus on the now finished submission and work with them. You find yourself involved in a new story, a new bunch of characters. You find happiness and peace with the life the Lord has given you and realize each day, each opportunity, is precious.
I’m just hoping it works, ‘cause this time was harder than last. That condo in Park City is looking better and better. . .