Saturday, August 31, 2013

Oh, Yeah, that Writing Thing

By Keith N Fisher

Garrison Keiler, on the Prairie Home Companion, usually starts his monologue with,

"Well, it's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, my hometown, out there on the edge of the prairie."

I like his writing and I especially like the feel of the radio show. Keiler tells it like it is, so be careful when you read some of his writing. Still, he is a national treasure.

When I started writing this post, I thought of Keiler’s signature start of the monologue and this post began, Well, it’s been a quiet week in the cyberspace of writing. I took a break from the world and began to analyze my life. I’m making needed changes and setting goals.

One of those decisions was to write for the national market. I will continue to write LDS fiction. At least until I exhaust all of the story outlines (and there are many) in my project file. I got my manuscript back from my cousin, (one of my beta readers). She knows who she is, and she did a wonderful job with Star Crossed. No, I won’t give you her name, because I don’t want you to steal her. It’s hard enough, to find proofreaders who have time these days and I need all the help I can get. She’s mine. J

I talked about this in a recent post, but have you ever contemplated the amount of time it takes to get a book published these days? It probably takes longer for me than most, because I just can’t get it perfect in the first draft. I was thinking how nice it would be to write well enough that I could submit my work as soon as I write the words, The end.

Better yet, wouldn’t it be great to have a publisher anticipating my next work? The old stop the presses Keith just sent his next book, cliché comes to mind. If I could just write, without taking time to edit, I could get through my project’s file in no time. If I didn’t have to work a day job, I could write all the time.

Of course if I were a best seller, I could hire an editor. I could write everything with the discovery method, turn it over to the editor, make the changes, and leave it with my secretary to shop the agents and publishers.

Writing is getting easier for me all the time. Waiting for Critique group edits takes time, but I wouldn’t make a move without them. Then, even after I make those recommended changes, I still need proofreaders. I need other eyes looking over the manuscript. Besides, hearing positive comments about the plot is good for my ego.

Like I said, I wrote about this process a couple of weeks ago, but I’m grateful to my cousin, even though I wish I could just write and not worry about the quality. I was writing posts for other blogs and thought; oh, yeah, I need to write the writing blog. That's how the name of this post came to be.

As Garrison Keiler says at the end of his monologue, "Well, that's the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average."

Good Luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

I can be Anything, Go Anywhere

By Keith N Fisher

As a writer, I’m sure the possibilities have occurred to you. Yes, Characters really talk to you and try to enforce their wills over the story, They also live through you. Moreover, you live through them.

Just like parents relive their past through the antics of their children, writers live the lives of their characters. "What?" you ask. But I’ve written some really bad characters and I don't want to be like them."

I agree, I write women’s fiction and I have no desire to be the women I write, but those women teach me valuable lessons.

These were my thoughts the other day during our critique group meeting. I brought a chapter from my cookbook and graciously distributed it as homework. I also brought chapter ten of The Trophy to read. I wrote Christy into that story several years ago, and I like her. What’s more my critique group likes her.

I live parts of her life every time I read or edit one of her chapters and I admit, her life is more exciting than mine. I guess you could say she is written well, but then, I’ve had a lot of practice with her.

Writers are a crazy bunch, we travel to far off lands, do dangerous, and romantic things. Our characters take us there. Sometimes they take us to places we don’t want to go, "But," you say. "Don’t the characters we write come out of our head, or from people we’ve known?" Aha. I guess we really are crazy, but most of us were very good at playing make believe as children and writing a just an extension of that.

Doesn’t that make you wonder about some writer’s childhood? Is there a place you always wanted to go? Did you always wish you were more . . . Then Write it.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Nothing to Write

By Keith N Fisher

I’ve been so busy trying to finish my cookbook, cooking new dishes, and doing research, that I couldn’t think of a topic for today. I spent all day bouncing ideas off myself but I couldn’t come up with anything. I cleaned out a shed, cleaned the truck, (Which was a huge deal), and made chili.

Still, I couldn’t think of anything to write that would bolster your resolve to keep writing. I thought about a political situation that ticks me off, but I promised to leave politics off this blog. I considered writing about writer’s block itself, but that would be copping out. (Just like this post).

I will say, I’ve been having formatting problems with the cookbook. I put all the recipes in two columns, single spaced. All the other stuff was one column, double spaced when I tried to insert the recipes the formatting went crazy. I think I’ve got it under control now though, at least I have a system and it seems to be working.

Hopefully, things will go better this week and I’ll have something worthwhile to say. Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Deplorable Word, Revisited

In 2008, I posted this article on my now defunct writing blog Interregnum. Since it hits so timely on something I want to say, I'm reposting it here and now.


A class assignment this week requires me to read a book titled "The N Word: Who can say it, who shouldn't, and why?". Normally, this is not something that would find its way into my reading list, which is, I guess, why there are college professors - to expand my mind.

This mind-expanding stuff is painful business. This book is a painful read. Not because it's badly written, or incorrect. It's the very truthfulness of it that is so excruciating.

For those lucky enough to not know what the "N"-word means, it is an insult based on skin color, a slang term that originated in the south regarding the slaves. This book is an in-depth study of the origin, use and real meaning behind the word. I was not terribly surprised to learn that its usage was much wider than I ever expected, but I was shocked to learn that it is still, in the twenty-first century, used on the floor of congress.

There was a discussion in my class regarding a movement to have the word removed from the dictionary. When I voiced that I saw no need for it to be there in the first place, suddenly, I'm the old fogey prude who promotes censorship akin to Big Brother (whom most of my classmates had never heard of). When on of the young men at the next table piped up; "Well, why is the F word in the dictionary?" to prove his point, I could honestly answer that I remember when it wasn't because it was considered too vulgar for decent speech.

All this makes me wonder...

In C. S. Lewis' "The Magician's Nephew, there was a world destroyed because one person spoke a word so heinous and awful that the fabric of the universe could not stand its utter depravity. He called it 'The Deplorable Word'. When the hero stepped into that world many years later, he found a scene of complete devastation and ruin.

I'm afraid for us. How close are we?

If we allow filthy words, words with heinous meanings, to be freely used, tolerated, and considered mainstream - how long before we find our own Deplorable Word?

I may not be Martin Luther King, or Nelson Mandella, or Gordon B Hinckley - but my heart is good, and my will is strong, and the Lord has given me a way with words, words that might just make a difference, a good one. As it says in the scriptures, those with a desire to serve are called to the work. I think that we LDS and Christian writers all have more than enough desire, so consider yourself called.

We must write! Fight the Deplorable Words of this world. Flood the world with words of goodness, words of kindness, words of worth - valiant in meaning, precious to the ear.


The first year I attended the LDStorymakers Writers Conference, Jeannette Rallison gave a stirring speech about how we, as LDS writers specifically, in order to combat all the trash that is readily available, we have a duty to flood the world with wholesome literature. That is the theme I have clung to since. To be true to what I believe in every word that comes from me.

Since this originally aired in 2008, I have seen others, who professed to believe as I did, fall.

Richard Dutcher, a talented actor and director, left his religion in favor of making and promoting a film that even his own crew that had been with him through several great films called raunchy. In his own words in a City Weekly interview, he did not believe the LDS community properly recognized his talent.

Kirby Heyborne, the talented star of such great films as The Best Two Years and the comedy The RM, signed a contract with a national alcoholic beverage chain to advertise their product.

Stephanie Meyer, though famous now in the national market, first touted her graduation from BYU on the back of her books, then in the fourth of her famous series, wrote material that some Christian mothers refuse to let their daughters read because of the inappropriate content. One of those mothers that I know personally, was a hard-core fan right up to that point.

Zarahemla Books, whose tag line has always been 'Edgy but not Apostate' published a book including so many apostate ideas I can't (or won't) list them here. Their business has never recovered.

Earlier this year, I attended another conference, looking forward to my resolve being strengthened while I learned and practiced my chosen craft. Not once did I hear any reference toward our "duty to flood the earth".

Have we forgotten why we're here, doing what we're doing? It is so easy to step aside from what we believe - after all, it's just fiction, right?

How long before our children step into a world of complete devastation and ruin, and all because of words. Words in society, words on media, tv? Words in books? Are we still fighting the Deplorable Word - or do we just give up?

I intend to fight! With every breath, every scribbled note, every keystroke!

 It may mean my books are never traditionally published, but I'll take that chance. If necessary, I will do it alone  - but I would prefer to think there are others out there with me, for I still believe it is our duty to flood the world with words of goodness, words of kindness, words of worth!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Don't Tell Me Anything!

by James Duckett

When telling a story, there is one thing to always keep in mind: you aren't the one telling the story, your point of view (POV) character is. Why does this matter? Because I want to know the story from his or her eyes, not yours.

Letting the POV tell the story allows me to really get to know who your POV is. For instance, if I were to walk in a hotel elevator, I might take notice of the advertisement they have for the food they serve in the lobby/dining room. Why? Because I eat too much. That tells you something about me... but the story isn't about me.

If the story is about an anorexic girl, those advertisements might be the last things she'd notice. She'd probably notice the people in the elevator glancing her direction. She knows what they are doing... judging her, mentally calling her fat, and wondering how somebody could lose control and weight more than 85 pounds. She might feel claustrophobic in the elevator, causing her to think she is taking too much space and she needs to lose more weight. She might even remember the closet she was thrown in to by the bullies three years prior as they taunted her with words like, "Fatty" and "Melinda More Mass." Sure, she's lost 30 pounds since then and grown five inches, but she still has so much more to lose before she will feel accepted by her peers.

If she did notice the food advertisement, it would be in a negative connotation. *I* would describe the steak they as juicy looking, covered in seasoning, and with just the right amount of pink in the middle. *She* would look at it and wonder how she could ever eat so much food, or how it might hurt her throat when she throws up something so thick, or she might be disgusted with the look of food anyway.

I'm sure you are an interesting person, but the story you're writing isn't about you--unless you are writing a memoir then, never mind, full steam ahead, Captain! Otherwise, please kindly butt out of the story and let your character tell us what is going on.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

More than just ignoring the elephant

by C. Michelle Jefferies

We hear it all the time.

I tried this. . . but it didn't work.

I wanted to do this but . . .

I've recently had surgery in order to help me loose excess weight. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. But so so so necessary in order for me to still be here twenty years from now. Necessary for me to feel better. Necessary for me. Period.

Sure the weight has come off and I am feeling tons better but its not just the surgery.  The surgery is a tool and nothing more. You see, I am not just relying on modern medicine to keep me healthy.  It's what's happening in my head that is making the biggest difference. I am watching every ounce of food that enters my mouth, counting protein vs carbs vs veggies. I eat on small plates, eat by the clock, plan my meals hours ahead of time. Drink tons and tons of water. My life will forever revolve around food. Oh and exercise? Yeah that too.

So, what does this have to do with writing?

Anyone can write a blog post, an article or a manuscript if they choose to. Anyone can write something that can be read. The question is, can anyone write something people want to read?
Writing and being a successful writer takes more than just the ability to sit and put words on paper or screen. Beyond creating words, do you have the determination to revise and edit it until you see double? Do you have the guts to send it to people who are going to rip it to shreds? Do you have the stamina to think eat, sleep, drink, and breathe words? When all else goes wrong and you have nothing left in you, can you still call yourself a writer? If years from now your still receiving rejections and no recognition, are you still going to try?

If everyone around you is insisting that there is no elephant in the room, do you still see it?

The key to being a successful writer is in your head. You need to call yourself a writer, you need to write or think about writing every day. You need to get some guts and tough skin and let others help you make it better. You need to, like my last post said, make time instead of waiting for that magical hour to appear. Because I guarantee you in real life they don't.

Want to be a writer? Remember, it's all in your head.  

The path to wisdom is not always straight.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

It Takes a Village

By Keith N Fisher

If it takes a village to raise a child, How many people do you need to publish a book? Many of us are enamoured with the idea of being a solitary writer. He/she spends months in seclusion, knocking out that book. Then, after the publisher takes it to market, the writer spends a couple of months doing other things, like plotting the demise of the mailman (See the movie Funny Farm).

Perhaps that reality once existed, but not today. When Hillary Clinton published her book, It Takes a Village, I Liked the concept the title implies. It does take many influences to raise a child. Publishing your book does too.

It starts with whoever provides the inspiration. What made you want to write a book? As with all artistic expression, writing is driven by passion. Something must’ve lit that fire.

Next, there are the teachers and conference presenters who help with your presentation. I know things I learn at writer’s conferences have immensely boosted me.

The cooperation and support of those you love must be listed. I used to write into the night while my wife went to bed. She never complained, but it goes deeper than that. I know many women who write while their family qtakes up the slack.

One can not leave this subject without mentioning the opposite. When a trusted and treasured friend, or family member, expresses their disdain about your choice to be a writer, it can be overwhelming. The influence of those who provide support by keeping quiet makes all the difference. If those people express support, the writer is lifted.

The help of an honest critique is invaluable. A good critique group is essential. Writers need group partners who will build, but still tell you when something stinks. I can’t begin to express how much my group has helped me become a better writer.

Next in our village, is the willing beta, or proofreaders. Another set of eyes can find typos and plot mistakes the writer just never saw. They can also tell you if the story works or not. If they don’t like what you wrote, book buyers probably won’t either. A writer needs many beta readers to get an accurate picture of what changes are needed.

We could list mail carriers, agents, editors, and slush pile readers. Then come typesetters, printers, and distributors. Bookstore owners and managers, come in there next. Not to mention, the good recommendations of bookstore employees. Suffice it to say a best seller is not born in a vacuum.

I want to thank all the people in my village. I might be somebody someday because of your support. More than that, My children (books) will go into the world and be successful.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.

Friday, August 09, 2013

An Open Response

Like many of you, I have several email addresses. I check some of them frequently, others not so. A while back, I checked one of those boxes and found an email from a man who claimed I infringed on his copyright of an image I posted with one of my posts.

Even though there is no commercial gain in posting on this blog, I removed the image immediately. Today, I noticed some unchecked comments in the moderation section of our blog and found three comments, in which he said I chose to ignore his email. Mind you those comments were posted before I checked that email box so how could I have ignored the email? I never saw it.

I didn’t think you needed an answer, sir, since I deleted the image from my post.

In his comments he threatened to sue me. I wonder how we came to a place in our society where a person can spend a few hours on a computer program manipulating an image, and call it copyrighted. Several years ago, when I started my first website, I made several images. Some of which are still floating around the Internet. I know how it feels to find your work in another place you never intended it to be. I choose to accept it as flattery about my talent.

Therefore, sir, I want to say I didn’t choose to ignore your email. I could’ve linked you to the image, but I chose to remove your image instead. Also, I’m sorry I didn’t check the comments to be moderated I would've responded if I had. if you will send me another email, I'll be glad to return.

Your image was well done and beautifully made my point or I wouldn’t have used it. I wish you good luck in the future.

To those who read my posts, I won’t be placing images on this blog anymore, unless it is one of my own.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

10 Reasons Print Will Always Be Better Than Electronic Copy

1. You don't have to back it up. (Although, you should always have two copies, for safety's sake)

2. Your five year old can't erase ink with a fridge magnet.

3. If the power goes out, you can read by candlelight without having to keep an eye on the battery gauge.

4. You can read it in the tub without worrying about destroying your entire library.

5. Print has never, ever disappeared into the ethereal world of bytes and bits, never to be seen again.

6. You can look at the cover to see what's inside, you don't have to wonder 'which thumb drive did I put that on, again?'

7. No worries about going through airport security.

8. If you red-pen a print manuscript, then decide to go back to the way it was written in the first place, the original way is still there - you can just read it through the ink.

9. Print can be read no matter what operating system or word processing program you have, and it will never be obsolete two months after you buy the book.

10. No matter how good the technology gets, neither a Kindle nor a Nook will never feel, or smell, like a real hardcover. And it will never look as good on a shelf.

Monday, August 05, 2013

A Hero in their Own Mind

When writing characters, always make sure all of your characters are heroes in their own minds. Nothing drives me nuts more than watching a movie and not understanding the motivation of a character. Sometimes you see it in leading characters, where they go about life like a leaf in the wind. It makes me not care for that character, or the story, and I'm more likely to put the book down.

Think of your favorite movies, and consider the main motivation in the lead characters. Frodo wanted to destroy the ring. Harry Potter wanted to conquer evil and protect his friends and loved ones. The Dread Pirate Westley wanted to wed Buttercup. Ender wanted to win games. And Luke wanted to go to Tosche Station and pick up some power converters. No, I mean he wanted to go and kiss his sister. No, no... wait. What did he want? Oh, yeah, he wanted to kill his Dad. Or save him. Or... okay, no wonder he was such a whiny teenager.

Secondary/supporting characters need to have the same thing. I know that a lot of decent movies who have secondary characters who just seem along for the ride. But great movies have secondary characters who are trying to accomplish something. This can also be a great source of conflict, because a "good guy" could have different goals from the "main good guy."

Samwise Gamgee wanted Frodo to succeed, even when Frodo didn't. Ron Weesly wanted notoriety and money, even though his best friend seemed to have everything he ever wanted. Inigo Montoya wanted revenge, even if it meant leaving Westley behind to pursue it. Jar Jar Binks wanted... oh, who cares. How did he live through the trilogy, that's all I want to know?

All of these main and supporting people have something in common. In their own mind, they are the hero. Some of them may not like playing second fiddle to the main character, which can introduce some tension (again, see Ron Weesly), but it is what gives depth to characters. It is what makes it so you care for more than just one character. It is also a way to move the plot forward.

But don't forget the bad guy.

When bad guys are bad for no reason, I tend to lose interest. When their only motivation seems to be the thwart of the good guy, I usually get bored and look the other way. Give the bad guy a good motivation. I'm more likely to enjoy a story where a villain wants to do something bad and the hero is trying to stop them over a story where the hero is trying to do something, but the villain just gets in his way.

Oh, where to begin on examples.

Okay, let's go with Voldemort. Yes, he's ruthless and mean, but this is a guy who thought he was wronged in life. Where everything bad that happened to him came at the hands of muggles, even his own father. So what better way to protect his world than to kill all the muggles and anybody with muggle blood in them. Keep in mind, I'm not justifying anything he did, but from his perspective, he is trying to make the world a better place. Rid the world of bad blood and things will totally go his way.

Sadly, this also sounds a lot like Hitler's motivation. I'm sure in his twisted mind, he thought he was doing the world a favor.

How about Darth Vader, one of the most loved bad guys in the history of bad guys. He fell to the dark side due to fear and a sense of loyalty to the empire (though, I'll admit, I didn't buy it). From his perspective, in the original trilogy, he was just a soldier trying to bring peace to the universe by silencing a bothersome band of rebels. Granted, I've never understood why he blew up a PLANET to prove a point, but you can tell this is a guy who doesn't mess around.

Humperdink just wanted to rule a kingdom and justify his Kingship with a war. Hmmm... I would have liked to have seen that fleshed out a little bit more. Great movie, but really, the bad guy just comes across as a spoiled brat jerk face.

Sauron just wanted to rule. I know, pretty boring. Luckily, he had some interesting minions that brought the story to life. The most interesting bad guy, to me, was Gollum--though not a direct minion of Sauron. Gollum just wanted to protect the ring, his precious, while being left alone to eat raw fish and maybe tell a riddle or two with the guests he had over for supper. He also had a split personality, with Smeagol actually wanting to help Sam and Frodo. Well, Frodo anyway. In his mind, he justified what he did and remained the hero in his own mind. SPOILER ALERT: In a way, he ended up being the hero of the entire series, being responsible for the downfall of Sauron and the success of man, elf, and dwarf.

Finally, there is the latest incarnation of the Joker. He is probably my most favorite bad guy of all. He has one of the most unique motivations ever... and it wasn't the usual cliche of either money, power, or fame. In a nutshell, he just wanted to see the world burn.

Well, I think there was more than that. He looked at society and saw all the hypocrisy that society had, and he wanted to expose it. Cops were crooked. Thieves were weak and short-minded. Society was fragile and just an accident or two away from complete anarchy. Gotham's White Night, Harvey, had a bit of a vigilante streak in him. Even the test he did with the boats, trying to get the "good guys" of society to murder a boatload of people just because they were more deserving (but to be honest, I'm glad I wasn't on that boat having to make that decision). One of his biggest motivations was to get Batman to break his one rule, which would cause him to lose all credibility with Gotham, and the Joker was willing to sacrifice his own life to accomplish it. It didn't work with Batman, but it did work with another one of the good guys, thus making The Joker successful.

So, if you are looking to push your book to the next level, look at all of your characters. I'd say anybody with dialogue, even if it's one line. If you can't tell what his or her motivation is from that one line, work it in somehow. Make sure your heroes and supporting cast have solid motivations. And if you can make the bad guy think he is a hero, then you've got a good recipe for success!

One last note: watch the show "Once Upon a Time." There are good guys and bad guys galore. And EACH of the bad guys has a justifiable reason to think they are doing the right thing. It is wonderful. Sometimes, I wonder who I should be cheering for. Not one person is bad just for the sake of being bad, they are all heroes in their own minds.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Life In the Fast Lane

By Keith N Fisher

Are you old enough to remember life before the microcomputer? I remember a time when a computer filled whole rooms. (Many rooms.) In those days, socializing was done in person. Facebook hadn’t been invented. The guy who started Facebook hadn’t been invented either.

Writing in those days was done on a ribbon typewriter. I had access to an electric one, then I got a manual. Pushing the keys down gave me strong fingers, but mistakes usually meant starting over.

My typewriter sat on my desk. It was too cumbersome to lug around. Now I can write anywhere. I take my computer with me. I’m writing this post from my front porch on an 11 X 9 netbook. I just finished my Dutch oven blog and tried to log onto the Internet, but there was a problem.

Something is wrong with my router, it keeps flaking out. My computer can’t find it, until I shut it off and turn it back on. It could be some kind of conflict. Perhaps somebody is stealing my bandwidth. I’m not sure, but it’s such a simple temporary fix. All I need to do is go back in the house and reset the router.

How many of you remember when watching television meant getting up to change the channels? Lately, I’ve been known to sit quietly in front of a blank screen, because I can’t bring myself to get the remote from the kitchen.

Still, a writer can use those moments to plot his story. Writers can write anything, anywhere, but how did I become so dependent on technology? I don’t answer the house phone anymore. There’s a phone is in my pocket if I need to make a call. I can go for a ride on a hot day and crank up the air conditioning. What did we do when I was a kid?

Writers have it easier these days. I know, they didn’t have to market back then, but I can submit a book in seconds and never see my words on paper. Then I can build a following by posting something witty on Facebook. I can correspond with my writing peers and make appointments for book signings. I can do all these things in the bathroom, before I take my morning shower.

When I think of how we got from then to now, I’m reminded of my pile of computer parts. Most of that stuff was cutting edge back in the day. Now it gathers dust, because I can’t seem to throw it away. I think about the old Commodore 64, the XT and the AT I had. I remember needing a math co-processor to do graphics. At one point, I went from and two-foot tower to one half the size, then my first laptop. Oh, baby we were stylin.

Occasionally, I fire up my old 486 with the co-processor, and play with Windows 3.1. It was leaps and bounds ahead of what came before. Typing on a manual typewriter, pushing lead around a sheet of paper to make a blueprint, and playing solitaire with a real deck of cards.

Well, enough of my blabbering. It’s time to bite the bullet and go reset the router.

Good Luck with your writing—see you next week.