Mark Terry

Friday, October 27, 2006

My Muse's Name Is Freddy the Flake

October 27, 2006
Okay. I really haven't named my muse, although Freddy the Flake would be a pretty good name for him. The rest of the time he or she resembles a mafia enforcer named Bruno the Barbarian who sticks a gun to my head and says, "Get ta work, ya bum. Or else!"

Yesterday, though, Freddy was present. Either I have several muses (probably the case, including Donny the Debt Collector, the toughest one of them all), or he (she, it?) has multiple personality disorder.

You see, having turned in the final draft (awaiting "notes") of ANGELS FALLING, the third Derek Stillwater novel, I have until October 2007 to turn in the 4th Derek manuscript, THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS. I'm doing background research on that one, and thinking about it, but I wanted to try to put together a novel proposal for a medical thriller. This would be to write about the first 100 pages then put together a synposis/outline and other things. I'm maybe 38 pages in or so.

So yesterday, when I finished some of my other writing work, I sat down with my research materials for THE UNFOLDING, the tentative title of the medical thriller, and read them through, sat down at the computer, opened the folder for TU and...

Well, stared at the screen, closed it down, pulled out several diskettes, file folders, labeled them, and started working on the rough draft of THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS. I wrote 3 or 4 pages, saved it, went back to the computer and started organizing one of my nonfiction projects.

And a short time after THAT, I opened THE UNFOLDING and promptly wrote 3 or 4 pages.

You see, for a while there, I was telling myself, I'm not going to bother with THE UNFOLDING, let's just concentrate on SHADOWS, Derek's your franchise, you've been thinking a lot about that book lately, the urge, the impetus, the compulsion to write it has been growing... TU isn't working, you can't quite get into it, it's just not there, it's one of those sad stillbirths that you occasionally produce...


I don't understand the creative impulse much. I've thought often about what Stephen King has said when people ask him why he writes horror. His answer has typically been, "What makes you think I have a choice?"

I know with my nonfiction that within a fairly broad range of topics and types of writing, I'm perfectly comfortable and competent.

Novels are a different matter, and not only do the types of novels I write, at least the successful ones, fall into a certain type or category, the types of stories and characters that take off for me aren't infinite. Does that mean if someone threw money at me and asked me to write a 343 page romance novel with a main character who is a Greek accordian player who falls in love with a Serbian freedom fighter with a sex scene on page 45, 92 and 329, that I couldn't? Well... how much money are we talking here?

But you live with a novel for quite some time, so it had better resonate with you. And if it resonates with you, it hopefully will resonate with readers.

Part of my issue with THE UNFOLDING is that it deals with Alzheimer's, a subject I have entirely too much experience with, so it's both personal and painful. Another part of the problem is it's a type of book I've never really tried before, so I'm picking my way through it, trying to find the narrative pulse (and if you don't know what I mean by that, I mean, I'm trying to get the engine that propels the story to run better) and a handle on the main character's motivation.

So... it seems that Freddy the Flake showed up yesterday instead of Bruno the Barbarian. But it's time to go do some paying work now, because I hear Donny the Debt Collector knocking on the door.

Mark Terry


Blogger Ron Estrada said...

I have ths problem as well. I'm not even published, but I get an idea and want to jump on it, even though I'm not even finished with the first book of what is supposed to be a series. I sometimes wonder if I could just write two books at once. Yeah, right. So now I've got a notebook full of plot ideas, many of which will probably get discarded, but enough to last me a while. I guess that's better than wondering where your next book idea is coming from. By the way, these ideas usually hit me around 11pm. I can develop a pretty good plot by 3am. Thus the title of my blog, "Writes in His Sleep."

9:22 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

When I worked in Detroit I had this problem too because most of my writing occurred from about 9:00 to 10:30 or 11:00 at night, and if I got going, my brain wouldn't leave it alone. It's easier now (usually).

11:13 AM  
Anonymous Robert Kuntz said...


With the manuscript for THE UGLIEST OF THINGS complete, I've been diligently riding the query-go-round. I've collected some rejections, even one I'd call "encouraging," (that is, not a form letter). My plan is to send out queries in traunches of six or so until I get representation or have collected 100 rejections. (OK, maybe 150.)

But I've found it damned difficult to get seriusly underway on the second book in my series.

Writing the first novel, I'd spend about 90 minutes a night on either research, writing or edits. (The rest of the house is asleep, but I can work then and still get to bed six hours before the alarm). I'd say I averaged 5.5 to six nights a week like that. TUOT took me about a 15 months to write.

Writing THE HUNTING OF MAN ought to be much easier. I know my protagonist and main supporting players pretty well by now. I've got the broad outline and many of the scenes very distinctly laid out in my head. As with TUOT, I've already traveled to everywhere the THOM takes place.

And yet. . .

When I'm honest with myself, I realize it comes down to this: "Wasting" a year and half on a first novel no one wants to read would be one thing. If TUOT never finds an audience, well, I can carry the weight. I wrote it, I enjoyed writing it and there's satsifaction in having it done. But to write the second one on those terms -- it seems almost self-deluded.

So I read your post and I think: "Just what is Terry complaining about? How easy it ought to be to write a book that's already sold. I'd NEVER lack for motivation and my muse would never snooze if I had a book deal." (I know that's nonsense, of course.)

I'm a highly disciplined person. I've always adhered to the precept that "writers write." When I was a reporter, it was no trouble getting a story, however massive, done on deadline; as an attorney, I'm damned well ready for trial the morning the bailiff calls the case. Blah blah (insert more self-praise here) blah.

But tapping into the motivational charge to start that second book before the first one is ever even seen -- THAT is proving a challenge.

OK, enough whining. I need to check Mapquest for the route number of the road Monahan has to drive to reach his climactic showdown with the bad guys. And I've got to copy some more pages for the next set of queries.

11:30 AM  
Anonymous Chris said...

Nice write up For The Devil's Pitchfork in the Thriller Readers Newsletter. Congrats....Chris

11:45 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Thanks. I saw it and was thrilled. I'll post it on the blog soon.

I'm going to e-mail you directly.


12:36 PM  
Blogger Aimless Writer said...

Just a suggestion from this humble, yet unpublished writer...for the unfolding...try starting it in the middle. Sometimes when I just write a few scenes that excite me from somewhere other then the beginning of the book, I get a clearer view of how to get there....
Humbly submitted by this aimless writer.
By the way, I think I like Freddy the flake best! He seems flexible and easy going. My kind of task master!
Congrats on that good review!

11:06 AM  
Anonymous Chris said...

Last night I read the entire Thrillers Readers Newsletter and noticed you had an interview with Vince Flynn and you help produce the newsletter and here I am telling you your book was reviewed in it like I had some surprising news (duhhh). Boy, not to bright on my part. I even went so far as to forward a copy of the newsletter to you, did you ever get it? Anyway it was a great review and high praise by a great author. Was in a B&N in Hackensack, NJ on Sunday and saw 2 copies of The Devils Pitchfork on the new releases table right up front. Next time your out signing copies stop in Hackensack (lol)....Chris.......

4:47 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Yeah, I interviewed Vince Flynn for the ITW newsletter. ITW Newsletter is my volunteer gig and their editor, Kathleen Sharp, is turning out to be a good friend. I typically have something in each issue, whether a short interview with an author or a review of the the book. I knew a review of some sort was going to happen, and I thought it was going to be by David Morrell, but I otherwise knew nothing else about it. Joe Moore, who is co-author of "The Grail Conspiracy" and "The Last Secret" does layout for the ITW Newsletter & he e-mailed me a couple days earlier to give me a heads-up and tell me I'd probably be pretty happy with it.

I never did get your version, but thanks anyway. It may show up eventually. And it's great having feedback. John D. MacDonald once described fiction writing as being like throwing a feather down a well because you never got feedback. Of course, that was before Websites, e-mail and blogs. He'd probably have to change that statement if he were alive today.

10:43 AM  

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