Mark Terry

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Goals & Faith

November 22, 2006
I'm going to make an assumption that the majority of the readers of this blog are people who are writing novels but aren't yet published. I know some readers are already published. If you're in that first category, I imagine that you have been through a fairly typical experience of having been repeatedly rejected by agents, repeatedly rejected by publishers. I've been there. Although I don't often advertise the fact, I have something like 10 unpublished manuscripts laying around. It puts me in a big club--Jonathan Kellerman, Stephen King, Joe Konrath and a whole bunch of others who have a trunk full of unpublished (and probably unpublishable) manuscripts.

I'm here today to tell you that you can make it. That if you have the goal of eventually getting your novel published, that yes, persistence and constantly trying to improve your craft will eventually win out and you will get published. I believe it and you need to as well.

I'm quite confident that any of you CAN get published. I'm not as confident that you WILL get published. That's up to you, mostly. Luck definitely plays a factor, but you can mitigate luck by working the odds in your favor--be persistent and learn to write well. Changing CAN to WILL is tougher and only you can control that.

Then you're on to your next goal, aren't you?

Which is kind of where I'm at today. After spending most of two decades wanting to get published and making my living as a writer, I'm now regularly getting published (novels as well as nonfiction), and I'm making a living (quite decent) as a writer. My dream come true in so many, many ways.

But...

I, naturally, want more. Seems to be human nature. Not just more money (which would certainly be nice, but is not required), but my goal is to make a living as a novelist. Another goal is to publish more than one book a year, perhaps the second under a pseudonym. I might write at some other time about this compulsion to write more than one novel a year, but since I don't completely understand it myself, it will just have to wait for another time. I have gotten it into my head lately that I would like to write a screenplay. After all, I have 10 or so unpublished novels sitting around, most of which are perfectly good stories just not told well enough, and I might have the writing chops now to figure out what I did wrong and be able to do some of them in a different format. Maybe. We'll see. My initial approach to that is to read a number of screenplays to see if I can get that type of storytelling straight in my head.

Anyway, I was having a down moment yesterday for no other reason than because a writer is often his or her's own worst enemy, and I was thinking, well, the Derek Stillwater novels are doing reasonably well and you have a good career going even if some of these clients are driving you nuts, and this ISN'T going to happen, and this ISN'T going to happen, and you're kidding yourself with the screenplays, and...

There can be a pretty pessimistic, gloomy bastard of a dark angel on my shoulder from time to time, and I'm better off telling that prick to fuck off and go away.

Which is what I did this morning while fixing my breakfast of Corn Flakes and toast. I started getting into the "what are you wasting your time for" thought processes, and thought:

"This is bullshit. You didn't get to where you are now thinking this way. You were convinced it would happen, you were willing to work hard and do what needed to be done until you achieved your goal, no matter how long it took."

Ahem. Get it?

So I told myself, "Just do it. Work on these things. You'll get there."

And I'll see YOU THERE when YOU get THERE.

Best,
Mark Terry

10 Comments:

Blogger Shannon said...

Hey, Mark-
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, let me just say I am thankful that there are writers like you who are willing to admit that they still have those insecurities and down moments despite success. This helps bunches. I would love to be where you are in the process, but I completely get the fact that once you are there, you have new goals and dreams. That is definetly human nature and we definetly are our own worst enemy.
Happy Thanksgiving!
Shannon

7:25 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Shannon,
Have a good thanksgving yourself.

Best,
Mark

8:39 AM  
Blogger Ron Estrada said...

Hey Mark,
You hit this at the right time. I got chapter 12 back from my partners yesterday and they pretty much told me to burn it. That hurts. After I went through the usual time of self mental abuse, I got to work. Writers write alone, no matter how many people we have reading for us. It is an act of faith. Mostly in ourselves. Thanks for the words of wisdom.

9:41 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Good luck, Ron.

10:50 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

I wrote some comic book scripts (which are vaguley like screenplays) for a very small publisher back in the mid-eighties and found it was a lot of fun. (The comics sold a few thousand copies. Possibly more than our books have!) I imagine it would be interesting to try to tell a story in movie terms. With the comic scripts I was responsible for making up the story and the dialogue, but the artist did all the heavy lifting so far as bringing the thing to life, showing the scenery I sketched out, showing the characters. A lot of the stuff that you can screw up because of technical deficienies, though your ideas might be good, was covered by the artist.

I'd love to write more than one book a year because I have more than one idea for a book every year. Also, I prefer variety. However, to do more than one book per year, unless I was retired, would require that the books pay for all the time spent on them.

Despite my rather gloomy outlook on book publishing in general I think aspiring authors have an excellent chance of being published, if being published is defined as, at a minimum, having a book out from a legitimate small publisher. Mainly because so many aspiring writers fall by the wayside If you persevere your odds go way up. First of all many aspiring authors can't finish their first book. Well, writing a book is a big job. What percentage of authors fall there? Unfortunately few first novels get published. Mine didn't. Yours didn't. Of those writers who finish one novel and fail to sell it (almost all of them) how many will never write another? A huge percentage I'd guess. Then there are those who will write a second, but not a third, or a fourth or however many it takes, or who will not send their books out enough. And, although this is harder to pinpoint, there are writers who will write and write but refuse to learn anything, who will persist in turning out work that anyone who opened their eyes would see was unpublishable before the first page was written. They will persevere only in making the same mistakes over and over. So, yes, I think aspiring authors who persevere have a good shot. However, don't wait to start until you're 75.

10:56 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Eric,
That's pretty cool about the comics. Long story (Mom), but I was never much exposed or into comics as a kid (had to sneak them into the house).

I've gotten really hooked on the novels of Greg Rucka, at least the Tara Chace thrillers about an assassin for the British government, and I discovered from his website that this series actually started as a comic. Rucka's done a tremendous amount of comic book writing, so apparently there's at least some sort of market out there.

I was also surprised recently that Tobias Buckell announced that a graphic novel company had picked up the rights to produce a graphic version of his novel CRYSTAL RAIN (which would make a great graphic novel, I think).

I wonder if this is a booming market or just something I've never paid much attention to. I can kind of see Derek Stillwater in a graphic novel...

How about John? I think he'd be pretty cool in a graphic novel if the artist was good. All those hooded cloaks and shadows covering most of his features, the scarred guy (Hektor?)... I don't know, I can visualize it.

11:26 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

Of course John is really Batman! Actually the (very) basic idea came form an idea I had for a comic book. I'll have to blog that but probably after the holiday.

3:30 PM  
Anonymous spyscribbler said...

I agree with Eric. I think it's relatively easy to get published, depending on what you're willing to write and where you're willing to be published.

I see so many AWESOME writers, better than me (course, I don't know how much that's sayin', LOL), who don't get their stuff out there and don't get it sold. And not enough writers play with the short story, either, and get those published. All of that is valuable, valuable training ground.

I'd go one step further, and say that it's a big help and motivator to get published early on (in small presses, if not large, or even some of the professional online sites). I honestly have to say that I wouldn't have written as much, or grown as much, if someone wasn't paying for it. I would have never developed the discipline I have in writing, or learned to approach it as a business.

It's like an apprenticeship for the big leagues, and it's been SO valuable to me. I only hope I can make into the big leagues one day!

Yes, I'm thankful that the early stuff is under a pseudonym, though.

3:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am fu**kin scared to read your book but your blog is so nice. Write the Screenplay! Script format is easy. You could write a half hour tv script in one day if you knew the characters. It's the long feature that takes concentration and a little planning. You change one thing and follow the change through the timeline and it can get something else really twisted. I like the book Hollywood Standard for its lack of bullshit. If you want to read Story I suggest the audio version. You can do it. Corn Flakes....lol I miss Corn Flakes.

1:56 AM  
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