Mark Terry

Monday, December 04, 2006

Finding the Excitement

December 4, 2006
Yesterday I commented that once a certain technical level of writing is acquired, then the predominant thing editors and agents are looking for is a piece of work (novel) that they can be excited about.

I'd love to write about how you do that, but I don't really know, so I'm going to write about something else. (And if you figure out that other thing, let me know).

I imagine that most writers, published or aspiring, were like me when I first started out. I was incredibly excited to be writing. There were all those silly little fantasies about writing the novel and making beaucoup bucks (still have 'em; haven't gone away, they're just tempered by reality), but really I was excited to hit the keyboard and slip between the pages of my own story.

I'm really pleased to say that hasn't gone away. I hope it never does.

Sure, sometimes it's harder than others. And if there's one thing that weighs heavily on me now it's the possibility that a piece won't get published. I started out back when dinosaurs roamed the earth convinced that every novel was going to be a sure-fire sale. Now that I'm being regularly published, I'm significantly less sure of that. So I spend rather too much time stressing whether what I'm writing is commercial enough, marketable enough, etc.

But the excitement I'm thinking about really is something different. It's the excitement of discovery. I've been working on the 4th Derek Stillwater novel and I'm about 65 pages in or so, still picking my way through the initial plot and character thickets, and things aren't developing quite the way I had originally planned (which is usually a good thing), and I was worried that the story wasn't tense enough, it was getting off to too slow a start, and I was walking Frodo and WHAM! I had an idea. A wonderful, beautiful, awful idea (to quote The Grinch). And it did exactly what I wanted it to do. It ratcheted up the tension, it took a story that was more closely resembling a murder mystery than a thriller and turned it into a thriller, and it changed the dynamic of the story AND of the relationship between two of the main characters, Derek and an operative for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

And I found myself getting really excited about the story. I was excited before, but as I progressed, it was settling into work--but I was looking for things to excite me, because I hope that will excite the reader.

I've mentioned that I've been tinkering with another novel. I was excited about the character and excited about the concept, but I didn't feel I had thought enough about the concept. And I asked myself a pivotal question, essentially: What does China want? and the answer that came to me got me fired up about the story and told me that the thing I had envisioned wouldn't work--exactly--but if I did THIS instead, oh man, baby, THAT was an exciting thing.

I tend to call these EUREKA MOMENTS and I live for them. I like the day to day writing, the pounding at the keyboard, the rewriting (yes, actually, I enjoy rewriting)--maybe even LOVE all this, but those EUREKA MOMENTS, man, there's nothing like them.

So I hope you have lots of EUREKA MOMENTS.

Mark Terry


Blogger Dave said...

Hey Mark,

I know exactly what you mean by eureka moments in writing because they're the moments that bring me immediate happiness. I've been wanting to write a novel since I'm at a point in my life where free time is plentiful. When I create novel plots I get excited, but a long term project requires a great pool of motivation. Everytime I start writing I get discouraged. I feel unable to morph the world I imagine into words. This has abruptly halted many of my projects. I'm enthusiastic about my ideas, but I believe there's a lack of talent on my part to display them.

Any suggestions?

12:34 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Yeah, Dave. I do have a suggestion. Keep writing. We're all looking for motivation as we edge along through a novel--for some of us it's knowing there's some version of a paycheck at the end, but even that's not enough. You know what motivates me most? I want to find out what happens next.

And the reason that can be fun isn't just because I don't outline, but because even if I have a pretty good idea how it's going to end, it doesn't always end the way I expect it to. And along the way I have those eureka moments, so I may very well write eureka moment to eureka moment (or fix to fix, if you prefer a different analogy).

So that's my advice. Keep writing until you hit another eureka moment, and then write until you hit another... and you will.

Don't worry NOW about whether you're good enough or have talent. You can't tell now. Maybe you can't tell later.

But right NOW you need to lose yourself in your own story and words.

My brother's a musician and composer and has told me a number of times when I get all tangled up in the hairball that is publishing and marketing to concentrate on the work, not all that other stuff. The work's what's important.

Good luck.

12:41 PM  
Anonymous spyscribbler said...

Aw, thanks! I get excited about human interaction and conflict. Just today, someone rear-ended me (musta been going 35 mph; we were shoved forward 20 feet!), and the lady-at-fault's friend was compassionate about the lady-at-fault-'s totalled car for about one second.

Then she was rubbing and complaining about her clavicle and all but threatening to sue her friend! (I was jerked enough to get sick--she wasn't--and hurt my neck, but I would never sue!)

Gosh, I sound like a horrible person, but I just find it fascinating how we humans hurt each other, and what goes through out minds when we do. It's one of those mysteries I can't solve, so I notice myself exploring it in my stories. If it makes me sound any better, I'm equally as fascinated with what motivates us to befriend and help each other!

1:34 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Hope you're all right, spyscribbler. I've had my share of car accidents and they're all scary. Worst one for me was when a tire burned off the axle of a flatbed truck, went bouncing down the road and smashed into my car, almost totaled it. One foot higher and I'd have been dead, dead, dead. Makes you believe in guardian angels (or pure dumb luck).

2:23 PM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

The last couple days I've been having a good time writing. Basically I've just been playing -- telling the story to amuse myself, kind of watching it unreel without fretting too much. That happens every once in awhile when I can put out of my mind all the publishing garbage, and all the technical advice and rules about how this is done and why this can't be done.

It is kind of ironic -- I do write for an audience. To me the purpose of writing is to communicate. The game is to see if you can hold the interest of readers. Without a way to get my writing to readers, there'd be no point in it. Yet, to enjoy the actual writing I need to pretend there isn't any publication step between me and readers.

Of course I may be writing crap. But if I stop to wonder then I ruin the enjoyment!

4:31 PM  

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