Mark Terry

Friday, December 29, 2006

Some Thoughts About Writing for 2007

December 29, 2006
I'm not sure these are resolutions, exactly, more like my own thoughts and recommendations for myself and writers at all stages of their careers.

1. Read a lot.
You would think this was a given, but it isn't necessarily. I have, for years, read rather broadly in the mystery/thriller/suspense area--cozies and PI novels and police procedurals and flat-out thrillers and espionage, etc. If anything, my reading is less broad than it used to be, and now that I'm no longer actively reviewing books, I'm making a conscious effort to broaden my horizons a bit by reading some nonfiction books, some sci-fi, some fantasy, some YA novels. My nonfiction magazine reading has always tended to be broad--Smithsonian and Time and Writers Digest--and a whole ton of materials on the 'net and things I use for background for articles I write, so that's not an issue. I'm just trying to feed my brain a bit more.

2. Write a lot.
If you're a slow writer, that's okay. Just make sure you're a regular writer. Writing is a muscle and it can get flabby and atrophied if you don't use it a lot.

3. Collect a lot of rejections.
If you're not making a living as a writer and you're not getting very many rejection slips, you're probably not working hard enough. As has been pointed out ad nauseum here, I have had several novels and novel proposals rejected in 2006 despite also signing a 2-book contract extension with Midnight Ink and sending out 200 invoices. I've also received dozens (or more) rejections for nonfiction work, some from clients I work with regularly, some with clients I hoped to work with. That's just the business. But if you've written a novel and you tried two publishers and they turned you down and you gave up, you gave up waaaaayyyyy too early. If you tried to get a dozen or even 50 agents to take you on and you gave up, you gave up waaaaayyyy too early.

My advice is this: don't quit until you've accomplished what you set out to do. Plan on getting an agent? Send queries until you've got one.

4. If you've published a novel, keeping marketing.
This is hard. But I've often thought of my successes in almost all areas of writing as coming about from a kind of "constant push." I've thought of it as like me having my shoulder to a rock that I'm trying to move. If I constantly apply pressure, eventually it'll move some. And once it starts to move, I get some momentum going. Sometimes I try a big shove and sometimes I ease off (but not entirely; I always try to be at least leaning against that rock), but there's always some pressure going on.

5. Reach out.
I'm trying harder to help other writers. I wish I had had more mentors when I was struggling. There are limits to what I can do, but I am trying.

6. Stretch.
Like reading outside my immediate preferences, I think it's a good thing from time to time to try something different. In 2007 I still think I'm going to try my hand at a screenplay. Despite a lack of faith a while back, I'm still tinkering with the treatment of one of my unpublished novels. I'm also working on a YA fantasy novel--slowly, but still playing with it. (Current chapter: I Duel With A Swordfish). I suggest you do that, too. Maybe just a short story. You write mysteries, try a sci-fi, fantasy or romance story. Doesn't have to be a novel. Try writing a piece of nonfiction. Try a TV script or a screenplay. It'll keep you fresh.

7. Allow yourself to hope.
But realistically. It's okay to hope you'll sell a novel for 7 figures and get a hot movie deal and end up on Larry King Live, but you might also get struck by lightning while taking out your garbage on a sunny day. It happens, but not often. But allow yourself to hope you'll get published, that you'll get an advance, positive reviews, and be able to build a readership.

8. Have a life.
Writing isn't everything. I've said it again and again. Don't let this passion (obsession) ruin your life. If your happiness depends on getting a book contract, on becoming a novelist, on making a living as a novelist, on hitting the bestseller lists, you're letting your life be run by things you have no control over and letting people you've never even met have too much control over your life. Have a life. Makes friends. Pay attention to your spouse and children. Travel. See movies. Go to a museum. Take your dog for a walk. Play an instrument. Sing. Laugh. Go to the gym. Take up yoga or tai chi or macrame or soap carving or building life-size replicas of historical monuments out of beer cans. Live.

May your 2007 be filled with good health, happiness and prosperity. May your dreams come true.

As always,
Mark Terry


Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

I'm resolving not to take the garbage out anymore...

No, I try not to make resolutions but these are good ones. I'm pretty much up to my neck in work for the first six or seven months, so I have to resolve to just get it done, then we'll see what happens.

Your last point is a good one. I try not to let writing "success" get too important because I can't really control that. Well, it is kind of a losing battle, but I try.

11:34 AM  
Anonymous spyscribbler said...

Great thoughts! I'm trying to squeeze in more reading, too. I'm really trying to work out the "have a life" concept. I worked out that after all my working and writing and working out, I get 5 hours a week to have a life.

It's a start ...

I hope you have a wonderful and incredible 2007, too!

1:30 PM  
Blogger Aimless Writer said...

Numbers 3 & 6 are my favorites; I'm planning on collecting at least 100 rejection letters in 2007! I consider them notches in my belt. And #6: I write in a few different genres so when people say "write what you know" I often think; what fun is that? I'd rather stretch and see where I end up.
Great advice for the coming year!
Thank you!

6:22 PM  
Anonymous spyscribbler said...

Wow, I just found a couple more hours for having a life. *grins*

Just wanted to pop by and say a big thank you for the contest and the books, and wish you a happy New Year!

4:03 PM  
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