Mark Terry

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Writers and The Leap of Faith


July 22, 2007


I finally made it to the end of the first draft of the fourth Derek Stillwater novel today, happily writing

THE END

at the bottom of the final page.

I ain't done. I still need to read it straight through. Oh, its tentative title is THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS. Then I need to rewrite it. And then I'm going to have my brother and maybe a couple other people more familiar with the novel's location--Los Angeles--read it.

Note to my editor, Barbara: If you don't want to get the heebie-jeebie's, please read no more.

I really struggled with this novel. I'm not sure why. And upon finishing it today I thought, "You know, it might be the best thing you've written."

I say that because the scope is broader and, I think, deeper than the previous Derek Stillwaters. It's a little bit different. Whereas THE DEVIL'S PITCHFORK takes place in slightly less than 24 hours, and THE SERPENT'S KISS takes place in about twelve or thirteen hours, and the third novel (due out in May 2008) ANGELS FALLING takes place in about eight or nine hours, THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS is spread out over two days.

Big deal, you say. Well, actually, it can be if the type of novels you write are jam-packed with action and ticking clocks and tons of incident. It's a different challenge to keep up the pace and the action when there's so much room to maneuver in.

There are other issues. THE DEVIL'S PITCHFORK primarily deals with a made-up terrorist organization, The Fallen Angels. I researched terrorist groups, but ultimately, Angels can do what they want because I invented them. The same thing in SERPENT and again in ANGELS FALLING. But in SHADOWS I was dealing--mostly--with al-Qaeda and Islamists and the political situation in Pakistan as it affects the United States. So I had to focus on something I'm not 100% on--Islamic extremists--although it gave me an opportunity to touch on Derek's background and childhood--raised by missionary physicians in a number of countries around the world and being educated by religious teachers who he sometimes felt weren't terribly different in their own way from Muslim extremists.

I have also noted in the past that how easy or how difficult it is to write a book seems to have very little to do with how successful it is or how good it is. They are, unfortunately, two separate things. This, though, is the first time I've ever written a novel-length manuscript and thought, "For years I've been hearing novelists whine about how difficult it is to write novels and thought they were full of shit and this time around I'm beginning to see why they're saying it."

Anyway, I'm through that and now I'll polish and smooth and tweak and make sure that the names (egad, those Pakistani and Muslim names!!!) are consistent and I know there's at least one scene that goes nowhere that needs to be changed, and I need to move some of the characterization things to earlier points in the book...

A lot of work yet to be done. But still, it feels pretty good.

Cheers,

Mark Terry

8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Mark,
Came across your site and read a few of your postings. Very interesting commentary. I too, am a fulltime freelance writer and just released my latest collaborative effort. I wish you luck with your novel and will see if your title is stocked in Nashville, TN. (my location).

Check out my book's blog: www.MangoTreeCafe-LoiKrohRoad.blogspot.com

Thanks,
Taryn Simpson

5:03 PM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

Congratulations!

You know, I've finished lots and lots of things, but the one thing I've never done is typed, "The End."

People keep talking about how good it feels, so I'm definitely going to try it next time! (I said that last time. I keep forgetting.)

6:02 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

SS
--just finish the damned things.

You can always rewrite them.

5:42 AM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

But I do finish them! I just never type "The End." I've finished uncountable short stories and fifteen or so novellas (several of which were parts of a novel, just split into two or three novellas to fit the guidelines), but it seriously never occurred to me to type "The End."

Maybe I just like to keep up the illusion that I can still fix it, LOL.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

THE END
helps me keep from continuing the story... after all, the story doesn't stop there, right? These characters seem to have lives inbetween and after books.

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