Mark Terry

Friday, August 31, 2007

People in the Detroit area...

August 31, 2007

Well, today’s a two-fer.

Part I: Announcements
For anyone in the Detroit area, my interviews on CULT POP and FOCUS will begin running soon. Here’s some basic info:

It airs Downriver on Comcast Channel 20
Tuesdays 5:30pm & 8:30pm

Wednesdays at 3:30pm & 9:00pm

Thursdays at 7:00am

It airs on Comcast Channel 18 (Dearborn, Plymouth, Canton)
Tuesdays at 7pm
Thursdays @ 1:30am

If you’re a Comcast customer in the Detroit area, check it out!

For the rest of you, I’ll be getting these up and available on my website eventually.

Part II: Rats on an Island
I highly recommend all writers, aspiring or otherwise (we’re all aspiring, trust me) to check out this website:

In particular I want to recommend the article, “Rats With Islands: How To Survive Your Publishing Career” by Jennifer Crusie, here:

“But, you ask, how I can let reality go, don't I need to face reality in order to survive in publishing? First, what has reality ever done for you? You write fiction, for heaven's sake, reality has never been your strong suit. Second, whose reality? I understand there were several realistic editor panels at National that depressed the hell out of people because the editors were so brutal. Well, it's a brutal business, folks, but what does that have to do with you? According to conventional wisdom, only one in a thousand writers who submit get published. Is your reality that you're one of the 999, or the one who gets published?”

It’s a particularly good article and I highly recommend it. In a way, it provides scientific validation for a rather famous quote by Han Solo: “Never tell me the odds!”

See ya on my island!
Mark Terry


Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

I agree with this to a point. I've often remarked that had I known how poor the odds of getting published really were, I probably would never have bothered to try. Given the time and effort involved it would've seemed like a sucker's bet.

More importantly, though, I enjoy the writing process, but I wouldn't enjoy it if all the time I was working I figured what I was writing would never be read. So if you need to fool yourself about the reality of publishing to allow yourself to enjoy what you're doing, or to spur yourself to do something you consider to be fun, that's great.

However, I have seen too many writers who make themselves miserable. They no longer enjoy writing. The failure to get published eats away at them. But they feel they have to keep going because it is their fault. If only they could write better, or differently or find that magic formula then they would surely get published. If writers like those recognized the reality that publishing is a bad bet, that getting published is often out of the writer's control, then they could either relax and just enjoy writing for its own sake and not beat themselves up for their supposed shortcomings or ditch writing altogether without self-recriminations.

9:17 AM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

Thanks! I've actually been struggling with this, this week. Very nearly completely gave up on NY before I even tried.

The fact seems to be that writing for NY is an insane career goal if you're too in touch with reality. I just have to put my blinders on and trust in my eerie knack for luck and for being in the right place at the right time. Knock on wood. And I have to remember that I'm lucky to be where I am, even if some people don't feel that I'm anywhere, LOL. And I'm just lucky to sit down and write everyday. How can I forget that?

9:30 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Yes, Eric. Exactly.

I liked the article quite a bit, but there are a number of ways to interpret, at least as a metaphor, the lab test with the rats. One could argue, as Jennifer Crusie does, that believing there's an island there will make you work harder and longer.

The problem with the metaphor as applied to the actual experiment is, well, THERE WASN'T AN ISLAND THERE.

So although it's nice that the rats struggled harder, one could argue, at least from a non-rat perspective (squeak, squeak) that had the rats been more attuned to the reality of the situation, they might have:

a. given up and drowned
b. attempted something else in order to escape, ie., a, er, "rat" pyramid, or gnawing their way through the glass, or building an alternate propulsion system out of water molecules.
c. turning everything over to their higher power (ie., the laboratory technician... hmmm, this metaphor is getting a bit frightening) and hoping for the best.

In my own context, if I hadn't wandered into the alternate category of nonfiction writing, I would probably be an unhappy cytogenetics technologist who was nonetheless getting novels published (perhaps). I'm significantly happier now as a writer who also happens to publish novels.

One of the things that I worry about (in a sort of detached, existential way, I suppose) about other aspiring writers is that it's an all-or-nothing proposition. I will be a published novelist who makes a living at it or I will be unhappy and miserable my whole live and take it out on everybody around me, I'll be a failure.

Um, hopefully there's a middle ground ("An island, even!" he shouts with enthusiasm, knocking back his bottle of rum, "An island, by God!") that lets you do both or at least allows you some satisfaction and happiness.

9:38 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I'd probably have to know more about your situation, but the impression I get is you're doing really pretty well.

10:17 AM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

If I could only sell one thing per year, I'd be doing quite badly. The saving grace is that I get to be prolific. (Which, I don't think I'm that prolific at all. But, if I'm to compare to what people seem to say, I am.)

Maybe you can explain why I hear so much that you can only write one book a year for NY? I know I'm just a small fish in a tiny sea, but the more I get out there, the more readers buy. Starting out with only one novel on the shelf seems like starting out in quicksand, or something.

6:02 PM  
Blogger Allison Brennan said...

Hi Mark! Thanks for the WA plug. We had fun putting that together.

Jenny Crusie is fabulous. I love her blog and her honesty. She's my fave author blog after Tess Gerritsen.

When I seriously started writing, I knew nothing. I hadn't joined RWA, hadn't heard authors or agents or editors talk. I just wanted to finally finish something I started and sell it. In fact, I thought FINISHING the book would be the hard part because I had over 100 beginnings and no endings . . .

If someone had told me then how hard it would be, I wouldn't have quit because I tend to be competitive and would definitely want to be the one in a thousand. But it may have weakened my confidence. (Believe me when I tell you I had very little to be confident about in the first couple books I wrote . . . )

Writers write. When I speak about perseverence, I ask people, "If you knew that you would never get published, would you still write?" If the answer is yes, you have the passion to find a way to make it work.

12:34 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Writer's write is pretty much my mantra when people ask me about how to break into writing or tell me, "I'd like to break into writing."

Because I make a living at it, I get this from time to time, particularly because apparently I can set my own hours and work out of the house, which appeals to most people (until they try it; some wouldn't like it at all, I suspect).

I find now that I'm much more noncommittal about encouraging these people. I tell them politely (even when they're related to me) what needs to be done and leave it at that.

The gist being: write, send it out, write some more, revise, send it out, find the market, study the markets, write, write, write, write...

There are other things when it comes to freelancing nonfiction: leverage your strengths, build on successes, market until you have a sale, write on spec if necessary, don't come up with an idea and then look for a market, but look for a market and see what they need and pitch them an article they need--practically a guarantee of an assignment if you can figure out what they need and provide it.

But the fact is, this seems like work to most people, so they either think I'm bullshitting or they go off and kid themselves that "someday..."

Whatever. Writing for a living, whether through fiction or nonfiction, is a brutally difficult thing to break into. Fiction more than nonfiction. Staying in nonfiction seems fairly straightforward, but with fiction, I'm beginning to see that staying in the game as a fiction writer may be more difficult than breaking in.

Do people want to hear that? Probably not. But the ones who might make it someday probably won't listen to me anyway.

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