Mark Terry

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Publishing Bizness

September 22, 2007

I met my old friend Chris Brown yesterday at a local Mexican place for nachos and beer. Here's the thing. Chris and I haven't seen each other in about 21 years.

You wouldn't know it from watching us. We were elementary school friends, then he moved away and we kept loosely in touch, then lost touch, then in the week after graduating from college and before getting married, Chris drove up to my parents' house in his convertible and we chatted and went for a drive and then we hadn't heard from each other since.

There's a lot more to this story and maybe I'll write about it. Chris is a good guy and I'm delighted to have linked up again.

The point was, as some of you know, I've been angsting about writing fiction lately. I did a little whining about this to Chris (sorry, dude), although hopefully not too much, and he said, "Don't you still have stories just bursting to get out?"

Ah fuck, man. In "Bag of Bones" Stephen King tells a story about being a kid walking through the woods and some jet jockey going to Mach overhead and how the woods were totally silent afterwards, and how after a bit you could hear the first bird in the woods singing. (It's a metaphor, okay? Bear with me.)

Chris was sort of the first bird to sing in the woods.

My brother has commented to me before it's always better to concentrate on the work itself.

No kidding, Kemosabe.

I may have shrugged to Chris and smiled, but I thought of the two novels I'm playing with. I thought of the book proposal for a fifth Derek Stillwater novel that I put together. I thought of the follow-up to my children's novel that, as a matter of fact, I AM going to write some day.

Does it every occur to you that if you don't write about these people they won't exist????

I think all of us--published more than unpublished perhaps--focus too damn much on book promotion and the business of publishing. Yes, you need to be aware of it. Yes, it's an issue and an obstacle to overcome.

But ultimately we write novels for reasons that maybe don't have much to do with promotion and money (God, I can't believe I said that) or publishing or lining a publisher's pockets.

I have a lengthy quote on my office wall by Stephen King about stories and imagination, but the first line is: "...I still see stories as a great thing..."

And that's why I'm still in the game.

So thanks, Chris, for being the first bird in the silence.

Mark Terry

p.s. That photograph, by the way, is Derek Stillwater's boat. A Criss-Craft Constellation of, if my memory serves me right, 1963 vintage. He lives on it. Beauty, isn't it?


Anonymous Jim Hall said...

I for one am glad you write, because I love your novels. Thanks for the picture of Derek's boat. In my opinion that just might be the perfect house!

7:29 AM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

There's nothing like elementary school friends, you know? Ever. They just know you in a way no one else will ever understand you.

I agree with you. I'm trying to learn to compartmentalize the business thinking away from the sitting down and writing. They just don't belong together.

Living on a boat sounds like heaven, LOL! Have you seen Patricia Wood's boat? (Real person, real author, LOL.) DH wants to live on an RV. We'll see. :-)

9:00 AM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

(I meant as opposed to Derek Stillwater. But characters feel like real people, too.)

9:00 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I admit to a fascination with the idea of living on a boat. I'd probably hate it. I like room to sprawl, but, aside from books, am not much of a collector of crap and neither is my wife. And I do like the idea of not having a lawn to mow.

& Thanks Jim. I put together a book proposal for another Derek Stillwater. I'll have to tell you about it sometimes. :)

10:22 AM  
Blogger Aimless Writer said...

Could you not write? could your wife stand living with you if you stopped?
At a low point in my life where i thought I was going crazy my husband stopped me and said, "You've stopped writing."
When i brought the pen back to the paper and let the demon's out of my brain things calmed back down.
If a person truly has the soul of a writer I don't think they CAN stop. I don't think you can stop. (and stay sane) What would you do with all those people in your head if there wasn't a place to let them escape to?

12:29 PM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

It's often said, and I believe it is true, that when you worry about the outcome of what you are doing, rather than concentrating on the process, you tend to screw up. When I was orienteering I learned I'd do better if I never looked at my watch while I was out, to see how long I was taking, but just focussed on making my way through the woods. With writing, as soon as I start to wonder how well a book will sell, or whether it will get published, I become totally distracted from what I'm doing and also lose all inspiration.

For me the question is not whether I will write -- I've always been writing something -- but rather what I will write. I find the novel is the most interesting form. A book offers the most complex challenge and allows the most leeway for the imagination, in my experience. However, a novel is a big project and to find any appreciable audience you really need a publisher. I am also a big fan of essays. For a while I read more E.B. White, Thurber, Benchley etc than anything else. You don't need to invest as much time on an essay as on a novel and you can convince people to read blogs with essays on them more easily than you can get people to download and read whole novels. So if worst comes to worst I might well abandon novels for some other form of writing.

1:36 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Always the question, isn't it?

For me, at least, in the early days I would take breaks between books. These days I seem to take a day off or two, then start right in on something--sometime several somethings.

So many stories, so little time...

1:36 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

In your case, you've had so much experience with 'zines and graphic comics sorts of things, I could see that taking root, too.

7:10 PM  

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