Mark Terry

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Feeling Sorry For Myself

February 19, 2008
As you might have noticed, I was in a little bit of a funk yesterday about my fiction writing.

Now, go back a little further. Late last week, the BookEnds blog is running a contest where you put the first 100 words of your novel (in a variety of categories, this one was mystery), and they will select a winner.

Just for grins I put in the first one hundred words of a novel I've worked on off and on for a couple years--I think I might finally have the right hook for it--called The Zombie Zoo. (That's the name of a nightclub in the novel, but also a Tom Petty tune).
Well, guess who won today? Mostly what I win is for them to read the first chapter. Here's what they said:

Well, it turns out that there was a very clear winner in the Mystery contest, because it was the only entry that both Jessica and I picked for our top 5! And the winner is . . .

Mark Terry, 
The Zombie Zoo

Samantha Black was dressed to kill. She liked that expression. Dressed to kill. She smiled at her reflection in the mirror behind the bar, just another beautiful face in the crowd. She picked up her drink, a zombie, the club’s specialty, vodka and grapefruit juice, and made a modest toast to herself. She took a sip, intending to nurse it. She needed a clear head. She didn’t need the buzz. She already had one of her own making and it was better than alcohol. She smiled. The image in the mirror smiled back.
Jessica: I personally liked Mark’s entry because it’s just a great setup. From those 100 short words you get a great sense of voice and you are beyond curious. Is she literally dressed to kill? Who is this woman and what is she up to? Mark’s 100 words have me wanting to read more. Thanks!

Kim: I agree. I loved the voice in this excerpt. It pulls you in from the very first sentence or two. Plus, it’s a great mystery opening. Is she literally “dressed to kill”? The writing is very lean. Not a single wasted word.

*  *  *
Kind words indeed. Now, I also took part in a similar contest on another blog a couple weeks ago and didn't finish in the top 6 (or 10%, if you want to know). If there's anything that's an indication of the subjective quality of fiction, it's this.

Anyway, since my day started like this:

Because the roads are so icy I decided to take my oldest son to the bus stop so he wouldn't fall on his ass while carrying a bassoon. Only, my driveway is pure ice, and I skidded into the snowbank and got stuck. So he had to walk anyway. Then I spent the next hour digging my sorry ass out of the snowbank--my own freakin' yard, and I've got all-wheel drive!
So yeah, this perks me up quite a bit. Go figure.

Mark Terry


Blogger spyscribbler said...

Oh yay! Well-deserved! Definitely well-deserved.

12:22 PM  
OpenID eric-mayer said...

Congratulations! Indeed, a very nice beginning. I still don't know what is meant by "voice" though. Which brings up a good question. The readers both mentioned "voice." Did you have that in mind when you writing it?

Crappy about the ice though. Although I find I can't get out for weeks on end in the winter here, I have resisted spending money on all-wheel drive because, usually, the problem is ice and I'm not so sure all-wheel drives are capable of handling slid ice on hills.

12:27 PM  
Blogger Aimless Writer said...

It was a great piece. Are you ready to send it to them? I don't know who you're working with now but Bookends is on the top of my dream agent list. I'm so envious! (sp?)
I would have left the car in the snowbank till it melted out.

12:56 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Let's see.

Voice. Beats me. I think it's just something you get by writing a lot. It's all about word choice and diction and style and I don't think you can develop it except by writing a lot and finding the things that work for you. I guess.

I sent them the first chapter and the synopsis and a letter that addressed a number of issues, but I'm not, today at least, looking for an agent, although I would very much like to talk to one of them on the phone about things. That's very much up in the air.

1:01 PM  
OpenID eric-mayer said...

I've sometimes remarked that I thought "voice" was just the modern buzz word for "style" but people have disagreed, claiming it is something different, without really defining it.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Josephine Damian said...

Voice: having a sense of the character's mindset/situation/ personality because of the way they (especially if it's first person) or the author tells the story.

Style, I think, I simply word choice and sentence structure - more author intrusion/showing off, than anything else, IMO.

Mark, I seem to recall during that other contest, I thought highly of your work....

1:55 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

--thanks! Different book with a different tone (and voice, since that's the topic, I guess).

1:57 PM  
Blogger Aimless Writer said...

I think voice is like all of the above. How you say things, phrase things, put words together. If we were all sitting around a table talking. After a while we would recognise the way each of us says things/phrases things. I think thats the "voice".
From the small amount I read, I think Dressed to Kill did sound different from your other books. Not sure I can say how its different but it had a different ring to it. (am I making any sense here?)

5:30 PM  
Blogger Melanie Avila said...

I saw that you won their contest- congrats!

I lucked out on the voice issue. My first complete book I've written is a memoir and my readers have told me they really like my voice. Lucky for me since that's how I talk. ;) I've just started a novel so I feel this is my first true attempt at creating a distinct voice.

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