Mark Terry

Monday, April 21, 2008

Some Of The Things I Ponder


April 21, 2008
No answers today, only questions. I'm afraid most of them will have the nature of a Zen Koan with no answers at all. Perhaps, as with Koans, it is the pondering that is important, not the answers.

1. It seems like a lot of TV and film writers have recently decided to give up their lucrative gigs in Hollywood to write novels. I understand their rationale--control, pride--but they seem to found access to a paying market that has completely confounded me. I wonder how and why.

2. Really, we're grown-ups, right? So although we teach our children that persistence and fair play and hard work are what's needed to succeed in life, in the arts we do know that sometimes that's not enough. Right? Or am I just being pessimistic?

3. Ah, pessimism. I'm not a fan, although I'm a fan of realism. I think it's okay to be optimistic, but I think if you start writing a novel, quit your job and say, "I'm a novelist now, it'll all work out," then you're probably nuts. Get the job back, quick! So I'm much more of a "expect the worst, hope for the best" kind of guy. Or am I? Certainly you don't hammer out as many unpublished manuscripts as I have over the years and had so many setbacks and keep coming back without being either optimistic or seriously mentally ill. Hmmm... okay, maybe I don't want your responses to this one.

4. When a manuscript from a multiply-published author doesn't sell, is it the fault of the manuscript, the agent, the writer, or just the wildly illogical and unpredictable nature of publishing?

5. Is there a time to call it quits? Joe Konrath has a post on his blog today indicating the answer is "no," but in public at least Joe is relentlessly upbeat about the "persist and you shall succeed" thing. I wonder, though, if you don't one day discover you're throwing good time after bad and you're not getting any of that time back and maybe it's time to fill your days with some other activity.

6. Which brings me to another question. Is relentless optimism necessary for successful authors' public faces? Must they come on blogs and tell everyone their novel's doing great, the process is fantastic, if only you stick with it YOU TOO SHALL SUCCEED? Should they do the same thing at conferences and book talks? Or should a little reality be allowed to seep in?

7. Which brings me to yet another question. The "day job" question. That is, if you're a novelist, should you essentially lie at book talks and conferences, etc., and give everyone the impression you're a full-time novelist (even if your last advance was $2431.99)? This has been suggested on at least one author blog, the rationale being, "Part of the mystique is that you're wildly successful, which will convince people to buy your book. If people think you got a million bucks for the book and  you're wildly successful, they'll buy your book, whereas if they think you got almost no money and you spend your days washing pots and pans for an all-you-can-eat buffet, then they at least subconsciously think you're a failure and they won't buy your book."

Huh. No answers here.

Cheers,
Mark Terry

8 Comments:

OpenID eric-mayer said...

Here's a question...why should I write about writing on my blog when you say pretty much exactly what I would say and better?

Old Pennsylvania saying: Optimist call realist pessimist.

Let's see...personal connections play a huge role in business. This is why people (who aren't hermits like me) do networking. Publishing is a business, therefore...well...duh....

Actually personal connections play a huge role in life. Is this "fair"? When you are trying to get a book published and have no connections it seems unfair, but would a similar circumstance be considered unfair in any other walk of life?

What do you tell kids? Hey kids, the world is a mess! I have no answer to this one. People so often succeed by doing the things that are morally wrong, for instance, yet I wouldn't want to to advise kids to become, say, corporate criminals even though that would be practical advice.

When manuscripts from multi-published authors don't sell....no answer there either. Move over, though, that bus is getting crowded.

Quitting? Why not? Who says you *must* write? Does Joe Konrath define what is "success" or "failure" in your life? Some writers might succeed by spending their time more productively. Someone once said, "Ten years of rejection slips is nature's way of telling you you can't write."

I'm glad I'm not the only one who gets the impression that some authors try to give the impression they are making a living writing when they aren't. They are liars and I find it pretty despicable. They also cause a lot of grief for would-be writers who believe them and maybe beat themselves up because they can't seem to achieve that success that others have achieved so easily. (By lying)

7:49 AM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...

Hmmm . . . .

Too many questions for a Monday morning.

Regarding books tanking . . . vagaries of the biz. My best-selling book to date had very little support and no promo from the publisher. My BEST book (from a writing and review status) tanked--the editor who bought it left the publishing house mid-stream and it had even less than zero support. Then 9/11's first anniversary happened and some TV interview that I was pretty close to getting (on Today show) . . . didn't happen. C'est la vie.

As for pretending to be wildly successful . . . I don't. I am pretty honest on my blog. I write what I like to write, I sell across genres. I make a living. I am not a household name, but I "mostly" live on what I make as a novelist, with some freelance tossed in. I work my ass off.

My blog is as close to my raw, honest "me-ness" as I get.

E

7:54 AM  
Blogger Joe Moore said...

Answers:
1. You can make a fortune writing novels. Everyone knows that.
2. No. Sometimes you need your uncle to be the president of Simon & Schuster.
3. I quite my day job two years ago to write full time. Are you saying that maybe I should have thought it through.
4. No. It’s usually the fault of taking a chance with a wacky new font.
5. I thought that throwing good time after bad was the idea.
6. No, they should keep their mouths shut and not give the secret away. Otherwise everyone will want to write a novel.
7. Reality is in the eye of the conference attendee.

But seriously, 100% of all writers that gave up never succeeded. :-)

8:35 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Uh-huh. Thought so.

9:02 AM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

1. Yeah, I noticed that. Isn't that bizarre??? Maybe because they're so well-trained in high concept?
2. I tend to believe the thing is being able to see the patterns or see what you need to improve. If you can see it, then you can improve it. But if you can't see what you need to do to get to the next level, then that's where I get stuck in a rut for awhile. But it's just a belief. Keeps me going, anyway.
3. LOL. Just because I'm a Libra, I'll point out that a lot of artists, actors, and writers made it because they had no other options. I'm not that brave, though, and I don't have a year or two years' worth of income to live off of while I write, that's for sure!
4. I always search for a reason. Even when there probably is none. I gotta have some religion.
5. Nah.
6. Isn't it exhausting? Sadly, I'm beginning to think so. I think many professions have a "party" line. Like in teaching, you have to just love the kids, just love music, and you're so grateful you get to hear an F Major scale ending on an F# for the millionth time.
7. I had that exact same prejudice with piano teaching, when I started out. I went solo pretty quickly, but once I did, I got TONS more respect. One of those things, I guess.

Btw, I hate that #7 and #6 seem to be true. Speaking of which, I thought Tess did such a graceful job of navigating such matters with truth and honesty. So sad, her closing. All because of some little snot, er ... well, whatever.

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