Mark Terry

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Goals & Faith

August 20, 2008
I wrote this post in November 2006 and it's just about true now as it was then. (Except the screenplay part. That was a passing fancy). Enjoy.

Cheers,
Mark Terry

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 2006

Goals & Faith
November 22, 2006
I'm going to make an assumption that the majority of the readers of this blog are people who are writing novels but aren't yet published. I know some readers are already published. If you're in that first category, I imagine that you have been through a fairly typical experience of having been repeatedly rejected by agents, repeatedly rejected by publishers. I've been there. Although I don't often advertise the fact, I have something like 10 unpublished manuscripts laying around. It puts me in a big club--Jonathan Kellerman, Stephen King, Joe Konrath and a whole bunch of others who have a trunk full of unpublished (and probably unpublishable) manuscripts.

I'm here today to tell you that you can make it. That if you have the goal of eventually getting your novel published, that yes, persistence and constantly trying to improve your craft will eventually win out and you will get published. I believe it and you need to as well.

I'm quite confident that any of you CAN get published. I'm not as confident that you WILL get published. That's up to you, mostly. Luck definitely plays a factor, but you can mitigate luck by working the odds in your favor--be persistent and learn to write well. Changing CAN to WILL is tougher and only you can control that.

Then you're on to your next goal, aren't you?

Which is kind of where I'm at today. After spending most of two decades wanting to get published and making my living as a writer, I'm now regularly getting published (novels as well as nonfiction), and I'm making a living (quite decent) as a writer. My dream come true in so many, many ways.

But...

I, naturally, want more. Seems to be human nature. Not just more money (which would certainly be nice, but is not required), but my goal is to make a living as a novelist. Another goal is to publish more than one book a year, perhaps the second under a pseudonym. I might write at some other time about this compulsion to write more than one novel a year, but since I don't completely understand it myself, it will just have to wait for another time. I have gotten it into my head lately that I would like to write a screenplay. After all, I have 10 or so unpublished novels sitting around, most of which are perfectly good stories just not told well enough, and I might have the writing chops now to figure out what I did wrong and be able to do some of them in a different format. Maybe. We'll see. My initial approach to that is to read a number of screenplays to see if I can get that type of storytelling straight in my head.

Anyway, I was having a down moment yesterday for no other reason than because a writer is often his or her's own worst enemy, and I was thinking, well, the Derek Stillwater novels are doing reasonably well and you have a good career going even if some of these clients are driving you nuts, and this ISN'T going to happen, and this ISN'T going to happen, and you're kidding yourself with the screenplays, and...

There can be a pretty pessimistic, gloomy bastard of a dark angel on my shoulder from time to time, and I'm better off telling that prick to fuck off and go away.

Which is what I did this morning while fixing my breakfast of Corn Flakes and toast. I started getting into the "what are you wasting your time for" thought processes, and thought:

"This is bullshit. You didn't get to where you are now thinking this way. You were convinced it would happen, you were willing to work hard and do what needed to be done until you achieved your goal, no matter how long it took."

Ahem. Get it?

So I told myself, "Just do it. Work on these things. You'll get there."

And I'll see YOU THERE when YOU get THERE.

Best,
Mark Terry

12 Comments:

Anonymous Amy Nathan said...

I try to stay away from the doom and gloom of writing -- there's too much of it everywhere else. I need something as a refuge, and writing is it. It's where I keep hopes for myself alive, it's where I expend more energy on anything other than my kids. It's where I'm relentless, obsessive and determined.

Thanks for the reminders.

See you THERE.

7:10 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

I have some free time -- the first in a few months -- and so I've been doing my part on the latest mystery. I find the process challenging, sometimes overwhelming, but engrossing and interesting. When I am writing I am not thinking about the publishing industry or where the writing might be going, if anywhere, and that's good.

As far as getting published though -- it happens. It can be done. Mary started by selling to Ellery Queen right out of the slush pile. She didn't know anybody. We sold our first book to Poisoned Pen Press the same way. Didn't even have an agent let alone any contacts. So we are proof that it is possible. As far as finding a big publisher, making a living at fiction, being a bestseller-- that I can't say, but I imagine there are similar examples of writers who achieved those things too simply by writing and sending it out.

7:28 AM  
Blogger Christa M. Miller said...

Thanks Mark. A couple of writer friends just signed with agents, and while I am thrilled for them, I can't help thinking that all my fiction is on the back burner while I try to make some money, take care of my kids, and develop a collaboration that feels like something I have to do, but whose direction I'm not even certain of yet. Talk about faith!

"No matter how long it takes" may be the most salient point of all. My biggest mistakes in life have been planning too far in advance, "expecting" things to align by a certain point because it seems as if it will work out best that way. Sometimes it does. Other times... all that's left is faith.

Hoping to get back to fiction once the school year starts... and just to enjoy it.

7:53 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Christa,
I may be in a similar situation at the moment. I'm concentrating on my business. Waiting (impatiently) for an agent to respond to my nonfiction proposal and awaiting some news re. a middle-grades novel I wrote.

Otherwise, I don't know what fiction to work on, and as a result, I'm not working on anyway. I'm thinking about different ideas and considering finishing off one I've put 200 pages into, but I don't feel much ambition about any of them at the moment. Maybe it's because I'm focusing on paying work at the moment, or maybe I just haven't found the right idea that inspires me properly.

8:46 AM  
Blogger Stephen Parrish said...

I will graciously allow you to buy me a drink when I get there. It's the least I can do for all the advice you've given me. You're welcome.

9:19 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Absolutely Stephen. And we can have that drink, oh, I don't know, courtside at a women's beach volleyball tournament.

9:30 AM  
Blogger Christa M. Miller said...

Exactly, Mark - lack of ambition. I have the interest, but not the passion to pull the trigger. And it isn't because I don't believe in the projects. My creative energy is just going elsewhere (a change, actually, from years past where fiction and nonfiction went hand in hand for my creativity).

Glad to know I am not the only one.

2:27 PM  
Anonymous JES said...

Very timely counsel, Mark -- timely enough that, yeah, it probably needs to be repeated every couple years or so.

It's hard enough to cope with the practicalities of trying to work writing into "real life" (finding a regular time and place for the writing, locating the right people to support you (psychologically if not as patrons :), and so on) -- without ALSO having to deal with the self-defeating mindset you describe here.

Thank you for the post.

8:20 AM  
Blogger Julie Weathers said...

Mark, thank you. JES pointed me this way and it is definitely a word at the right time.

Julie

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