Mark Terry

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Between Projects

October 22, 2008
For the longest time, when I finished a novel manuscript, I knew what I wanted to work on next and would often start the very next day.

When I had multiple contracts, that helped, too.

Now that I am, as I like to tell people who ask me when the next book's coming out, "between projects" or "between contracts" you would think I'd be working feverishly to throw something awesome together.

Granted, the third Derek Stillwater is being pitched. The Fortress of Diamonds has been sent out to about 8 publishers. My nonfiction book proposal is being considered by at least one agent. I'm working on another nonfiction book proposal as a ghost/collaborator. I've got a white paper due at the end of the year and the technical journal I edit has work to be done. It's not like there's nothing going on.

It's just that I don't have a novel in progress.

More accurately, I have no novel that's really grabbing me. Except, well... let's get to that in a minute.

I've about 200 pages of an espionage novel done, but I can't work up the interest in finishing it (or any idea how, frankly). I've got 60 or 70 pages of a police procedural in the works that I've been dicking around with for a couple years. I've got a technothriller I've got about 2 chapters written and the same on a horror novel. My guess is those last 2 would require something more along the lines of divine inspiration to get me going on them. I was testing out ideas and they never took off, but there they are, awaiting ... something.

There are a couple components to this. One is that after being dropped by Midnight Ink, some of my enthusiasm for the business faded, possibly permanently. I wish it weren't true, but... I'm afraid it seems to be.

Two is that my reading has undergone a significant change in the last year and that many of the books that delighted me no longer do. So many of the mysteries and thrillers and crime novels I've read so intensely for the last 10 or 15 years don't grip me the way they used to. I don't know if it's that I've changed or if it's like eating the same thing every day for a couple weeks, you can barely stand it any more--sometimes ever. Ever have that happen? I used to love turkey sandwiches. Now I can barely gag sliced turkey down. I like a roast turkey like on Thanksgiving, the leftovers I can barely tolerate. My wife thinks this goes back to the Thanksgiving weekend I had my gall bladder out, a serious attack (the first I'd ever had, more or less) that we thought was originally a serious (and violent) case of food poisoning.

What I do know is that it's harder and harder for me to be blown away by a novel these days, to walk away saying, "Wow, that was awesome."

There's a part of me that suspects the adult fiction writer in me is gone, that I'm more focused on kids books. There's another part, the one that I hope is the right one, who's just waiting for the Really Great Idea to come along. Not the Good Idea or what Erica Orloff calls the Shiny New Idea, but something that really strikes me as being a fantastic story and character, something fresh, something that has a lot of meaning to me that will also be, drumroll please, commercial. There's also the part of me that wonders if I'm just done writing fiction. As my brother and I discussed a couple weeks ago (he's a composer), you do reach a point where when all evidence suggest that nobody wants or needs what you're doing, maybe you should go do something else.

I don't know. I really don't.

There is a middle grade book I'm working on. I've been so busy the last couple weeks that I haven't done much about it. It's an idea I stole from my son (since he stole iWolf from me, I returned the favor). I know I've been enjoying writing it and that my focus group of two (Ian and Sean) seem to like what I'm doing.

So maybe that'll work.

Or maybe it won't.

Mark Terry


Blogger spyscribbler said...

Gosh, I get this feeling all the way around. Maybe it's a moon phase or something. Maybe it's a bad year for writing and reading, and next year will be much better. I really hope so. Okay, I don't believe in astrology, but I will if it will explain this year and make next year much, much better.

I am yearning for that book that makes me think WOW! too. I can't seem to find a genre that calls to me, these days, let alone pick one for a Shiny New Idea.

I'm worrying I can only write one thing. I guess that's going fine, if not as profitable as I need it to be, but my heart feels restless.

I just don't know.

10:52 AM  
Blogger Stephen Parrish said...

Every problem is an opportunity in disguise.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Christa M. Miller said...

Yeah, you know, part of the reason I haven't been reading much lately is that I've been underwhelmed by the last several I've read. Several! Ones that got good reviews! The last book that really wowed me was THE ROAD. Yeah, I know.

I had a "between projects" phase this spring and summer, when I wondered if I was done with fiction. I felt I was writing the same thing over and over again. (I think it didn't help that I decided to pull my novel from the market after about 100 almost-all-form rejections.)

I personally needed a genre change, but that doesn't seem to be the case for you right now... if nothing is grabbing you, then it isn't. (Though nothing grabbed me either for six months.) So no advice, just sympathy.

And where IS that great book? Thinking I need to rediscover some classics....

11:57 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

Why do many writers seem to think that it isn't perfectly fine to write and then move on to something else if we so desire? I'm pretty darn sure my purpose here, if I have one, isn't simply to write. People change vocations and avocations all the time. People change, their interests change, their goals change. Artists decide they've said all they have to say in one medium and try something new and fresh. It is allowed!

I have no ideas for anything beyond the Byzantine mystery Mary and I are working on. Partly it is because recently, every time I have an idea I immediately realize, from my knowledge of the publishing industry, that it it would be virtually unpublishable and I really don't have enough time to spend on projects with no reasonable shot at succeeding. Well, actually, I don't have time to write anything but the book we are writing, even if I thought I had a publishable idea, so there's no point in thinking about it too hard.

If you gave yourself some time off -- just didn't think about writing -- you might very well suddenly find yourself with lots of ideas.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I think so, Eric. I've written fiction nonstop for about 20 years, give or take, and I do suspect--I'm pretty sure, but not positive--that the world won't come to an end if I took some time off.

1:48 PM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

Eric has a great point. I think I'm at that point with music and teaching. I'm just done. I'm trying like hell to get out, because it seems to be clear I am done, LOL. It's just all gone.

I still like to play on my own. And it's sad in a way. And frightening, because I got to a high level at it, but... I don't know. And high level aside, it still makes me feel a bit like a failure. It's a big part of my identity. It's hard to just let that go.

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