Mark Terry

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Just Finish The Motherf***er!

August 4, 2009
Lynne Viehl wrote the right blog at the right time for me today. She's writing about acronyms for a certain type of writing project where even though it might be crap, you should just finish it anyway. Because to regularly NOT FINISH novels is habit forming.

Now, there are times when it's totally worthwhile to abandon a project. Over the years I've had a complete finish-it complex where I maybe should have given them up (or perhaps not), but in fact, one of my big strengths was when I started something I finished it, by God, even if it was pointless. It's something that's served me well in other areas of my life.

Now, the last year or so hasn't really been all that bad. I did get some contracts for books that had been dropped. I did write two manuscripts for middle grade fantasy novels. I may go back and rework one of those in the future, but for now, probably not, and I don't feel as driven to write in that genre as I did.

In fact, sometimes I intentionally write 20 or 30 or 40 pages of a novel just to see if it'll take off. If I don't go past 20 pages, it's a good bet I'm just not that interested. Once I hit 50 or 75, there's usually something there. If I go 100 pages, the only reason I'm not finishing it is because I'm a moron.

Except I've been a moron a bit more lately. I've got an SF novel that's about 130 pages long, A Plague of Stars. More importantly, I think, I've got a thriller novel that's 200 pages long called China Fire, and on one level or so I think it's the best thing I've ever written. But for a variety of reasons it's also the most difficult thing I've ever written and it got stalled and I sort of abandoned it.

But I didn't, because it's always been at the back of my head.

I've also been dabbling with a crime novel. It's an idea that I've attacked a half a dozen ways, and I think I got a good character for it, but... I'm not sure it's really out of the 20+ page area and it keeps getting stalled. It's possible that the original story idea I keep playing with just isn't as strong as I think it is, no matter how clever I happen to think it is.

Which brings me back to Lynn's column, where she suggests sometimes you just have to tell yourself to finish the motherf**cker. (Actually, the profanity is my own).

I could easily write another Derek Stillwater, and expect I will (I don't know if "easily" is the right word, but I have a title and the first 20 pages and a brief synopsis, so it's a matter of actually doing it). I am, in fact, reading The Valley of Shadows in preparation for dealing with my editor's suggestions. But I've got a year before those edits are due and probably close to another year after that until another Stillwater would be due, assuming the others do well enough to warrant it.

So what novel should I work on?

Not for the first time I've told myself that China Fire could be completed in about two months if I just sat my ass down and wrote 5 pages a day for a couple months. And perhaps I need to give myself the freedom to just write it, not worry about all the plot threads, the complicated setting, all the machinations of plot, and just write it, page after page, and then once it's done, I can THEN start making it hold together. That's not how I usually work, but sometimes you can overthink things.

So that's what I've decided to do. So y'all, feel free to periodically say, "Hey, Mark, have you done your five pages of China Fire yet today?" Because really, sometimes I just need someone to nag me.



Anonymous Christine said...

I've suggested this to you before, but I'll do it again. There is an August National Novel Writing Month, at
This one's a little different from other Wrimos, because YOU get to set your goal, and then you determine if you've reached it. You have to verify your totals, but that's okay. It keeps you honest.

Here's what I like about Wrimos. Because you need to average 1,667 words a day for a whole month to reach the 50,000 (in my case), you just don't have the time to procrastinate. You can also feel free to explore all those weird plot complications in your head that you may or may not keep later, because hey, it's wordcount. And you never know when that weird plot complication becomes THE thing that turns your piece into a masterpiece.

I highly recommend it. It's the best antidote I know to "just finish the mofo." I've written five rough drafts of novels this way.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Always a thought. It's August after all.

12:21 PM  
Blogger Natasha Fondren said...

Oh AWESOME! You know I've been looking forward to that one! I actually feared you were giving up on it. Yay that you're going to write it! Will commence nagging. :-)

10:09 PM  

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