Mark Terry

Thursday, September 10, 2009


September 10, 2009
I think it's safe to say that if you stay in the novel-publishing biz long enough (or try to get in long enough), you're going to get your ass handed to you on a platter from time to time. It's just the nature of the business (there's no business like show business...). And I think that the Internet, which allows any moron with fingers and an Internet connection to review and comment or in general try to trash people's careers, has only added a weird volatility to a business that often resembles a gas leak in a Greek restaurant. Opa!

So I was thinking today that one of the toughest things about writing novels is just staying invested in each project. I know we're constantly told to follow our passion, that it's passion that will lead the way, but does anybody reading this, unpublished or published, long career, short career or "what career?" deny that if you've had 7 unpublished manuscripts, or been dropped by a publisher, or the last 4 proposals you wrote got turned down or your editor left and abandoned you, or Kirkus compared you to Josef Mengele, or some asshole called you a no-talent hack on, or 119 agents turned you down, that somewhere in working on a manuscript or proposal there's a voice in your head that says, "You need to back off from this a bit or you're gonna get hurt. Don't invest so much of yourself in this because you don't want to go through that rejection thing yet again."

It probably comes back to passion, which can be a bigger problem for professional writers than it is for the unpublished, simply because a long novel-writing career can be rather like a long marriage. Hey, folks, the honeymoon's over. You might get laid from time to time (or regularly or never, TMI, TMI, TMI) or have a romantic dinner, etc., but this is, for better or worse, a different kind of thing than when you were dating.

It's just plain hard work to approach a manuscript every day that might not get published; that might get published and not go anywhere; that might get slammed by critics, fail to sell-through, or fail to gain an audience.

But that's what you've got to do. Somehow you've got to put all the self-doubt in a box and lock it up while you're working on your manuscript. While you're working on it you've got to believe it's the next super bestseller, that your name is going to be used in a sentence with JK Rowling, Dan Brown, and Mitch Albom (and not: "Unlike JK Rowling, Dan Brown, and Mitch Albom, Mark Terry can't even give his books away."), that readers are going to line up for your book, etc.

So it's all about faith, hope, and passion, I guess.



Blogger Natasha Fondren said...

I used to think motivation was an effort one applied to one's goals. With piano, there was an effort, albeit an effort lined with much ambition, to getting motivated.

With writing, there's no effort to my motivation; it's more it's got my back and it supports me. I've been making money at this for almost nine years now, (how did that happen?!) and I don't think I've once thought of quitting. I love it more every day. I know absolutely that this is what I'm supposed to be doing, which is odd, because I'm not much of a faith person.

7:35 AM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...

I think you worded it very well. You need to put your angst and doubt into a box, compartmentalize it, so you can remain passionate.

It is one thing to SAY "reading and book choices are so subjective." It's another to write a book you love and someone trashes it in troll-like fashion. I had a dear friend write a successful book for Penguin, and some woman would run all over the Internet (Amazon, B&N, and so on) and write this vicious review about how anyone who bought the book was just encouraging "bad fiction." It was so laced with . . . almost ANGER, that I couldn't imagine what kind of human being would be so invested in wanting someone's book to fail. My friend had a very difficult time with it, because this trashiong was so public. So again, intellectually understanding it, and actually facing it? Two different things.

It's like not being able to sell chick lit. You can't sell a COMEDY? Come on! But if I let that color my writing, and get all frustrated . . .

Anyway, great post.

8:25 AM  
Blogger Debra L Martin said...

I think being an author, published or unpublished, lends itself to taking criticism a little more personally. After all, the words on the page are entirely yours and any comments about them cuts a little deeper.

In a day job, you do the work, prepare a report or a spread sheet and if your boss doesn't like it or wants it changed, it's not like he/she has criticized your thoughts/ideas personally. He/she may not like the layout, the way the facts are presented etc.

I try to keep in mind that I love to write and publishing is subjective. What one agent/editor may hate, another may love. It's finding that one combination that works. I'm in the querying process for book 2 and I have to believe that someone will like it and offer representation because otherwise, why would I put myself through such agony, holding my breath every time a reply comes in.

In the meantime, however, I'm not quitting my day job.

9:00 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

You're lucky.

12:11 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Those trends issues give me a headache. Can't sell comedy? I don't get it. I can understand no longer calling it chick lit, but if it's humor or comedy, there's always a market for it. How about a vampire-romance-comedy? LOVE BITES!

12:12 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

There was a scientific study using MRIs on jazz musicians while performing and improvising that found the same brain centers used were involved in self-awareness and self-consciousness. In other words, the parts of your brain involved in creativity are involved in how we perceive ourselves.

12:13 PM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

Yes, getting published can crush one's inspiration even more than not getting published. For some writers (or at least one writer with the initials E.M.) it is probably necessary to divorce the writing process from the publishing process. There seem to be writers who can write, and shape their writing, with an eye towards publication and I suppose this increases their chances of success, but I have found I can't be thinking about the desires of the marketplace when I try to write. It defeats me entirely.

Recently Mary and I have been researching and putting together a raft of ideas for stories and books. Most of the stuff is probably unmarketable but I finally convinced myself to push that out of my mind and it is amazing how, when I did so, I was suddenly inspired to write again. Now you may well say, that's nice but what's the point of writing a book that won't sell and no one will read? To which I can only reply, that's exactly what I refuse to think about until it is written.

12:35 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Yeah, what you said. Exactly.

12:41 PM  

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