Mark Terry

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Would I Lie To You, Honey?

October 29, 2009

I'm going to go to Career Day at my son's middle school in a couple weeks and give a 20-25 minute presentation on my career, on being a freelance writer. So the age group is basically 11 and 12-year-olds. I'm going to talk mostly about my novel writing, but because this is about careers, I'm going to talk a little bit about the magazine writing, etc., that I do. I imagine I'll talk about interviewing experts, etc. The teacher also wants us parents to talk about how we got into this field and how math and science might enter into our career choice. (He notes that one parent last year showed up at school in a Coast Guard helicopter. How the hell could you follow that? Luckily, I'm following a car dealer--in the Detroit area. I just hope he doesn't give away cars).

In other words, I'm going to lie. A little bit, anyway.

This is on my mind a bit because I just sent my website maven a ton of stuff to revamp the content on my site, and one of the things I did was completely redo the Bio. I kept it simpler and basically said I was a novelist. I said I've written literally hundreds of magazine articles, but I'm staying away from talking about that.


There's been some discussion among writers fairly recently about the so-called "mystique" of the novelist. That being thought of as a full-time novelist is part of the sales job, that it's what readers and book buyers want to hear, what they want to believe. And that by saying that you have a "day job" ruins the mystique and gives readers one more reason not to buy your book.

I buy it and I don't. I'm a fan of honesty, actually. I'm also proud of being a full-time freelance writer. I'm not hiding what I do. But it may be a good time to focus the fiction stuff on selling fiction and keeping it somewhat separate from the nonfiction. After all, I rarely talk about my novel writing when I'm discussing nonfiction, especially with clients. It's on my writing resume, and I recently had a nonfiction publisher say that was the part of the resume that intrigued her the most (she's a bit of a dipshit, actually, even for a publisher). But I believe that in most cases even mentioning the fiction with the nonfiction clients is completely counterproductive, so vice versa is probably also true.

I guess.

For 11-year-olds, the novelist stuff will be more interesting, even if the magazine stuff makes more sense. I hate to prepare too much in advance for talks. I like to carefully gauge my audience's interest and reaction and on-the-spot tailor what I'm saying to keep them interested (hopefully). This might be tricky with 11-year-olds. (Hell, I was doing mini-chats with the guitar classes in the high school a couple weeks ago and one-on-one they were great, but when you start running your mouth in front of them you sure get a lot of glazed eyes and blank expression. A lot of those glazed eyes and blank expressions come from people who are actually paying attention, but it can be disconcerting).

So tell me, fellow scribblers. Would you lie to me?

Mark Terry


Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

That's a tough one. One thing I absolutely agree with you on is that it is, if anything, counterproductive to mention one's fiction writing to nonfiction clients. I never, never mention my fiction writing to legal publishers. Heck, fiction is the last thing they want.

And that idea about people wanting to believe in the mystique of the full-time novelist is probably true, sad to say. I imagine it is part of our society's obsession with celebrity. Some people seem to only pay attention to these god-like creatures.

Nevertheless, I'm not going to pretend to be a full-time novelist. I guess the approach to take is the one you seem to be taking, to just not mention the other stuff and if people want to leap to conclusions, that's their problem. I can see that. However, a lot of writers strongly imply, or even flatout lie about the matter and I'm not sure I can buy into that, even if it makes commercial sense.

10:57 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

The first time I went to a real writer's conference--Magna cum Murder--I spent a lot of timing bugging the other novelists, trying to determine if they were full-time or not. I suspect this didn't make me terribly popular. It was probably rather like asking people if they had herpes. And I sure as hell didn't get a lot of straight answers. "Evasive" would be the word I would use to describe most of their answers.

11:02 AM  
Anonymous writergrrrl said...

Interesting post! I'm a freelance advertising copywriter, a pubbed short story writer, and an unpubbed novelist. I have a full-blown website for my freelance business, and always assumed I'd extend it to include my pubbed novels (if that day ever comes). A couple of reasons: My url is my name, and my site comes up first in Google and Yahoo searches. I also thought (a silly thought, probably), that a potential or current client that goes to my site might be a potential reader/customer for my fiction.

Mark, your xuni Web maven visited the Sisters in Crime list and recommended that a separate site is the way to go. However, I have seen a number of authors, who own their own businesses/work as consultants, use a gateway page. Then visitors choose their path. Seems like extra work for the visitor, though. And your point about ruining the mystique is something I've never thought of. I have friends already who think I'm going to automatically get rich and famous once I get a novel published. (Hahahahaha.)

Oh, well. I don't have to make the decision now.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I've considered the gateway option, but prices for URLs and hosting have come down so much it's probably easier to just keep them simple and have separate sites. My business site is although I need to revamp it for my current needs.

11:22 AM  
Blogger Natasha Fondren said...

I can understand that. I don't buy into it, but I guess I can believe it.

Personally, pseudonym would not, in a MILLION years, ever talk about the craft of writing. These characters are my reader's companions, for a time. I'm trying to convince my readers that my characters are REAL. I wouldn't dream of spoiling the magic by talking about how I "made" them.

I thought to leave my writing blog under spyscribbler and leave it at that. Now, I really don't know what I'll do when/if I get published under my real name.

2:14 PM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...

I am a f/t writer. Some years it's nearly entirely fiction . . . maybe of the last 6 years, three were that. Some years, it's 50% fiction, 50% ghosting/editing (some years, it's a LOT of ghosting, such as this year). I always had one consistent corporate writing (freelance) gig (annual reports and newsletters). I lost that this summer (economy) . . . so now it's fiction + a variety. I do wish I had a separate site and at SOME point I will likely do so, so that I can post links to my freelance and make it simpler if someone wants to hire me as a ghostwriter or developmental editor.

When I talk to schools or groups, they generally have me there as a novelist, so I never mention that I do other things.

3:09 AM  
Anonymous Jim said...

You've reminded me of when I went to my eldest kid's elementary school to talk about my job in a university computer center and the big hit of my visit was the stack of punched cards I had brought along as a show-and-tell visual. Every kid wanted to have a handful of cards to hold and look at. (Punched cards? Yes, this was a quite a while ago... said eldest child celebrated his 41st birthday a month ago.)

Your classroom adventure might make an interesting blog entry.

2:08 PM  

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