Mark Terry

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Emulation, Not Immolation

March 11, 2010
Yesterday agent Nathan Bransford asked his readers what author's career they wanted to emulate. It was the type of question that brings every would-be novelist out of the woodwork, and last time I checked he had over 230 comments. One of them was mine. A surprising number of people said Neil Gaiman, which I suspect says more about Nathan's readership than aspiring writers in general. I can't say, never having read anything by Gaiman and not knowing much about his writing career except that he's been favored by a number of filmmakers.

Anyway, I commented that I liked John Sandford for the high quality of his work over the last 20+ years and his ability to successfully develop a second series and to write compelling standalones, as well as short nonfiction and nonfiction books, as well as some scripts.

I said Stephen King for his longevity and his versatility, although I don't want his level of fame. I'd prefer to walk around the community and the world without people knowing who I am. Very few novelists get that famous.

Then I commented that I've always been impressed by Lee Goldberg's ability to write novels, short fiction, short nonfiction, nonfiction books, TV scripts and feature scripts. Uh oh, a theme.

I knew this in the back of my head, but I really do want a long career with a variety of types of writing to it. Yeah, I'd be glad if one of my novels suddenly became the next Da Vinci Code (minus the lawsuits) or Harry Potter (minus the stalkers and rabid fans and lawsuits). And who knows, maybe I'll change my mind on this if my novels really bring in a lot of money, but I value being a "writer" more than I value being a "novelist." And I don't necessarily want to be tied down to a single form, genre, or type of project, partially for the financial security of being versatile, and partially because I like the variety from a creative point of view.

I do understand--I'm slowly becoming aware of this--that there are a number of novelists out there whose novels make much more money than mine do (yet) but who don't make enough money to write full time. And that my ability to write many different things does allow me to make enough money to write full time, which is really a blessing. I would much rather be a full-time writer than a part-time novelist with a day job I didn't like. But not everybody feels that way, and that's fine.

So anyway, what writer's career would you like to emulate?


Blogger Natasha Fondren said...

Neil Gaiman. :-)

Seriously. He's versatile: he's done comics, novels, screenplays, short stories, and poetry. He's wicked creative and he'll experiment with anything: he's written songs and directed a short film. He's genuinely nice, with a wonderful sense of play and humor. He makes a great living with fiction, and his career has been such that he's able to experiment and be creative.

He's a freaking amazing storyteller. Next time you're in Borders, go into the graphic novel section and check out the Sandman series. Or Anansi Boys. Or American Gods. (People generally hate one and love the other--how cool is that? To be able to write two very different things?)

3:17 PM  

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