Mark Terry

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tripping & Falling

March 18, 2010
Persist, persist, persist, etc. What do you call a writer that doesn't quit? Published. Ass in chair, fingers on keyboard, repeat.

God, has any aspiring writer NOT heard all this?

For some time, back before I broke through (something I occasionally still feel like I'm waiting to do), it occurred to me that the worst thing about quitting would be knowing that success (whatever that is) could have been right around the corner. WHAT IF...

...your next book was the one that became the next Harry Potter, The Da Vinci Code, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Tuesdays With Morrie, etc., ad nauseum?

Most writers don't have that kind of success. Really.

Yet a lot of writers apparently make a living writing, anything from novels, nonfiction books, magazine articles, technical manuals, website copy, ad copy, and ransom notes.

I've mentioned before that I've had two publishers go under prior to publication, and I was dropped by my last publisher mid-contract. That seems sort of like an outlier when you're inside the frame, but...

...a couple weeks ago the Divine Ms. O wrote a post on her blog about some things that had happened in her writing career, editors that left houses (voluntarily or otherwise), books that got lost in the shuffle, contracts and deals that fell apart...

... recently John Scalzi made a comment about a business book getting published right around 9/11 and all the promotion, etc., getting shut down and the book basically dying before it hit the shelves...

I think we need to expect that. As The Fallen is gearing up for official release on April 5th, I'm not oblivious to the fact that after the series got dropped by Midnight Ink, I was fairly sure The Fallen and its follow-up, The Valley of Shadows, were going to remain unpublished forever. We shopped it around for a while, but very few publishers are interested in picking up a book mid-series, and I put it aside and worked on other things for a while, trying my hand at some middle grade and young adult fantasy (which I enjoyed writing a lot and may go after again sometime). Then I interviewed a couple authors with Oceanview Publishing for a The Big Thrill profile and contacted some writer friends to see if they'd heard anything about them, then asked my agent to send off The Fallen. And we're back in business.

It seems to me that unless you're really been whacked by the lucky stick, you're going to hit some major potholes in your writing career. And you can respond by quitting and taking up computer programming or commercial real estate, or you can keep writing and keep batting.

And God knows, there are undoubtedly some really good reasons to take up programming or getting a real estate license. Maybe these kinds of, er, speed bumps just aren't worth the hassle. (Hey, I have my days). Some people seem to have a good handle on a writing career, get dropped, and say, "Enough of that shit, I'm out of here," and if they have major regrets about that decision, well, they seem to keep it to themselves. Others grow bitter. Others come back stronger than ever a couple years later.

We like those comeback stories, I know, but I also think that life is short and if you throw your dice a few times and come up empty or, hell, the dice explode into a million pieces, it's not necessarily a bad thing to say, "Well, there's an infinity of other things for me to spend my time on, so why don't I explore them." In fact, I often think that's a good thing if it makes them happy or contented. If they spend the rest of their lives saying, "If only I had stuck with it..." or "if only I'd gotten a lucky break..." and it taints the rest of their life, then I don't think that's a good thing.

But as I've said before, there are millions of people struggling to get food on the table, living in war zones, fighting horrible diseases, etc. If the worst thing in your life is your novel-writing dreams didn't come to fruition, well, count yourself blessed.

That said, if you fall down, get back up again and keep going.


Blogger Natasha Fondren said...

I really like that in writing, you have control over the end product. (Vs. teaching, where you have only like 10% control, LOLOL.)

I thank the stars daily for what my writing career has been thus far. And worry, daily, about the future, LOL. Most of my challenges can be fixed with "write faster." Add in "write better," and I'm set.

Speaking of which...

8:28 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

I thin that for some people he endless quest to get published and/or succeed at writing can be really destructive. I guess it it great to keep searching for the holy grail as long as you're enjoying yourself.

For some reason when I as Bloglines to get the rss feed for this blog it keeps taking the feed for your old blog instead. I'm going to try again though.

9:03 PM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...

You know, there is an element of writing that is about character. Because really, this post is about the "what you're made of" element of being a writer.

3:35 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Eric, my website guru is in the process of converting all the blogs within her server; Blogger told me to do it myself, so I did, then she told me I should have had her do it. Hopefully it'll get fixed soon.

5:40 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I suppose you're right. Some of us just won't quit and writing may only be part of that.

5:40 AM  
Blogger jjdebenedictis said...

Here via Erica Orloff's blog. *waves*

One of the best predictors of success is optimism. Not IQ, not raw talent. Optimism.

Because optimists believe things will get better, and as a result, they keep trying.

Luckily for me, I can fake optimism by substituting in bloody-minded stubbornness.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

JJ--I'd never discount the value of stubbornness in anyone's success.

1:23 PM  
Blogger Richmond Writer said...

Thanks. I needed to read this. I think I am going to try some other things for a while. Still I enjoyed reading this because it reminds me that I should enjoy the journey along the rainbow because the pot of gold is an illusion.

5:53 AM  

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