Thursday, April 15, 2010

Mark Terry, Guest Blogger

Today I'm handing over the reins to guest blogger Mark Terry. And all I can say about Mark's post is, "I agree," and, "I wish I had the presence of mind not to freak out ..." Mark's newest book, The Fallen, was just released—it's an old-school thriller that literally opens with a bang. Check it out, or take a peek at the first six chapters on his website (then buy it).

Without further ado, take it away, Mark:


I wrote a fairly long blog post yesterday about Writing For A Living, and someone asked me what my best writing advice would be that wasn’t related to money. I gave her the usual answer, which is “think more, write less,” which is advice given to me by an agent I once had. I still think that’s pretty damned good advice.

But afterward, thinking about it, it occurred to me that there might be a piece of advice I can give to writers that is significantly more important and probably more useful.

Since Jon is a freelancer I’m pretty sure he will agree with me. I have found this to be something I picked up from being a freelancer more than a novelist, but it applies to novels and publishing.

When do you quit sending out queries? When do you stop marketing a story? When do you stop looking for an agent? When do you stop marketing a novel, looking for a publisher?

Ultimately, only you can answer that question.

But here’s the thing about being a freelance writer and doing it for a living: When do you stop querying story ideas?

You don’t. Not UNTIL you get an assignment.

Otherwise you’re going to have to go back to whatever lousy job you had before. If you open a restaurant, you don’t close the doors because it’s not busy unless the bank or your accountant tells you to. You keep marketing and working it until your business takes off. And that’s just like any other business.

I went through a slow period last year and my response to it wasn’t to freak out (if I freaked out every time something strange happened in my writing career I’d be totally insane by now). It was to start sending out more and more queries, trying new markets, hitting old markets, scanning job postings on Craig’s List and others looking for writing gigs. Until I was busy again.

So that’s my best advice for writers. When should you stop? When should you quit? Well, only you know for sure, but I would say, “don’t stop UNTIL you’ve accomplished what you wanted to accomplish.”


Erica Orloff said...

Love this. I coasted writing fiction only for a couple of years, with a single side-gig client. When a "regime" change occurred and the company I wrote annual reports for became the most toxic environment I ever interacted with (and this was just via phone and email--freelance), eventually all freelance contractors were let go. So it became a question of freelancing again. I admit I panicked. The economy had tanked, but now, I am busier than I have been in years. It's a lesson learned, like you say, from freelancing. You just do it.

Mark Terry said...

I can't speak for every novelist, but I know that I have given up on manuscripts too early, and I often feel like my agent does, too. Remember, Elmore Leonard's "Big Bounce" was rejected over 80 times & it's been made into 2 films (both suck) and sold tons of copies. So there's a lot to be said about just finding a damn publisher for the thing, no matter how long it takes.

LurkerMonkey said...

I find there's a certain comfort in having your back against the wall ... you literally have to keep going if you want to eat and have a roof over your head. My business completely cratered a few years ago, and I did freak out—but then I got into motion and rebuilt it.

As for novels, I think it's almost a different discussion. Because there are so many options there, and there is so little expectation of money ... that I'm vastly more concerned with doing it in a way that is best for me than I am about making a living at it.

Mark Terry said...

I can see that. I can also see from my own experiences that I sort of got my breaks when I got disgusted with what seemed like dead ends and said, "Okay, how about we try THIS place."

Natasha Fondren said...

I agree with Jon: having one's back up against a wall is sometimes helpful. It's why I'm always pushing myself off figurative cliffs. Otherwise, I tend to choose the safer and more secure route.

And Mark, love this post! Totally! If I write something, I'll squeeze money out of it somehow. (I'm not with Jon on little expectations. I expect to make money, lol.)

Mark Terry said...

I'm probably not quite as good with my back to the wall. I'll dig my way out, but I like breathing room.