This Writing Life--Mark Terry
Thoughts From A Professional Writer

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August 3, 2005
I remember a column by Lawrence Block talking about the one thing he knew about all the writers that made a living at it was that they got a lot done.

Yes. I think so, too. It makes me think of the amazing Ed Hoch, master of the short story. Ed has a short story in every issue of both Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and that means around 24 short stories a year, and I assume he writes others as well.

One of the reasons I was thinking about this was I worked up my 70th invoice for 2005 yesterday. Probably about a third of those are for book reviews, still leaving about 45 to 50 magazine articles that I have written, billed and presumably been paid for. (Never assume). I also don't invoice (though I do get paid) for the issues of The Journal of the Association of Genetic Technologists, which I edit, and I'm working on the third issue of the year. And as I have written about here, I completed a novel this year, The Serpent's Kiss, just in time to be part of a 2-book deal. And I'm about 100 pages into the follow-up's first draft. I also wasted some time fussing with a nonfiction book proposal about computational biology that I have since abandoned, and a couple of novels I've tinkered with, writing a rough draft of the first chapter to see if there's anything there. And of course this blog, which, alas, I can't invoice for.

Partly the reason for all the productivity is not all my clients pay as much as I wish they did. If one of my novels suddenly hits and I got a six-figure advance (all figures on the LEFT side of the decimel point, please), then I'm positive I woldn't be working so much on nonfiction, though I suspect I would still write book reviews, edit the journal and continue to write some articles for my better-paying clients just to keep my hand in. Or maybe not. I've often thought I'd like to tinker with movie or TV scripts if I had the time, but it's just not my focus at the moment. (And there's only so much time in the day).

Anyway, point being, anybody who has the notion of writing fulltime for a living is going to have to be productive. And even for those lucky enough (or talented enough or whatever it is) to be able to make a decent living off a single novel a year, I bet that the crush of commitments to re-writes, outlines, book signings, interviews and talks is going to really suck up your time.

So get to work!

Mark Terry

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