Write Despite

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Archive for the month “May, 2014”

Author Mark Lowery: A Novel is a Leap of Faith

Novelist Mark Lowery, a man of talent and faith, shares his journey to publication with us today. Mark’s debut novel, He Promisd Nvr 2 Leav Me, was published by Lion’s Roar Press, a new Ohio-based independent press. Please check it out and pick up copy.

Born in the Bronx, New York, Mark is an award-winning journalist. He’s reported and edited for national magazines and major newspapers, including Newsday, the Detroit Free Press, and The Plain Dealer. He lives near Cleveland, Ohio.

He PromisD Nvr 2 LeaV Me tells the story of Taran Johnson, a writer whose serene lifestyle is derailed when he tries to honor a pledge made years earlier. His past and present collide, taking him back to a town he’d tried to forget, reintroducing him to a people and a culture he no longer recognizes. Can his growing faith save him?

Please welcome Mark to Write Despite.

cover_pdfTell us about your “breakthrough” publication—that first publication that felt really significant to you.
Although not my first publication, March 2014’s release of He Promisd Nvr 2 Leav Me (Lion’s Roar Press) is the one that has felt most significant. My byline and work have appeared in many newspapers and magazines, but that always seemed more work than pleasure; a man has to eat. With the release of my debut novel, I’ve experienced a control over the writing that, up until now, had largely escaped me. It definitely is a catch-22: You decide the beginning, the middle, and the end, what’s important, and how it needs to be expressed. But many others have to believe in the vision to make the project a reality. A novel is a leap of faith that readers will follow you to the end.

How long had you been writing before you published a piece?

I’d been writing journalism pieces for about eight years before I had a first-person piece published in the Sunday magazine of Newsday. That was well received and led to some similar assignments. That gave me the confidence to begin sharing my short stories. The fiction work provided a voice that I craved. Taking nothing away from journalism, the fiction was more artistic and liberating for me.

What was your reaction upon learning your piece was accepted? Disbelief? Joy?

My first reaction was fear when Newsday gave the go-ahead for the first-person piece. I wasn’t sure what would be enough information and what would be too much. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to put myself out there like that, share my innermost feelings. It’s impossible to present your work without being vulnerable, inviting criticism. The great thing about fiction is that parts of you can be displayed in many characters. In a first-person piece, there is nowhere to hide.

How do you go about trying to place your work? How do you choose markets?

My process is the opposite of what it should be. I create the work and then look for a landing spot. I keep telling myself that a better way would be finding specific needs, then tailoring projects to fit those needs. But even if I did it the more logical way, placing the work would still require making the contacts that you need to make to get the work read. And read in a timely fashion. If only it were as simple as forwarding the work to an editor!

Any advice for writers still working for their “breakthroughs?”

The dedication in my novel reads: “To all who try and try again.” Years ago, I was part of a reading and writing group. I had those folks in mind when I came up with the dedication. We would meet, usually once every two weeks or so, and we’d critique each other’s work and share resources. This was useful for many reasons. First, it’s always good to take advantage of different sets or eyes and ears. Secondly, there was so much valuable information that we shared, ranging from agent information to outlets for our writing. We worked in various fields, but we all shared a love for writing. The group also provided the encouragement I needed to force myself to make time for writing because I knew at each meeting someone would ask: “What have you worked on since we last met?” It wasn’t so much about any specific breakthrough. Rather, it was about what are you doing to create a breakthrough?

mark lowery headshot

 

Ponder this…

I was lucky enough to attend the annual Writer’s Conference at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Conn., a couple of weeks back. The Twain house is a fabulous resource for writers—and a pretty cool museum—if you’re ever in the area.

mark twain house

 

 

 

 

 

The conference featured workshops and discussions about aspects of writing from the creative process to marketing your book. I took part in two workshops led by Connecticut author Susan Schoenberger, whose new book is scheduled to appear this summer. Susan’s first novel, A Watershed Year, is a lyrical tour de force. Pick it up, if you haven’t.

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I want to share some spot-on tips from Susan. Now, stay with me. They’re all over the map—little fortune cookie notes on the writing process—but I think they’ll speak to you if you’re in the fiction trenches.

  1. Every scene in a novel or short story should contain three elements, or at least echo them: Desire, Action, Obstacle
  2. Write in scenes-between-characters, not chapters as “chunks.”
  3. If you find yourself writing a lot of “backstory” into your early drafts (like me) realize you’ve got some more drafts ahead of you. The goal is to internalize the backstory, so that you can deftly eye-dropper it in as you go along, not vomit “all the stuff the reader needs to know” in your first chapter. *I FOUND THIS ESPECIALLY HELPFUL!
  4. The subconscious mind is a treasure trove for writers. Tap into it. Dreams can be very instructive, as can the quiet voice that bubbles up when you turn down the volume on all the other crap in your life and de-clutter your mind.
  5. Good fiction is a window into a character’s interior world, where readers can also see themselves reflected. You want readers to say, “I’ve been there. I get that, but I’ve never heard it in that way.”
  6. If you’re publishing, balancing writing time with social media/website maintenance/agent querying, etc. is a huge challenge. Don’t get lost in the business end of things. Write. About 75 percent of your “writing time” should be spent doing just that: writing. The remaining 25 percent goes to hawking your work…or you won’t have any work to hawk.

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