Hi, my name is Mark Sumner and I'm an unemployed writer.
Oh, yeah, I have a job. I still know how to find my
keyboard. I'm even still tackling the occasional unwary word
and pinning it to the mat with my word processor. But what
I really need is a good, tight deadline.
Like most writers, I have a varied (and ultimately boring)
list of occupations: geologist, computer programmer, journalist,
coroner's assistant, professional cave explorer -- the usual
stuff. But all that was only a prelude to getting down to some
serious word wrangling.
Back in '91, I started selling a few short stories to magazines
and anthologies. Got a piece in Asimov's. Took first
place from Writers of the Future. Then in '93 I
sold a little young adult novel to Harper. Then another. Then
a couple of fantasy tomes at Del Rey, then some SF over at
Ace. And so one. By the time '97 rolled around, I was guilty of 18 books.
I had a couple of fresh award nominations, a nice shelf of books
with my name on them, one of them there New York agents, and a
sad delusion that I was on a roll.
Trouble is, I only rolled about another foot. I knocked out
one last SF/Mystery in a series I was doing for Berkley, went
to tackle the next project, and found there was no next project.
While I was busy turning trees into manuscripts, I sort of
missed the fact that a handful of good reviews and couple of
nominations does not add up to sales. The fantasy trilogy
ended after two books. The publisher of my YA series changed
the title of the newest volume to Dead End. And they meant it.
Where once I was complaining of one tight deadline after another,
now I have no deadlines. Free time. No pressure. Friends say
wonderful things like "Now you can work on anything you want."
Sure. Whatever. But when the space to write is limitless, and
the scope of the writing is undefined, I find myself chasing after
first one idea, then another, never quite managing to shoot any
of them and drag it back to the cave.
Right now, a six week deadline sounds like heaven. So please, vote
early, vote often. Put the yoke on my back. Hitch up the harness. I can take it.