Mack Describes His Path to PublicationBy Michelle
February 1, 2006 - 1:07 AM
Author David Mack discussed his novels and his advice to would-be Star Trek fiction writers, explaining that the fickleness of the screenwriting industry led him to write novels for Pocket Books.
In an interview with The Next Chamber, Mack advised travel and writing as often as possible as the best possible routes for a would-be writer...as well as marrying someone rich to allow the writer time to get established. "Try to get a feel for different places, different people," he suggested. "Also, remember that, for a writer, no life experience is wasted. Don't be afraid of intense experiences; learn to describe physical and emotional states; write about subjects on which you have strong feelings and opinions. And don’t be afraid to piss people off. Ruffle feathers."
Mack explained that a high school English teacher had encouraged him to submit television scripts to a kids' TV show, which led to a community college screenwriting program in the evenings while he was still in high school. Film school preceded script submissions at Star Trek: The Next Generation, but though Mack didn't sell any himself, he met then-Pocket Books editor John Ordover and the two teamed up. After a couple of sales to Deep Space Nine and Voyager, Mack began to work in the Star Trek office at Pocket Books, where Mack eventually earned the chance to write The Starfleet Survival Guide and then Star Trek fiction.
Since writing is a part-time job for Mack, who holds a day job as well, he said that he averages 1000 words a day, usually written very late at night. "Outlining is mandatory when writing books for a media tie-in property," he said. "Narrative ideas and structures need to be worked out in an outline at the beginning of the process, so that the editor and the licensor (i.e., Paramount Pictures for Star Trek, or Marvel Comics for Wolverine) can offer feedback and guidance to the author." He said he often begins in longhand, then sets word-count quotas to enable him to meet deadlines.
Though many of Pocket Books' recent authors got their start via the Strange New Worlds anthology, Mack said that he has never been interested in fan fiction and did not particularly advise it as a path to writing success. "One of the problems, in my opinion, with acclimating oneself to writing fan fiction is that, if one intends to write professional media tie-in novels or short stories, it’s not an accurate reflection of the experience. Fan fiction often deliberately flouts the sort of arbitrary restrictions that tie-in franchises impose on new authors as a way of testing whether or not the author is capable of 'playing with other people’s toys' without breaking them. As a result, one develops bad habits as a fan-fiction writer," he said.
Mack's upcoming projects are a Deep Space Nine novel, Warpath; a Wolverine novel called Road of Bones; and two Star Trek books slated for publication in 2007. More details are at The Next Chamber.