Toolbox 15: Horror Writing

This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.

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I’ve read all kinds of how-to writing manuals. That said, I know that I won’t write romance, but some of my stories will have romantic elements. I include several genre elements in my work, so why not horror.

It’s October and during this month I watch, read and eat up horror stories.

Stephen King built his career on horror in the early years. Some quotes to consider:

“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.”
― Stephen King

“There’s no bitch on earth like a mother frightened for her kids.”
― Stephen King

“We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.” 
― Stephen King

My favorite is psychological

Some people imagine blood and guts when it comes to horror. I don’t. I’m more of the person who makes sure the windows and doors are locked because I suddenly suspect there is a vampire outside. I’m all about atmosphere and the creepy feeling that doesn’t go away after the story is over.

It’s exhilarating, and to me that’s horror!

It starts off in a normal world we are all familiar with. Then slowly changes into a world no one else would recognize.

Why it works

Horror has monsters—human and otherwise.

Darkness brings an element of the unknown it. Degrees of shadows that warp everything from playgrounds, and backyards to our neighbor’s face. Friendly streets become sinister when the lights flicker off.

We can’t help but instinctively want to avoid the imagined danger.

A flashlight is just a flashlight swinging in someone hand. But when it falls to the ground and rolls to a stop, it changes.

Without the deepened shadows, we’d easily see the fellow who dropped the flashlight bending over to pick it up.

And if we can’t see what’s there?

For all we know something’s lurking. Possibly behind the flashlight carrier. When the flashlight falls and is left untouched, there is only one answer. The answer is unique to each of our imaginations. If it frightens us, and we can’t call for help, the most we might do is watch as the batteries die.

Already imagining what we’ll find only inches from the Maglite come dawn.

Suspense is not Horror

Just as not all fingers are thumbs and all thumbs are fingers.

Suspense and tension are in all good stories. We want the reader to care. To feel the emotional escalation that drives the page turner.

Horror uses suspense with a mix of the fear factor (maybe sprinkled with the terror of it all) to drive the story forward.

Heroes are different too

In horror, we count on the hero doing more than we would dare. It has become cliché for a hero, alone and unarmed, to hear a sound and pursue it into a dark basement. It’s a cliché for a reason, fellow horror lovers.

Heroes offer hope. Out of all the things that happen, one person might live.  And when we watch or read on, we need our hero to fearlessly face what scares them most. They jeopardize their lives saving others or trying to.  To feel the failure, the heartache and shake it off long enough to try one last time.

Survival brings with it a giddiness that makes life sweeter, even if we still carry a little fear with us afterward.

Are you writing any horror this month? Reading some? Tell me about it.

Also: I’ve joined Wattpad. If you’re there too, let me know. Link’s on the sidebar. 😉

Gleaned from:

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IWSG 53: SCATTERED, SCARED, AND SO SLOW IT HURTS

This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our encouragement or insecurities on the first Wednesday of the month, to join the group or find out more click here.

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OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: How do major life events affect your writing? Has writing ever helped you through something?

I wouldn’t have made it out of my teen years without being able to vent through writing. And after a while the venting led to figuring out or thinking through my troubles. Sometimes even solving an issue. 😉

Co-Hosts:  

Dolorah @ Book Lover  | Christopher D. Votey | Tanya Miranda | Chemist Ken!

I have a few things on my mind this month. One: no rejections since my last post. (On the other hand, no requests either.) Two: Roane Publishing closed its doors as of Sept 30th. (They were my publisher and their closing makes me sad.)

Three: I discovered Overdrive.

For all of you that knew…. Best kept secret ever.

For those who don’t know, OverDrive is a way to borrow ebooks, audio books, videos, and magazines etc from your local library. In Canada we need to use an app. For those of you in the states, OverDrive will work on your Kindle.

Using Overdrive led to four.

Four: Being Scattered, Scared, and So Slow  it Hurts.

OverDrive helped me get off my behind and start checking out all the middle grade stories I’ve been meaning to read. That’s when I discovered Howard Walllace PI. Great read for the young readers of the world.

It’s a middle grade detective story and  I am quite upset.

You see I had this grand plan with my own middle grade detective story. I’m pretty sure I’ll need to abandon it. My main character was a Sam Spade wannabe.

Hers is a Sam Spade, Nick Charles, Mike Hammer, etc wannabe. She covered them all.

The bottom line is she wrote him first and  I’m not sure how people would see mine if I pursued it. Would they think I’m a copy cat? Sure some books have common elements. Cozies have cats, cutzie names, foodies, crafties, or as of lately–marinas. Love stories have, well, have love.

It’s not like I’m trying to sell the idea or even the book. I’ve waited so long. It serves me right. To top it off my book isn’t finished….

And her book is great. I loved it. I really did. (Addition: I’m reading the second one now and it’s awesome too.)

I guess that’s my trouble

Jealously. And feeling so insecure.

Logic tells me to stop feeling bad and I’m sure over time I will. Until then though…

What about you? Anyone come up with something similar you were writing? How did you cope?

Toolbox 14: Query Revamping

This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.

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Last post I shared that I submitted to ten agents since then I’ve received eight rejections. All form letters confirmed in QueryTracker.

A quick visit to  Query Shark, some heavy reading and I went into revamp mode.

I reworked my query, synopsis, and sample chapters.  I didn’t have to redo all of it. Form letters usually mean the reader didn’t get past the query letter, but once I started fixing things…

What i focused on when revamping

What’s the hook? Many of the example letters started off with a general book description. I didn’t make this mistake. I’m pretty sure I was too vague. She strongly suggests looking for the crux of the character’s dilemma, a rhetorical question, or grabbing the reader with a tagline.

Why does anyone care? Excellent question—hence the rewrite. Several actually. It took work to pin down why anyone would care and want to read my book.

Maintaining an even ten

Ten queries are out and its been quiet. Of the seven rejections, one came the next day. So now I’m wondering if I hit a busy patch or maybe they haven’t gotten to me yet. OR, fingers crossed, my query letter survived the agent’s initial read through and is in a holding pattern.

Anyhoo.

I’ve read this process can take years and it has been suggested I get working on my next project just in case I run out of agents on my list to keep me moving forward.

What do you do to keep a positive outlook when submitting?

IWSG 52 QUERYING REJECTION: FORM LETTERS

This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our encouragement or insecurities on the first Wednesday of the month, to join the group or find out more click here.

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OUR HOSTS THIS MONTH:

Toi Thomas | T. Powell Coltrin | M.J. Fifield | Tara Tyler

OPTIONAL IWSG DAY QUESTION:

What publishing path are you considering/did you take, and why?

Short answer: I’m going traditional but I’ve mostly submitted to indie publishers. Why for the experience and creds. Now, I’m looking at landing an agent. Form rejections galore so far, but my journey has just begun. Below is what I’ve been considering since my hunt has begun.

FORM LETTERS

What does it mean when an agent (reader) doesn’t connect?

I didn’t know so I searched the web for insightful advice.

Turns out that not connecting was a common rejection in a form letter. I didn’t know I was getting form letters until I checked Agent Comments in QueryTracker. Every letter was there.

One point I’d like to make is the majority of them were kind and encouraging. They didn’t have to write them like that and I know it.

I also revamped my query package and am trying again.

Any of you find an agent using the slush pile? Care to share how it went.

Toolbox 13: Quotes to Inspire

This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.

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Right now I should be writing this for the IWSG but alas that isn’t for weeks and I need a post now. I threw away my original post and thought, instead of going on and on about my dry research, I’d dive in to what inspires me most—other writers.

As I read, I remember they started as we did: knowing nothing, learning the craft and taking a chance.

“If I waited for perfection… I would never write a word.”
—Margaret Atwood

“Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good.”
William Faulkner

“I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of. ”
— Joss Whedon

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”
–Anne Frank

“I really think that if there’s any one enemy to human creativity, especially creative writing, it’s self-consciousness.”
—Andre Dubus III

And one to inspire Easter eggs hunts

“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and overagain, there is no use in reading it at all.”
—Oscar Wilde

As you may have guessed, I’m starting something new. I’m taking chances and trying my hand at a magical realism mystery. What was I thinking, is what I’m thinking right now. Please add your favorite, if you have one, in the comments.