The hard writing creates the most improvement.

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I’ve thought about this blog idea and finally stepped up.

I consider myself and horror and thriller writer, which is stated on my Twitter profile.

With thrillers, they come easily. They write themselves from the start of the outline to the finished story.

With horror, it’s different. I have to think a bit more. It challenges me more. I can’t write an outline for my horror stories, no matter their length. I’m not sure why this is, but I’ve learned to accept this is my process for each genre.

Identifying this little bit took me to the point of quitting altogether. It wasn’t until recently I identified that each story needs something else. And that’s okay.

I started a horror novel this week, and just as with others, I attempted to write an outline, but nope. These stories are all discovery written.

I believe it’s the intricacies of the thriller genre that require this. The layers of military/political/espionage thriller and the research those categories require force me(who has never served in the military, worked in politics, or participated in any espionage activities) into discovering how certain firearms work. How certain groups would operate and what they’re like is the most difficult. I don’t know anyone who works in these environments, so I read about tactics and weapons. The library I have on certain groups has probably put me on some government list. I’m fine with that. I get pulled out by the TSA every time anyway. I always have.

I enjoy the lack of need regarding all of the research with horror. Of course, there is some research, but nothing like when I’m writing thrillers. There is also the fear factor involved. I worry more if I’m getting details wrong with thrillers. One can only read so many books and still not understand what it’s like to be in a firefight, and I would never ask a vet.

I love writing horror for the simple reason of its freedom. I love writing thrillers because that’s what I grew up reading more than any other genre. Both are my wheelhouse and I learn different things from writing both. I find writing horror more difficult because it’s straight world-building throughout the process.

Thrillers will always have more work on the front end with outlines, and research, while horror will have more on the backend, either with more drafts or with research during or after the first draft is complete.

I’m adjusting to the fact that I write differently depending on the genre. I’ve taken some damage to my ego, which I’m sure needed to happen. I’ll be working this way from now on.

Horror will be my favorite of the two because it’s my safe space, as I mentioned earlier this week. But that’s all I have for today. Have a good weekend.

What’s holding things back?

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This will not be my usual content!

I’ve been on TikTok a lot lately and there are some fabulous conversations about trauma by good creators. These conversations led me to confronting a lot of bad shit from my childhood, from my late teens, and from my early twenties.

Some of these are issues I’m not ready to deal with, while others are of a different variety.

When I graduated high school all I wanted was to be a Marine. I went to boot camp and was shipped home a week later. I prepared for boot camp for months. But when I was sent home a lot of desire for anything came out of me. I got really depressed and a few times I thought of suicide.

I have never wanted anything in my life the way I wanted that and I think it’s held me back. I see this in my writing, my family life, and myself personally. I haven’t dealt with ghost of the months following my discharge. I didn’t care about anything then. It’s been almost 30 years since then and the “What if” creeps into my mind.

Today I’ve chosen to deal with this and what it did to me.

I was 18 and was as much of child as I could have been. I don’t believe I was truly an adult until I turned 28, just before my eldest child was born.

I was coddled when I got home by my father, siblings, and other family members. I’m sure they were trying to be nice about it, but I think that hurt more than anything else.

Was this 30 years ago? yes. Does it still have space in my head? Yes. But I haven’t dealt with this and I know it’s stilted my writing. I’ve never wanted anything the way I wanted the title, United States Marine, and it screwed me up.

I’m telling you this because I needed to write it down. I had to get it out. Maybe because I hope it will help me throw it away and move forward. I need to go after my writing goals like I did with that, and it’s been almost 30 years.

Today I’m moving forward and taking steps to put this period behind me. I have to. It’s done enough damage to my mental state. I feel like I’ve floated through in life since coming home. I’m sorry to that 18 year old kid that we didn’t do more for him. I hate that we’ve let him down, or at least it feels like it. By we I mean the me who’s lived since he came home. I feel we’ve let that damaged kid down by not doing something more with our lives.

I have a wife and kids and live a good life, but I think he would be disappointed in the lack of things we haven’t done for ourselves. I’m going to remedy that.

Have a good week and do things your 18 year old self would be proud of you for doing!

What truly scares you?

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While I’ve been actively working on this rewrite I’ve thought about fear, judgement, and what really scares people.

When I was a kid I had a recurring dream about my Aunt’s basement. There was a coffin at the bottom and all of this smoke. When I reached the coffin a ghoul would pop up and I’d wake up screaming.

Being stuck in a place, with nowhere to go or worse, being stuck and unable to move are the worst things I can think of. I’ve had night terrors for years and used one of them to write a story in my collection. Most of what happens in one of the stories is completely true.

I find that writing horror allows me to tap into those fears. I use it well enough that my wife has asked if I’m okay while she’s reading drafts.

We’ve talked about what scares her and I’ve used that in stories, because she is the first person to read my stories. I also think about what would have scared me in my teens or twenties and incorporate that.

I’ve read a lot of books over the years and while some of them are very odd, I’m looking at you House of Leaves, the also make me think about different aspects of fear. House of Leaves does that with the Navidson House and Johnny Truant. Spoilers ahead for House of Leaves.

With The Navidson House is the fear of something outside our reality or outside what we understand. With Johnny it’s about a descent into madness.

Both of these sections of the book messed with my head. And thinking about the book in that context, I really enjoyed it.

We find ourselves writing things that scare us, our family members or who we were at one point in our lives. It takes a lot to scare me anymore. I’m very desensitized when it comes to horror, but there are limits for me. I don’t like when kids are hurt. The Girl Next Door did a number on me. It was a difficult book to read. The writing is so good you feel complicit. But I’m running away from the topic.

I’ll talk more about fear on Wednesday.

Taking your time and getting through the drafts.

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Through trial and error, I’m discovering that I need to take more time with a story before I commit to writing. This comes as I’m working on the 3rd rewrite and 6th draft of this story.

I don’t take enough time to figure everything out. I jump in feet first and don’t think about it. It takes me more drafts to do that and as I worked on the story this morning I’m understanding the story better. It could be the draft number, but I’m realizing more about the story I didn’t see before.

I won’t get into the specifics because I’m submitting the story again this year, but it’s about more than I thought it was. Parts of it are personal, others are just the story, but I hope it finds a home.

But I digress.

When I take my time I understand the story, and while it takes a few years, it’s a better story for it. The current story started a couple of years ago as a short story. It’s changed what it is, but the meat is still in it and the heart continues to beat.

Getting through each draft is the maddening part of it. My wife thinks I should outline and narrow the scope to reduce the number of drafts. Some stories don’t let me do that. I know the story’s bones when I sit down. That’s not all the time, but usually, I construct the rest of the story around those bones. When I don’t know it I may sketch the thought down, just to have a record of it. I’ll work with that thought over a few weeks. If I have enough I’ll get to work. If not it sits.

The problem is jumping into a story without having those bones, ligaments, tendons. The heart may be there, but it’s a lifeless, grey thing without the other parts.

I’m trying to slow down with these drafts and construct something better.

I have to get other things done today. I hope you’re all well and I’ll see you on Friday.

Fear of the Classics

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I have a problem, it’s with classics but not all classics just some of them.

I’ve read, Frankenstein, Dracula, most of Lovecraft, Alexandre Dumas, and I love Algernon Blackwood, Dum. The Willows is one of my favorite stories I’ve ever read.

But there are others that I have trouble with; Dostoevsky, Faulkner(not all of them), Melville. I know that I should read them and enjoy them but I don’t. I have tried reading Crime & Punishment at least 10 times, but on the last read, I quit. I can’t read that book.

I wish I knew why I have this trouble, but I’ve narrowed it down to fear.

What if it’s amazing and I wished I’d read it earlier. I feel that way about Frankenstein and a few others, but they’re either sci-fi or horror. It’s the literary classics I have trouble with. It’s not the way it’s written, it’s the fear that I’ll either hate it and feel like I’ve wasted my time on it or I’ll love the hell out of it.

This comes in many ways to me. I am going to read a bunch of classics this year and my current read is ‘The Brothers Karamazov’. I know it’s Dostoevsky, but I want to read it for my own reasons. These books are part of my learning as a writer and while I hope to enjoy them, there’s that fear I won’t.

It’s the whole I’m not good enough to do this writing thing. What if I read something and I feel I’ll never accomplish that grandiosity of what I’ve read? This came to me a lot in the early days of writing but hasn’t been raising its nasty little head lately.

I don’t know how to get past all of this other than keep reading, keep writing, and ignoring the voice in my head, so I’ll ignore it and read all these books.

This started as a conversation between my wife and me. I bought Don Quixote recently and she was surprised I’d never read it. I told her it’s one of those books I was afraid to read for all of the reasons I stated above.

Anyway, read what you like and don’t let that voice screw it up for you.