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.

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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.

Coming to grips with something…

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I have written 11 novels, 4 novellas over a hundred short stories and where am I?

Of course I have the collection on Amazon, that is on KU right now. I’ve sold enough for a good cup of coffee and maybe a bagel.

When I woke up this morning, thinking about rewriting sections of this novella I knew that something needs to change.

I blow through stories to quickly. I don’t think them through as much as I should. I’m in too much of hurry to get them done. And when it comes to editing, I do that but can’t afford a real editor. It’s not financially feasible for my wife and I.

I rush into things because I want to say I’ve written this many novels but where are they? Can they be purchased in a book store? Online?

I know I can write. That’s not the issue. As I said yesterday, it’s execution. It’s the editing. It’s going through the draft and figuring out what I’ve done right, and wrong. That’s where I come into problems. And they’re not huge problems, just ones that I have trouble navigating. I would kill for an editor to help me get past this stuff but as I said, there’s no money for it.

Writing these books gives me enjoyment. I love the process and it’s why I continue to write, but having written as many books as I have with nothing to show for it is maddening. It’s not like they’re all first drafts, but some are. Others are on their fifth, some on their tenth, yes 10th draft.

I hurry into stories. It’s a problem and it’s one that I’m going to work on this year.

I don’t plan like I should. I don’t take my time. I’m in too much of hurry to get them done. I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. Write a lot, edit, send it out and wait. But when you’re always chasing what’s next you’re too focused on what’s next that you forget to go slow on your current project. Therein lies the problem.

I will take stories slower. Take my time editing. Do better at constructing each story.

I have a subscription to MasterClass and I’ve watched David Baldacci’s class numerous times. When he talks about his process, he says it’s changed over time and it will probably change as he continues to write.

My writing and how I approach it has to change. I can’t write another 11 novels and not have any of them published.

I have three short stories out and one novella out currently and want them to get published. I need to focus on taking my time this year. How many times have I said that in this post?

Coming to grips with this has been difficult and it’s my job to fix this.

I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

A bit different

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I’ve been sitting in my bedroom the last few days after testing positive for Covid-19 on Saturday morning.

I come to the blog a bit pissed as I’ve been cautious with everything but obviously not cautious enough.

There are many things not say but as I’ve been away from my family in the bedroom my wife and I usually share I think that I’ve realized my health needs work, and it’s not because I’m terribly sick. I have a cough, had a fever earlier in the week, but I need to get in better shape and eat better.

When it comes to writing I have to make good a promise I made to myself. I have to get busy on figuring out how to make my own covers and not just shitty ones I’ve made to my needs.

I have goals this year and I’ll not be held back by anything.

I’m tired of existing. I’m going to live.