Sunday, November 24, 2013

On Talent and Failure

We watch a lot of Food Network shows in our house. Many of them are cooking competition shows, where the contestants are eliminated one-by-one.

One of the comments I often hear on the shows is something like: "I was born to to this. I can't fail."

Of course there can only be one winner on these shows, and being eliminated doesn't necessarily equate with a lack of talent. Many of the contestants are already successful chefs before they appear on the shows.

How does this relate to writing?

There are tons of talented writers, but being talented (or feeling that writing is your calling) doesn't guarantee success. At least not immediate success. It's easy to get discouraged when other writers are selling thousands of books and you aren't. Talent abounds. Some talented writers will sell scores of books. Other talented writers will languish in obscurity.

Why are those with "good" sales numbers successful? I don't think anyone knows the answer for sure. But I'm willing to bet there are some traits common to successful writers.

1. Talent counts (but it's not everything). Being able to write clear, clean prose and having a mastery of grammar and spelling are important. Being able to tell a story well is crucial. You must be able to write at a professional level.

2. Persistence. Sitting down multiple days a week (if not everyday) and writing. Repeating this over a number of years. Not just talking about writing or reading about writing, but actually writing.

3. Having multiple titles for sale. Off the top of my head, among some of the writers in the horror genre I would consider successful (e.g. Brian Keene, Jonathan Maberry, Scott Nicholson) all of them have 10 or more titles available for sale. The more you write and have on the market, the greater your chances of selling more copies. This takes time and patience.

Talent doesn't guarantee success, but if you learn your craft and show up at the keyboard on a regular basis, you can increase the odds in your favor. You can't control the market or how many books you sell, but you can make sure you plant yourself behind the keyboard and work to become a better writer.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Horror Writing and the Worst Case Scenario

"Horror Writers are specialists in the worst case scenario." - Richard Laymon

I love this quote from the late Richard Laymon. I've blogged in the past about using "what if" as a question for generating plot ideas.

If you write horror, perhaps an even better question is: "What's the worst that could happen?"

Off the top of my head, I"ll use a doctor's visit as an example.

You're sitting in a doctor's waiting room. You're seeing a new doctor for the first time. You start to notice the office looks a little run down. There are no other patients in the waiting room. The rug is dirty. You notice cobwebs in the corner. Uneasy, you get up to leave when the nurse calls you into the treatment area.

You consider leaving, but you really need to see someone for the medical problem you're having. Maybe it's a suspicious growth. That part can be worked into the story. It's just your imagination making things worse.

As you walk down the hall, you feel a pinch in your arm. Something is injected and your limbs grow heavy. You try and fight it, but next thing you know, you're on the ground. A ghoulish doctor bends down and smiles a yellow-toothed grin at you.

When you awake, you have been stripped to your underwear and strapped to a table. The doctor, clad in surgical garb, approaches with a bone saw.

Your job as a writer is to make things worse from here and have your character fight his way out of the predicament you've put him in.

Keep asking, how can it get worse? And how can my character fight his or her way out of this?

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Work on the Novel Continues and Some Thoughts on Promotion

I continue to work on the third Dead Land Book. I'm shooting for a release by the end of the year.

Next up after the Dead Land will be either a zombie novella or an idea I had for something with urban explorers who meet up with something nasty in an abandoned building.

I'm thinking of putting the whole Dead Land Trilogy on sale for 99 cents per book once the third book is done.

Also thinking I need to do a better job of launching the next book. Self-promotion has never been my strong point, and that's something I'd like to improve on in the coming months. The team at DuoLit has a good article on launching your book:

Saw A Quiet Place II This Weekend

Jenn and I went for lunch yesterday, then saw A Quiet Place II at the Aurora Theater. The Aurora is a great little theater. One screen, and...