Do you want to be a horror fiction writer? Terminology

I haven’t done a post like this in a while so I figured it was due. For my aspiring writers out there here’s some basic info for getting your work published.

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Do you want to be a horror fiction writer?
Getting published – Terminology

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Terminology – I thought it would be a good idea to review some of the terminology that is often part of the submissions page and instruction for publications for which you want to send a story. Some of this stuff is pretty basic but it is important to know for someone starting out.
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One of the big questions is what constitutes published/unpublished works.
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Unpublished – unpublished work is a story that has never appeared in a public forum anywhere. That includes in any book, magazine, webzine, on the internet, on your own blog, or on a forum even if it only got five hits. Some publishers/editors will make an exception for a story that was posted in a closed group, where you have to sign-in to read the stories and is there for the purpose of critique. Writers clubs, groups, and associations all fall into that category. The idea is the general public could not read it unless they are a part of that group and would have had to sign in. Also stories in these groups are usually not searchable in search engines. I will let the publisher/editor know if my story had been posted in a literary critique group and let them decide if they consider that published or not published.
Submission
Naturally, that is the story, poem or prose that you will send in (submit) to the publication.
Call for submissions
The publications call to writers to submit work based on their guidelines. It is usually posted on their websites, on listing pages such as Horrortree.com, Duotrope and on Facebook Open Call groups. There is often a reading window with a deadline.
Copyright
is the rights that you as a writer have upon creating your story and the right to let others (publications, websites, etc.) copy the material into their media presentations.
First English Language Rights
Many publications want First English Language Rights. That is, they want to be the first to offer the story to the public for reading in English. That means they want Unpublished work. They will often want an exclusive period where they won’t want you to have the story available anywhere else for the public to read. That could be from six months to a few years.
Reprints
If a call for submissions allows Reprints, that means you can send work that had been previously printed, posted, or offered in other media. Previously published works can be submitted as long as you have allowed for any exclusive time period to end.
Simultaneous Submissions
means you can send them a story or work that has also been submitted to another publication for review. Sometimes the reading periods and wait time is long for publications. If the call to submissions includes allowance for Simultaneous Submissions, you can send your story to several publications at the same time. You have the responsibility to let the other publications know immediately if your work was excepted elsewhere. Once accepted to a publication or website, in most cases, your work will be ineligible to be accepted into other publications until two things have happened; you have let the exclusivity time lapse and you resubmit the work as a reprint to publications that will accept reprints.
Multiple submissions
Means you can send more than one story, poem, or prose to the call for submissions.
Word counts
Submission calls usually have a preferred length of story. In your word program you will have to click on word count and the program will count the words. You will have to make that count clearly visible somewhere in your submission. The call will usually tell you where to put the word count. If it doesn’t, you can put it in your cover letter or directly following your tittle and byline. Everything that is separated by spaces is considered a word. ‘a’ is a word. A street or house number is a word. (215 13th Street = 3 words). An abbreviation is a word.
Byline
is your name, writing name, pseudonym and correct representation of that name. I like to be called Mike when I’m with my friends, but when my name appears in print as credit for writing a story, I like to use Michael – every time, everywhere.
Manuscript formatting
There is a standard way that your story should be formatted. However, with the advent of digital  submissions (email and form submissions), some of those rules have changed depending upon the publication. The Shunn Format was the standard for many years, but on the submissions page there may be preferences that the publications will want different. It’s best to start with the standard format and then change aspects according to special instructions.
File types
A Word document is .doc and .docx file types. However, with the Word format, depending on your computers age and Operating System, there could be difference in how your formatting looks compared to when the publisher opens the file to look at it. I prefer to save my files as .rtf documents which helps it have a uniform visual look no matter what program it is opened with. To save as an .rtf, open your story file, select SAVE AS, and then select .rtf from the drop down bar.
Author bio
Most publications would like a short Bio (biography), perhaps one paragraph about you the writer, written in third person (as if someone else had written it). They don’t want a full history of your life. Make no mistake, the author Bio is also a testament to your writing skills. Try to make it interesting and readable to someone that has no idea who you are and probably doesn’t care. You can see a sample of my BIO on my author page here: Michael Thomas-Knight, Author
Cover letter
Write a cover letter that is simple, with no frills. Just have a greeting and introduce yourself. Tell them your story title and what publication you’re submitting to. End with a thank you.
typing
“I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”
– Ernest Hemmingway
“If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor.”
– Edgar Rice Burroughs

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Horror Fiction writer – articles and tips

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Horror Fiction writer – articles and tips

During the past few years I’ve written several articles pertaining to writing fiction. The series of articles titled, “Do You Want to be a Horror Fiction Writer” deals with ideas, suggestions and tips for writing short story fiction. I’m no expert at getting published but I thought it would benefit some to relay what I learned as I advanced my position. As I gained knowledge and had some success in getting published, I relayed the information I had learned.

I’ve gathered these articles here for reference and for you to read articles you may have missed. I hope you find these tips informative.

I. Who can write good fiction?
II. The most basic aspects to a story
III. Presentation – past tense vs. present tense and POV
IV. Know your Genre
V. Point of View – variations
VI. Getting Started – write your story now
VII. Edits, rewrites and drafts
VIII. Story and Plot/conflicts
IX. Get into your character’s mind
X. Writing Flash Fiction

 

Related articles:
Get Them Reading and Keep Them Reading

What’s in a Name? What’s in a Title?

writingtips

more to come in the future…

Websites for writers – Everything you need to become a Class-A writer!

Websites for writers
Everything you need to become a Class-A writer!

Everything you need to become a better writer is available from informative websites and blogs to help a writer achieve greater success. Here are some valuable links to check out. From inspiration to publishing, from writing to promoting, I’ve picked some recent articles for the struggling author to read and review.

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Inspiration:

Here’s a good article at Ghosts and Ghouls to jump start the imagination of horror writers. Check it out: http://ghostsnghouls.com/2015/02/09/10-natural-disaster-hauntings/

You should definitely check out the Monster Men pod casts on Youtube. Their latest is an interview with author, Brian Moreland, but each episode is packed with fun monster and horror talk. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCySWrEt1Ua2kQ-b45R7dDrQ

Kurt Vonnegut – His thoughts on writing fiction
http://www.openculture.com/2015/04/kurt-vonneguts-8-tips-on-how-to-write-a-good-short-story.html

Open Culture – every writer should bookmark this site
Not only does this site have direct articles for writing, it has links to free online stories from many of the literary masters. Its also a valuable reference on many subjects that may pertain to your characters.
http://www.openculture.com

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jacklondon

Advice:

Kristen Lamb’s Blog
Kristen offers top quality articles, inspiration, coaching and mentoring to fiction writers.

https://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2015/11/02/how-writing-quickly-can-improve-your-storytelling/#comment-227213

https://warriorwriters.wordpress.com

Jacqui Murray is an author, columnist and teacher with some very good info for the practicing writer.
https://worddreams.wordpress.com/2015/11/02/how-to-amplify-your-writing-career-or-6-bad-writing-habits-to-drop-right-now/

5 Harsh Truths for Writers is a great article from Cultured Vultures
http://culturedvultures.com/5-harsh-truths-writer/

A steady stream of advice and information articles for the writer can be found here:
http://writerunboxed.com/

here’s a good article I recently enjoyed:
http://writerunboxed.com/2015/11/16/how-to-write-through-trout-syndrome-and-electric-shocks/

Flynn Gray’s blog
Flynn offers tons of valuable info for writers and authors at his blog. He often posts a page much like this one, with a dozen great articles and links to them for us writers to read. Its quite probable that a few of the links posted here I discovered through Flynn’s posts. If you’re a writer, you should follow his blog!
https://flynngray.wordpress.com/

Cemetery Tomes
My buddy Nate offers  weekly memes and graphics on writing fiction, and he’s looking for some short fiction for the winter months to post.
http://cemeterytomes.wordpress.com

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NaNoWriMo
http://nanowrimo.org/
It may be too late to join this year but you may want to check it out for next year. If you always had an idea for a novel and have always had trouble starting it and keeping at it, joining this group will help you push yourself for a full month. See if you got what it takes to get that story down. You track your progress, get inspiration and see others going through the same struggles as you. I may actually do this next November, so I will post about it in Oct. 2016. I have resisted up to this point because I had many short story ideas that I wanted to write and have built a certain level of success with them. But, by next year, I think it will be time for me to get on with writing full novels.

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Hope you find these links helpful. Anyone who is just getting into writing or who is seeking advice on getting published can feel free to send me questions. I will try and help if I can, or at least I’ll try to send you to a website with the info you seek. Mike.

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Do you want to be a horror fiction writer? Part X

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Do you want to be a horror fiction writer? Part X

The Secrets of Writing Flash Fiction

Flash fiction is a story form that is really short, usually from 100 to 1000 words. It is not a vignette, it is not a commentary on an event, it is a full story with a plot and conclusion. If you attempt writing some flash fiction you will find it is often harder to write good short fiction than longer works.

How I approach flash fiction writing is by breaking it into the three act story format, but I title them:

Conflict
Action/reaction
Resolution

In a flash fiction piece it is important to start your story in the conflict, or very close to it. You usually don’t want to rely on back-story for flash fiction because it will eat up your word count. You might need a few sentences but keep it minimal. You’ll want to make your story be told in one scene, one location, and in one piece.

1st act – character introduction, initial conflict, dilemma
2nd act – the action the character takes to resolve the conflict or dilemma
3rd act – The results of the main character’s action to solve the conflict and the change in the situation.

Theoretically you can do this in three paragraphs.

type

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It is important to have a great first sentence, a grabber that will get people to read your story. It should do one (or more) of three things:

– It should make the reader ask themselves a question that needs to be answered.
– It should put them in a situation that they are curious about.
– It should make them feel instant camaraderie or empathy for your main character.

The climax of the story should be at the end of the second act when the MC has taken action to solve the dilemma and the conflict is escalated to its peak. The third act should be short and bring everything back to normal, to a new normal, or to a realization of what the future of the MC will be.

Naturally, these are just guidelines and exceptions to the format always exist.

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Here are a couple of opening sentences, grabbers, that I’ve used from some of my most frequently read stories on the internet:

The moment old lady Ambrose bent over to look in my basement window, I hit her in the back of the head with a hammer…
from my story Upstanding Citizen on the Carnage Conservatory

I love the dead. Their cooling flesh, pale blue tone, and relaxed muscles produce an exquisite experience within my fingers…
from my story Aberration on microhorror.com

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Extremely short fiction can have an implied aspect to it. Much of the story can take place in your head after the story is read. Following are some examples.

The shortest stories ever written:

Ex. 1:
For sale, baby shoes. Never worn.

This two sentence piece is often attributed to Hemingway.

Ex. 2:
James woke one night in his dark bedroom with the notion that someone was in the room with him. When he reached for his glasses on the nightstand, they were placed in his hand.

Unknown author.

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“A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it.”
― Edgar Allan Poe

“A short story is a different thing all together – a short story is like a kiss in the dark from a stranger.” ― Stephen King, Skeleton Crew

“You learn by writing short stories. Keep writing short stories. The money’s in novels, but writing short stories keeps your writing lean and pointed.”
– Larry Niven

Do you want to be a horror fiction writer? Part IX

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Get into your character’s mind
– then put their experience in words

In order to really get into my character’s head, to experience what he/she is experiencing in my story. I will often write in first person. When writing in first person I can hear, smell, see and sense everything the character is experiencing. I can feel what they feel and relay their thoughts. I live the part and live through the scenes in which they are thrust into.

I entered the cavernous room with trepidation. The air was clammy and thick with the scent of death and decay. I crinkled my nose and blew three quick blasts of air through my nostrils. Stacks of wooden crates stood like monolithic shadows, hugged by a fine mist crawling through the dark. Something scurried across my bare toes and into the shadows, making my spine tingle. It’s feet pattered away in a frantic race until the ticking of it’s paws against the floor EYE 001ceased. I heard it screech in agony, but only for a moment. My teeth began to chatter despite the heat…

I know what your thinking – Wait a second, Mike. You said that editors prefer stories in third person! Well, that’s true. That doesn’t mean you have to write it that way. I will often write my stories in first person, then transpose them to third person later.

Clive entered the cavernous room with trepidation. The air was clammy and thick with the scent of death and decay. He crinkled his nose and blew three quick blasts of air through his nostrils. Stacks of wooden crates stood like monolithic shadows. A fine mist crawled through the dimly lit corridors. Something scurried across Clive’s bare toes and into the shadows, making his spine tingle. Its feet pattered away in a frantic race until the ticking of its paws against the floor ceased. Clive heard it screech in agony, but only for a moment. His teeth began to chatter despite the heat.

Your job is to get the reader’s mind into your character’s mind so they experience the same things in unison. The best way to do that is for you, the writer, to be in there first, to experience your character’s plight, and then convert it into a readable story. Sometimes I will come to a certain scene in a story and write that scene in first person despite having written the rest of the story in third person. I’ll do this because that scene needed an intimate feel to relay the subtleties of the situation. I walk into that room as my character, I look around, I describe an odor, I hear things shuffling in the dark, and I see shadows moving on the walls. Later I go back and rewrite that into a readable third person sequence and match it to the rest of the story.

So, if you want to get an intimate feel for a scene, write it in first person and transpose it to third person later.

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Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.
― Anton Chekhov

Fiction is the truth inside the lie. 
― Stephen King

The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.
– Ursula K. Le Guin

Do you want to be a horror fiction writer? – Part VIII – Story and Plot

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I haven’t done one of these posts in a while. This one is basic but important enough to be reminded about every so often.

Story and Plot

At the bare bones analysis of story and plot, every story has been told already. This determination has happened hundreds of years ago. Between Greek and Roman mythology, mythologies from native lands and counties, Fairy and Folk tales, famous Opera’s and Plays, and religious writings, every kind of struggle a human has to face has been told. The only thing that is going to make your story different and stand out is the way you deliver it. The garnish around the basic plot premise and the situation in which the basic plot unfolds will ‘trick’ the reader into thinking they have read something totally original.

The main component of a plot is a conflict.

Some common basic story plots, conflicts and archetypes include:

Man vs. Man – a character is trying to achieve something and another is trying to stop him

Man vs. Himself – this is the internal struggle of a man to change and the real enemy is within himself

The Quest – A man must obtain some sacred object and sets out into the world to get it. (‘sacred object’ is relative to the story and importance to the characters, not necessarily ‘sacred‘ ex: the toy in Jingle All the Way)

Man vs. Nature – a character is struggling to survive or make his family, community, comrades, safe against the forces of nature (weather, animals, natural phenomenon).

Man vs. Circumstance – a character struggles against his predictable fate or place in life and the world.

Man vs. Society – a character struggles against ideas, ideology, customs and beliefs of people that must be overcome to move forward. (these last two are almost the same but could have a few differences)

Most stories are based on these conflicts. Once you figure out which type of story you’re writing, it makes working on it easier. You can look at similar stories to gauge your plot, escalate conflict, and assess its originality.

A subplot involves a secondary conflict: ex. A person can be fighting against nature and also learning to trust him/herself to become a leader. – Or – A man can be on a quest but have another person trying to stop him, one that he must defeat.

Decide early on what type of story you’re writing and you will lead your characters to a logical conclusion.

You will notice that the Storyline Plot is often different than the ‘Character Arc’ Plot of your Main Character.

If you take Clash of the Titans for instance, Perseus is searching for a way to save Andromeda (Quest – story plot) and fighting Calibos  (Man vs. Man – story plot), but is also learning about himself and trying to find his unique place in the scheme of life (Man vs. Himself – Character Plot).

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another quick note on Plot
You should try to keep it realistic but find a way to make it feel fresh.

I find it amazing when I watch those documentary crime shows on TV (Lt. Joe Kenda is one of my current faves) that people are still being murdered for the same reasons we’ve always read about: Love Triangles, Insurance Policies, Money (as little as a few hundred dollars), and Jealousy. That makes it extra difficult to write crime drama or murder mysteries. However, good writers find a way to make it feel fresh to their readers.
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 “The question is not what you look at, but how you see it”
– Thoreau

“The work never matches the dream of perfection the artist has to start with.”
– William Faulkner

“Writers fish for the right words like fishermen fish for, um, whatever those aquatic creatures with fins and gills are called.”
― Jarod Kintz

Do you want to be a horror fiction writer? VI

Do you want to be a horror fiction writer? VI

Getting Started – write your story now!

The best way I’ve found to write my stories is to write the scene I am envisioning most vividly in my head. It doesn’t matter if the scene is at the end of your story, in the middle, or at the beginning.

I almost never write a story in sequence. Instead I write the most intriguing, suspenseful, or original parts then connect them together. There is some reason that you want to write this story. Maybe it is a couple of lines of dialogue – start there! Maybe it is a description of some creature or setting – start there! Writing the good parts first will ensure you don’t have a bunch of uninteresting facts and set-up that slow down your stories.

After you get the best few scenes that tell the story, only put in the other pertinent information – just enough to move the story forward. Don’t tell us who a character is. We will learn who the character is through the story and his/her actions, dialogue and feelings.

It’s amazing how many times I have written only those most important scenes and realized, I didn’t need much else.

Leave out the boring details:

You should never have to tell the year a person was born or their age. That’s reserved for autobiographies. Most people can deduce a character’s general age by the things they are doing, experiencing, and by the setting.

Examples:

If taking place in a dance club or at some hip gathering, the MC is probably in their 20’s.

In a corner pub, singing When Irish Eyes are Smiling, they are probably 50 or older.

If they own a home, they are at least in their 30’s, most likely 40’s up to 60’s.love-to-write-thumb_0

Teenage Children? mid-forties.

Working in a menial retail job, 20’s – working as an office manager, lawyer or foreman on a construction job – late 30’s to 50’s.

Of course, you may want to write a story in the style of an autobiography, but many people might find this similar to schoolwork and be bored reading it. I would be cautious about using that style.

Likewise, the time/era of the setting can be delivered in a similar manner.

GPS on your character’s cell phone – 2000’s

No cell phones – before 1990’s

Big Hair – 1980’s

Going to a sock-hop – 1950’s

Use vehicles, songs, television shows, celebrity mentions, etc. to further explain your time period. If I am writing something set in early 1900s or pre-1900’s I will often use my Poe-voice, a gothic style of writing similar to that day and age.

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“I leave out the parts that people skip.”
― Elmore Leonard

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
― Jack London