Browsing Tag

horror

Happy Freaking New Year! :)

Blog news, Writing

Happy 2018!

Are you ready for the new year? I am getting back on track after the tail end of 2017 laid me out a bit. I had to have surgery in November and, man, it hit me a lot harder than I was expecting. I was pretty much in bed for a month. But I’m doing much better and getting back on track. This year, I’m going to be focusing on a few different things, but only a few.

My Writing

I’ve been editing for almost ten years now and one of the things I’ve noticed is that my writing skill has declined with the lack of practice. So 2018 is going to be the year of getting back to the words.

I’m going to be cutting back drastically on editorial clients (but I will still take some, so if you’re looking, be sure to check out my editing page) and will be focusing almost exclusively on my writing.

What will you be working on, Venessa?

Thanks for asking! 🙂 Some folks know, but most don’t, that in addition to speculative fiction, I also write smut under a pen name. I call it “smut” affectionately; it’s mainly erotic romance. The publisher has decided to close its doors, so I will be spending the first quarter of 2018 self publishing a few things in that genre.

The second quarter of 2018, I will be working on my speculative fiction stuff. Here’s what’s what:

1. Soul Cavern – This is a supernatural thriller that I plan to serialize right here on this website! I’ll be releasing it weekly, in small chunks, but will also self-publish for those who don’t want to wait or who just want to support the author. 🙂

2. Hovel Rats 1 & 2 – I accidentally wrote most of the second book before realizing it was a second book. Then I had to write the first. Both of these are currently in the rough draft phase and about 75-80% complete. They’re set in a post-apocalyptic world where all the adults have gone crazy — regressed to almost animalistic tendencies. Kids have to learn to fend for themselves and figure out how to survive. At least, until they start going crazy too.

I’ll be finishing up the first one…well, first. I’ll also be looking for some beta readers for this, so keep an eye out here come the spring if you’re interested in reading. Ultimately, I think I’ll be submitting this one around to agents and hopefully going the traditional route.

3. Short stories – I really want to kick out a few short stories this year, as I haven’t written any in a long time. These will likely be horror, since that seems to be what most my shorts end up being. 😉

I’ve got a number of other things in various stages of done-ness, but I think that’s going to be more than enough to take up three months!

So that’s what’s on deck for the first half of the year! Think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew? That might be the case!

I definitely want to get back to writing regularly here again too, so expect more blog posts! I might even post about things I’m reading, since that’s going to be another habit I want to get back into. I haven’t read for pleasure regularly in ages and I really, really miss it.

Oh and I’ll be hanging out a lot at The Writing Tribe. If you haven’t joined yet, you should! We’re a small group of writers supporting each other. 🙂

How about you? What are your writing-related goals this year?

 

 

 

Unless attributed otherwise, all images are CC0 licensed.

My Top 5 Most Useful Books About Fiction Writing

Craft of Writing, Writing

Let’s face it, writing a good story is hard. It’s entirely different from telling your best friend the story about what happened Friday night. Face to face stories are easier, because you have tone of voice and inflections, as well as body language, to help convey your meaning. With a novel or short story, you only have the words.

I am an addict. I admit it. I have more books on the craft of writing than my local library does, I’d bet. I use these books for my writing, of course, but also for when I’m editing or teaching other writers. I learn a lot from reading the stories of authors, but there’s also a place for an educational slant — for having an explanation of why something works.

To that end, I’m listing my Top 5 craft of fiction writing books. These books sit on the shelf right beside my desk. They’re always right there.

Now, these are the top 5, but they’re not in any specific order. You can’t really say that a book about creating character is better (or worse) than a book about writing a synopsis. They’re about different things. So while this is a Top 5 post, it’s not a ranked top 5.

Also, a while back, I wrote a post about my two favorite books on revision. Since I’ve already mentioned those, I’m not going to include them here.

And with all that said, here we go!

Writing the Breakout Novel

by Donald Maass

I got this book relatively early on in my fiction writing journey and it really opened my eyes to the idea that a book can be planned. Not in an outlining sort of way (which it can, of course, and which I was highly resistant to doing at the time), but in a larger-scale sort of way. From a 30,000 foot view, so to speak.

The purpose of the book is to write a novel that pushes past the mid-list and becomes a breakout seller. Think Harry Potter, The Martian, 50 Shades of Grey. A book that captures the minds of millions of people, rather than thousands or hundreds.

Donald Maass, who is a very successful agent who owns his own agency, identifies the things that he observes as pillars of a breakout novel. With section headings like Premise, Stakes, Time and Place, Characters, etc, this is a high-level view of story creation that every author can benefit from.

Beginnings, Middles & Ends

by Nancy Kress

What author hasn’t struggling with slogging through the middle of their novel? We’ve lost the bright, shiny feeling of the beginning and we’re not yet at the exciting, climactic end. There’s a reason many novels are abandoned in the middle. Fiction writing isn’t always easy.

Nancy Kress addresses all these things — the bright, shiny, the exciting, climactic, and the slogging — in her book. She gives authors tools on how to stay on track in their fiction writing, especially in the middle, which is arguably the longest part of a novel.

Each chapter ends with exercises designed to give writers practice in implementing the author’s suggestions. Some of the exercises involve reading and identifying things she’s discussed (such as reader expectations after the beginning), some involve writing, both new and assessment of current writing.

If you have trouble finishing your stories, you might find this book especially helpful.

Writing the Fiction Synopsis: A step by step approach

by Pam McCutcheon

If you’ve ever struggled with creating a synopsis, this book will be your savior! There are actually very few books on writing a good synopsis (compared to other writing topics). Mostly, writers are just expected to figure it out, maybe from talking to other writers, maybe by osmosis. In recent years, there have been a few more books (but only a few), yet this one, written almost twenty years ago and for most of that time the only book on synopsis writing, is still the gold standard.

McCutcheon takes you through the steps of writing a synopsis using three relatively well-known movies as her test subjects. She provides a number of worksheets to help you along, but that are also useful in the writing process, as well. She focuses not just on what should be in the synopsis, but also on tone and voice, as well.

This book also has exercises at the end of each chapter, but the result, if you do them all, is that you’ll have a synopsis by the time you’ve finished the book.

Characters & Viewpoint

by Orson Scott Card

This is probably one of my most recommended books. A lot of newer writers don’t understand the difference between omniscient point of view and 3rd person limited point of view, and so I often see a lot of what is called head-hopping: jumping from different points of view within the same scene, paragraph, or even sentence. This book explains those points of view very clearly, using a camera lens as illustration. I’ve seen more than one writer have an “Ah-ha!” moment after reading the section on viewpoint.


The guidance about character creation is also valuable, especially in conjunction with the character creation advice in the other books on this page. Card gives information about where characters come from and what makes for a good fictional characters. And then goes into more in-depth things, such as how the reader should feel about the character, what the stakes are for the character within the story, and transformations.

This is one of those books that I believe should be on every writer’s shelf!

Many Genres, One Craft: Lessons in Writing Popular Fiction

edited by Michael A. Arnzen & Heidi Ruby Miller

I’m a bit biased about this book, I admit, because I have an article in it called, “Demystifying What Editors Want.” However, even if I didn’t have work in it, I would still have this book by my desk.


It’s a collection of over eighty essays about everything about writing popular fiction, from craft topics to life balance topics to promoting and marketing. Contributors include authors from all over the genre spectrum, from smaller published authors to mid-list authors to heavy hitters like David Morrell (First Blood [Rambo] and others), Tom Monteleone (Borderland Books), Nancy Kress (her name should look familiar 😉 ), and Tess Gerritson (Harvest and others). I’ll sometimes pick it up and just choose an essay to read when I’ve got 5 minutes. There’s always something to learn.

I often joke that this is my MFA program in a $30 book (the Kindle version is only $10!). 🙂 This is a really comprehensive collection of experiences and advice from authors and editors working within the commercial fiction publishing industry.

Okay, so those are my Top 5 books for fiction writing. I’ve tried to choose books that run the gamut of information that authors need to know about, from character creation, to doing the writing, to stuff needed to get published.

What fiction writing books do you find indispensable? Drop a line down in the comments!

Keep writing!

StokerCon 2016

In May, I’m heading out to Las Vegas for StokerCon! I’m super excited about going, in part because I had such a blast at World Horror last year when it was here in Atlanta. They’ve got Horror University with a number of classes and there are some great folks going! If you write horror, dark fantasy, or anything along those lines, you’re going to want to head to Vegas in the spring! 🙂