So you want to write a horror novel? I woke up one morning in the summer of 2015 and decided I wanted to do just that. I’d never done it before and all I had for inspiration was a title and a lifetime of reading my favourite horror writers. I took the plunge, learned a lot, and now I’m up and running and for sale. Here’s what I learned…
Step 1: Take The First Step – There’s an old Eastern proverb that says: ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ The wisdom in those deep words has inspired me many times in life and never more than when I wrote my novel. Daunted? Uncertain? Unsure? Write something! Anything. Open a fresh notepad or click on ‘Start’. Get going. Take that first step.
Step 2: Have An Idea – So this sounds crazy; right? To take your first step even if you don’t have an idea where you’re going? All I can say is what I found: most of the good ideas come while you’re on the journey. Some writers plan everything before they write a word. But many don’t. See what works for you, but don’t be afraid to just go. That’s part of the fun, after all.
Step 3: Define Your Audience – Again, this might sound assbackwards. Nobody writes for an audience; right? Wrong. All books presuppose an audience, unless you’re simply writing for yourself. Towards the start of your journey, work out who your audience is going to be. It’ll help you get to where you want to go and ensure you’ll have a market when you get there. Because you’re going to want to see the fruits of your labours after all the blood, sweat and tears. Cash in your hand, too. Writers need to eat just like everybody else.
Step 4: Edit, Edit, Edit – You’ve almost certainly heard that rueful comment ten thousand times, accompanied by a head shake and a sigh: ‘I wish I’d known then what I know now.’ If there’s one thing the novel writing process taught me it’s the importance of editing: not once, or twice, but as many times as your manuscript needs. Sure, you can pay a professional editor to do it for you, but be prepared for a bill that runs into four figures. Much more practical and affordable, then, to do it yourself. No writer likes the endless procession of edits – I went through my manuscript eight times – but most of us need to do it. Careful, sleeves rolled-up editing can make a colossal difference to the quality of the completed work. See it as taking medicine. Or better still, as polishing a diamond.
Step 5: Don’t Give Up! – I know it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: keep going! Sure you’ll want to give up, and there will be times you’ll wish you never started, but consider these lines from an old Bruce Cockburn song: ‘Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight/Gotta kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight.’ They’re as true of writing as they are of anything else. But the last word goes to Stephen King, my inspiration and mentor: ‘Stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing to do is shovel shit from a sitting position.’
I hope this helps. Get started, good luck, and whatever you do, don’t give up!
Oh, and if you want to see what my own writing led to, check out the link below. Happy reading!