You dare ask the questions; I give you the (not so) terrifying answers.
I am often asked questions about my career and work whenever I am on panels at conventions or leading workshops. Here I have compiled a series of FAQ’s based on many of those questions from readers like you. Check back often for new FAQ’s as I add them over time.
Q: What does it take to write a horror story?
A: I would have to say it depends on what kind of horror story you’re trying to tell. Horror isn’t confined to just monsters like vampires and werewolves. The genre is filled with different topics and subjects, and you first want to find the one that interests you. From there you want to do research on that horrible thing that you’re going to set upon a poor protagonist. The more believable your creature or entity, the more your audience will get out of the story. Lastly, I’m a firm believer that your subject should scare you just as much as you intend it to scare the reader. That’s the big connection you want to make with your audience.
Q: How often do you write?
A: I make it a point to write every day. I’m an old school writer in that I always carry a notebook and pen with me to write down ideas for stories. Sometimes I’ll write out the continuation of a story I have started on my computer at home. Since I use mass transit for daily travel, I write on the bus/subway to and from work. At least twice a week I use my lunch hour to work on the details of a work in progress. At home, I do my best to devote two hours to just writing and that also consists of working on rewrites if I have a submission deadline coming up.
Q: Which authors inspired you to be a writer?
A: British horror writer Clive Barker and his Books of Blood is my main inspiration. As a high school student, I tried to immolate his work in my own writing. Peter Benchley, the author of Jaws, is another inspiration of mine with his creative way of telling stories from the creature’s point of view. Others include Stephen King, Octavia Butler and Anne Rice.
Q: How long does it take you to write a novel?
A: Depends on the subject I want to write about within the horror genre. While an outline can take me a few days to put together, the book itself can take anywhere from a year to two years, depending on the amount of research involved and the number of drafts I write before I send it to an editor. Once I do get the work back from an editor (I tend to wait a day or two before reading their comments) then I begin the process of cleaning and rewriting the work. All of that takes a significant amount of time that I don’t like to rush through.
Q: Should I self-publish or get traditionally published?
A: That all depends on your goals. I often remind writers that self-publishing means just that, you are the publisher. That means you’ll have to do much more than just writing. If you’re looking to build a career as a writer, finding an agent and going a more traditional route would be your speed. But if you’re interested in getting into the business of getting your work out there and handing everything from the manuscript to the cover, self-publishing is the way to go.
Q: How do I get started being a writer?
A: The best advice I can give is to just sit down and start writing. There really isn’t a trade secret as to how to get started. You can start with getting a notebook, using your laptop or even a writing app on your phone. Begin with an idea and work outward from there.
Q: Do I need an MFA to be a published author? I’m told it’s not necessary.
A: Okay, so here’s the deal. Technically, no, you don’t need an MFA to become a published author. As far as it being necessary, that is a decision you have to decide for yourself. There is never anything wrong with you wanting more education, especially in a field you are passionate about. Being a published author nowadays means knowing so much more than just putting sentences together to create a book. I highly recommend researching your options. Maybe an MFA isn’t the road you want to go down but you can always take classes that will help you improve your writing and get a better understanding of getting into the business. Especially if you want to self-publish. It can also open doors to various opportunities in the writing world such as teaching and/or becoming a freelance editor. I chose to get an MFA because of the career path I wanted to go down and it made sense for my goals. Figure out your goals, ask yourself what the best course of action is to take and follow through.