Common Writing Mistake: Using Exceptions as Examples 99% of the Time

It’s inevitable. You mention writing, and you’re bound to here names like J.K. Rowling and Stephen King. For the record, I’m a fan of their works.

“Horror isn’t that hard to sell—just look at Stephen King!”

“Did you hear that J.K. Rowling was rejected TWELVE times?”

For people not familiar with the publishing industry, these comments can be understandable, but I often hear other writers using superstar authors as examples for the norm, such as twelve rejections (from publishers) being a high number. (I believe Stephenie Meyer was also rejected twelve times.) I don’t want to belittle Rowling’s success. She endured a great amount of struggle in her life (as did King), and what happened with Harry Potter is amazing.

However, rejections rates for most writers are way higher; Rowling is an exception, not a rule. She queried two agents, and the second one signed her! That’s, quite frankly, astonishing even for the best query letter. It’s impressive, but most writers cannot expect to be the next Rowling. Or King. Or Meyer. It’s telling when I say Rowling received “only twelve” rejections and the reaction tend to be “What do you mean only twelve???”

Setting realistic expectations is important when avoiding discouragement. Even if an agent or a publisher loves a project, they may pass for any reason. Of course, I’m not saying we can’t use extremely successful household names in conversation, but one can’t start off comparing themselves to the most ideal scenario because that’ll breed disappointment. This isn’t to say there wasn’t merit involved in these successes; there was, but any success also involves a good bit of luck. While we shouldn’t diminish the talent involved, it’s also true that several stellar authors will also a) face hundreds of rejections or b) never become published at all.

That doesn’t mean one can’t aspire, but the best solution is to use grounded and practical examples. If anything, being told “But Stephen King did it!” is dismissive of your own current situation and the modern state of publishing. Overnight success is often an illusion. Do research. Don’t beat yourself up for not being King or Rowling. You should aspire to be the best you, and your situation can’t be replicated—and neither can theirs.

This doesn’t mean success is impossible; “success” is a nebulous and individual concept. Whatever you do, what you consider a success will not be the same as what another author thinks is “hitting it big.”

Still, keep trying.

Getting Too Cocky: Some Brief Thoughts on Cockygate

As I’m sure many of you have heard, an indie romance author named Faleena Hopkins has trademarked the word “cocky” in romance novel titles for her Cocker (!!!!) Brothers series. This means anyone else with the word “cocky” in the title (literally just a word for arrogant, which tends to be present in alpha romance heroes) needs to change their title on all versions of their book to avoid legal action. More on this here.

And in case you thought Hopkins wouldn’t seriously threaten legal action, here’s her terrible curt (and terribly edited) cease and desist letter to another romance author, Jamila Jasper.

Perhaps the most infuriating part to me, besides the sheer ridiculousness of it all, is how much unnecessary trouble other indie authors threatened with legal action will have to endure to avoid being sued, especially, as Hopkins pointed out in the letter, since every edition of the novel needs to be altered. An audiobook would perhaps be the biggest pain. I don’t know much about editing an audiobook, but it’s entirely possible that, to have an audiobook with no “infringement,” the author may need to pay for a re-recording just for a change in title, especially if former narrator is no longer available and the author has to rush to avoid legal trouble. Audiobooks are expensive and time-consuming, so that’s a lot of expenses and time lost to change a minor aspect. That, or they’d just take down the audiobook altogether, which limits the accessibility of their books and hurts both them and their readers.

Also, besides the interior (which, if someone else formatted it and they can’t edit the original file…), the author will need to make changes for both their print and ebook covers. If they hired someone to do it, they’ll need to hire someone to redo it, which can range from $25 to $500 to even more, depending on the artist (and whether it’s a stock photo vs. original art).

This is all a terrible burden to give anyone, and for what? How did it go for the Fine Bros when they tried to copyright “react”? Were they really threatened by other people doing react videos?

It’s just a mess.

Richmond, VA – Conference, Edgar Allan Poe, and More!

Hey, bats, ghouls, and spirits! Recently, I went to present at a writing conference in Richmond, Virginia, and it was an unforgettable experience. Some of the architecture was just breathtaking. Perhaps one of the most striking buildings to me was the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.

The most exciting part to me was going to the Edgar Allan Poe Museum. Unfortunately, some of the sections of the museum were closed because of renovation, but it was still an amazing place to explore. I most definitely want to return to the museum one day. Also, I got a cool Poe-ka-dot scarf!

If you ever get a chance to visit Richmond, I’d recommend doing so. It was breathtaking! And the food was amazing. The best food for me happened to be the chocolates from Pecan Jack’s, some of which can actually be ordered online.

Writing: On Not Giving Up, But Taking a Break

rabbit horror cannibal in the woods writing story plotAs of writing this, I’ve finished the draft of a project I started in 2012. This is the seventeenth draft, and after struggling and thinking I’d never finish a coherent draft of this story, I did it. And I’m incredibly happy about it.

I just looked through my emails. For context, when I would go to my grandparents’ pretty blue house in Ellijay, right by the apple barn and surrounded by woods, I’d write stories in email and send them to myself. This way, I wouldn’t forget the stories on the computer, which was rather old and only had Wordpad as its word processor. (Ah, Wordpad. Many a fanfic was conceived on there.) This was also before I was aware of Google Docs, then called Google Documents. Read more “Writing: On Not Giving Up, But Taking a Break”

Annihilation: A Breathtaking and Harrowing Look at Depression, Grief, Illness, and Trauma

annihilation movie film horror sci fi natalie portmanTo start off, if you haven’t seen Alex Garland’s Annihilation, I would recommend it, and I would also advise that you avoid the trailers. I went into the film with no knowledge beyond the fact that it’s a sci-fi horror story adapted from a Jeff VanderMeer novel. A strange essence called The Shimmer starts encasing nature and keeps extending its presence, threatening to envelop populated land. Lena (Natalie Portman) and a group of other women with various types of medical, scientific and military backgrounds go into The Shimmer to, on the outside, discover why The Shimmer is doing this. Internally, though, there is something more at stake with each character.

Annihilation is the sort of film I started off ambivalent about; the first act, despite some beautiful shots (a grim movie without a 10% opacity filter!), goes on a bit, and despite being one of four people in the entire theatre, some gentleman decided to sit right behind me and fall asleep, loudly snoring fifteen minutes into the film till I moved from my spot. However, despite the beginning going on and having some questionable underacting, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie to the point of internally gushing as I thought about it later at night. I have purchased the entire Southern Reach trilogy, as well as a book important to the narrative, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Anyhow, I’ll go more into the film below, but I would recommend seeing it before reading. I would also recommend proceeding with caution if you struggle with issues regarding mental illness, suicide, self-harm, grief, and cancer.

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Setup, Reminder, and Payoff: A Case Study of The Ritual

the ritual horror film movie writing story plotHi, bats, ghouls, and spirits! I wanted to give some brief thoughts on a film I saw a few weeks back, particularly a specific aspect I keep thinking about. David Bruckner’s The Ritual is a solid horror movie about a group of friends going into the woods as strange events occur. It is a film best seen without reading much on it, so if you haven’t seen it, I would recommend doing so because I will mostly be writing about the ending. Many will compare this to The Blair Witch Project, though it at times reminded me more of Evil Dead.

Overall, I thought the film was good, and it was the first good movie I saw in 2018, and the first decent Netflix original horror offering of 2018 (after such films like The Open House and The Cloverfield Paradox). There were great camera choices, especially the use of slow zoom ins, though I felt as if the script could have been stronger in some parts. I will speak about the story concepts of setup, reminder, and payoff, with regards to a plot line in the film. If you haven’t seen the movie, I would recommend not reading the rest of this post because I will go into details that are not revealed until the last thirty minutes of the film. (And really, even the opening is a tad of a spoiler.)

So, SPOILERS below.

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Anachronistic Techniques (Jumpscares) in Horror Period Pieces: Please Stop

Helen Mirren, my queen, playing Sarah Winchester, an intriguing and misunderstood woman.

Hi bats, ghouls, and nonbinary spirits! I hope you’re doing well. Okay, let’s talk about horror movies, particularly ones that take place earlier in the twentieth century or around the turn of the century. This bit of a rant was inspired when a fellow horror fan I know and respect says she doesn’t enjoy Gothic horror films. As someone whose favorite horror genre is Gothic, I was curious why, and she went on to say she didn’t like Woman in Black, but she liked Crimson Peak and The Others. Having seen all these films, I started to see the pattern, and it reminded me of what I disliked in Annabelle: Creation (which isn’t Gothic, but it has a similar issue I’ll address), and what seems to be an issue in Winchester, though, full disclosure, I am going by reviews, not my own viewing experience.

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Writing Expectations and Impostor Syndrome

writing bat
Writing bat during a funk

Hi, spooky ones! I hope you’re doing well, and that if you’re not, you find some kindness today.

I don’t know about you, but I put a lot of expectations on myself when it comes to writing. On one hand, if you want to do this professionally, I understand the sentiment that it’s important to regard writing like you would any other task with a contract or deadline attached; you wouldn’t go up to your boss and say, “Restocking the paperclips? Sorry boss, I’ve been browsing bird and writing memes on Facebook and Twitter to avoid doing it.” At the same time, while I don’t believe you should wait when the stars align to write because writing can be work, I personally feel like if I cannot give a story 100% of my regard, if I’m not passionate or invested, how can I expect readers to be?

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New Adult: A Book Category We Desperately Need

Hi there, spooky ones!

In the book world, genres and categories are different. Genre labels media under a certain style or form. The composition of a political satire differs from a demon possession story–unless the story has both politicians and demons, but I repeat myself. Anyway, book categories tell you the intended audiences. There have typically been these: Children’s, Middle Grade (MG), Young Adult (YA), and Adult. YA is not a genre, but a category to tell you the intended audience. A YA book, like an Adult book, can be fantasy, romance, horror, etc.

Recently, though, there has been a new category for those around 18-30, though leaning more toward 18-24: New Adult (NA). This label has some criticism attached to it. Many professionals consider it a marketing ploy, and many readers and writers complain that the genre mostly consists of romance and erotica. I’m not a fan of the dismissive sentiments toward romance and erotica. These are valid genres, and it’s perfectly valid to enjoy these genres. There’s no need for feeling guilty for liking certain genres.

The issue isn’t that most NA works or romance, erotica, or erotic romance. It’s the haughty attitudes that dismiss readers and writers of the genre as “just wanting YA with more sex.” This perception has bled into the idea of what NA is as a whole, and I’ll reiterate that there’s nothing wrong with NA works that resemble YA and have more sex. However, this description has made many authors, readers, and professionals wary toward the genre, and I’m here to say why NA is an important category that should be diversified and rebranded, not because what exists now in the genre is shameful, but because it is only a part of the New Adult experiences. Not only that, but there’s room for all the genres prevalent in every single other age category.

Some might say, “Why don’t you just keep these college-age stories in the YA category?” Read more “New Adult: A Book Category We Desperately Need”

Character Motivations in Writing: A Case Study of The Hate U Give (Not Horror)

the hate u give book writingHi, spooky ones! While this blog will be mostly horror and fantasy, I think it’s important to take elements from other genre fiction and see how they effectively execute certain elements. Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give is a Young Adult Contemporary novel about a girl, Starr Carter, who witnesses the death of her unarmed childhood friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer.

Warning: This will have spoilers for the book. It will also discuss racism and violence.

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