Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Last time we chatted about Marketing and Publicity. For the final post is this series here is a short list of resources that you might find handy, magazines that accept short fiction submissions as well as a few small publishers that focus on horror fiction. This is a basic list that you can expand on. It’s just to get you started.

Associations and helpful websites:

Short Story Markets:

Game writing markets:

Freelance Editors:


Marketing and Publicity Advice sites:

Review Sites:

Miss Congeniality: South African fiction

Joan De La Haye:

Sad but true!

Originally posted on Calling Through The Fog:

top pic

Authors’ incomes collapse to ‘abject’ levels.

That’s what the headline on The Guardian said, and I was frantic to know more. Which authors? Was it me? Were my annual royalty cheques of R250 about to plunge to R50? Less?

Usually I read like a millenial, which is to say I base my world view on the first three words of headlines from Buzzfeed articles on Twitter. But this time I read on.

Many professional authors in the United Kingdom, I discovered, were seeing their royalties plunge. Some who had earned their living from writing books were facing the prospect of – dear reader, are you sitting down? – not being able to write fiction as a full-time occupation.

Mal Peet, a celebrated writer of novels for children, told The Guardian that his direct income from sales had become “literally abject”. His royalty cheque for the last months of 2013…

View original 3,835 more words

Marketing and Publicity

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Last week we chatted about Getting Published, today we’ll be discussing Marketing and Publicity.

‘Never respond to a bad review in public. You only make yourself look an idiot and people think you’re unprofessional. If you don’t like the review – suck it up. The reviewer is entitled to their opinion and you can’t please everyone so just get over yourself.’Sam Stone, author of Demon Dance.   

You’ve finished writing your book, found a publisher and it’s about to be released. All the hard work is finally done, right? Wrong!

The real work has only just begun. All the years you spent writing, editing, and re-editing were only preparation for what you’re going to have to do now.

There are many ways to promote yourself and your writing, it’s just a case of figuring out which ones work for you. But if you want your book to sell, you’re going to have to put yourself out there. People are not just going to stumble across your book, you’re going to have to make sure you’re easy to find. Marketing your book is not an overnight process. Some people will say that there’s only a short window of opportunity to market your fiction novel, but that’s rubbish. You should continue marketing your book for as long as it’s in print or in e-format.

Your own website:

Having a website is a great way to introduce yourself to readers and the world at large. Whenever I find out about a new author, the first thing I do is Google them, check out their website, have a look at what they’ve written, and only then consider buying their books. You should have a bio page, a page listing what you’ve written and where they can buy it, and a contact page. Have a look at other author’s websites. Having a website that looks professional is important. Your website is the first impression you give a potential reader. If it looks like it was put together by someone who didn’t know what they were doing, they probably won’t have a very high opinion of you or your books and won’t bother to buy your book. But if it looks good, they may just hit that buy button. Also make sure the website loads quickly. People are impatient. If it takes too long to load, they’ll simply move onto another writer’s website.


Having a blog is probably more important than having a website. A website is static, whereas a blog is interactive. Blogs are also free! I prefer the WordPress platform because you can set it up to look like a website. You can use your blog to showcase your writing far better than on a website. Only drawback is that you have to blog regularly. When building a following for your blog you should blog at least once a week. Have a link to your blog on your email signature. You want to point potential readers to your blog or website every chance you get. Post links to your latest blog posts on Facebook and Twitter.

Social Networking:

Being on social networks has become one of the most important weapons for any author to have in their marketing arsenal. There are so many to choose from. There’s Google +, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and way too many others to mention. But the fact is you don’t have enough time in the day to spend on every single network there is. If you did there wouldn’t be any time left to write. And as a writer, writing is what you’re supposed to do. So I would suggest you pick two or three and commit to those. I prefer Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. I find them far easier to use and far more useful than the others.

  • Facebook:

Over the years Facebook has become the main social network. If you’re not on there, then you probably prefer living under a rock. I know a lot of authors are tempted to go out and get a fan page as well as a normal profile. It’s a good way to separate your personal from your professional, but don’t go bugging everybody to become a fan on your professional author page. It’s annoying. I, personally, hate it when some author I’ve never heard of friends me on Facebook and then five seconds later starts harassing me to like their page. My response is usually a quick unfriend and the chances of me ever getting their book drops from slim to none. I only like the pages of authors I’m actually a fan of, like Stephen King or Anne Rice.

There was this one writer who even went so far as to bother me on Facebook chat. I’d never spoken to him before; he hadn’t taken any interest in me or my books. The only thing he did was try and force his self-published book down my throat. Please, for your own sake, don’t do that! You’ve got to strike a delicate balance between marketing yourself and being social. If there’s a good review out on your book, post a link to it. But also remember to post things that have absolutely nothing to do with your writing. People also want to know who you are as a person. They want to connect with you on a personal level. They don’t just want to hear about your book.

  • Twitter:

Twitter is a little more complicated to get a handle on. A lot of people find twitter difficult, because it’s so fast. It’s hard to keep up with everything that happens on it. It’s like being at a very busy cocktail party and only getting snippets of conversations. There’s also a temptation to follow thousands of people, but if you do that do your really have a quality stream or are you simply following people to get them to follow you back? I prefer to follow people who I find have something relevant to say. I follow other writers, publishers, a few agents, publicists, and most of them are part of the horror industry. I would also suggest tweeting a few times at different times during the day. Once again, don’t just tweet about your book. Be a part of the conversation.

  • Goodreads:

What makes Goodreads so brilliant for authors is their author program and the fact that everybody on there is a reader. They’re the perfect audience to market to. You can also add a stream from your blog to your author page. You can add your book trailer if you have one. As you publish more books your Goodreads author profile is automatically updated. There are loads of forums where you can list yourself, your book and join the conversation.

Book reviews:

Book reviews are unfortunately something that authors have to get used to. It’s one of the main ways of promoting your book. Word of mouth is probably the fastest way to get the word out about your book and reviews are one of the main ways of doing it. Bad reviews suck, but when you get a really good review there’s nothing quite like it. Knowing that someone who doesn’t know you, thinks that you’ve done a brilliant job is incredibly reaffirming. When you get a bad review do NOT respond to it. Do not get into a debate with the reviewer. They’re entitled to their opinion. When I get a bad review, I go back and read all the good reviews and eat some chocolate. I feel much better afterwards. There are also lots of horror sites that give fair book reviews.

When looking for a site or a blog to review your book, have a look at the reviews they’ve written in the past. Are the reviews fair and well thought out? Or is it just a quick opinion piece? How much traffic does the site get? The site should also list their review policy. What are they looking for? Do they accept ebooks or only print books?  Do they have a contact page? Only once you’re satisfied that it’s an above board review site should you get in contact and send them a review copy. Be prepared for a long wait. Most decent review sites have a huge backlog. Some reviewers have taken a year to review my book. In some cases I’m still waiting for that review. Whatever you do, do not harass the reviewer for that review. They’ll get to it. You don’t want to poison their opinion of your book by being overzealous. Patience is the key here.

Blog book tours:

These are relatively new, but are becoming more and more popular. A single author blog tour should ordinarily last from ten days to two weeks. It consists of a guest blog post or interview on a different blog every day. It does involve quite a bit of work and planning, but the nice thing is you don’t have to leave the comfort of your own home. When picking your blog stops make sure the blog gets a decent amount of traffic and that the blog has something to do with your book. Since this is a course on writing horror, I would suggest blogs that have something to do with horror or publishing or writing. I don’t think a blog on knitting would be a good idea. Here’s a good place to help you plan your blog tour: Join the yahoo group. Dani helped me plan my first blog tour. It was one of the most helpful experiences.

Another type of blog tour that’s making an appearance is the blog hop. It’s where a bunch of authors get together and promote it so that potential readers can hop from one blog to the others. Each blog offers prize’s etc. I took part in the Coffin Hop ( this year, it was a great success. I had a couple hundred new visitors on my blog every day during the hop. It was great exposure and I met a whole lot of other horror writers I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten to meet.

Live readings/book signings/panels

I hate public speaking. I absolutely loath it. Put me in front of a crowd of people I don’t know and I freeze up. I’m far more charming one on one or in front of my laptop. Strangely enough, I find panel discussions a lot easier to handle, maybe it has something to do with my not being all alone in front of everybody else. If you get invited to talk to a book club or at a restaurant or at a bookstore, don’t make the mistake I did on my first one. Start with a reading from your book. I found it calmed me right down. Take a few notes on what you want to talk about. I didn’t. The moment I stood up in front of all those faces, everything I thought I wanted to say flew right out of my mind and I was left with a complete blank. Question and answer sessions are great. It makes things move a lot quicker and the audience feels that they’re a part of it all and that they’re getting to know you better.

When you’re signing books afterwards make sure you get the correct spelling of the person’s name before you start writing. I had a guy scream at me when he’d bought my book for his girlfriend. I didn’t realise that she spelled her name differently to all the other girls out there with the same name. I ended up having to apologise to the girlfriend for the incorrect spelling as a part of the note I wrote. It was all rather embarrassing.

Radio/TV interviews

These are incredibly exciting and they make us writers feel like we’re celebrities, but they are not the staple in our marketing and publicity arsenal. Getting a radio or TV interview is incredibly rare, especially for a horror writer. Strangely enough I’ve never seen a pickup in book sales after I’ve been on the radio. I’ve been on small radio stations that only have a few thousand people listening to the big national radio stations and while it is great publicity, I’ve had more sales from a blog tour. Don’t fixate on what you perceive as the big prize, you’ll only be disappointed.

Getting published

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Last week we chatted about writing for games, this week we’ll talk about getting published.

‘My advice to aspiring authors is to read widely and read outside of their genres. Read everything from classics to best sellers and even the newspapers. It doesn’t matter what genre you write. Then get your posterior on a chair and write every day. Even if you manage 500 new words every day, that’s something. Revise your manuscript to within an inch of its life. Get peer reviews from fellow writers (you can find them at places such as and submit, submit, submit. For every rejection you receive, send out another submission until you can honestly say you’ve tried.’Nerine Dorman, author of Khepera Rising. 

So … you’ve finished your book. Congratulations! Now what?

Well … you have a few decisions to make. Do you start submitting to agents? Do you submit to small or independent publishers? Or do you go the indie route all on your own? Do you go print or ebook? Or try both? In todays publishing climate all of these options are viable, it just depends on what you’re looking for and how much rejection you’re willing to take.

If you go the self-publishing route don’t just get your auntie or your mother to edit it for you. Hire a proper editor. Self-publishing has a bad wrap because writers don’t have their books edited properly or they don’t get a cover designed. Self-publishers often end up with an unprofessional product and as a result it’s looked down upon and it doesn’t sell. So … hire an editor and get a professional to design your cover. You want your book to be and look as good as it possibly can, don’t you? You also don’t want people to leave scathing reviews on Amazon because your book was riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. And people do judge books by their covers.

One of the really nice things about the horror industry is that there are quite a few reputable small and indie publishers who are focused on horror. You don’t need an agent to submit to them but you do need to stick to their submission guidelines. Every publisher will have their submission guidelines on their website, read them carefully. Do not deviate from what they ask for. If they ask for the first three chapters, only send them the first three chapters. Don’t send them the whole manuscript. They get so many submissions and can only afford to publish a handful, so you don’t want to give them a reason to reject you before they’ve even had a chance to read those first few chapters.

Rejection sucks! But it’s also a part of being a writer. You need to develop a thick skin in this industry. You’re going to get rejected a LOT and even once you’ve got that ever illusive publishing deal, you’ll have to deal with reviewers ripping your book to shreds. So put on your armour and get ready to take a few blows to your ego. Even Stephen King got a hundred rejection letters before he was first published. I’ve still got my first rejection letter, which I got when I was twelve. Handle the rejection gracefully. Don’t reply to the rejection letter with a snotty note on what a huge mistake they’ve made. Simply thank them for their time. You never know when you’ll want to submit to them again. They’ll remember if you were rude.

Agents are just as hard to get these days as a publishing deal with a big publishing house, especially for a first time author. Agents have often got a full list and can’t take on new clients. They also take their cut of your royalties. But if you manage to get a good one, they’re worth their weight in gold. And if you want to get in with one of the big houses, you’ll need an agent.

To be honest, I’m a fan of the small and indie publishers. They do so much for their writers and they provide a lot more freedom. Big publishers are focused on the bottom line and what they think will sell. They seem to stick to what they know and what’s sold in the past. They don’t go out of their comfort zone and want things to fit nicely in a box, whereas the smaller publishers take risks and push boundaries. The writer also has more say in the cover design and pretty much everything else with a small publisher. You’re just another cog in the wheel with a big publisher. One of the draw backs with a small publisher is that they don’t have a budget for promotion and marketing. You’ll have to do it all yourself, which while a lot of work can be a great deal of fun.

Make a list of the publishers you’d like to submit to, make sure it’s a reasonably long list, but just remember most of the big publishers do not take unsolicited manuscripts, that’s where agents come in. You need to play a numbers game here. The more publishers or agents you submit to, the greater your chances of getting picked up. Have a look at their guidelines, stick to them and send it off. Then hit the next one on your list.

Now the long wait starts. Publishers and agents can take three to six months to get back to you, only to reject you. If you haven’t heard back within six months, send a follow up to make sure they got it. Sometimes things get lost in the inbox. Just keep at it. Being a writer requires persistence. You’re not going to get anywhere in this business unless you put yourself out there and keep doing it.

While you’re waiting, start work on another book or get a few short stories out. You have to keep writing and submitting. Writers Write.

Have a look at these websites:


Game Writing

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Last week we chatted about writing short horror fiction, today we’ll be discussing Writing for Games.

‘The Horror genre has long been a cornerstone in computer and console games, from Phantasmagoria to Doom, Alone in the Dark to Plants versus Zombies–and many in-between. In the early days, game developers themselves wrote all the text for a game, but in more recent times, many game companies have come to value the polish only trained and experienced writers can provide. This is presenting a wealth of opportunities for writers. The games industry is a demanding mistress, however, and in order to succeed, you must be devoted to her.’ –  Angel Leigh McCoy, writer/game designer at ArenaNet  

Do you play games? I don’t mean mind games. We all play those in some form or another. I’m talking about role playing and video games. If you don’t play them, you probably won’t have a feel   for the intricacies involved in game writing. You also won’t have a clue what makes a game work, what makes it fun from your own experience. If you want to write games, you have to play them.

So … you’ve played some games and now you think you’re ready to write them. Well … slow down. Breaking into the industry can be a little on the hard side. Get ready to network. Go to trade shows, conventions, and any other industry get togethers that you can find out about. Collect as many business cards as possible. Make friends with as many industry players as you can. This also holds true for anything in the writing industry.

Write a few reviews on games for gaming magazines. Some game magazines hire freelancers, but they expect in-depth, well thought out reviews. It’s not like writing a review for your blog. An added bonus with being a reviewer is that, like with book reviewing, you get a lot of freebies to play with. Another avenue to pursue is writing game guides and role playing game books. Here’s an interesting post on getting into game writing:

Once you’ve gotten your foot in the door with game writing etc you would normally end up writing the setting and character sketches, and the general plot based on what the game developer comes up with on the ideas front. You’ll have to get comfortable creating new and complex worlds. It is your job to give the necessary tools to a gamer or game master to play the game and create their own story along with the other players. You can’t just carry them along on the story the way you think it should go. You aren’t writing it for yourself; you are writing it for other players.

You also have to give them choices. If you don’t want a player to go through a certain door because you haven’t actually put anything behind it, you have to give them a reason why they can’t. You can’t just leave them standing in front of it, trying to open it. You also have to give them another option of where to go. There are also certain rules that you have to stick to in the game. Learn the settings and the rules for the game and stick to them. There is no leeway. No breaking of rules allowed.

Get used to collaborating with other writers. Novel writing is a very solitary occupation, but game writing is the exact opposite. You work in a team, which is made up of other writers, designers, engineers, actors or voice over artists, directors, and sound engineers. Working in a team comes with its own set of problems as well as bonuses. You don’t get to decide everything, but you do have a lot of back up, people to bounce ideas off of, and you don’t have to do it all alone.

In horror games, you get to play more with the mood and the ambience. Just think how much fun you can have with the sound effects that are designed to scare the living daylights out of the most seasoned of players.

So … if you like playing games, you can write, and you can handle working in a team, then game writing may just be an avenue that is worth exploring. Good luck!

There are sadly not a lot of books available about game writing, but something to keep in mind is that game writing is similar in its requirements and style to writing a screenplay, so any book on screen writing that you can get your hands on will be helpful as well. 

Recommended reading

Short Horror Fiction

Hello my Freaky Darlings, Last week we chatted about crafting horror, this week we’ll be talking about writing short horror fiction.

This article also appeared in Horror 101: The Way Forward.

‘If a novel is a feature film, a short story is a single scene and a poem a single frame. The shorter the segment, the more attention will be paid to the picture you’re painting. The shorter the piece, the more certain you should be that every detail is compelling and engaging and has a place in the scene.’Louis Greenberg (aka the other half of S.L. Grey), author of The Mall 

A short story is by its very nature focused and compact. Every paragraph, every sentence, every word has to have an impact on the story. If it doesn’t move the story forward – get rid of it. When writing a short story, long winded, flowering prose is unnecessary. The least possible amount of words are used to describe the settings and characters. Your writing needs to be tight. This also holds true for novellas and novels. The tighter your writing in any situation, the better your book or story will be.

I’ve found that using a lot of dialogue in short stories really helps to move things along as well as  with introducing and developing characters. A character can be described quite well by the things they say. Dialogue cuts out on long descriptive passages.

When writing a novel, you have a few scenes to set your characters and the scene up, but with a short story you have to drop your reader right in the middle or as close to the action as possible. Your suspense build up needs to be quick, but still slow enough to build the suspense that keeps your reader guessing. It’s a hard balancing act, but the art of writing a short story requires that delicate balance.

In the horror industry there are quite a few magazines, ezines, and websites that accept short story submissions and some of them pay quite well. There are also quite a few anthologies that are regularly looking for submissions. They’re a great way to get your name out there. If someone’s read one of your short stories in one of those magazines or anthologies, chances are they’ll go out and get that novel you’ve written. Short stories are also a great way to hone your craft while you work on your novel and earn some cash at the same time.

Short stories are easier to sell than longer ones, especially for newbie writers. Short stories take up less print space in magazines. Readers also have a short attention span (especially on-line). Read  the submissions guidelines before you submit any story. If your story is over their word limit chances are they won’t accept it. The same goes for being under their minimum word count. As a rule of thumb I’ve found that the magazines and ezines want stories of between 2000 to 3000 words and anthologies want slightly longer stories of between 5000 to 7000 words. But seriously, read their submissions guidelines.

I would also suggest taking a long hard look at all the different markets (magazines, ezines, and anthologies) that are looking for short stories before you submit. Who have they published before? How long have they been running? How much do they pay per word? Is it a publication you’d be proud to be in? What do you want out of the deal? Are you just looking for exposure? Or are you only interested in a pay day? Who is the editor? Has the editor been around for a while or are they a fly by nighter? If you’re happy with the answers to these questions, then go ahead and submit. I’d also suggest having a few stories out doing the submissions rounds. It takes some of the pressure off of having just one out.

Then there’s the themed anthology. Just be aware that if you submit to one of these and your story doesn’t get picked up, it may be harder to sell somewhere else. A good idea is to have more than one theme to your story so it’ll still work for another publication and you’re not stuck with a story you can’t sell. The nice thing I’ve found with the themed anthologies is that it does give you a place to start, a jumping off point especially if you’re struggling to come up with an idea. Some of them have some really nice ideas and even if I don’t submit for it, I keep the idea in my ideas file for a later date.

Having an ideas file works well for short stories as well as novels. If I get one of those eureka moments while I’m working on another project, I make a note of the idea, a pretty detailed note, and file it away for later use. Those ‘what if’ scenarios often find their way in to it.

If you haven’t already tried your hand at writing a short story, I suggest you go write one right now. That’s the nice thing about short stories, they don’t take long to write. A novel can take years to finish, but a short story can be churned out in a day or two and be on an editor’s desk a couple days later. Talk about instant gratification. Short stories are perfect for the modern age.

Recommended Reading

And of course any of the anthologies that I have stories in which can be found listed to the right of this page.

Crafting Horror

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

last week we chatted about Setting and Characterisation in HorrorThis week we’ll be discussing crafting your horror.

‘When introducing the supernatural into the story, try and convey the sense that your character is next to something so dreadful that a glimpse is almost too much, but a full revelation would be unbearable, but in as few words as possible.’Adam Nevill,author of Apartment 16.  

Crafting your horror novel is about all the elements coming together. It’s about your writing style, it’s about your characters and the setting (which we’ve already discussed), it’s about the plot you’ve  structured, it’s about your dialogue, it’s how you write your action scenes. It’s about everything you do to make the story hang together.

I’ve given setting and characterisation their own chapter because, to me, they are two of the most important aspects. The others are also important but without good characterisation and a realistic setting it doesn’t matter how well you do the others it’s just going to fall apart. But that’s just my opinion and you’re more than welcome to disagree with me.

All of these aspects are important to your book. It’s horrible having to get through a novel or short story that has bad dialogue, or an unbelievable plot line, or implausible action scenes. One false step in your crafting could result in the reader putting your book down because they’d rather wash their car or do the laundry. And let’s not forget the scathing review they might leave on Amazon.

  • Plot

Don’t over plot your story before you start writing it. Have an idea of how you want the story to develop, how you want it to start and an inkling of how you want it to end. But don’t be too rigid in your thinking in regards to your plot. If you over plot it you’ll end up stifling your characters. Characters have a tendency of taking the story in completely different and unexpected places which make the story richer. If you try and force your characters to jump through the plot hoops you decided on beforehand, you’ll end up with paper thin characters that have absolutely no depth. Allow the story to unfold and surprise you. What’s the point of writing the story if you already know how it ends?

But then again, you may be one of those writers who has to plot everything from scenes to plot twists to character arcs. If you are one of those writers. Try this little exercise by Jessica Paige Morrell ( ) It’s called the story of a story. Use it to work through your basic plot outline.

Once upon a time something happened to someone. (What happens in your story to set your main character in their current path?)

And she decided that she would pursue a goal. (What is your characters goal?)

So she devised a plan of action. (What plan of action is your character going to put into play to achieve their goal?)

And even though there were forces trying to stop her. (What obstacles are in their way?)

She moved forward because there was a lot at stake. (What’s at stake? What drives your character?)

And just as things seemed as bad as they could get. (What insurmountable odds does your character have to overcome?)

She learned an important lesson. (What does your character learn? Obvious, I know)

And when offered the prize she had sought so strenuously she had to decide whether to take it or not. (This is pretty obvious as well)

And in making that decision she sacrificed a need. (What need did your character have?)

That had been created by something in her past. (What is the back story? What screwed up event in her past resulted in her having that need? Since it’s horror, you can get pretty twisted here.)

Other things to ask yourself while plotting it out are what is the basic story idea? What is the goal? What is the basic plot? What is the sub plot? And what themes are there throughout the story?

  • Dialogue

Eaves drop on conversations people have around you. Listen to the way people really speak to each other. Do they really use each other’s names at every turn while chatting? Do they say things like, “Bob, I’m going to have my hair cut by a chainsaw wielding maniac today.” “Oh Jill, are you sure that’s a good idea?”

Or do they simply say things like, “I’m having my hair cut …” “Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

The things your characters say need to be realistic and un-stilted. Dialogue needs to flow.

Now the question is, how do you identify to the reader who says what and how and to whom? And do you use adverbs to describe how things are said? And how do you make it flow? This is where dialogue tags come in.

As a rule of thumb stay away from adverbs, and not just in your dialogue. Adverbs are those pesky words that end in ly. Words like angrily or proudly or bitterly. They make your dialogue tags and your writing look lazy. This is not the 1970’s. We don’t write like that anymore.

Exclamation marks are also unnecessary. The way you write your dialogue tags will let your reader know what an exclamation mark used to do.

Another way of writing the above dialogue would be like this:

“I’m having my hair cut by a chainsaw wielding maniac today,” Jill said with a grin and then sipped her coffee. She knew Bob was sensitive about his skills as a hairdresser.

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Bob asked as he tried to imagine how he would go about cutting her hair with a chainsaw. It wouldn’t be pretty.

Just by adding certain nuances to the sentences immediately after the dialogue you can give the reader a far greater idea of what’s going on between your characters.

Play around with dialogue tags. What feels right to you? What works for you? Don’t just take my word for it. Try it out for yourself.

  • Action Scenes

When writing an action scene, pace and view point are important. In order to create the right pace you need to play around with your sentence structure. The shorter the sentence the quicker the pace. The longer the sentence the slower the pace. Action scenes are quick and punchy by nature. You want your reader to be breathless at the end of it.

You also want your reader to feel like they’re a part of the action. In order to do that you and your reader need to be right inside your viewpoint characters mind. Don’t just tell the reader your character was sliced and diced. Describe the blade and the blood. Tell them how it felt to have the knife slice into your characters flesh. Describe the pain. What does it do to your characters mind to see the blood gushing out of their wound? Show, don’t tell. If you describe the action from a faraway view point it becomes boring. You need to be part of the action for it to be exciting. Put your reader in the middle of it.

Find a book on your shelf, preferably one with a few action scenes. How did the author do it? How did they structure their sentences? Did they use onomatopoeia ( How did they describe the action? Now go and write your own action scene. Play around with pace and description. What works for you?

  • Style

Style comes from reading, and reading, and reading some more. Read across a wide variety of genres. See how other authors have done it before you. Then write and write some more. What works for you? I know I say that a lot, but it really is your writing journey and it has to be comfortable for you. If it’s forced, if something isn’t a comfortable fit for you, your reader will pick  up on it.

Your style of writing is personal and is something that develops over time, but you don’t need to have just one style of writing. You need to fit the style to the type of story you’re writing.

An exercise to help you, and this may sound a little strange, but bear with me. Grab one of your favourite horror novels or short stories off the shelf. Turn to one of your favourite passages. Now grab a pen and some paper. Write out, by hand, that passage. Write it slowly, don’t rush. No one’s standing over you with a stopwatch. As you write it out, let the words the author used wash over you. Examine each word they use. Do the words and sentence structure tell you what sort of story the passage comes from? Once you’ve finished writing it out, put the book away. Get some fresh paper. How would you have written it? Write that same passage your own way. What would you change? Find your own voice and style.

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