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Posts from the ‘Starting a Novel’ Category

Facing The Blank Page, by Emma Tucker

Over the last few weeks I have begun to seriously sit down and write a book. It’s a daunting endeavour, and it’s not something that someone can really tell you how to do – you just kind of have to find your own way, feeling along in the dark, as it were. I’ve always written stories, and a lot of the time (particularly if I’ve been reading excessively) I find myself narrating scenes in my head. It’s sometimes irritating, but mostly it’s fun. At some point I thought it would be a good idea to write these down.

I don’t want to give the impression that I’m not doing anything else while I’m writing this – that, of course, would be the goal, and the sheer amount of time, effort and energy that goes into a book means that often there is little time for other undertakings. I currently work full-time though, so I usually spend my evenings and weekends writing. I hope that, if the right things fall into place, I will be able to write full-time at some point in the future.

This first part of the writing itself hasn’t been too hard; when I started I had a very vague idea that I wanted to write a crime novel of some description, with a little bit of romance tossed in and plenty of horror for dessert. I love to read horror, I have just today finished “The Shining” (Stephen King) for the first time, and find myself incredibly in awe and inspired by its mastery of the genre. The attraction for me is the suspense, the not-knowing, the desperate, manic desire to get to the end and find out exactly how this dreadful adventure will conclude. While horror stories very rarely present with a “happy” ending – I think to do so would cheapen the whole experience – but an at least satisfying resolution is of utmost importance. Classic horror themes – like paranormal experiences for example – can offer an exciting sense of ambiguity and mystery that I hope to include in my own writing.

I digress. Back to the writing itself…

My starting point was incredibly nebulous, but within these few first weeks, I’ve written a draft outline of where I want the story to go and really defined my two main characters, as well as sorting out the nuts and bolts of how the story will be structured, and what kind of perspectives and themes I want to include. I have just this week finished (a very rough first draft) of chapter one (and it’s a short chapter, at that, but it’s something!) I actually like it very much at the moment, but as I said it is incredibly rough so perhaps in a few weeks I will look back and cringe and rewrite the whole thing. At the moment I am focusing on getting my ideas down into a structured narrative – it is too easy to get caught up editing one line for hours on end. Even when something doesn’t fit quite perfectly, I try to move on to the next thing just to get the general flow and shape of the story down.

Being part of the Novel Manuscript Development Program run by The Australian Literature Review has been hugely motivating. I work well with deadlines; I think a lot of people do, and being told that I have to write the first few chapters or an outline or whatever my task is for the week ahead, puts the pressure on – in a good way – to knuckle down and get on with it. I am finding that to be one of the most valuable things.

I am in fear of the blank page, though. A big worry is that in a few weeks, I’ll end up in a middling place in the novel not sure where to go, and again, I feel the comfort of having the class with me to push me through it, bring our my best ideas and write what I hope to be a great book. With my characters nattering away in my brain the way that they are at the moment, I have the feeling that I will be okay in the end.

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Emma Tucker bio page

Setting Out To Write My Horror Novel, by Clint Greagen

Let’s get to the point. I’m writing a horror novel titled Waxy Flexy. Old buildings, dense forests, the mentally incapacitated, tortured spirits driven by redemption… oh, and a couple of dead kids. If this isn’t your thing you might want to move on to a different author.

I like to be scared – it’s fun. In particular, I like scaring myself.

When I was a teen I used to read horror stories in my room, at night, with a small torch. There was a buzz about it; locking myself inside the story with the focused shaft of light, making the darkness around me more complete. It removed the walls from the room and opened me up to the horror inside the book. I could be in a haunted castle, a dungeon filled with the screaming of tortured souls or a serial killer’s basement. There was no door to safety. No mother and father to run to. And everything was lingering right there in the darkness – the monsters, the ghosts, the human parasites, the werewolves and ghouls; narrowed eyes, long thin fingers, curved sharp teeth, and always the clincher – the intention to do me harm. (Never look over your shoulder!)

I got very good at sitting alone and staying inside my fear. Feeling the torture and the exhilaration of it. When I was finished reading I’d turn off the torch and fumble my way to the light switch on the wall. That was the most terrifying part. I remember it most clearly while reading Salem’s Lot.

In my early twenties, I moved into an old doctor’s surgery with some university friends. There were ceiling roses, old plush carpet worn to a dull grey where it had suffered the most traffic, large mirrors in every room, and all the nightly noises that come with old houses. I loved it. We’d try to guess who had the room where the surgeries had occurred. Had someone died in every room? Did the noises belong to the ghosts of those who still thought they might walk out the front door? And the mirrors – there were many times I thought I saw something there in the corner of my eye.

I’d watch horror movies by myself in my room. Late at night when everyone else was asleep or out. The story coming out to me this time, flickering across the high roofs and bathing me in its light, all of it reflected in the mirror.  It wasn’t hard to get scared at that house. And I gave myself no choice but to see each movie through to the end.  Then I’d force myself to walk out into the hall, across the living room and into the kitchen before I could turn on a light. I’d have something to drink and eat and then watch the television in the living room to shake of the feeling of dread.

I’ll never bungee jump, or ride white-water rapids, but I’d call myself an adrenalin junkie when it comes to horror stories. It’s the feeling when the story is finished that’s the most rewarding. When muscles hum with fatigue, and the breathing returns to normal. It’s the quiet high that comes when you’ve won the fight. I know I’ll always search for it.

And that’s why I write horror stories. Late at night, my four boys to bed, I sit at the computer and lose myself in the small square of light. When I’m writing well the walls disappear around me, the darkness opens up and the horrible comes alive. The rules change and I allow myself to look over my shoulder when I’m writing.  The story opens up and I keep searching through it, trying for that ultimate reward – to scare myself.

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Clint Greagen bio page

Salem's LotOn WritingOn Writing Horror: A Handbook by Beyond FearFracturedLet the Right One inOnly Child

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