Why You Still Need an Editor After Multiple Books #2

A question that often comes up for seasoned authors: “do I still need an editor? I have x number of books under my belt now. Surely I can self-edit to save money and time.

Famous authors like J.K. Rowling, R.A. Salvatore, Stephen King, etc. still use their editors. Why? They’ve written multiple books and have been writing for years. Shouldn’t they be self-sufficient by now?

Writing a book and editing a book is not the same thing. That’s why an extensive process has been created for publishing. Yes, your work will definitely improve over the years if you continue honing your skills and pay attention to some of the things your editors suggest. There will still be mistakes that another pair of eyes need to catch.

You may be thinking at this point of the article that “It’s okay. I’ll have my best friend or family member read over it and it’ll provide a professional result.” This is often not the case. Even someone who reads books extensively or has an actual college degree in English won’t be able to catch all of the mistakes. Degrees are a piece of paper awarded to someone who completes courses. It doesn’t show their experience or dedication to the work.

Normally, there are three stages to editing: Structural/Developmental, Line Editing, Copy Editing. Laid out like that, it looks easy, but it’s far from simple. A manuscript is normally read through and edited a minimum of five times. Professionals who have studied current genres, story structures, sentence structures, etc. are worth having edit your story and getting it to a traditional publishing level, whether you are attempting that route or self-publishing. Readers expect professionalism and will stop reading after finding mistakes in the book.

But that’s okay. I’ve already established a reader base.” It’s extremely easy to lose readers once they realize your future books are not up to par with the others. The more books you release, the better they are expected to become. Not the opposite.

Continued from
Why You Shouldn’t Withdraw Your Submission Early

To be continued in a later blog post called
Why You Should Keep Improving Your Skills

Spooky Inspirations

Here are ideas on how to create a spooky novel!

I recommend the following books such as On Writing by Stephen King, On Writing Horror- the collection of essays by the Horror Writers Association, and Writing the Paranormal Novel- Techniques and Exercises by Steven Harper. These books go into real detail about the paranormal. Within this genre, there is more freedom to create what you want whether that be a sparkly vampire, toothy werewolf, or chain rattling ghost.

After you read these books, highlight the advice, and incorporate the advice into your writing. For a good story about a ghoul of choice to be believed, it must be believable and written well. All stories benefit from good writing. Be consistent about the traits, superpowers, or awesome abilities your monster has. We all know vampires hate garlic and sleep in coffins, but maybe a coffin-shaped bookcase could be their nesting habit during the daytime.

Read widely in your chosen genre. That will let you know what has already been written by other authors.

Buy a new set of highlighters, pens, white out, a binder, paper, and a fresh bag of coffee. Do what it takes to make you commit to the writing for the long haul.

Clean your writing/ office space. Light some sage and clean the energy to allow for the creative energies to flow unimpeded. Light a candle or incense. Play music that inspires you as you create your ghoul or axe-wielding maniac. Create a special playlist and soundtrack. Know your monster! Make it consistent and believable.

Keep a routine when you sit down to work on your story.

Reach into the deepest darkest part of your imagination. Free write a scene of confrontation between your protagonist and your monster. Or the monster is the protagonist? These days your demon or ghoul needs to be ORIGINAL. Everything in the paranormal novel has been done … or has it? That part is up to you. It must be original. If you are seeking more inspiration, read the paper. Clip and keep newspaper articles.
For example, I published a short story about pumpkins that can eat people. The vines can extend themselves and the pumpkins were toothy and bloodthirsty. Talk about a real twist on our favorite squashes!

But by allowing yourself to imagine, you may invent something that no one has done before. That is a huge advantage in the field of writing and publishing. Being original and true to your monster is extremely important. The world wants to read a story that has never been written before. They do not want thirty knockoffs of It or The Babaduk.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this. It might spark an idea or two and you would then be on your way to writing a gothic novel like Northanger Abbey or something like the Pit and the Pendulum by Poe.

Good Luck!

Writing Horror Fiction in Today’s World

Horror has a seductive hold on us. Horror is like a tentacle crawling from the crypts of our darkest dreams to suck us into horrific nightmares. Horror, if done properly, casts a dark magic, sending chills down readers’ spines.

Now is the time, now is the hour. In my opinion, horror movies such as Insidious 1-2, The Possession of Hannah Grace, and Sinister aren’t scary enough for me. I am an avid writer of horror fiction and I am well read. I know that in order to give readers or viewers the frights royale, readers should be too afraid to not leave the lights on all night and hide under the covers. And curse the writer because they can’t put the book down.

The writer must make extra effort to horrify jaded readers. There is a difference between horrifying and terrifying. One of the two you experience more deeply. Terror is more effective. I won’t watch The Exorcist which deals with similar themes as the movies mentioned above, but does a much better job. The Exorcist doesn’t turn away from something revolting, it stares it in the eye. It makes you look too, when you don’t want to. -and doesn’t let go. The same is true for Silence of the Lambs. But it doesn’t need to gross readers necessarily just to be scary.

Novels such as Dracula and Frankenstein reflected the time or era in which they were written. In Victorian times, darkly romantic fanged noblemen were scary because the society had different fears and beliefs about death than now. Those fears wouldn’t faze us today. Anne Rice wrote about vampires and made vampires intimidating and sexy again. That is why the novels were successful. Today, writers like Suzanne Collins draw from what they view in the world today. We are more sophisticated now yet desensitized at the same time.

If you are interested in penning a horror novel or short story, I suggest the following tips: Get out of your own comfort zone. Change the environment where you write. Bring your writing pad, coffee, and lurk in a cemetery, visit a haunted location or a morgue, and research the folklore of your hometown. You might create something original, which can be helpful. Getting out of your comfort zone and exploring new things breathes new life into your writing. Here are a few more tips.

Buy a tarot deck to inspire you, read dark poetry of a poet you never heard of until now. Go on a trip to a quiet seaside town that has a paranormal history. Be safe as you explore new eerie cemeteries or towns.

Trust in yourself. If you’re fearful while writing the story, there’s a good chance your reader will be too. Pay attention to your dreams. Often dreams reflect our daily lives and what is hidden in our subconscious. Heed your insights and flashes of inspiration. I penned a dark novel based on a flash of inspiration that I would never have dreamed up otherwise. Learn all you can and be openminded. Then when you have created your villainous monster, you can make him or her or it the main character. Be true to your creation, your own monster. Your readers will recognize the true effort you put in.

We have global communication today. We can see the world events on the Internet. The Internet opened a window into the savage truth that we could be in the grip of an almost impending apocalyptic doom. Now that is scary.

Audiences and readers today have seen everything. A novel can be successful still, but writers must be unabashedly original to truly terrify their readers. Look at what is happening in society. The monsters of yesterday are not the monsters of today. It worked for Stephen King and Thomas Harris and with luck, it can work for you too.

Introducing Author M. Brandon Robbins

Dragon Soul Press proudly announces horror Author M. Brandon Robbins to the family!

Stay tuned for news about his novel, Mr. Haunt.


What inspired you to start writing?

I’ve always enjoyed stories in their various forms, whether told through books or films or M Brandon Robbins Logogames. Being that I loved stories, I would come up with my own. I was writing fan-fiction about my favorite superheroes and video game characters long before I knew that fan fiction was even a thing. Almost all of my play was imaginary; I loved playing pretend and I would come up with these fully-realized narratives with my action figures. I always enjoyed creative writing assignments in school and tended to do well on them. When people asked me wanted I wanted to do when I grew up, I would tell them that I wanted to be a writer. When I got to college, I decided to major in English with the intention of writing professionally. I’ve continued to be inspired anew throughout the years, as writing is frustrating and far too easy to give up on. Whenever I step away from writing, I always come back because I remember how nourishing and exciting the act of creating is, so ultimately I would say that’s what inspired me to write: the agency that comes with creating your own worlds and characters is freeing and empowering. That’s something I knew as a child and something I remind myself of constantly as an adult.

How long have you been writing?

I would say I’ve been writing serious since my sophomore year of college. That’s when I started sending out submissions to publications and started writing a novel. So, about seventeen years or so. There have been long spans of time that I’ve set writing aside, such as when I was in graduate school or earning my teaching certification, but I’ve always been writing at least a little bit since I was about twenty. For a long time, I wrote a column for Library Journal on video games and libraries. I’ve also written graphic novel reviews for them and have contributed to a book on games in libraries. It’s hard to think of a time that I wasn’t writing something.

What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting out?

Write the story that’s inside of you. I struggled so much trying to write for a particular market or chase a certain trend, but when I’ve just sat down and followed those crazy ideas that come into my head at 2:00 AM, I’ve done my best writing. You’ll get good enough to write on demand and follow a prompt so you can submit to a specific anthology or take advantage of what’s popular at the moment. But if you’re just starting out, trust in your ideas and see them through to the end.

What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

Finishing. Coming up with great ideas is easy. Coming up with great endings is not. More often than not, I’ve written myself into a corner because I’ve gone down the rabbit hole with a certain idea and didn’t stop to actually think it through and make sure it would come to a logical and satisfying conclusion. That’s when I have no choice but to go back to the drawing board.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

Mr. Haunt is my first published novel, so it will probably always be my favorite! I’ve written two other novels. One is a book I started on in college and finished not long after. It’s really not very good at all. I’m still glad I wrote it. It was a learning experience and a valuable one. I’ve also written a western that I can see being part of a series. I’m just not sure if it’s the first book or not.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Sometimes I find inspiration and sometimes it finds me, but ultimately it all comes with asking the question, “What if?” Mr. Haunt started with the question of “What if depression Photo on 8-18-19 at 7.29 PMwas an actual demon that haunted those who suffer it?” Sometimes it’s a more direct and specific questions, such as “What if somebody lost their cell phone at a nightclub for vampires?” I’ve actually written a flash fiction on that question, and it was accepted for publication in a small webzine called Shotgun Horror Clips. To me, that’s the heart of fiction: trying to find the answer to that question of “what if.”

Who is your favorite author and why?

Neil Gaiman has been my favorite author for a long time for several reasons. Not only is his writing brilliant, but he has such a close and meaningful relationship with his fans and I truly respect that. I remember that his blog was one of the first author blogs I read and, if I recall correctly, he was one of the first to adapt to blogging as well as Twitter. I respect the fact that he considers comics legitimate literature and doesn’t consider himself to have graduated to prose fiction. As a librarian, I also love the fact that he is so supportive of libraries and librarians. He’s an all-around polite gentleman who loves the art of storytelling, and that’ what every writer should be.

What famous author do you wish would be your mentor?

If not Neil Gaiman, I would have to say Stephen King. He’s so in love with the craft of writing that I can imagine he would have a good bit of advice for any hardship that may come along; I’ve read his book On Writing and learned quite a bit from it. I imagine a mentorship with him would be incredible.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

I’ve played video games ever since I was in the crib, so that continues to be a major hobby of mine. I also read, of course, and tend to the ten pets that my wife and I share.

Where can readers learn more about you?

My blog, Meds and the Reasons For Them, can be found on my website. I can also be found on TwitterInstagram, and Dragon Soul Press.

Pitfalls to Avoid: Showing vs. Telling

As a writer, we have many expressions and mantras that both writer and reader alike have heard. Here’s another one you’ve probably heard ad nauseam: 

Show, do not tell.

However, a lot of amateur writers get this concept frequently wrong and why is telling so bad anyway?

Let’s start with an example of telling:

Grim unholstered his six-shot, pointing it at Sylvia. He felt angry and growled his fury.

Sylvia was unperturbed by his weapon, laughing defiantly. “If you plan on intimidating me, you’re sorely mistaken.”

He smiled cruelly, “The bullets in the gun are made from cold iron, demon. You’re finished!”

He opened fire, Slyvia screaming in anguish as each bullet tore through her violet flesh.

Is this bad? Isolated, no, not really, but it’s clearly amateurish and if the entire story is peppered with this style of writing, then it’s bad. The reason why is I’m telling the reader Grim is angry. I am telling the reader Sylvia was unperturbed. I am telling the reader Sylvia not only laughs, but how she laughs. I told the reader how Grim smiled and I told the reader how Sylvia screamed (okay that last part was really bad, but you get the point).

Understand that “show vs. tell” is a reader’s trend. At one point, it was perfectly acceptable for writers to tell the reader of the emotions and actions of the characters instead of showing. Read any 19th Century or early 20th Century literature. And if attention spans continue to get shorter and shorter, this trend may reverse itself and I may be writing a post about “tell, do not show.” I’ve been reading negative reviews of readers wanting just this thing (I’ll get into why in a moment)

So, how to avoid telling? Here are three rules to help you:

  1. Don’t use emotive words in the narrative at all. An easy test on yourself is if you have any emotive words. Angry, happy, sad, etc. Get rid of them.
  2. Use body language to describe the emotion. Instead of writing, He was angry, write, He grimaced, baring his teeth, nearly snarling. But you want the reader to feel a particular kind of rage, you say? Let the readers decide that for themselves. Don’t try to control that part of the process of writing for your reader.
  3. Mitigate or avoid adverbs. Adverbs are like salt. It’s okay to use one sparingly here and there, but overuse ruins the whole meal. A lot of adverbs is lazy writing. She laughed defiantly tells me how she laughed, and on top of it, how do I picture defiance? Instead, let’s go with, She folded her arms and proceeded to laugh, a raucous bellow that shook the room.

So, here’s the caveat of showing vs. telling and this is how I’ve seen this in the form of negative reviews. Showing increases your word count–considerably. It forces you to be more descriptive. Even if you chose a minimalist approach to describe an emotion, you’re still going to have more words than a simple, He was angry. In the example above, that was three words vs. seven. In the other example, that was three words vs. a whopping fifteen. Some readers hate this because you have writers who can literally spend a page and a half describing a gate-opening scene (George R.R. Martin, Game of Thrones, I’m looking at you). It’s beautiful, it’s immersive, but it’s long. So be aware when you’re being descriptive or you’re laying it thick on the purple prose.

Happy writing!