The last few months have been busy. Having knocked out some new work, such as a couple of novels which are still in dire need of basic clean-up (let alone deep-dive editing). And other bits and pieces; such as online readings, and podcast sessions. Even now as I type this, I'm thinking that's all, but I'm sure I've forgotten something.
One recurring thought I've had over the last few months is around newer writers; their entry into the realm of the genre and the game. Genre being the realm of horror fiction/media; from short stories to novels, but also the likes of screenplays, short film and such. Game in terms of how 'one' would navigate their way through the genre and produce work.
I don't see myself as a veteran - far from it. Having been writing with professional intent since 2009, I've seen my craft evolve, sure. I've definitely made progress, but I'm not 'there' yet. You know, every once in a while, Mama will ask how such hustle is going, whether I've finished writing another book or sold another one or done another Q&A session or whatever, and you know what the answer usually is? 'I'm satisfied.' And even that isn't strictly true, because - for better or worse - I'm not sure I'd ever be truly satisfied. Not to the point where I'd sit back on my laurels and look at my track record and think ' that'll do.'
Even before Stoker-Con earlier this year, I was mindful of newer exponents of the genre. Even outside of the current pandemic, the horror community is large and far-reaching; global. No surprise that it's nigh on impossible to get everyone in one room at the same time. Social media is a valuable asset in bridging those divides. I'm not a member of so many social media groups - and honestly, I want to limit how many I'm in, or they grow outta control like warts, boils and rashes. Those groups I'm in, I'm mindful of the questions the less experienced will have. Questions that I might take for granted: things that cover the likes of cover art, self-publishing, exposure markets, etc. Yes, cover art is important - I'll be judging a book by its cover; partly, at least. Yes, I might self-publish at some point but, right now, it's too much heavy lifting for me to take on when a dedicated publisher could handle the artwork, editing, marketing, etc. No, I don't write for exposure markets - I work hard on my craft: you want it, you need to pay me for it.
Seeing those who are perhaps less experienced makes me feel a little more ...protective, for want of a better word. Just to offer whatever insight and guidance I can. That includes everything from giving advice to my peers (and the beta reading is a part of that), to mentoring; also in an official capacity with the HWA. Mentoring is both an honour and a privilege, one I take seriously. One of my closest friends introduced me to a newer author for that purpose; to offer insight and guidance. And as trite as it might seem, my pitch is generally the same:
The bottom line is the writing. The writing makes everything else possible.
With a genre that so many are passionate about, understandably you might have a difference of opinion here and there. Disagreements. Arguments. Bias. Prejudice. 'How many books have you read?' 'How many of these books have you read?' 'Name your worst book/film/etc.' And so on and so on and so on. Social media is a minefield. A useful tool, certainly for us indie types, but still a tool. And, just like any other minefield, there's shit you should avoid. Step back and step away from.
By all means, make time for levity - hell, I do. Life is taxing enough as is. And as is, there's already negativity. This goes beyond just being an author, it's about being a person. What value do you bring to the table? More important than how that translates into value for others, how does that translate into value for you? Those close to you? Sure, there might be people who don't like you, or publishers that aren't impressed by your work, etc. etc. etc. Welcome to the world. How do you conduct yourself; with humility? Respect? Understanding? What positive steps do you take? Do you strive to be the best you can be (again, not necessarily as a author/creator)? What values do you hold dear, champion and fight for (and bear in mind that for all its diversity, the horror genre, sadly, isn't exempt from drama)? What is gratifying and rewarding? If the answer is honestly 'being a twat', ask yourself if that's the epitaph you truly want.
I personally don't feel the need to attend every argument there is. Yes, there are some things I will discuss, debate or defend - but I don't have to follow each and every one to its bitter conclusion. Nor do I feel the need to lament any negative reviews, publisher rejections, social media unfriendings/unfollowings, fragile ego, misplaced sense of entitlement, etc. That's a lot of bullshit I don't want or need to deal with at all, let alone publicly - my health and sanity come first. I do my best to stay humble and honourable, and devote time and effort to my craft, along with my place in the genre. But don't take my word for it: social media's a big place, with a genre community that's relatively tight-knit. You're welcome to dig/Google/etc. if you're so inclined.
Writing and bullshit. Be about the former, not the latter.
That's something else I feel I should be passing on to the newer exponents.
As is, I'm finishing up my last beta-read before I can get back to my own work. While I currently have work sold before 2020 that's still due for publication, I feel the need to knock out more product; keeping my audience engaged. Seemingly, it's never enough. Already the muse is restless, looking to sink her teeth and claws into something; anything. Truth told, so am I - it's the writing and the business of it that gets me amped.
And that's no bullshit.