Blog Talk, Rambles, Writing Advice

Give it up loser wolf

The wolf, he’s an asshole

Have you ever had those moments where you look at something you once thought was a great idea and suddenly hate it?

Nope? Just me? Well, I must be special then.

Just kidding.

I am very much aware that I am not alone in this, nor am I special because of it.

My lame joke aside, don’t you just hate it? That feeling of utter betrayal? That feeling that your brain has tricked you? Something that looked so perfect, so fully formed that you couldn’t help getting excited, suddenly looks flat, unengaging and completely convoluted.

I had this happen to me recently.

I’ve been reading this fantastic book called the Science of Storytelling by Will Storr. It is a very interesting book, looking at why we, as humans, tell stories and why certain things prevail in many stories despite the tellers being continents apart. It’s part psychological look at the human condition and part writing instruction manual.

Whilst I was reading this I was also working on my next novel; one that I’m working on alongside Walk in the Woods, which I’m taking a little break from. I was working on the plot and crafting my main few characters. I was reasonably happy with what I was pulling together. My main character seemed believable, had depth and his motivations were clear. The plot was engaging, so I hoped, as well as believable and reasonably well paced.

Then I hit the latter third of The Science of Storytelling and suddenly my main character looked flat, and my plot sounded convoluted, cliché and crappy.

My motivation tanked.

When this feeling hit there were two wolves inside me, and they were fighting tooth and nail. To the victor would go the ability to dictate my actions.

Photo by David Selbert on

One wolf was saying that this sucked, I should just give up and probably comfort eat as well, why not? This wolf was an asshole.

The other wolf was saying that wasn’t it fantastic that this happened now, at this early stage in the process? Wasn’t it great that I was learning so much from this book that I could see my mistakes? Wasn’t it great that I was making my craft better? With this new information, I could make this next book the best thing I had written to date! Wasn’t that exciting? This wolf was not an asshole but was far too excited by what felt like a failure.

Now it’s obvious, even to me, which of these wolves should win the fight. But I am not going to sit here and pretend that the ‘give up now you loser’ wolf wasn’t the more tempting option, at least for a bit.

The ‘you’re a loser’ wolf required very little effort on my part. I just had to stop and goodness me that was a temptation. When you’re tired and fed up, just stopping is a very alluring prospect. It’s why I’m a very strong advocate for taking regular breaks from projects and work in general, it makes that temptation less tempting when you’re not shattered.

I did eventually manage to tell the ‘you’re a loser’ wolf to go fuck itself and I listened to the wolf that, in my head, sounded like it had eaten far too much sugar. I didn’t scrap what I had already, instead I opened a new document and started planning again, sometimes pulling ideas from my first attempt over into the second attempt.

Anyway, why am I telling you this?

I’m writing to you about this experience to tell you that you’re not alone when you feel that sinking dread in the pit of your stomach when an idea that was once so shiny suddenly looks like it’s been covered in poop. You’re not alone when you want to listen to the ‘give up loser’ wolf and that reading books about writing craft is a truly invaluable experience.

Practice is great, it’s better than great it’s essential. But just because you’re writing regularly doesn’t mean you should stop learning. Never stop learning, there’s always something that can be made better. There’s always more work that can be done.

Even when it fucking sucks to do it.

Horror Writing

Horror Writing: Pacing Your Story

Pacing your story is important. 

This is likely a phrase that you’ve heard before, I know I certainly heard it several thousand times and knew it academically, but implementing this practically has sometimes proven to be a bit of a challenge.

In a nutshell, the pacing is the speed at which your story progresses. There will be points where things happen quickly and points where it slows down a bit. The important thing to remember is that the speed must be reflective of the story itself. This means that having a fast-paced chapter should be an exciting chapter where the action happens, as opposed to a fast-paced world-building chapter.

The reason pacing can be difficult, at least it’s something I still struggle with it because it’s difficult to label chapters. I do not have entire chapters devoted to character development or world-building, these things are interwoven through the entire story. While I will have a few action-focused chapters they usually come in towards the end. Writing horror, at least for me, means a lot of well-paced build-up with the conclusion being faster paced. Sometimes I feel that this can make pacing disjointed and thus difficult. 

Today, I would like to share with you a few little tips to help you make sure your story is well-paced.

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Horror Writing

Horror Writing: The Three Act Structure

1, 2, 3 …

In my last letter, I mentioned the typical three-act structure that is present in most stories.

Today I want to talk a little bit more about this, as while it is not a complicated part of story craft it is where a lot of writers come into problems. What I mean by that is that whenever a story doesn’t quite ‘feel right’ or leaves the audience unhappy or unsatisfied, it’s usually because something in the three-act structure has gone wrong.

What is the Three Act Structure?

The Three Act Structure is a simple, but effective, way of structuring a story. It allows you as the writer/creator to craft a story in such a way that will engage your audience and leave them feeling satisfied at the end of the experience.

If you can follow this structure and work your story into each part well and organically, then your story will work. However, if any part of the structure is rushed through or forced in then your audience isn’t going to enjoy your story as well as they could had you followed the structure.

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Horror Writing

Horror Writing: Skills you can learn from writing horror

Mad skillz

I think that the best way to learn new and interesting writing skills is to read and write a variety of genres.

The more you expose yourself to the wider and more varied your range of knowledge will be. Think about it those who read or write thrillers will learn different lessons to those who read or write romance. Each genre has it’s own specific strengths and weaknesses and if you limit yourself to a single genre (either reading or writing) then you’ll build a certain set of strengths but never overcome the weaknesses. But by reading different genres and styles you may find tips and tricks to overcome the weaknesses inherent in the genre your writing at that time.

Horror is my own main focus (although I dabble all over the place to widen my own skillset), this means the bulk of my strengths lie in horror. Today I am going to share with you some of the potential skills you could develop by giving horror writing a try.

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Horror Writing

Horror Writing: Magic in Mundane Settings

Magic in the mundane

Magic is … well magical, it can bring an element of excitement and otherworldly power into any story.

Magic appears in all kinds of fantasy stories, be they high fantasy, urban fantasy or gothic fantasy. I personally really enjoy fantasy stories that are set in the ‘real’ world, I love the idea that there’s more to our own world than we know and that if you scratch beneath the surface there’s a whole other way of life, be it terrifying or exciting.

Today I am writing to you about writing magic when your story is set in the ‘real’ world.

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