- When a horror writer hits a ceiling hard
Some time ago, I submitted a short story for an upcoming DK anthology titled ‘Kvinder skriver gys’ (Women write horror) to be published on May 19th at DK publisher 2 Feet Entertainment. This particular short story will be translated and published on Amazon as soon as the writer can set up an appointment to recover a lost #SSN so she can put it up for sale.
Back to the short story, which is both short – under 4000 words – and a story.
In actual fact, it is without question the most terrible – in terms of theme – story I have ever written.
Which for a long, long time – since about February 2020, when I first thought it up on a visit to Krákow in Poland – was a big part of The Problem With This Story.
The Problem With This Story
Contrary to popular belief, horror writers, like virtually all writers I have personally ever met, are perfectly ordinary people. We don’t dismember our fellow humans or indulge in cannibalism as a matter of course. We live our lives just like everyone else.
But what if a writer cooks up an idea for a story so horrific, she can’t even write it?
That’s what happened here.
The deadline came and went. I was in an agony writers might recognize. Another contributor told me the ultimate deadline was on January 31st, which was a Monday.
Friday the 27th, I decided I would get out that story come hell or high water. If I did nothing at all else that weekend, I WOULD WRITE THAT STORY, DAMN IT.
Also, the publisher is an awesome human being who has taught THIS writer a lot, he had a lot of faith in the writer, and I was terrified I’d let him down if I didn’t, and that was no way to treat an awesome human being.
Saturday at noon – after I did every single avoidance action any writer can cook up at the drop of a hat or less – I sat myself down. I told myself in advance that I could not get up, I could not do anything at all else until I had at least 2400 words.
Because I had spent three years planning it out, doing my usual insane amount of research, and purloining every digitized map I could find on the location, writing in my head and trying to come to terms with my own sick, demented mind, those 2400 words came, not easily, but well.
By the time it grew dark, I had 2800 words, and called it a day.
Sunday morning, I wrote the rest. By noon, it was finished. By 3 PM, it was proofread and sent to the editor. It was not this writer’s space to judge it and find it wanting. If he liked it, great! If not, well, back to the drawing board.
The sick, demented mind
Obviously, I had no such luck. The publisher was shocked to his core. (Considering his own authorly output, that says something.) The story was accepted.
What I couldn’t accept was my own disgust/contempt that I had even conceived of such a horror.
IRL, I’m a mild-mannered, book fiend semi-recluse with a day job that includes daily sightings of fluffy, happy bunnies. I cry over rescue kitten videos on YouTube. (Don’t ask.)
So what the everloving F was wrong with me, if I could cook up this Sick and Demented idea?
Well, I was – among the several other hats – a writer. And gradually, over the course of this winter and spring, I’ve come to accept the fact that the writer and the individual are, if not two separate people, then at least two faces of the multiverse that all humans contain.
Therefore, sick and demented ideas executed as well as the writer can manage are acceptable.
It took a long time and a lot of soul searching to get to that point.
Third time’s a charm
Tomorrow afternoon as of this writing, I have a meeting with that awesome human being, the Publisher.
For the third time in my life, my words will be in hard copy. This story is as far removed from anything I’ve done previously as I can likely get. Few adjectives, short sentences, a simple – if sick and demented – plot, and only three characters to keep track of. Since the anthology isn’t out for another month, no one has reviewed it yet – or called me out for being a waste of ink and paper.
And yet. I’m not worried. Let the rotten tomatoes fall where they may. A writer can control everything except how the story is received, and really – that’s not a writer’s problem, is it?
The writer’s problem lay in accepting that great – if disgusting /horrific/terrible idea.