One of the things I did for fun in 2018 was put together Monstrous Friends, a series of interviews with well-known horror writers. In pursuing an interview with Stephen Graham Jones on writing and submitting short stories to current markets, he advised throwing out the first four ideas before carefully weighing the originality of ideas five and six. In general, pedestrian ideas are easy to write and impossible to sell. Today’s reader is well educated, widely read, and refined in taste. The contemporary appetite for fiction requires the best and most original writing available, written in a polished style.
While this may sound like twisting the flesh for the last drop of blood, it’s the type of fiction in demand. Not so surprisingly, the new Transmundane anthology asked for work that transcended the medium.
To fight in this arena a writer has to follow the example of a good boxer. You do your road work and read when you’re not writing. Studying grammar and punctation is essential if you want to have dependable footwork. Bring it when you step in the ring. I once heard a world champion state that a fighter needs four things to fight: guts, strength, determination, and desire. Writing is not much different.
Abra, the story I wrote, came from a dream of a worn man with massive abilities, standing next to a pool of water in the Curecanti desert at night, watching bioluminescent shrimp come up to feed from the deep caverns below. The story began to be about how he was able to teleport to the pool and the life he learned after he stopped being a soldier. Trich showed up wearing her SS greatcoat, not caring much about whether I liked her, daring me to put her in the story, because she was the heartbeat the tale needed. Abra wrote itself from this single image. The work lay in waiting until the original image appeared and using all the mysterious threads it offered.
I believe the world tells the writer all they need to know to produce material the reader will enjoy. You have to seize these whispers with practiced hands.
Lawrence Berry sold his first story to Cavalier Magazine and went on to have a ‘best of’ in that publication. Specializing in horror stories, in his work can be found in a number of new anthologies and podcasts. Lawrence specializes in horror fiction.