Stephen King

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Fear and the Writer

Published April 2, 2013 by Jill London

fear and the writer

Writing can be scary. It can terrify the writer into complete inaction. It is scary because we are investing so much into it; our time and energy, our hopes, our ego. There is so much that can go wrong, not just with the writing itself, but the countless other things that we sometimes feel are resting on it. Friends and family can be supportive (or not) but sometimes the fear comes rushing in and we are stalled. The odd day here and there is to be expected but sometimes the feeling hangs on. In fact it will not quit. It becomes the little voice of doubt that eats at your soul, nibbling away at you bit by bit. Day by Day. Maybe your latest submission is being rejected left right and centre. Maybe you feel as though time is ticking by and that you will soon run out of that ever-diminishing pool of opportunity. What will x think if they saw this? What if I never write anything any good again? What if I’ve never written anything that’s any good…

However great a man’s natural talent may be, the act of writing cannot be learned all at once.  Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Luckily, competent writing can be learned. There are any number of books out there to teach you how to write. My favourites? As a general starting point The 38 Most

Cover of "The 38 Most Common Fiction Writ...

Common Fiction Writing Mistakes by Jack Bickham, then, once you have your bearings a little bit and can appreciate what he’s saying it has to be Stephen King’s On Writing.

But for combating that dreaded fear it has to be Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. For sheer verve and spontaneity of spirit Bradbury is the best for lassoing that elusive mojo. If you have any interest in writing and you don’t have this slim but vital book I urge you now to make the purchase. Bradbury knew all about the power of the human spirit, the power waiting there for you to tap once you free it with just the right amount of encouragement. Bradbury is the encouragement.

Cover of "On Writing:  A Memoir of the Cr...

King also has a thing or two to say on the subject of fearfulness in the writer. “You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair – the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come into it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.”

So don’t let those demons deter you – fight back! You have the power. Reclaim your fearlessness.

Who do you rate as the best for writer’s advice (maybe King and Bradbury are not your favourites)? How do you avoid that sinking feeling at the keyboard, and what really scares you as a writer? Who inspires you? As always don’t be shy – share!

– Grab the bull by its Horns – colinshingler.wordpress.com

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Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror

Published March 15, 2013 by Jill London
Cover of "Uncle Montague's Tales of Terro...

Cover of Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror

On my reading table at the moment is Chris Priestley’s highly entertaining and spooky read Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror. I’ve been meaning to get round to reading this one for a while, too long really as there are now more in the series to catch up with. The book can be read as a standalone however, and is told in the form of a series of creepy stories linked by their narrator, Uncle Montague, as he entertains his nephew, Edgar, while outside the window a swirling fog descends.

The book is very beautifully illustrated by David Roberts, though for me the illustrations suggest a ‘safer’ more child-orientated story than what’s actually on offer. There is more than a hint of Poe here (hence the protagonist’s moniker) and I was very much reminded of Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. I should point out here that I am highly susceptible to horror, and that the book is aimed at a 9-12 year age group, so don’t expect anything to rival Stephen King. That noted I should also warn the squeamish that there are a number of grisly murders in the stories, and indeed some cruelty to small animals, and if you aren’t running for the hills by now I congratulate you on your fortitude.

If you do read Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror you will find that Priestley is very much in control of his narrative, which is quite traditional in tone, and that he has a real gift for creating a chilling atmosphere in a variety of settings (from rural England to suburban London and even Turkey). The characters are deftly drawn, though not always sympathetic (you couldn’t really suffer their demise if it were otherwise) but I will say that the ending probably isn’t as good as the one your piqued imagination will have conjured, but don’t let that deter you from reading this page-turning, read-it-with-the-lights-on, chiller.

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