I recently received an email from a new writer who wanted my advice on how to become a writer.
This was my reply (except for more personal details that I’ve omitted in this recounting):
My advice is to read and write every day. I don’t think a class would help any more than if you just wrote every day. You might want to consider a critique group, but it’s oftentimes hard to find a quality crit group. Some people read 100+ books a year. I read 20-40, depending on the year and my other time commitments. I read slowly and study what the author is trying to accomplish. I’ll start a chapter, read the first page or so, and then try to guess what the author will accomplish by the end of it. I look to see what carries the plot. Is it basic narration, dialog, etc. I look for conflicts as well. Fiction is just stringing together one conflict after another. If there wasn’t conflict in fiction, no one would read it. For my own writing, when I know I have to get the plot from point A to point B, I make sure there are setbacks and hurdles for the characters to have to overcome.
As far as the horror genre itself, I hear a lot about how there aren’t a lot of women authors who only write horror. I don’t think it matters if you are a man or woman. As long as you have a story to tell, and you do it well, that’s all that matters. There are barriers with writing horror. The readership is small, and if you don’t write about zombies or vampires (like me), your readership is quite a bit smaller still. But when readers find your work, they tend to be as loyal as they come. I’ve had readers read all of my titles within a week of discovering them. I’ve had readers read two of my novels within a day.
So, in short, if you love to write, then do it. You will learn more by writing than by being lectured to in a classroom.