Back in September last year, the blog had its third birthday. We’d themed the month around an off-the-cuff comment made by James Pailly, and he very kindly delivered on our request to write a short piece on how his life and his writing intersect – and #NowWithAdded was born! This month we’ve asked Stu Nager to do the honours. We met Stu via the #AprilA2Z challenge (check out our article on surviving the challenge here). Stu’s Abysmal Dollhouse is a master class in writing horror as far as I am concerned, and whilst Stu does dip his toe into other genre’s I particularly think of him as a Horror writer. I can’t wait for the Dollhouse to be unleashed as a complete book – I think people will be talking about Stu in the same breath as Stephen King. But enough introduction! Over to the man himself…
I always wanted to know how you came up with all of those delightfully creepy horror stories!
Good question. Most of it is my mood. I enjoy dark things: humor, movies, books. I grew up watching the classic Universal and B-grade shlock on TV: Chiller Theater, Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Zachary, Elvira, and more.
I lived around the corner from The Earl Theater on 161st Street in the Bronx, NY. Their matinees were full of the horror/scifi films from the late ‘40s through the early ‘60s, then the Hammer and Troma films. You’d find me there just about every first show on a Saturday. Insert Rocky Horror’s opening song “Science Fiction/Double Feature,” and you’ll have my childhood.
I really don’t like the in-your-face slasher and gore movies. They are one jump scare after another. Give me subtle horror, one that weaves from a type of normalcy that lures you in and then won’t let go. The 1963 “The Haunting” still gets to me. Forget the movie remake or the Netflix mini. Claire Bloom. Black & White. I’ve never looked at a house without thinking something scary or evil since my first viewing.
Guess I just figured out why I have never wanted to live in a house.
I started doing Flash Fiction without knowing that was what I was doing in 2011 with my blog Tale Spinning. I enjoyed a challenge, and having the freedom to write what I want was exhilarating. I meander IRL, so it fit. The more I wrote, the more my writing condensed. I took on a lot of 100 word or 50-word challenges that honed my editing skills. Just about everything on Tale Spinning was first draft. I found Grammarly. That helped me a lot: there were many grammatical mistakes before that. Because I am an Improv actor/teacher, brevity and getting to the point helps. A lot of my posts were written in a Writer’s Group. We’re given anywhere from a half hour to an hour to write off of a prompt/generative writing. The last post, Encased, went from writing by hand to typing it in Word, pass through Grammarly, and then copy/paste into Tale Spinning. Only a few grammatical changes. I definitely feel my Improv background helps me the most.
Some possible tips that have helped me:
- Join at least one generative Writer’s Group. You work off prompts. Two different (or more, schedule permitting) would be best. You can find some in your area through Meetup, local libraries, FB or Twitter groups. Plenty of other places to search for them.
- Write every single day. Set a time limit. Later set # of words.
- Do NOT edit as you go. First drafts, in the words of Hemmingway, are shit. Get the words down. Take a breath or 20 and then edit.
- Do not make any judgement calls on what you produce. See #3.
- Do not compare what you write to any other writer.
- If you are an organizer, then outlines & research are your friends.
- If you write off the cuff, as I do, then let the story & characters take you where they want to go. This is how I write. We’re called Pantsers: writing by the seat of our pants.
#1 is really important, in my opinion. Support. Feedback. Connections. Rinse. Repeat.
If you’d like to read my work, visit Tale Spinning at www.stuartnager.wordpress.com
The AtoZ Blog Challenge is coming soon. 26 posts in a month. Sundays off. No idea what I’ll write this year. Come check it out.
Thanks Stu, much appreciated. For the record, Debs and I agree with your tips, but whilst #2 is important, it’s not always possible. Squeezing in time when you can is always great, but don’t do it if it is going to cause problems elsewhere/when! #4 comes into play here – don’t compare your writing practice to anyone else’s!
©Stu Nager, 2020 (Article)
©Fiction Can Be Fun, 2020 (Introduction, Closing Thought)