You may or may not remember last month Robert E. Dunn wrote an entertaining and enlightening piece on How to be a Horror Writer, or any sort of writer really. That article was one of the more popular ones this site has seen since it’s inception so, for those of you who have asked me for more of Robert’s wisdom, here you go. A little bit more of Robert’s sweat and blood yields more knowledge for us. This is the second of what will be at least a four part series of these sorts of articles, and I plan to release the next ones over the course of the next two weeks so stay tuned to this channel. But in the meantime, get your highlighters out and pay attention, class is in session. Thank you to Robert E. Dunn for gifting us with his words.
How to be a (Published) Horror Writer — Professionalism & Community
The last time we talked I rambled on about how to be a writer. Take it all with a grain of salt and your drug of choice. Mine is usually liquid caffeine. I have my reasons and you don’t know me. Anyway, the truth is, take any advice with a healthy dose of skepticism. I can’t tell you anything but my own experience. Your situation may be startlingly different and justify the hateful, anonymous notes you send me from the safety of the interwebs. I will tell you that my experience is pretty typical. And you would be an idget, yes I said idget, not to, at least, accept that you are not so special. Don’t think that what has happened with me, has nothing to do with you. Just like I tell my kids, and to me, you probably are a kid—Learn From My Experience.
Why do we say that, learn from my experience. What do I care? The short and easy answer is, I don’t. Beat your head against the wall for all it matters to me. The honest answer is that, I genuinely believe—in a community, our individual successes raise us all. That suggests also that I believe I can help you succeed. I can. It won’t be in that big, change your life way. I won’t introduce you to Guillermo del Toro and promise him your story will be his next big movie. I don’t know him. So there’s that. I can help you though by introducing you to some of the things that become obvious to us after we’ve done it wrong a few times. I can help save you from wasting time, and effort, on the small, life draining mistakes so many of us have already made. The great thing about that, you get a head start beyond my starting line. Maybe you will give a running start to the next guy. It helps the community and the profession. That is a pretty cool thing. Writing is solitary work but it doesn’t mean you have to be alone in it. Never mind, it makes sense if you read the whole thing.
On to the advice—
Writing is creative. Selling writing is not. For some reason that seems to be a hard one for some people to understand. Approach it as a professional. Once you have written a book or story, you want to get it in front of an agent or an editor right? Professional people. Forget that thought you had about a personal hand written letter. Forget the notion that everyone likes flattery. Put aside any idea you had about a little gift to get attention. Most of all—disabuse yourself of all belief in your personal specialness. You are not. Your work should be.
What does that mean? First of all, correspondence should be business oriented. Eliminate bragging. Cut promises. Slice away the personal sales pitch. What does that leave? The writing. If I was—insert big celebrity name here—I could just call a big agent and say, “I’ve written a book.” That’s all it takes for them because, shocking truth here, it is a business. Business deals in markets and making money. That is why you see so many celebrity bios and movie franchise tie-in books. They sell to an existing market with relative ease.
About Robert E. Dunn: Robert Dunn (1960) was an Army brat born in Alabama and finally settled in Nixa, Missouri. A graduate of Drury College with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications/Film he also earned a second major in Philosophy with a minor in Religion and carried an emphasis in Theatre. This course of study left him qualified only to be a televangelist.
An award winning film/video producer and writer, he has written scripts for or directed every kind of production from local 30-second television commercial spots to documentary productions and travelogues.
A writer of blognovels and contributor to various fiction websites his work has also included the book length prose poem, Uncle Sam, the collection of short stories, Motorman and Other Stories and novel, Behind the Darkness.
Mr. Dunn now resides in Kansas City where he continues to write genre fiction and experiment with mixed media art projects using hand drawn and painted elements combined through digital paint and compositing.