This week I found out my short story The Skeleton has been accepted in a new horror anthology called Tricks, Treats, & Zombies – a collection of zombie stories published by ATZ Publications for Halloween, edited by Jeffrey Clare.
The other contributors are Eric A Shelman, Katy Walker, Chris Philbrook, P Mark Debryan, Aria Michaels, Brea Behn, DD Vangarde, Jay Wilburn, Suzanne Casey, Bethany Hagardt, James Dean, Laurie Lane Mault, Richard Correll and Amy Bartelloni.
My short story The Ripper Legacy is in a new anthology published by Robinson/Little Brown on November 12. The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper Stories, edited by Maxim Jacubowski, includes stories by M. Christian, Carol Anne Davis, Stephen Dedman, Martin Edwards, Peter Gutteridge, Barbara Nadel, Nicky Peacock, Vanessa de Sade, Sarah Morrison, Betsy van Die, Alvaro Zinos-Almaro, Sarah Spedding, Steve Rasnic Tem, and many others. It is out now in the UK and available to pre-order in the US, where it will be published in December.
Last year I decided as an experiment to write a web novel called Journal of the Living. That meant I had to publish the story in a series of blog posts as I was writing it. To make the challenge more interesting, I decided I would not plan ahead very far because I wanted the story to develop organically. Instead I would have polls at certain points so readers could vote on what happened next. I was hoping the outcome of the votes would send the story off in interesting directions like a ‘choose your own adventure’ book. I’ve just finished the novel, which took over a year to write. After completing it, I learnt a few valuable lessons about writing a web novel.
Writing a Web Novel is not the same as writing a normal novel. A normal novel is a complete entity before anyone reads it – neat and polished and as good as you can make it through editing – but a web novel is a work-in-progress, which means it will probably have flaws in it that you’ll want to fix later. Each blog post needs to be edited thoroughly before publishing – but there is less temptation to go back to the previous parts if they are already published. For an over-editor like me, that prevented me rewriting the whole story a hundred times, forcing me to get on with the next blog post.
A web novel requires a commitment to produce new material on a regular basis. This can be just a few paragraphs or an entire chapter or more. This makes it important to keep writing even when you feel tired or lose enthusiasm, which can happen in the middle of any long project.
Readers might not start your story at the beginning. This is a problem with the way blog posts are listed. I’d never start reading a book in the middle – but a web novel doesn’t appear in a chronological order unless the reader finds the start first. Make sure you redirect new readers to the start with a link at the top of each new post. (I didn’t do this with mine until I realised some readers were starting near the end.)
Don’t do a reader poll unless you have plenty of regular readers. I wanted the direction of my story to be decided by readers voting in regular polls. That meant I could not plan beyond the next poll. I hoped enough people would vote to make it worth doing. Unfortunately, the results of my early polls did not produce a good result. About three people voted in my first poll. For a vote to be a valuable tool, I needed at least a hundred voters. The second poll was even worse. Nobody voted. The one after that had a few voters – but the vote was split equally. I soon realised that writing a novel with polls was not working how I imagined. The deadlines for voting had to be short – a week or two – but new readers could not catch up on the story in time to vote if they started reading it near the deadline. There was also another unforeseen problem. After each poll, I had to wait at least a week for the result before continuing the story. That destroyed my momentum, making it hard to resume where I had left off. Eventually I scrapped the polls and just decided to finish the story without any more votes. I was disappointed the experiment had failed – but it was a valuable lesson.
Is it fun writing a web novel? Yes – but it is also challenging. I enjoyed writing my first web novel – but I would think again about doing it with polls. That was not a good idea for my story. It might have been better to ask readers to give me their opinions on what they would have wanted to happen next, instead of just providing a few options.
How much will I earn? In my case I’ve earned nothing. My website does not have a donation button and it does not receive money from advertising. The only way I will earn anything from my web novel is if readers buy my other books after visiting the website. Or if they buy the revised version I have now released as a trade paperback and ebook.
Mark Taylor is an author from the UK, specialising in horror. His first novel is Shutter Speed, published by Nocturnal Press Publications. Mark’s short fiction is published in many anthologies, including Tales of Terror and Mayhem, Haunted and Small Cuts to the Psyche. He specialises in dark and twisted stories.
What should readers know about you and your writing?
I am an author of the macabre. I have in the past labelled myself as a horror author, but these days I am still better with macabre. My writing is dark, it is scary, but rarely do I focus on gore and splatter.
I have a long history of short story writing, and while I do still do some, mostly my work these days is longer – Novellas and Novels.
I have a new book – actually a large collection of short stories – coming out in the summer from Gnome on Pig Productions in Canada, I have novels Shutter Speed and Redemption out from publishers in the UK and US respectively and I have some self published work out.
What inspires you to write?
I love to write. That’s pretty much all the inspiration I need.
I’ve been a fan of horror since I was young. I love the films. I’ve always had a passion for reading King and Barker, Herbert and such. It’s these things that got me started.
I can’t stop, it appears.
What advice would you give to other writers?
If you’re writing to be famous, or rich, or for the groupies, then stop now. Go learn the guitar. It’s more rewarding in those ways.
If you’re writing because you write, it’s hard. Some days no one will read your work. Some days you won’t want to show it to people. Rejection hurts. Criticism burns.
But it will make you better. It will make you stronger…
Don’t give up.
Good advice. Giving up is the only way of guaranteeing failure.
What are you working on now right now?
At this pinprick in time I am just about to start the last chapter of my latest novel, Trinity. It’s a (macabre) science fiction number. I’ve got a lot of work to do to it though.
I’m also working on part three of The Devil’s Hand series titled Celestials. It should be out soon.
Oh, and I’m halfway through another novel.
So much to do.
Sounds like you are very busy!
Which writers are your favourites?
I’m a massive fan of Richard Laymon. His work is fantastic. And as I have said before, King, Herbert, and Barker. These days with the prolific amount of fiction available through small press and self publishing I have found myself more and more reading new writers.
I love reading many “indie” authors, and have started finding myself buying their work over and above the authors that I used to.
For better or worse some would argue, the internet has changed a lot.
I’m also a big fan of Richard Laymon. His style looked so simple – almost too simple – but his stories always raced along with good dialogue and effective suspense. I liked the dark humour in his work.
Thanks for doing an interview, Mark.
Mark Taylor’s novel, SHUTTER SPEED, is available now from Nocturnal Press Publications, and REDEMPTION, a novel he co-authored with author Charles Day is available from Black Bed Sheet Books. The first parts of THE DEVIL’S HAND series, CROSSING GUARD and CONVICTION, are also available now.