So You Want to Write Horror. Tips and Tricks From ZHanny Publishing

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I have some very special content for your viewing pleasure. Today we put our team’s experiences and knowledge together. So, you need some tips on how to add that little spice to your writing eh? Do not fret young one. Today we combined our experiences to give you tips and tricks on what makes a good horror story a great horror story when writing. There’s no time to waste. Let’s start from the top:

Tip #1: Describe that feeling of being watched. I’d imagine that I am not supposed to talk about this book that is still in the works right now. It is just too good of an example not to use. In this story, the characters are walking through a closed department store. As they are walking, they notice something odd. It seems like the mannequins are are facing their direction. It is almost like the mannequins are watching them. Like anyone would do, the characters continue working on the topic at hand. In their minds, the mannequins were probably set up like that. While preparing some equipment up on the other side of the room the characters turn to face the back of the mannequins. To their surprise, ALL the manikins are facing their direction again. Maybe they are going crazy, or maybe they all turned themselves 180 degrees. People hate being watched which is something us horror writers and publishers use to our advantage. Actually, let me rephrase that. People hate the unknown, which is something you will see throughout this article. You do not know the intention of the person staring at you. Combine this with a few of the tips in the article, and you have the beginnings of some horror gold.

Tip #2: Feel free to play with the lights: This method is one of my favorites. In ZHanny Publishing’s book “Demon Thief” there is a scene that sticks out in my mind that uses the lack of light to it’s horror advantage. Emily, the protagonist, walks into a dark shed in which there is a single dangling light bulb. Emily is busy looking at an item in her hands. In the background, an ominous presence grows in the shadows to the point where it reaches out and turns the light bulb off with a “pop!” By playing with the light, various portions of the antagonist is slowly revealed. This is super important when writing a horror story. You want to keep that mystery as long as you can hold it. What better way to do that besides using light like a blanket to slowly reveal topics and ideas to the reader.

Tip #3: Foreshadowing. Do you remember that security guard that told you to leave the bakery before it got dark? No? You don’t remember when the owner misspoke when he asked you if you wanted to be casserole instead of inviting you in for casserole? Let me refresh your memory now that you are locked inside for the night. There’s a reason she was so persistent. Boom! Foreshadowing. Great in all kinds of writing – especially horror. This element is key for the next level. When I see foreshadowing in stories, I know that the writer took their time crafting a serious plot before just jumping in. Everyday readers appreciate this too. Foreshadowing creates story layers that, in my opinion, thickens the plot soup. When done correctly, readers begin to question motives, ideas, and actions. Exactly what we want to have happen.

Tip #4: Using sounds to add tension. I can not emphasize using this tactic enough. Imagine yourself walking through your empty house or apartment. It is completely quiet and dark. The electricity went out and you are looking for a candle. Every step that you take makes the wood floor beneath your feet slowly creak as you walk through the kitchen down the stairs into your basement. As you reach the bottom of the stairs you hear the “CRASH!” of a glass plate breaking on a tile floor followed by the slamming of a window closing. You can feel and hear your heart rate increasing by the pounding in your ears. No one is supposed to be home until next week. By utilizing the power of sound, this otherwise bland paragraph is brought to the next level. If you were to take out the bold-ed words shown above and emit them (of course still making the sentences complete) you would find yourself bored in no time reading through the excerpt. It’s easier for people to put themselves in the shoes of your character when they can actively hear what your character is hearing.

Tip #5: The feeling of being trapped.  When I am working with my team, I actively encourage trapping characters or keeping the space tight when the time feels right. Do you every wonder why all the crazy stuff in books/ movies happen in those small enclosed spaces? I am talking about when the exorcism is about to begin in a small bedroom, or when you are standing in a moving elevator and the lights suddenly go out. When you walk into a basement with one entrance/exit only to find meat hooks hanging from the ceiling. I’d also like to quickly reference the lack of light section above. There are several reasons why Emily goes into a shed to look at her stolen goods. One of those reasons is because a shed is a perfect place to get trapped.

Tip #6: Right about here in the article is a great place to bring this next topic up.
Give them (meaning the reader and the characters) hope of getting away. It can not be all doom and gloom. If all the reader feels is dread, what’s to make them come back for more? You are going to want to keep the reader interested enough to find out what happens. Hold the reader on the razor’s edge. What drives a good scary story is that flicker of hope. If I am reading a book and everyone is getting sawed apart one by one with consistency, I might just close the book and say, “well, I already know how this is going to end.” I’d imagine you would probably say that too! That’s not a story, that’s just a massacre. Give the readers a good plot twist. Maybe one of the characters gets away. Maybe the bad guy gets temporarily knocked out. Very cliche examples, but examples nevertheless.

Tip #7: Create tension with disadvantages.  Congratulations, you’re suddenly thrown into a zombie apocalypse type situation. It is OK because you have everything you need to survive. By everything you need, I mean you have: one gun, one machete, and a club style sandwich. Alright action! You look over at the three windows in the room. All of the windows are covered in zombies eyeing how meaty and delicious you look. One of them is holding a fork and a knife. You hear them *POUND POUND POUND* at the glass as they try to get inside. From the corner of your eye you see a arm quickly reaching across the table. It’s ZHanny, and he stole your gun! ZHanny disappears into the shadows making a slow growling chuckle. That’s OK because you still have your machete and sandwich. Wait, where’s your machete? From the other corner of your eye you see the machete slide off the table with a metallic *THUD*. The machete hits the cement floor and disappears from site. You hold your club sandwich in your quivering hands as the *CRASH* of glass is heard in the background. There’s no way out. All jokes and partial comedy aside, I am sure you understand the concept. People fear being unprepared and overwhelmed. Let me rephrase that. People hate feeling helpless. In story telling, people have no choice but to follow the plot line. I encourage you to strip the main characters down until the odds are against them. There is some real stress and fear created in those moments of overwhelming odds.

Tip #8: Do not let the character(s) have what they want. Like seriously. Don’t. One of biggest concepts in horror is the lack of control. When some writers spend enough time with the characters they created, they develop feelings as though they want to take care of them. Yes it is easier to give the characters that weapon to defend themselves, but is it what is best for the story? It’s almost like you are the parent of a child. You know that if you give your child an energy drink at bed time, you will pay for it shortly in the future. On the flip side, you know that if you give your characters everything they want, no one is going to be scared. Be the parent your story needs. Be prepared to say, “no.”

Tip #9: Creating tension with time constraints. Make the reader feel as if time is running out. There are so many ways to do this. I like to use this tactic towards the end of my stories. Creating a time constraint too early can wear the reader out. Done correctly it can squeeze out the extra tension you need to make the reader feel like they just barely got away. Writers get super creative when coming up with time constraints. Examples of this range from slowing being lowered into a boiling pot of acid to trying to find your way out of a fully involved store fire. If you think about it, both examples are time related. Heck, just the other day I watched re-run movie where a chain was slowly dragging an individual into a meat grinder. People are just too darn creative.

Tip #10: Creating a feeling of being controlled or manipulated. You hear and about this concept all the time. The master manipulator. The puppeteer controlling the strings. One of our team member’s recently created a scene where the characters were standing in front of fuzzy buzzing old televisions. You know the kind where you can change it to a channel that doesn’t exist? All of a sudden, the televisions switch to a face that appears to be watching them. The face almost seems to be mocking them from afar controlling their every move. All of a sudden, it all makes sense now. He was the one causing all the unfortunate events.

We know that there are certainly more than ten tips to help you write horror. Let us know yours in the comments below or on our social media!

-ZHanny Publishing Team

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How Much You Make Blogging Month 2

You have month number one under your belt and now you are working on month number two. Congrats! These are tough months for some individuals. Like I said in my “How Much You Make Blogging Month 1” article, this information you read here is something you will have difficulty finding out in the wild. My blog/ website that you landed on is very unique in the way that it is organized, coded, and scheduled. The dream of most bloggers is to make passive income doing what they want, writing about what they want, and creating content when they want to do it. So, just for fun, I decided that I would create a blog that reflected exactly that. If are curious in the content month to month follow this link. At the time of this posting there will be a calendar that can be interacted with. Check it out!

Month number two was exponentially interesting to me and I could see how a lot of people could have the same experience that I had. I was very consistent making blog posts with month number one. For the most part, I had a new post every day with a few exceptions. Now for month number two, I had significantly less time to work with. This was especially true with the Christmas season in the works. First and foremost, I am a book publisher. I have book publishing to do. This also really put this blog to the test. I was beginning to notice trends in the analytics data, as I was also becoming more and more confident in the way I posted information and pictures. Go through the history of my posting and you will visibly see this.

Now onto the question at hand. How much does one make blogging month number two? What if I was to tell you that I increased my profits from month number one to month number two by 1400%? Sounds pretty good right? That is exactly the mindset you need to have when looking at these numbers.

Remember how much I made from month number one? Get ready, here comes the big number! I made $2.47 from month number two, and I am still absolutely ecstatic about it. Yes, I know that it is a pretty large amount of cash. With that amount maybe I could go to the grocery store and pick up a soda. That is missing the point though. Remember, 1400% increase. There is some serious potential with percentage increases like that. As this blog grows in size, as does the traffic to it. We have no where to go but up. If you liked that, get ready for month number three! It might just blow your mind.

-ZHanny

Are my numbers off according to your experience? How so? I would love if you shared your story with me in the comments down below or on my social media!

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The Purpose Of The First Draft

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People get so caught up on the perfection of the first draft. Striving for that initial perfection is universal in the writing field I am sure. There are many misunderstood aspects about this. This is especially true in the horror genre. I work with brand new writers from time to time. Heck, a lot of the experienced ones suffer from this perfection too. I can tell you from experience that the writing process goes so much more smoothly when you use the first draft for this:

The first draft is used to get your story on the paper. This means that the spelling can be wrong. The grammar can be wrong. Even some of the scenes can be wrong! The beauty of the first draft is the ability to change things after it’s completion. Let me reiterate the first sentence. Get your story, and get your vision on the paper.

Some might worry that your publisher will not understand. Let me clear some of that up with what I look for -as a publisher. I divide up some of my longer projects into smaller bite sized portions. This effectively means that people hurry hurry hurry to submit portions of the manuscript to me. Everyone take a deep breath. Yes, there are some errors. You can ask any of any my ghostwriters about this. I have never brought up any little things like spelling or grammar. Yes, we sometimes discuss what direction the story is going, but that is what the first draft is for.

I saw a discussion about this topic on Twitter the other day which I felt was a little misguided. The individuals talking on this topic made the argument that everything needs to be perfect all the time and that you can not move on with the story until, “you get your house in order”. Instead of ineffectively creating argument or argument’s sake, I decided to create this article. Folks, do not get caught up getting your ideas on the paper. If you are looking for tips on the final draft, now that’s a whole different story. Click here if you are looking for three tips on that topic. Once you get the ball rolling, keep up with the momentum. Trust me, this is totally the best way to write.

-ZHanny

These are just my personal thoughts and feeling about this subject. Do you agree with me? Maybe you feel differently? Let me know in the comments down below or on my social media!

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You Need To Take Action If…

Sometimes in life you need to listen to not only what your body is telling you, but your mind as well. Let us start this article with a fun recent ZHanny story. This article exists because of the impact it had on my business. Plus, it’s just really interesting!

Lately I have had a ton of work to do on the publishing side of things. I’m not complaining, this is a great thing! Exactly what I wanted in fact. With a ton of work, sometimes comes a ton of added stress. I am one of those guys that wants to get everything done right away. However, I literally run out of hours in a day to do all the things I want to accomplish. Maybe you can relate if you have landed on this page.

There is this one project that I am working on that is taking a little more time than it is supposed to. The layers of this project seem like peeling an endless onion. That is the way life goes sometimes, eh? Unfortunately, due to the way this Christmas season is going, I have had to postpone some of the steps needed to accomplish the necessary tasks to finish up. I did not realize how much this was bothering me until I started having recurring nightmares.

I went to bed and immediately started dreaming about standing in a room. I looked in a mirror and noticed that a tooth was loose. Above me hung a single light bulb swaying in the breeze. The room was frightfully dark. I grabbed onto that tooth and pulled it out. A few more teeth fell out as I pulled. Not a big deal. I woke up that morning and did not give the dream a second thought. The next night I had the same dream, except this time I lost much more teeth when I looked in the mirror. There was nothing I could do to stop the losing process. Again, I woke up the next morning. I thought about the weird dream for a second, then carried on with my day. Finally the third night is when it got real. Same dream, just progressively worse. My mind apparently had had enough of me ignoring it and, boy oh boy, it reflected in the nightmare. I woke up and immediately had a revelation. I felt like I was losing control of the above stated project. I had to take action. Pretty soon I was going to be a toothless fool in my dreams if I did not do something!

I hired some extra help. Immediately I felt like the weight of the world was lifted. I went to bed that night with a sigh of relief. The best part? I’m keeping my teeth now!

What are the warning signs that your body gives you when stressed? I’d love to know!
Obviously I need to be a dream interpreter for myself in these situations (LOL). Leave me a comment down below or on my social media!

-ZHanny

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How Much Money You Make Blogging: Month 1

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So there you are, wanting to start a blog. Congratulations! Boy, oh boy do I have a good article for you today. This article you read here is something you will have difficulty finding out in the wild. My blog/ website that you landed on is very unique in the way that it is organized, coded, and scheduled. The dream of most bloggers is to make passive income doing what they want, writing about what they want, and creating content when they want to do it. So, just for fun, I decided that I would create a blog that reflected exactly that.

My blog talks about my experiences in the book publishing world and the lessons that I have learned throughout. I write when I have time. I write about what’s on my mind for that day. I had no idea how to make a website when starting. I try to optimize my book publications with keywords, but not my blog. Literally everything you see around you on this site was from scratch with no knowledge on how to set it up. This sounds like how a lot of bloggers start, right? So the question rears it’s head. How much can you expect to make on month number one? Let me walk you through my experience.

Right away, I had no idea what I was doing. Heck, I still don’t, however, I was excited to be doing it. I wrote about tons of random stuff. There was financial advice, life advice, publisher advice, you name it! I had some views on the website, but not very many. Maybe, like, a handful a day? Traffic primarily came from my Twitter and Facebook pages which were also new at the time. There were very few organic searches for my content. For approximately 2/3rd’s of the month I watched my Google Adsense remain at $0.00. It makes sense though why the royalties were like that. Why would anyone want to spend money on a website that is obviously new with basically zero traffic. All of a sudden, it happened. I made $0.01!! I had never been so excited to make one cent in my life. I even tweeted about it with a screen shot (not too many were impressed, but heck, I was!). I was finally rolling in the cash. For the remaining third of the month I would average about one cent a day. Some days I would make like three cents, the other days I would make zero.

Also, If you are curious to see what my website looks like and pretty much has looked like since I started it follow this like here. That should explain the amount of posting and the number/ words used. Like seriously you should check it out for research reasons.

Are you ready for the grand total that you can expect to make month #1 knowing what you know about me now? Remember, this information is from my experience based on the criteria listed above. $0.17. That’s right let it soak it. If I had a dime, a nickle, and two pennies, I’d have exactly what I made for my first month of blogging.

Do not let this number get you down. I can assure you, I made more month #2 just doing the same thing. How much more? Click the link below to find out!

Blogging Month Two

-ZHanny

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Five Most Curious Writer Work Spaces

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I personally find it fascinating what professionals in the writing field/ community find to be the best work spaces. Everyone operates differently in this area of expertise. I find that when I am out exercising or running on our city bike path that I come up with some of my most interesting ideas. However, when I come back to the quiet of my home office the heavy work begins. With that in mind, I began to wonder what makes others tick. What environments are best suited for the creative mind. Below I complied a list of my favorite five famous writer work spaces for your enjoyment (and maybe inspiration). 

  1. We’ll start off with a good one! Agatha Christie: Some find it relaxing to soak in a bath. Some find it relaxing to snack on some food. Agatha Christie took this to a whole new level. During the renovation of her mansion she made some very special demands. Agatha cornered her architect and demanded that she have a large Victorian tub. Not just any Victorian tub mind you, one with a nice ledge so that she could eat apples and work in peace. 
  2. Dame Edith Sitwell: When relaxing or trying to find inspiration, do you ever just chill on a couch or bed? Have you ever considered replacing those options with a coffin? That’s right, you heard me correctly. Dame found her inspiration in the confines of her personal thinking coffin. There was just something about the tight space that allowed her creative thinking. 
  3. Maybe you are one of those that enjoys the feeling of riding around in the car? That is what Gertrude Stein also thought. While out and about, Gertrude would stay in her vehicle (Model T Ford) to utilize that pen and paper. Her partner would be happily running errands while Gertrude would happily write. Everyone wins. 
  4. Are you a Benjamin Franklin fan? Great! Benjamin enjoyed what he called, “Tonic Baths” while he worked. What is a tonic bath you ask? Well, it is not much like #1. A tonic bath for Benjamin was standing/ working naked in his bedroom. Nothing quite like the fresh open air up to an hour each day. Refreshing. Especially in front of a window!
  5. Finally number five. I personally enjoy the quiet of my office like I stated in the beginning paragraph. However, I have not corked my walls like  Marcel Proust. Marcel enjoyed writing at night, however the streets were beginning to get a little too noisy for his liking when trying to sleep during the day. Marcel lined his walls with cork to dampen the sound. I bet his room was nice and quiet after that!

What is your quirky work space like? What makes you original and fun? Let me know in the comments down below or on my social media! 

-ZHanny

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Three Crazy Tips For When You Can’t Describe A Scene

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Ahh! Writer’s Block! Or maybe you do not understand what a certain scene looks or feels like. Step one, stay calm. You will find out soon that I take a more hands on approach to these things. When watching my Twitter feed, I notice that this question pops up several times a week. This is a tough situation for a lot of writers since, well, you can not be experienced in everything. How am I supposed to write about being a brain surgeon? Alas, I am just a writer! Unfortunately this is the kind of thing that reflects in your writing. You can tell when a writer has and has not experienced what it feels like (I am a horror book publisher mind you) to walk through a dark dreary basement or what it feels like to see (or think you see) those peering eyes from in your closet late into the night. So what do we do? Here are three things that I do what I am unable to fully describe a scene. 

  1. Take a field trip. We will just jump right into a good one that I use. My next book takes place in a closed store. I have found myself walking through the aisles of my local retailers asking myself, “What are the small details that I see? What do I hear? What would surprise me right now?” It does not have to stop there. You can be creative with this tactic too. This is especially true if you have a good imagination like most writers have. A lot of my books harness the power of darkness and silence. There’s a scene in my upcoming book that uses a dark shed to introduce a powerful character. Off to the dark garage I went asking myself some of the same questions.
  2. This tip adds onto the last one. You will not be able to always have something so convenient close by. If you character is cave spelunking, and there are no caves around, create a similar situation. Sit in your silent basement with the lights off or something similar. You can hold a flashlight if you want for brownie points. You will be surprised at the words and ideas that come to you. No, I am not saying that if you have never broken up with your boyfriend or girlfriend to push your relationship to the edge to find out what if feels like ha-ha (however, it would give you great descriptive words). Try and create a similar situation where you can close your eyes and imagine that you are in that place. 
  3. Finally number three. Talk to your friends who are experts in those fields. There is a wide variety of professions that my and quite possibly your friends decided to take up. Everything from business managers, doctors, fire fighters, construction workers, and farmers (the list goes on and on). It’s a great pool of knowledge that I like to dip into from time to time. No, I have not deep sea dived to look at a ship’s wreckage , but I know people who have. Ask your friends or acquaintances about their experiences. What was the coolest part about it? What scared you? Do you have any pictures from your travels? You get the idea!

Do you have any other tips for writers who need to write content of things they do not know about? Let me know in the comments down below or on my social media!

-ZHanny

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Three Jaw Dropping Publisher Tips On Finishing A Manuscript

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Congratulations! You and your team finished that manuscript! That is no small feat my friend. Not small at all! The meat and potatoes of the project is now plated. Unfortunately for us, the job is far from done. The stressful part is about to begin in fact! The correct to do list for us is lengthy, but let’s break it down a little and concentrate on the topic at hand. How do we give that final “OK” to a manuscript? What are we looking for exactly? Here are three things that you and I need to look for to make that final decision:

  1. Much of time time (if we are doing this right) us publishers have a contractually itemized to do list for the writers. Here is a good example of this. Total word count. Did the writer(s) meet the final word count? Did they get close? I personally break down the writing of the manuscript into several small achievable chunks which allows me to better pay attention to the small details. In the contract I enclose what the writing needs to be about. Did the writer stay on track? Is the final product something that will take only small changes to complete? Make sure that all the contract is fulfilled by the writer. That brings us to the next tip.
  2. I view the completed manuscript much like a skeleton (horror publisher reference). You need to make sure that the bones are there for the team to add to and manipulate. I make sure that I fully read the story several times through before sending the final payments and ending a contract. That being said, I completely understand that several people need to read through a manuscript in order to catch all the typos and improper sentence structures. With a limited amount of time for the writers to finish the story, it would be unfair for me to expect perfection. Heck, look at some of the blogs on this site that accidentally make their way out. They’re sometimes, eh, not so perfectly written at first. Alas, there is no editor for this blog. Just good ol ZHanny talking to his peeps. Make sure that the final product is something that you can foresee only taking a little effort to finish and correct
  3. Finally random tip number three. What are the relations between you and the writer/ team member that just finished the contract? Is everyone content with the way the product turned out? It is vitally important to make sure that if the writer did a good job they are happy and set up for the future. This is especially true if you plan on re-hiring any previous contracts. Be genuine and appreciative. Leave a good review for them. I have never said anything negative about my staff nor do I plan to in the future when other publishers ask about my team. I feel my heart jump with happiness when they are specifically asked for. I always look forward to increasing the value of the writer’s worth/ value as you should to. What comes around, goes around.

There are certainly more than three tips on finishing up a manuscript. What is your advice on what to look for or what to do before closing up that contract? Let me know in the comments down below or on my social media! 

-ZHanny

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