S. C. Morgan is a gifted horror writer whose short stories will make your hair stand on end! He has one short story published in the anthology Unleashed: Monsters vs. Zombies, another short story appearing in the Potato Soup Journal on October 22nd and several short stories coming in a Halloween Anthology in September 2020.
1) What inspires you to write?
The story itself is what usually drives me to write. When an idea grips me so it has my full attention then paper and pen are the natural solution. One time driving out to my in-laws- about an hour trek –a story idea popped in my head. By the time we arrived, I had thought it over and looked at it from a number of different angles, but I needed to get it down on paper. I probably seemed a little anti-social because as soon as we got there, I excused myself and wrote the story from beginning to end. A couple hours later I resurfaced with the first draft and a huge smile on my face.
2) Tell me about your stories
They tend to be darker stories of things that go bump in the night. Most times the stories come from an idea that hits me out of the blue and I am compelled to know what happens next. I keep a notes file on my iPhone with all the little ideas that hit me during the day so I can quickly jot them down and then continue with whatever I was doing. Sometimes when I’m at a loss for what to write, I will scroll through that file and it’s usually one that I don’t even remember adding that stands up, waves, and tells me it’s time.
3) What authors influence your writing?
Stephen King is the first to come to mind, but not for his novels (although I’ve read 90% of them), instead it is his On Writing book, which I read every year and it remains a touchstone for me on the craft. Other authors? James Patterson and the brevity of his work has taught me to get to the point when I’m writing, which goes nicely with King’s idea that the second draft of a story should be the first draft minus 10%. Lastly, I have been reading Terry Brooks since I was a knee-high, when my eldest brother got me the original Sword of Shannara trilogy for Christmas. Now 30 years later and having read over 40 of his books, Brooks’ amazing story telling ability has influenced my own writing by showing how to build a world and make it thrive.
4) How did you come up with your plot?
I tend to be a pantser when it comes to plot although there are some exceptions. I get an idea and then just write it as fast as I can to outrun / outwrite my inner critic. I don’t want to get the idea in my head that this is terrible writing so why I am I bothering. I also don’t want to get the idea that this is the best writing I’ve ever done (or ever will). The only time I plan where the story goes is if I am stuck at a certain point in a story, and I want to figure out a way to get out of the corner that I’ve written myself into.
5) What advice do you have for young writers?
A couple things come to mind under the if I knew then what I know now category:
First off, give yourself permission to write poorly. I never let anyone see the first draft of a story because that is the story in its most basic form with no polish, gaps in the story that you can drive a cargo van through, and the same word appearing 47 times (apparently, I couldn’t think of a synonym for “look”). There will be time for people to read the story, but the first draft is not the one they should see.
Second, when you finished the first draft of the story, put it aside for a little while so that you can forget about it just a little. It needs to be out of sight, out of mind so that when you do come back to it, you’re looking at it as if it was a familiar story that you kinda remember, but certainly not as the one that you just wrote. So how long does it take to get to that point? It must be at least a couple of weeks in my experience. You are never going to make the cuts necessary to make your content better if you’re still protecting it like it was your baby. You have to go into that second draft with a mercenary outlook and make the cuts that are necessary, not just the ones that are easy to do.
6) How do you balance writing and working full time?
My train rides into work and back home every day give me a built-in time slot to work on my latest story. The commute gives me time to get any thoughts down on paper while I’m still waking up in the morning or just decompressing from a day on the job. That’s the better part of two hours to read, write or whatever else I feel the need to accomplish. When I’m off the train there are so many distractions and obligations that I am thankful for the train time.
7) Describe your writing routine
There’s really no routine to speak of. I have a notebook in my backpack that I bring to work everyday, and I just open it up and start writing. Sometimes I will read what I wrote before, but then the time ends up being spent editing the previous work instead of writing new content. There’s a momentary lull when I first start writing as I overthink how it should go, but then once I start the words just seem to flow. Then suddenly, BING! an hour has gone by and its time to get off the train and back to the real world.
8) What are your must haves when writing?
Pen and paper. Why complicate things?
9) Do you prefer writing with a notebook and pen or with a computer?
I love writing with a pen and pad for my first draft. It’s just something about the feel of the pen in my hand and the paper sliding by a little more with each word. The computer comes into play on the second draft – actually, the second draft is transferring the story from my notebook into Microsoft Word. While I’m typing in the story, I’m making corrections, wondering what the H-E-double hockey sticks I was thinking about, and correcting the obvious fixes. This stage also is where I start to evaluate what I’ve written and what parts of the story need to be strengthened. That is not necessarily the use of language or how I’m trying to convey that story, but rather what is happening in the story and is it essential? If I removed a section, would it change anything? Would it be a domino that would start a chain reaction or would it just be gone and quickly forgotten? It’s a lot easier to make these kind of decisions with the use of a backspace key.
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