Dark Sanctuary · Writing

Has anyone seen my soul?

If any of you read my Wattpad post on 11th September, you will know that I decided to start uploading my work to this free e-reader site. I have to say, so far, the response has been encouraging. Okay, yes, I’ve cajoled friends to join up and show me some love, but I’ve started to gain new readers that I would never previously have reached so that’s got to be a good thing.
My short story Cakes seems to get the most feedback, I think mostly because people are intrigued by a horror short with such a sweet title and are then somewhat surprised by the macabre ending. Also, having now posted eleven chapters of Dark Sanctuary, I’ve now amassed over one thousand reads across the chapters and that’s just in two weeks.
However uploading chapter by chapter has forced me back into that editing straight jacket you all know I just love to wear and it’s also forced me to the torturous realisation that so far, there’s not much I like about that first book.
Yep. You heard right. A strange thing to say maybe, particularly when I generally always get good feedback on the first novel but the fact is that I was always somewhat uncomfortable with the first handful of chapters. Chapter one I still like. Chapter two even. But beyond that, right up to chapter twelve, I always felt it teetered on the edge of becoming young adult fiction and whilst I enjoy reading YA novels, it was never my intention to write one.
Maybe it’s because those first chapters focus on Sarah’s childhood and teenage years and I never quite worked out how to keep it on an adult level when writing from a child’s or teenager’s perspective? Maybe I sugar-coated it too much? Whatever I did, I just don’t think I achieve the same grit and darkness of the rest of the book, so those formative chapters seem watered-down in comparison.
Also having now reached book three, Blood Wars, I can see a real difference in my style. It’s definitely darker and the urge to punctuate Sarah’s commentary with little bursts of humour is all but gone.
I love Sarah’s witty side. It’s part of who she is and her habit of chucking in the odd sarcastic remark and comical nickname for those she meets is her way of dealing with the evil in her life. Also it’s a big part of her relationship with Michael; their wicked banter is what kick starts their relationship and certainly keeps the fires stoked.
Yet when I wrote Lost Creatures, I remember having a conversation with my good friend Chrissie and declaring how I had concerns that I had stripped Sarah of her humour. There was already a much darker vein threading through the first few chapters but I put that down to everything Sarah had been through. I convinced myself it wasn’t that I was intentionally doing anything different: it was all down to Sarah. She was exhausted, she was scared, she was grieving for those she loved, she was tortured by feelings of guilt. Of course it was Sarah’s fault my writing style had changed!
I think these past two weeks has been a bit of a wake-up call if I’m being honest. Meeting one of my literary heroes and remembering what it was that made me fall in love with horror fiction when I was just eleven years old has made me hanker for the grittier, more terrifying side of the genre. I still love my vamp fiction, and I’m still completely committed to finishing The Dark Sanctuary series but there’s no doubt it needs a ton of work and I have a real urge to go back and re-write whole sections, whole chapters even. It’s made me think how I would have approached the story if I was just starting to write it now. How different would it be? How would those first chapters read?
It feels right to go back and edit it and be far more brutal with it than I ever thought I would be. See, I bet you never thought I would ever say that, did you? I want to edit. I need to edit.
Is this progress? Maybe it is. All I know is that I feel a burning desire to revert to what feels more natural to me, it’s where I feel my writer’s soul truly lies….and that’s somewhere a lot darker than where I currently am.

13 thoughts on “Has anyone seen my soul?

  1. I do that too. I skipped out on writing for about a year and came back and saw just how horrid my stories were (online site) and am now rewriting them all because I MUST. It burns me to continue on as if my old chapters are okay. While I know rewriting is a must, my head feels heavy at the thought of the work. T_T Why can’t work be perfect the first time around? Yeesh. Ah, don’t mind me, I don’t mean it muchly. XD


    1. The weird thing is, for the first time ever, I feel strangely happy about the thought of brutally editing my writing. I think I’ve been so unhappy about those dubious chapters that I’m actually enjoying finally getting round to rectifying how awful they are. I think it’s slightly masochistic, but what the hell lol.


  2. I’ve considered using Wattpad to upload my novellas, but the stories there tend to be YA novel focused (I write Urban Fantasy, but not YA).

    Do you have a link to your story on Wattpad?


    1. There is a horror category on there, but you are right that there’s a lot of YA and also a heck of a lot of One Direction fan fiction lol! It’s definitely opened up my readership, whether people are enjoying it or not is something else entirely 😉

      I’m rubbish when it comes to links but you can find me under the username LittleCinnamon.


  3. Good luck on editing! When I attended the Geek Girl Con here in Seattle last month, there was a panel and one woman asked about horror for young adult. The panel all agreed it is rising in demand and told her don’t give up. You may not intend to write YA, but maybe you are good at it and have a natural talent for it. Also, all adults grew up at some point (ok, maybe not all) and those adolescent memories can be quite horrifying!


    1. Hi Kelley, good point and I have never really looked at it that way. When I was a kid, YA paranormal fiction never really existed, or if it did then I never knew about it. I went overnight from Enid Blyton to Stephen King and James Herbert so, for me, YA was never really an option when it came to writing for myself. Still, there’s no reason why I can’t dip in and out of genres if the story suits it 🙂


  4. I think its very hard when you begin to write about the main character at the start of a book, especially a series of books! You really have to flesh out their life by writing their thoughts, feelings and reactions to the events unfolding. When you talk of Sarah’s difficult childhood and teenage years you try to give the reader as much information as possible, so we, the reader can ‘know’ Sarah, identify with her in some way and care about what happens to her. I feel that this is something that has to be done at the start of a novel, again especially a series of books. You want the reader to go on the characters journey with them, and I feel the only way you can achieve that is my knowing the character, knowing their past, how they thought and felt about things. Liking and caring enough about them to want to know what is going to happen in their story next. Obviously this is just my opinion, other readers may be different or disagree totally, but its what makes me continue to read. Hope some of this helps.xx


    1. Thanks for your lovely encouraging comments, it’s always great to get reassuring feedback. I always felt those early chapters were crucial in the development of the story as they all led to Sarah’s incarceration in her little cottage out in the woods, and it was important to show the reader why she was so isolated from the world. I still believe that but two years down the line I can see certain parts that definitely need editing and it feels as if I’m in a better place now to be able to do that xx


  5. It’s difficult as a friend and fan, because I love both books (and what I’ve read so far of Blood Wars). But I also know how horrible it is to read back over your work and find things you dislike about it. I will say this though – I think Sarah’s progression and less prominent humour throughout the books feels natural and not like a jarring character change. As you say yourself, she is scared and grieving, and I DO still see the wry humour in her in the later work, quite a lot of it actually, as it’s one of the things I like the most about Sarah. Also, with regards to the first few chapters feeling YA-y, I think it is extremely difficult to write about a child’s experiences from a gritty, adult point of view. Possibly it does feel slightly Young Adult at points, but I don’t think that detracts in any way from the plot, nor from the series as a whole. However, if you’re unhappy with it, at least identifying the things you’re unhappy about NOW means you have the chance to change them, before the series (I fervently hope) gets shared with a wider audience.


    1. I think its easy to be critical of yourself, but if anything it definitely encourages me to improve what I’ve done and make sure it’s the best it possibly can be. At the same time, comparing what I wrote then (almost 3 years ago) to what I write now, makes me realise how much my writing has changed and that’s not a bad thing LOL


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