Hurtling down the home stretch of writing a novel’s first draft is always a fun, thrilling, rewarding, and sometimes melancholy occasion.

For me the fun comes from finally being able to write scenes that I’ve spent sometimes years picturing in my head. All of the world shattering events and Scooby Doo reveals are finally coming out of the woodwork, and they’re coming out in droves. Love it!

The thrill comes from not knowing 100% exactly how everything will turn out. Will a character that I wasn’t planning on killing off end up getting the (sometimes literal) axe in the penultimate or even last scene? Will X happen? Will Y? Sometimes I learn that X isn’t even necessary; sometimes Z worms its way in and is ultimately a far better idea than even X or Y. Every writer’s process is a little bit different, but for me, writing the endgame of a novel is like sledding down a mountainside. The writing tends to fly right by, which is a good thing, when compared to some days where the writing seems to have me stuck in an knee-deep bayou infested with leeches and water moccasins. Everything is flying at me all at once and at breakneck speed, which makes me wonder some days if I even know what I’m doing. This can be a bad thing, but sometimes a writer’s best work happens on those no-clue-what-I’m-doing days: it’s all a matter of perspective.

The melancholy comes from the idea of this novel being your child, in a metaphysical sense. Typing “THE END” on the last page of one’s manuscript is akin to sending one’s firstborn off to daycare or kindergarten for the first time and watching the bus drive away with your kid on it. Some writers like to get the draft out and be done with it, but I think the longer you spend with a novel, the harder it is to button up its jacket and send it off to school. This current novel, for example—which has the working title Spectrum—is among the hardest simply because I’ve been working on it for so long (that’s a topic for another day, however). The short of it is I first got the idea for it back in ’02, started writing it at the beginning of ’07, started seriously writing it near the end of ’08, and now I am an estimated 5,000 words away from completing the first draft. It’s a monster book, granted, and I worked on a lot of shorter pieces between chapters, but that’s a long time. About three and a half years of actual writing is a far cry shorter than the five or six years one spends with their kids before sending them off to kindergarten, but the sentiment is still the same.

I’ve written a handful of short stories over the years, and apart from my work-for-hire pieces, I’ve noticed that the vast majority of them fall into the same category. Two things about these stories strike me as odd. First, all but one of them are written in first person perspective, which I rarely use; second, all of them hail from the horror genre, which isn’t my go-to genre. Most of my other work is almost exclusively either fantasy or science fiction written in what I call “third person limited” (contrast this to “third person omniscient”).

I think the reason most of my short stories are horror-themed is because, for me, horror is a very quick and simple ordeal compared to a plot-and-character-driven fantasy or sci-fi story. I doubt I could stretch a horror tale out beyond short-story length, but not for lack of trying. I did write a supernatural novel long ago (although I’m hesitant to classify it as outright horror, per se), and it ended up being the shortest novel I’ve ever written. Go figure. I think the reason these stories came out in first person is because horror is all that much more terrifying when it’s personal, and first person puts the reader at only one point of remove from the protagonist.

Of course for me, horror is a little bit different. I much prefer a horror movie dripping in creepy ambiance than a slasher flick with cheap, heart-attack-inducing moments where something jumps out with a loud noise (and I REALLY hate when that cheap thing that jumps out isn’t even a threat, like it’s one of the stupid friends grabbing the protagonist on the shoulder). If you want to know the kind of horror I appreciate, watch The Ring. Or Event Horizon. Alien, anyone? Sure, there are some jump-out moments in these movies, but just try to stand there and tell me those movies don’t have an atmosphere that makes you feel really uncomfortable in between all the jumpy bits. Some more creepy references: The Game or any of the first few Resident Evil video games. Odd dolls? Empty mansions (never mind the zombies, of course) with creepy art and sculptures and riddles hanging about? That’s what I’m talking about. And that is the kind of short story I like to write.