Horror (Of Not Writing)

My copy of On Writing Horror: A Handbook by the Horror Writers Association (edited by Mort Castle)

My copy of On Writing Horror: A Handbook by the Horror Writers Association (edited by Mort Castle)

Before NaNo2012, I decided to educate myself in how to write horror. The idea I had for my NaNo manuscript was dark and I thought it’d end up either being in the YA Horror genre or the YA Paranormal Thriller one. (I’ve been told it turned out to be Horror because of its overall sinister tone, which is good to know!)

Of course, one of the best ways to learn about a genre is by reading it. I think I mentioned my October Horror Book marathon before on this blog. Most of the books I read were YA (and zombie related, which has nothing to do with the plot of my NaNo story… I just love zombies) and dark, but not all could be considered horror. There’s just really not a huge pool of YA Horror books that you can dive into — though when I heard Laini Taylor talk about DAYS OF BLOOD & STARLIGHT, she said the genre is on the verge a huge growth spurt.

Gretchen McNeil is the first YA horror writer that comes to mind for me. I really enjoyed reading her book POSSESS, which was marketed as a Paranormal Thriller but could really go either way. TEN is her latest book and while I have it… I haven’t read it yet — bad me, I know. Another inspiration and most read, I think, is Courtney Summers’ THIS IS NOT A TEST (which I only now realize I didn’t write a review of… I promise to do soon!). It’s a zombie book, but not overtly/grotesquely so even if you aren’t a zombie fan I think you can still enjoy this book. Her voice and the overall tone of the book… it’s just amazing.

Of course I’ve read the classics, like Lovecraft and King, but what I mostly took away from them is how to build suspense and frighten the readers. You can’t really hope to write like either of them in this day and age and think you’ll get away with it. No one could write a book the length King’s usually are, unless they’re already an established writer, plus he gets wordy — nothing wrong with that when you’re a superstar like him, of course. Lovecraft, while a great horror writer, lacked in character development.

While I was looking into writing horror, I came across the Horror Writers Association (they even have a YA Horror section!). After reading through their website, I decided to buy a copy of ON WRITING HORROR to see what they had collected. In my opinion, reading books helps me with writing more than reading books about how to write, but I still find them fascinating.

There’s a wonderful collection of essays by writers on subjects I’ve never even considered (such as Freaks and Fiddles, Banjos and Beasts: Writing Redneck Horror by Weston Ochse) and the history of the horror genre. Over all, I think the book helped me get a better grasp on the genre and all that is expected of a writer that aspires to compile a horror manuscript. I’d recommend it to anyone curious about what it means to write horror.

If you are particularly interested in horror books, I’d also like to refer you to Hellnotes. It’s a blog and newsletter devoted to the genre. They have contests every once and a while, too.

Henry James summed up writers well when he said: “We work in the dark — we do what we can — we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of the art.” He was talking about horror writers in particular, but I think it applies to all of us. Don’t you?

But lately… I haven’t been writing. I’ve written down a lot of ideas (I often suffer from the Shinny Idea Syndrome that Gennifer Albin mentioned) and did some research for a contemporary YA I’ve been thinking about writing. I’ve been reading a lot, too. I’m three books closer to my 100 book goal and since it’s just January 8th, I think that’s pretty good, but I just feel horrible about not revising my NaNo manuscript at all lately…

On the bright side, I have my SCBWI book talk/critique group this Thursday night so I’m forced to do something with my NaNo-script. Though I’m very open to being late to it and/or missing it for another opportunity that might come up Thursday night…

On an unrelated note, if you want to enter for a chance to win a copy of some amazing YA books check out Publishing Crawl. They have three amazing giveaways going on right now!

3 thoughts on “Horror (Of Not Writing)

  1. Three years ago, I experimented in the fiction genre and started with horror. After a few attempts, I realized horror isn’t my forte but I still have a soft spot for it. You’ve listed some great resources that I’ll have to check into after I finished the books I’ve checked out about bad kids, which is the theme of my NaNo manuscript. 🙂

      • I’ve also had to interview the police and school administrators. Yes, it’s been fun!

        All the best on your NaNo manuscript. I was interested to hear that horror for young adults might be on the verge of a growth spurt.

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