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On Writing Horror: A Handbook by the Horror Writers Association

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The masters of horror have united to teach you the secrets of success in the scariest genre of all! In On Writing Horror, Second Edition, Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Harlan Ellison, David Morrell, Jack Ketchum, and many others tell you everything you need to know to successfully write and publish horror novels and short stories. Edited by the Horror Writ The masters of horror have united to teach you the secrets of success in the scariest genre of all! In On Writing Horror, Second Edition, Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Harlan Ellison, David Morrell, Jack Ketchum, and many others tell you everything you need to know to successfully write and publish horror novels and short stories. Edited by the Horror Writers Association (HWA), a worldwide organization of writers and publishing professionals dedicated to promoting dark literature, On Writing Horror includes exclusive information and guidance from 58 of the biggest names in horror writing to give you the inspiration you need to start scaring and exciting readers and editors. You'll discover comprehensive instruction such as: The art of crafting visceral violence, from Jack Ketchum Why horror classics like Dracula, The Exorcist, and Hell House are as scary as ever, from Robert Weinberg Tips for avoiding one of the biggest death knells in horror writing--predicable cliches--from Ramsey Campbell How to use character and setting to stretch the limits of credibility, from Mort Castle With On Writing Horror, you can unlock the mystery surrounding classic horror traditions, revel in the art and craft of writing horror, and find out exactly where the genre is going next. Learn from the best, and you could be the next best-selling author keeping readers up all night long.


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The masters of horror have united to teach you the secrets of success in the scariest genre of all! In On Writing Horror, Second Edition, Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Harlan Ellison, David Morrell, Jack Ketchum, and many others tell you everything you need to know to successfully write and publish horror novels and short stories. Edited by the Horror Writ The masters of horror have united to teach you the secrets of success in the scariest genre of all! In On Writing Horror, Second Edition, Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Harlan Ellison, David Morrell, Jack Ketchum, and many others tell you everything you need to know to successfully write and publish horror novels and short stories. Edited by the Horror Writers Association (HWA), a worldwide organization of writers and publishing professionals dedicated to promoting dark literature, On Writing Horror includes exclusive information and guidance from 58 of the biggest names in horror writing to give you the inspiration you need to start scaring and exciting readers and editors. You'll discover comprehensive instruction such as: The art of crafting visceral violence, from Jack Ketchum Why horror classics like Dracula, The Exorcist, and Hell House are as scary as ever, from Robert Weinberg Tips for avoiding one of the biggest death knells in horror writing--predicable cliches--from Ramsey Campbell How to use character and setting to stretch the limits of credibility, from Mort Castle With On Writing Horror, you can unlock the mystery surrounding classic horror traditions, revel in the art and craft of writing horror, and find out exactly where the genre is going next. Learn from the best, and you could be the next best-selling author keeping readers up all night long.

30 review for On Writing Horror: A Handbook by the Horror Writers Association

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paula Cappa

    This book is somewhat dated now, but it's not really a "handbook" to instruct techniques on writing horror. I found it to be more a presentation of the current state of the horror industry, standards, and suggestions by some highly experienced and acclaimed horror authors (King, Ellison, Ketchum, Oates, Campbell). I liked Douglas Winter's chapter "Darkness Absolute: The Standards of Excellence in Horror Fiction." He specifies "horror is not a genre. It is an emotion." For new horror writers, thi This book is somewhat dated now, but it's not really a "handbook" to instruct techniques on writing horror. I found it to be more a presentation of the current state of the horror industry, standards, and suggestions by some highly experienced and acclaimed horror authors (King, Ellison, Ketchum, Oates, Campbell). I liked Douglas Winter's chapter "Darkness Absolute: The Standards of Excellence in Horror Fiction." He specifies "horror is not a genre. It is an emotion." For new horror writers, this is important because he goes on to point out that "great horror fiction is rarely about shock, but rather more lasting emotions." I write horror. I read horror. I edit horror. And so many new writers in this genre are focused on big blood-splatter scenes and wicked jaw-slashing monsters and not on the characters we want to care about. Joyce Carole Oates on "The Madness of Art" speaks to how this genre (Gothic especially) is a "powerful vehicle of truth-telling." She points out that the standards for horror fiction are the same as literary fiction: "originality of concept, depth of characters, and attentiveness to language." This is certainly a book for new horror writers who are serious about their art and desire insights from the people who have done it successfully. One thing that is really awful about this book is the presentation of the text: The font size is too small and the pages have ragged right margins when they should be justified for smoother tracking when reading.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jakk Makk

    With all these high falutin' names, you'd think this book would have grabbed me. I'm noticing a trend. Books that contain small articles by a bunch of authors don't tend to live up to the promise of their titles.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Katie Cunningham

    The premise sounds good in theory: Get a bunch of horror luminaries together to talk about various aspects of writing horror. In practice, it fell down. First, with no one author, there was no building of knowledge. The essays, while grouped, didn't feel like they spoke to one another at all. Indeed, some weren't even written for the book: They were acceptance speeches or transcripts of roundtables. Second, many chapters featured nothing that isn't in dozens of other 'how t The premise sounds good in theory: Get a bunch of horror luminaries together to talk about various aspects of writing horror. In practice, it fell down. First, with no one author, there was no building of knowledge. The essays, while grouped, didn't feel like they spoke to one another at all. Indeed, some weren't even written for the book: They were acceptance speeches or transcripts of roundtables. Second, many chapters featured nothing that isn't in dozens of other 'how to write' books. I wouldn't have minded this if it had been geared towards writing horror (other books say to do X, but with horror, you want to do X + Y or Z), but besides different references, they didn't differ much from any other book. Third, with every chapter, just as it gets revved up and you think, cool, I'm prepped, I'm going to learn something... the chapter ends, and you're on to a completely new author and topic. There were quite a few chapters in there that I dearly wish had been longer, or even their own book, but instead, they read like an introduction. So, if you're interested in writing horror, I'd give this one a glance, but I wouldn't expect too much.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Carmilla Voiez

    There were a couple of issues with this book: the font is too small to read comfortably, and a lot of the information is out of date now. However, I did find some of the articles useful. Michael Marano's discussion about negative space fascinated me and his advice to dwell on the "small glimpse of larger atrocity" was inspirational enough for me to feel the book was worthwhile. The chapter on plotting short fiction was both reassuring and helpful. Style as a window was a maxim I have read before There were a couple of issues with this book: the font is too small to read comfortably, and a lot of the information is out of date now. However, I did find some of the articles useful. Michael Marano's discussion about negative space fascinated me and his advice to dwell on the "small glimpse of larger atrocity" was inspirational enough for me to feel the book was worthwhile. The chapter on plotting short fiction was both reassuring and helpful. Style as a window was a maxim I have read before, but it was worth being reminded. Tracy Knight's categories of mental illness made me happy; I said thank you, at last, and hope people take heed that schizophrenia is not the same as Dissociative Identity Disorder. I have read better writing guides, but I am glad I read this one as well. Although it needs updating, it is still useful.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Wayne Barrett

    Lots of great info and examples for the Horror writer. This is an extra resource to sit alongside my Writers Market addition.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Eoghan Odinsson

    I was very disappointed with this book. First of all, I've never seen a book typeset with type so small, It might be 8pt, most books are 12pt or thereabouts. I'm a young man with decent vision and I had trouble reading it. Secondly, like most of Writer's Digest books - it's hit or miss on quality. They've published some great books, but they've also published an equal number of duds. Quality, NOT quantity folks! Thirdly, the book is a collection of essays, not a cohesive gu I was very disappointed with this book. First of all, I've never seen a book typeset with type so small, It might be 8pt, most books are 12pt or thereabouts. I'm a young man with decent vision and I had trouble reading it. Secondly, like most of Writer's Digest books - it's hit or miss on quality. They've published some great books, but they've also published an equal number of duds. Quality, NOT quantity folks! Thirdly, the book is a collection of essays, not a cohesive guide to writing horror. I wanted a book where I could examine the mechanics of creating good horror; this was a series of opinions on various aspects, but was not well unified at all. There may be a few nuggets in there, so I'll give it three stars, but have a good look at any Writer's Digest book before you buy - they seem to be interested more in making money than serving to educate bourgeoning writers.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Brenton

    On Writing Horror was released in 2006 by the Horror Writers Association, the American based horror writers’ association, with international membership. I was lucky enough to get my copy recently and have just finished my first, but definitely not my last, read through of it from cover to cover. Although very squarely slanted toward the American based writer, and a little preoccupied with the word verisimilitude, it contains many writing gems that are relevant to all writer On Writing Horror was released in 2006 by the Horror Writers Association, the American based horror writers’ association, with international membership. I was lucky enough to get my copy recently and have just finished my first, but definitely not my last, read through of it from cover to cover. Although very squarely slanted toward the American based writer, and a little preoccupied with the word verisimilitude, it contains many writing gems that are relevant to all writers, where-ever they live. What HWA says about it: A volume of essays on the craft of horror writing, edited by Mort Castle, with contributions from dozens of well-known HWA members. An invaluable addition to any writer's library.The book is filled with lots of helpful tips and suggestions from some of the current leading lights in the genre. The suggested books to read, is alone worth compiling. Part one covers the oldest question we all get asked, “Why do we write horror?” and supplies surprising answers from a number of different authors, as well as the essay attempting to completely explain why Michael McCarthy writes it. Part one also contains Stephen King’s acceptance speech at the 2003 National Book Awards where he received the gong for Distinguished Contribution. A good speech, where he thanks his wife, and suggests that “literary” awards should include genre writers as a norm, not just because they’ve sold heap’s of books. Here, here! Part Two: An Education in Horror begins by expanding your “to read” list by giving us 21 books within the genre that every wannabe horror writer should read. As touched on earlier, with other books mentioned throughout this publication, you will quickly gain a reading list of over 50 books. Part two also includes hints on what’s been done to death already – the over used tropes and ways of possibly refreshing them. The middle of this section is of use only to American based writers as it highlights the educational institutes in the USA that run courses that would be beneficial, as well as a list of conferences and seminars. If you’re planning a holiday in the States sometime soon, you could always plan around the available workshops, conferences and seminars listed here. Remember this book is nearly two years old at the writing of this review so check if the events are still going, and when, on the relevant websites. Part three is all about developing horror concepts and part four continues the lessons, building the writers knowledge with horror crafting. This section is particularly useful to newer writers struggling to learn the craft. Additional sections on building horror, tension, characters, plot, even dialogue are all written in an easy conversational tone with relevant thoughts and examples from people in the know – those that are regularly published in the genre.A good history of what’s come before touches on the masters and how to possibly tweak some of the older staples of the genre into modern times. Part seven splits horror into some sub-genres of note, specifically: erotic horror; redneck horror and Gothic horror. It goes on to give suggestions on how to write horror for anthologies (including how to find markets), how to write comic book horror, horror for the stage, tie-in novels, video games, RPG’s and screenplays. The last section looks at the business side that all writers would rather not have to worry about. We’re all creative people who just want to write, right? Wrong. Writers should get paid for their work and this section lists some of the common traps out there, that sometimes well meaning, but often unscrupulous editors, use to seize control of your masterpiece. A short story by Harlan Ellison is included at the end which is a stirring tale about the storyteller. Finally there are bios on the contributors, including websites and a wonderful index to aid in searching for that particular gem you read before but can’t seem to find now. In a nutshell, the majority of writers who have contributed to this publication have taken on board something Stephen King has been saying for a long time. Writers of fiction need to be truthful in what they write. Fiction, by its very definition is a lie, but writers need to tell the truth within the lie. We need to depict what “real” people would do if confronted with the situations we place on the page. (paraphrased) We should also write what we know. This wasn’t a unanimous suggestion throughout the book, but the majority of contributors included the mantra in their essays. Don’t write about the streets of San Paulo if you’ve never been there. Today, the Internet can help with research, a lot, but there’s nothing like being there. One essay struck me. The theme was about a writer’s voice. We’ve all heard the old saying that a writer needs to find their own voice. Bruce Holland Rogers has an issue with that sentiment and I think I agree. A writer needs to find his/her own voice, his/her own style, for each piece they write. If they write each piece in the same voice, then they’re going to struggle. The old masters of Poe and Lovecraft were distinctive and a stray paragraph from one of their works is easily recognisable but genius is an exception. For most writers, they need to find the right way to convey their tale – the tale they are currently telling, which won’t always be (at least we hope not) always the same as the last story they penned.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Katia M. Davis

    I found a number of articles in this book useful for style and expression. It has reinforced the notion that the best way to settle into writing a genre is to be aware of what has come before. I have become aware of just how little I know about the horror genre even though I've been reading in it for nearly 30 years. The latter sections on publication etc are 10 years out of date now so I didn't pay them much attention, although the general market research premise is valid. Overall, it was nice I found a number of articles in this book useful for style and expression. It has reinforced the notion that the best way to settle into writing a genre is to be aware of what has come before. I have become aware of just how little I know about the horror genre even though I've been reading in it for nearly 30 years. The latter sections on publication etc are 10 years out of date now so I didn't pay them much attention, although the general market research premise is valid. Overall, it was nice to see so many people writing in the genre get together for this publication and it really illustrates that horror is not so much of an odd ball thing to write.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Rose

    Quick review for a quick read. Probably would give this a solid three stars, as it's a give and take for content and usefulness. If you can get it at your local library - do so before thinking of buying this, because I can think of quite a few reasons why it wouldn't be worth the $16.99 price tag. It features some great essays and advice, but ultimately, much of this isn't an thorough viewpoint of the horror genre and what it contributes. Well organized into its respective sections, a Quick review for a quick read. Probably would give this a solid three stars, as it's a give and take for content and usefulness. If you can get it at your local library - do so before thinking of buying this, because I can think of quite a few reasons why it wouldn't be worth the $16.99 price tag. It features some great essays and advice, but ultimately, much of this isn't an thorough viewpoint of the horror genre and what it contributes. Well organized into its respective sections, and it touched on quite many relevant factors for those looking to start writing horror, from a number of respected writers in the field. Among some of the useful essays I found: Tina Jens wrote a wonderful way to examine characters in "Such Humble People." Joe R. Lansdale examines the importance of place and setting to horror in "A Hand on the Shoulder." Jack Ketchum's "Splat Goes the Hero" is another examination on writing believable characters and ways your readers can follow your story believably. "The Dark Enchantment of Style" - while not simply specific to horror, offers good advice in employing stylistics in writing and attention to language. Michael Marano's "Going There: Strategies for Writing the Things that Scare You" does a great job of encouraging new writers to write past their boundaries and engaging what scares you to the page. Lastly, I really liked "Eerie Events and Horrible Happenings: Plotting Short Horror Fiction" by Nicholas Kaufmann, because of its brief but very helpful eye to plotting details and shaping the narrative overall for appeal. There are quite a few other essays that grabbed me, as this compilation delves into the appeal of horror fiction, strategies to write it, strategies to market it, and subgenres to consider in other mediums (video games, screenplays, etc.) But I'm going to preface this review with a huge caveat: this isn't really a good compilation for delving into more expansive discussions surrounding the material within. I think it's a worthwhile text for starting dialogue about writing horror, but to use this to actually *write* horror from is severely limiting, and even the references given for authors who want to break into writing the genre is limited. Beginners to the genre and those who want snippets of encouragement might find this more useful, and I definitely thought some of the advice given was nicely and succinctly stated, but it left me wanting a little more from it. Overall score: 3/5

  10. 5 out of 5

    Fox

    Although not all of this book is applicable to what I am trying to do, I still found the bulk of it both informative and interesting. The overall amicable tone in which most of it is written also helped to continue to foster interest. I'd recommend this to anyone looking to write within the horror genre - while the whole book may not be helpful, I would defy anyone to say that at least one chapter in there didn't give them at least one new idea.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jess Cattanach

    I don't have a lot to say about this one. It's pretty much what it says it is: a handbook on writing horror. A lot of different people collaborated on this, some of them seasoned experts in the field and others more recent to the world of writing and publishing horror. It covers everything from characters and plot to marketing and publishing, and includes sections on writing horror screenplays, video games, plays, etc. as well.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Searska GreyRaven

    There were some really good chapters about craft and style, but there were also some pretty dated chapters. (College being cheap? Um, no, not anymore.) It's worth skimming for the good chapters, if nothing else. ^_^

  13. 5 out of 5

    H.G. Gravy

    On Writing Horror: A Handbook by The Horror Writers Association is an introduction to the world of horror fiction theory, publishing, and elements. Many of the essays and articles within are written by some of the most well-known and prolific names in horror out there. While their advice is sound and generally touches upon many aspects of the craft, marketing, and style, it isn't a very comprehensive study in any area in particular. The information is a bit generalized to give a prospective or novice autho On Writing Horror: A Handbook by The Horror Writers Association is an introduction to the world of horror fiction theory, publishing, and elements. Many of the essays and articles within are written by some of the most well-known and prolific names in horror out there. While their advice is sound and generally touches upon many aspects of the craft, marketing, and style, it isn't a very comprehensive study in any area in particular. The information is a bit generalized to give a prospective or novice author an idea of what they should be doing with regards to their careers, their ideas, and how to seek out more knowledge on the subject matters contained within. I believe the title of the book should have reflected more upon what the book actually is. Something more along the lines of a Horror 101 or Introduction to Horror Writing. In 2018, a lot of the non-conceptual information is dated. Of course, this isn't something I hold against the book. Just something to point out to those who are reading this in the future. Leisure/Dorchester Publishing is gone now. Self-Publishing has risen to epic proportions with Amazon. Small press publishers have a much greater reach now than ever before. Otherwise, the subjective materials about the craft, style, and generating ideas is still relevant today. While I don't think I got much out of this book, it does serve as a refresher course on how far the publishing world has gotten. If you are looking for a book with much more substance, I suggest checking out Crystal Lake Publishing's "Writers on Writing" series.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Matt Sautman

    The first six sections of this book are filled with ideas that can be useful to writers just starting to write horror or are looking to integrate elements of horror into their fiction. The last two sections feel somewhat dated in 2018, with the subgenere section feeling overly general and the publishing section feeling as if it does not reflect the current market. A general critique of this book: while there are a few female contributors, this book skews towards male writers. "The canon" propose The first six sections of this book are filled with ideas that can be useful to writers just starting to write horror or are looking to integrate elements of horror into their fiction. The last two sections feel somewhat dated in 2018, with the subgenere section feeling overly general and the publishing section feeling as if it does not reflect the current market. A general critique of this book: while there are a few female contributors, this book skews towards male writers. "The canon" proposed in this book is one such example, with Mary Shelly serving as the only woman on the list despite the fact that Shirley Jackson, Daphne Du Maurier, and other women have penned some fantastic horror tales. This same list also include L. Ron Hubbard, which also makes me fairly skeptical. I also find Harlan Ellison's interview more egocentric than helpful and his epilogue to be more masturbatory than useful for a guidebook to writing horror.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Fatman

    One of the best, if not the best, books about writing I have read. Some of the information is a bit dated, but that only makes sense, given the publication date. There is no step-by-step manual that you will read and immediately understand how to write well - it comes down to talent and the willingness to work and improve. Add On Writing Horror: A Handbook by the Horror Writers Association to the mix and your fiction-writing ability will improve by leaps and bounds.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Keith

    I can't say I was terribly impressed with this book. I guess I was looking for something a little more how-to and less pontificating. I'm not a huge splatter and gore fan, and that might be part of my ambivalence towards the book, and the essays seemed to swing between bloody horror and writers who wanted to be the next Bram Stoker or Mary Shelley. I enjoy writing, and sometimes I like to branch out and try new challenges, like horror. My comfort zone is more general fiction or mystery. Whatever I can't say I was terribly impressed with this book. I guess I was looking for something a little more how-to and less pontificating. I'm not a huge splatter and gore fan, and that might be part of my ambivalence towards the book, and the essays seemed to swing between bloody horror and writers who wanted to be the next Bram Stoker or Mary Shelley. I enjoy writing, and sometimes I like to branch out and try new challenges, like horror. My comfort zone is more general fiction or mystery. Whatever I was looking for in a book on writing horror, this wasn't it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Donyae Coles

    A look into the business and craft of scary. This isn't a how to book so much as a resource book for those looking to move forward in a professional manner. A lot of the market information was out of date by the time I read it but the rest of it was solid. It covers genre conventions in theme, dialogue, narrative, etc but this is not a workbook for the aspiring horror writer. I think this book is best suited to help someone who is already familiar with the genre and writing in general.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nikki

    An earlier edition of this book is what I used to get prepared to start writing novels. Mort is one of the most brilliant minds in the horror field; this book is a gathering of those brilliant minds outlining the things they do best and how you, too, can do them. If you want to write horror, this is the book you need to be consulting.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Charlie

    A lot of short essays, many of them oddly truncated. I read this less as a handbook than as a survey of authors, and I felt like I got a much better sense of how horror writers strategize careers and perceive their industry.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Greg K

    A mishmash of opinion pieces from different authors. Some are interesting, most are a bit hubristic and not very enlightening. Meh.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Upen

    Very informative and detailed just what I needed to understand how the horror genres work.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Gary Smith

    Always good to touch up.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tab

    A good introduction for a beginner.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sean Carlin

    I second most of the other three-star reviews of this book. If you're looking for an instructional of codified writing techniques as they apply to the genre of horror, this handbook isn't for you. (For that, you're probably better off studying the first chapter of Blake Snyder's Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies: The Screenwriter's Guide to Every Story Ever Told, titled "Monster in the House"). As a collection of anecdotal essays about the business and craft from authors accomplished in the genre, however, On Writing Horror I second most of the other three-star reviews of this book. If you're looking for an instructional of codified writing techniques as they apply to the genre of horror, this handbook isn't for you. (For that, you're probably better off studying the first chapter of Blake Snyder's Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies: The Screenwriter's Guide to Every Story Ever Told, titled "Monster in the House"). As a collection of anecdotal essays about the business and craft from authors accomplished in the genre, however, On Writing Horror is perfectly serviceable, even very often informative (if nothing else, the various contributors cite a healthy sampling of literary classics in the genre, some of which you may have never heard of, so if you do nothing more than note those titles and make the time to read them for yourself, you've already gotten your money's worth out of this book). Given the copyright date of this revised edition -- 2007 (a decade ago as of this writing) -- its chapters on selling, marketing, and promotion are woefully outdated: They don't take into account the seismic shifts in publishing that have occurred over the last decade (like e-books, self-publishing, online promotional platforms such as author blogs and Twitter, etc.). That's a fairly substantial limitation to its usefulness. And that's ultimately the overall shortcoming of this particular manual: Though its content is well-organized, its practical information (on the business of writing horror) is outmoded, and its essays on the craft itself (the artistry of the discipline) don't offer any methodology -- tools and techniques that can be consciously and artfully applied -- but rather just general insights and advice, anecdotally interesting though some of it may be. I certainly wouldn't recommend this book to those looking to learn the conventional requirements of the horror genre; in that sense, it's akin to one of those many how-to texts on writing that offers lots of theory, but precious little in the way of systemized principles. You're better off studying Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers for general structure and Snyder's Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need books for his overview of genre; in addition, The Successful Novelist: A Lifetime of Lessons about Writing and Publishing by David Morrell (one of the contributors to this book, incidentally) is an indispensable primer for understanding the particular requirements of the prose form (whereas Vogler and Snyder draw all their examples from screenplays and movies) -- far more practical, in my estimation, than Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (which is a better memoir than writers reference). Dwight V. Swain's Techniques of the Selling Writer is also recommended. Point is, better to commit to learning narratology in general, and then studying the particulars of a given genre -- and this particular book should definitely not serve as your primary source for the latter with respect to horror. (King's Danse Macabre, for starters, would probably be a better conspectus for that.) Parting note: I did greatly enjoy Harlan Ellison's "Quiet Lies the Locust Tells," a narrative essay that closes out the book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    J.

    Great Book, Needs To Be Modernized. For the kind of reference book it attempts to be, this is a pretty good book. It's compiled well, has generally good advice by generally successful and well-received authors and industry professionals. One problem with this book is that most of the people that supply the contend for the book are now senior citizens, many of whom are form the pre-TV generation, and don't have an entirely modern viewpoint on the publishing and promotional m Great Book, Needs To Be Modernized. For the kind of reference book it attempts to be, this is a pretty good book. It's compiled well, has generally good advice by generally successful and well-received authors and industry professionals. One problem with this book is that most of the people that supply the contend for the book are now senior citizens, many of whom are form the pre-TV generation, and don't have an entirely modern viewpoint on the publishing and promotional mechanisms available today. There is talk of the evils of vanity presses for example; which is silly, as modern platforms like the Kindle Self-Publishing Program render such things moot. Other examples are abound, but I won't get into it. The point is, some of the information in this book is both dated, and told from a dated perspective. Thus, if you buy this book, keep in mind that you don't have to take all of their advice literally, and that there are many, many more options available to you when it comes to publishing. I'm not bagging on older people at all, mind you. I'm not saying that being a member of the pre-TV generation is a bad thing either; as a writer, it's a very good thing in my opinion. I just know that technology has opened about a half-billion doors that the people writing in this book aren't familiar with and haven't considered. The other aspect of this book that I disagreed with is the great push for writers conferences and workshops. While there is a warning that they're not for everyone, the push is obvious. Why do they push them? It's not on-the-level, if you ask me. Many of those that write for this book have their own conferences and workshops that they sell as a service, so it's inherently biased advice. Other than these small issues, the general advice in the book is solid. I really liked some of the suggested-reading and I liked reading the work by the authors that were name-dropped (whom I'd previously never heard of). Take ALL writing advice with a grain of salt.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    As these sorts of books go, I thought this was excellent. The contributors are some of the most successful writers in the horror genre. The essays are brief, but numerous, and cover everything from elements of effective horror (how to write dialogue, action, description, etc) to the impact of Stephen King's success and the current state of horror publishing. One author offers a list of 21 "must read" horror novels. (Yay for lists!) I also like that some of the advice goes against the As these sorts of books go, I thought this was excellent. The contributors are some of the most successful writers in the horror genre. The essays are brief, but numerous, and cover everything from elements of effective horror (how to write dialogue, action, description, etc) to the impact of Stephen King's success and the current state of horror publishing. One author offers a list of 21 "must read" horror novels. (Yay for lists!) I also like that some of the advice goes against the common wisdom ("write what you know") and encourages new writers to be adventurous in stretching the genre and combining it with others for broader appeal. They mention that none of the big publishers have dedicated horror imprints (that's still up to date as far as I know), but that it's still possible to get published that way if they are persistent. There's also a list of respectable small presses for writers looking to go that route. The place this (only five-year-old) edition shows its age is in discussions of self-publishing and social networking. The e-reader boom had not happened yet, so it sort of vaguely mentions putting your work up on a website. I believe it does mention blogs, but I don't recall seeing anything about Facebook, Twitter, and the like. Still, an enjoyable read with good food for thought for would-be horror writers.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mark Hennion

    Although I am certainly biased in that I write horror, I would extend praise of the "this book has it all" magnitude which most writing books can only aspire to including. Within these pages, a talented cadre of horror writers (and assorted thriller-once-horror writers) unload a torrent of information, each segmented by a very specific chapter aim and limited page space. The result makes for a highly digestible, easily searchable topic. Exemplary to this volume are Tina Jens "Such Hor Although I am certainly biased in that I write horror, I would extend praise of the "this book has it all" magnitude which most writing books can only aspire to including. Within these pages, a talented cadre of horror writers (and assorted thriller-once-horror writers) unload a torrent of information, each segmented by a very specific chapter aim and limited page space. The result makes for a highly digestible, easily searchable topic. Exemplary to this volume are Tina Jens "Such Horrible People," probably the best characterization/"you should know all of this about your character" article ever written, the genre-defining authenticity instructional "Splat Goes The Hero" by Jack Ketchum, a non-genre declaration of brilliance on style titled "The Dark Enchantment Of Style" by Bruce Holland Rogers," and so many more. And I don't mean that cheap "so many more" on the back of movies where the "more" inevitably disappointing. The articles listed here I found revolutionary and refreshing (look through my list of how-to's and you'll see the scope of my coverage on them. Useful to any writer, indispensable to the horror writer. Get this book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tarl

    There is not enough praise that I can put on this book. Horror writer or not, this book contains a goldmine's worth of information for any and all aspiring authors. If you happen to be one that is looking to get into the horror genre, then this is the cat's meow, the murder's hatchet, the zombie's brains. (You get the idea) Before I purchased this book, I went and did a bit of research on it. I was actually directed to it by a number of writers, horror and non, that sung it There is not enough praise that I can put on this book. Horror writer or not, this book contains a goldmine's worth of information for any and all aspiring authors. If you happen to be one that is looking to get into the horror genre, then this is the cat's meow, the murder's hatchet, the zombie's brains. (You get the idea) Before I purchased this book, I went and did a bit of research on it. I was actually directed to it by a number of writers, horror and non, that sung its praises. Everything from timing to characters, this book has a leading horror author talk about the craft and what you as an aspiring author can do to improve in that area. There are also some elements that I found helped significantly, such as a list of must read horror novels for anyone who wants to write horror. Having read through most of the list, I can say that there are very good reasons they are a must read, and each and every one helped me grow as a wordsmith. I highly recommend this book to aspiring writers, or writers looking to expand and fine tune their craft.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Theresa Glover

    This one took me a while to get through simply because there was a lot to digest in this (relatively) slim volume. With Big Name contributors, it’s not really a surprise that there’s something to learn from each essay. That being said, while I know I gained a lot from reading this one, I feel like there’s a lot that I’ve missed also. Each writer has his or her own take, and there are times when it conflicts, but for wildly different reasons. It’s up to the reader to try what’s there and see what This one took me a while to get through simply because there was a lot to digest in this (relatively) slim volume. With Big Name contributors, it’s not really a surprise that there’s something to learn from each essay. That being said, while I know I gained a lot from reading this one, I feel like there’s a lot that I’ve missed also. Each writer has his or her own take, and there are times when it conflicts, but for wildly different reasons. It’s up to the reader to try what’s there and see what works and what doesn’t for their individual style. I do recommend this one and will be reading it again. Not only is it a solid resource for the horror writer, but there’s good information that any writer will find of value, but just remember, much of it is opinion and personal preference. This is not a book of formulas to follow and each bit of advice will have to be tried and tested by each reader to see what works and what doesn’t. If you don’t do the work, you won’t reap the value of the time spent reading it!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tara Calaby

    This was a pleasant change from all of the other writing theory books I've been reading of late. For one, it's focussed on genre, so there's none of the usual nonsense about literary fiction being the only fiction worth writing. Even more enjoyable, though, was the format. There's not a lot of direct instruction here. It's more a collection of essays by very successful horror fiction writers and others associated with the industry. And a lot of them are very inspiring. That said, a lot has chang This was a pleasant change from all of the other writing theory books I've been reading of late. For one, it's focussed on genre, so there's none of the usual nonsense about literary fiction being the only fiction worth writing. Even more enjoyable, though, was the format. There's not a lot of direct instruction here. It's more a collection of essays by very successful horror fiction writers and others associated with the industry. And a lot of them are very inspiring. That said, a lot has changed in the industry, even since the revised edition was published in 2007. Pretty much everything about markets can be skimmed over, because it's so dated. A lot of it is also completely irrelevant for aspiring writers. As an example, the magazine 'Cemetery Dance' is spoken about a lot, but it's closed to unsolicited submissions, and has been for some time, as far as I know. So, perhaps, the book's worth is not as a how-to so much as a how-we-did. And I think that's why it works so well.

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