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On Writing Horror: A Handbook by the Horror Writers Association
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On Writing Horror: A Handbook by the Horror Writers Association

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  718 ratings  ·  83 reviews
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
Paperback, 260 pages
Published November 18th 2006 by Writer's Digest Books
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3.88  · 
Rating details
 ·  718 ratings  ·  83 reviews

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Jakk Makk
Aug 05, 2015 rated it did not like it
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.
Paula Cappa
Jul 29, 2014 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Katie Cunningham
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
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
Wayne Barrett
Feb 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Lots of great info and examples for the Horror writer. This is an extra resource to sit alongside my Writers Market addition.
Jul 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
Katia M. Davis
Jan 01, 2017 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Jun 02, 2014 rated it liked it
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 touche
Eoghan Odinsson
Nov 11, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Feb 18, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
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.
Searska GreyRaven
Feb 17, 2016 rated it liked it
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. ^_^
H.G. Gravy
May 04, 2018 rated it liked it
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 n
Matt Sautman
Oct 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jul 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Jan 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
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.
Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it

A good introduction for a beginner.
Greg K
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
A mishmash of opinion pieces from different authors. Some are interesting, most are a bit hubristic and not very enlightening. Meh.
Mar 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very informative and detailed just what I needed to understand how the horror genres work.
Sean Carlin
Jan 27, 2017 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Jul 20, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: reference
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 toda
Jan 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 wisdo
Mark Hennion
Apr 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: how-to-write, horror
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
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 ...more
Jul 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror, writing
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 fr
Tara Calaby
Sep 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Brent Cope
Dec 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
On Writing Horror is a great collection of essays and interviews and roundtable discussions by experts in the field. It's a pretty decent compass to point the interested future-horror-writer in the direction they need to go to bring their dream of writing great horror to life.

That said, there is a wide-variety of topics and some of them won't apply to everyone. There's a section on writing erotic horror (think vampires meets 50 shades of grey), a bit on film writing, writing for video games, as
Sep 19, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: new and old horror writers
53rd book for 2009!
This is a collection of short essays by horror writers put out by the respectable Horror Writers Association. It is a wealth of information packed into 260 some-odd pages spanning all level of writers and focusing on the macabre.
There are simple articles giving advice to "show not tell" even advice on punctuation, which I would love to hand out to my fellow students of other genres.
Then there is a whole section on marketing which is useful for those of us who have already figu
Apr 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
As I have learned, time and time again, great wisdom comes from years of experience, and the collective wisdom on display here has been conjured from an all-star roster of unyielding and wildly imaginative minds forged in decades of hard work and labor. The philosophy of horror and its impact on story, as channeled through some of the best published authors the genre has to offer, makes On Writing Horror an essential must-have resource for any novice or veteran writer. Some of the contributors p ...more
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Mort Castle is a horror author, editor, and a writing teacher with more than 350 short stories and a dozen books to his credit.