Because of its long and bloody history, and its mass appeal, it’s not easy to break new ground in the Horror genre.
New horror writers must be aware of the numerous tropes, themes, and key storytelling elements that have haunted horror authors for centuries.
People want to read fresh new stories, not the same old tropes that have been beaten to death.
This is intended to be a resource guide for Horror Writers. With this you will know how to write terrifying stories that claw into the hearts (and brains) of your readers:
What is Horror?
“I do not love men: I love what devours them.” –André Gide
Horror is, above all other things, about evoking feelings of fear or dread.
It does not have to have thrills and “jump scares.” It does not have to be about monsters, demons, and evil deities.
You could have a horror about a cubicle employee, filled with dread about a wave of downsizing that he knows is coming.
Horror is a Genre. But it Also Transcends Genre.
You can have horror elements in almost any story or piece of writing.
Most great novels have at least one scene that I would firmly classify as “Horror.”
When you understand how to write horror, you’ll find a use for it in almost every story you write.
19 Resources That Will Make You a Better Horror Writer
There are only two ways (that I know of that) to become a better writer:
- Write more.
- Read more.
So, this list is broken up into two chunks: resources that specifically focus on improving your horror writing abilities…
…and resources for reading some of the best, contemporary horror fiction out there right now.
The former will directly improve your writing abilities. The latter will show you what the market is currently looking for – and, if you read widely enough, you might find a niche that hasn’t been filled yet.
In this list you will find:
- Horror podcasts
- Online Horror fiction collections
- Publications looking for Horror Authors
- And various other Horror blogs, websites, etc.
Resources for Writing Better Horror
1. The “Writing Excuses” Podcast
First in this list, because I’ve probably listened to 100+ hours of this podcast.
These are great authors, slightly geeky, and most of them are successful. They have great interviews, great editing, and it’s just a pleasure to listen and learn from them.
One of the creators of the Writing Excuses podcast, Dan Wells, found his success as a Horror Writer.
2. How to Avoid the Old Horror Cliches
Sick of the same ol’ vampires and boogiemen?
Afraid that you, yourself, might be using old horror cliches?
This quick article from Writer’s Digest will give you a few tips on avoiding them. Mostly, the advice boils down to “read more” and “understand why common horror themes are common.”
3. Tips to Get Your Horror Novel Published
Everyone wants to get published, right? (Actually, that’s my stated goal here on my about page).
This is an older article on how one horror author finally “made it.”
I’d say everything on this page is extremely valuable to authors-in-waiting, except for his ideas on Marketing. Only because the market has changed so drastically in the last twenty years.
4. Lovecraft’s Essay on the Rules of Writing Horror
One of my favorite horror authors. (Except for the blatant racism).
H.P. Lovecraft may not be a master of Horror by today’s standards, but his work paved the way for so much that is great about the genre. Here is his essay on the rules of writing horror, or what he calls “weird fiction.”
If you haven’t heard of Lovecraft, he was the king of Eldritch Horror (ancient evils, old ones, and the idea that simply seeing something so evil could drive a man mad).
5. 11 Tips from 11 Horror Writers
LitReactor put together a collection of quotes from some notable Horror Authors.
This is a quick, inspiring read that might give you that extra little nudge if you feel like your story isn’t quite “horrifying” enough.
6. An Interview With Stephen King
Here’s a 25-minute interview with one of the masters of horror, Stephen King.
If you’ve already read his book, On Writing, I would give this one a pass.
And if you haven’t read On Writing… Seriously. Go pick it up now. The guy is a humble, hard-working genius.
7. Screenplays: Horror Writing Advice for Film
Even if you don’t write screenplays, you’ve probably been inspired by the great horror movies.
This is an excellent blog post that will remind you of a few important elements to creating a great Horror story. Of course, it’s directed at the film crowd, but the ideas work for every writer.
It covers structure, emotions, atmosphere – and where to start with your writing.
8. Books of Blood
Good book reviews for horror novels.
But the main reason this is because there are numerous interviews with actual horror Authors.
In these, they talk about the Author’s process, what it takes to be a writer, and how they journeyed to publication.
9. Elements of a Good Horror Story
What makes great horror fiction?
Horror Writer C. M. Humphries outlines the 5 elements he likes to see in a Horror story, and talks about how writers can create those elements.
10. Why People Love Horror
If you’re a horror writer, who is your audience? Why do they want to be terrified?
This article from the Nerdist muses on what kind makes people fall in love with Horror.
11. A Handful of Links for Horror Writers
Aptly named “Really Useful Links for Horror Writers,” this one is a quick aggregate of some of the most popular horror writing tips on the web.
My biggest gripe with the list is the 25 Horror Writing Tips from Chuck Wendig. There’s something about his blogging style that I find frustratingly unenjoyable. He has so much personality… but it’s not for me.
12. Another List of Horror Writing Resources and Tips
Horror.org has another horror resource list here, mostly focused on tips for writing better Horror.
There’s a big warning at the top of this page: “Outdated Content.”
Don’t believe it. Everything on this page is still highly relevant, and will certainly help you improve. It covers everything from nailing your setting, to landing an agent.
Best Places to Read, Listen to, or Publish Horror Fiction Online
13. Nightmare Magazine
Nightmare Magazine is consistently high-quality horror. They have tons of Horror short stories for free – you can even listen to some of them via Podcast.
These are new horror stories told by professional authors. Most of them also deal with social justice issues in a tangential way.
14. Apex Magazine
Another professional-grade magazine that made it into the Digital Age.
Apex is a little different than everything else on this list – they print “science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mash-ups of all three.”
However, they’ve showcased some rising names in Horror, so I figured they belong here. You can read many of these stories online for free.
15. Weird Tales Radio
“Your fortnightly fix,” of horror, weird, and magic.
Weird Tales is a folklore show about … well, about the Weird. Paranormal, haunted, and with just the right amount of melodrama.
Reddit is one of the best time waster’s on the internet.
But it’s also a great place for people to share their writing.
One of the best subreddits for horror? A little place called r/NoSleep. Many of the more popular posts have gone on to publish books. It’s kind of like a crucible for writers.
Here, you’ll find stories ranging from several hundred words… to several hundred pages.
17. Spine-tingling Podcasts (via Vox)
Vox curated a list of their favorite horror podcasts to get you in the mood for Halloween.
Many of these are one-off podcasts, so you can think of them as campfire stories, rather than “serious literature.”
18. Even More Spine-tingling Podcasts
Just in case you’re starving for more Horror Podcasts…
Player.FM updates their list pretty regularly.
From this list: I’m a big fan of Last Podcast on the Left. They take horrifying serial killers and other weird stories and they add a comical spin… because the reality is terrifying.
Creepy Pasta is a blanket term for creepy internet folktales (that is, folktales that spread through the internet, instead of around the campfire).
If you’ve ever heard of the Slender Man, it’s probably because of Creepy Pasta.
At the Mountains of Madness…
Whether you just like reading it…
Or you’ve got demons that can only be exorcised by putting them on a page…
Horror is one of the most rewarding genres in fiction. Hopefully, with these resources, you will have at least 19 more reasons to go and explore that which terrifies.