Monday, July 12, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Writing Horror by Edo van Belkom

I've wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I realized I wanted to write scary stories at age 8 while reading Goosebumps books.

Unfortunately, I usually can only make it halfway through a story before I decide it's garbage and scrap it. So I've been reading some books about writing.

Edo van Belkom's book, Writing Horror, has an advantage over the other books I've read because it is specifically about the horror genre.

Within the 216 pages, the following topics are covered:
  • A definition of horror and its sub-genres
  • The elements of a story (plot, characters, setting, dialogue, etc.)
  • How horror works
  • Revising
  • Selling
  • Manuscript format and how to send it
  • The horror fiction marketplace
  • Contracts and agents
The book also features brief, three-question interviews with authors including Richard Laymon, Douglas Clegg and Kathryn Ptacek.

Writing Horror was helpful to me, as a beginner, but I'm unsure whether it would be beneficial to others who are more experienced. It covers the basics and not much else. And hopefully anyone who is interested in writing horror will already know the horror sub-genres and have read most of the authors listed. The book can also be repetitive at times (especially about being persistent), but it works to drill it into your head. But I found the exercises to be useful, and learned about things I never knew much about before, such as SASEs and manuscript format.

If you are interested in reading more books about writing horror, Stephen King's novel, On Writing is helpful. There are also a few other books on writing horror specifically: On Writing Horror: A Handbook by the Horror Writers Association and Writers Workshop of Horror.

Rating: 4/5

3 comments:

Stewart Sternberg said...

I am ordinarily not a large fan of how-to writing books. I do admit, that I like the idea of one specializing in horror. I remember though, when I read the King book, I went back and reread Salem's Lot and The Shining, and wouldn't you know---he apparently spent much time ignoring his own philosophy of writing. Even now, with something like Under The Dome, I want to shake King and beg him to get a new editor who will stand up to him.

Melissa Helwig said...

Haha, that's so true. I haven't even read that many of his books because he just goes on and on and it takes me forever to get through one of them.

Aaron Mason said...

Anything interesting from Laymon in the Q & A section? He always seemed like a blue collar-style writer who'd probably have some pretty good tips, plus he seemed to be a great guy to boot.

- Aaron