‘Writing Horror Fiction’ by Guy N. Smith (1996)

A & C Black Ltd | 1996 | paperback | 116 pages

This writer’s guide looks at the development of horror fiction and explains how to write short stories, graphic novels and horror fiction for children and adults. Beginning with the initial idea the author shows how to build on it, developing characters and plot. There are ideas for selecting and approaching publishers and information about contracts and publication.

This handy writer’s guide was probably perfectly serviceable when it was published but much has become redundant thanks to advances in technology.

Smith treats writing as a serious business, as much as an art form, which is only right and proper. Unfortunately, the business has moved on since 1996… a lot.

His advice concerning submissions, publicity, and cracking the American market feels terribly out-of-date in this world of self-publishing, instant email contact, and social media. In a similar way, his tips on writing fiction for children and teenagers comes across as a little antiquated following the cultural impact of the Harry Potter and Twilight series’.

When discussing the craft of writing, rather than the business, Smith is on firmer ground, propounding a system of detailed research, and chapter-by-chapter outline before setting down a word of your novel. Whether you agree with the approach or not, it certainly works for Smith, who had over sixty novels on the market at the time of writing.

Even here, technology marches on. When Smith waxes lyrical about investing in a dedicated word processing machine, or talks about pasting newspaper cuttings into a research scrapbook you would be forgiven for forgetting this book is only twenty years old.

Worth a read-through for nostalgia’s sake, but that’s about it.

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