Psychochef - handcut collage by Diana Zahuranec and #februllage2023 prompt SMILE

You Might Like Horror without Even Knowing It

I have a To Be Read list specifically for writing craft books whose titles I’ve added from online articles on “best books about writing,” podcast recommendations, or suggestions by authors of other writing books I read and liked. That’s how I came to Writing in the Dark by Tim Waggoner. It appeared on my TBR list who knows how long ago and from what recommendation, but a month ago, when I was in the mood for a new book on writing craft—because it’s always a good idea to stretch what you know and improve—I didn’t look at what kind of book it was. I thought its titlereferred to writing into the dark of your intuition without plotting.

The first paragraph (sentence, really) gave it away: 

‘So, why do you write horror?’ It’s a question I’ve thought about a lot over the years, and it might surprise you to learn that I don’t have a definite answer—or at least not a single answer. I can, however, pinpoint specific moments in my life that led me to my love affair with all things dark and wonderful.

Tim Waggoner, Writing in the Dark
“Psychochef” hand-cut collage by Diana Zahuranec. Also the “Smile” prompt for #Februllage2023. See more collages and acrylic I do at @dianaz48_art, and check out the daily collages I’ll try to do to take part in the month-long challenge.

Whoa. Horror? Turns out, Tim Waggoner has written nearly 50 horror novels and short stories, and Writing in the Dark is about writing an effective horror story. I don’t like horror; in fact it’s one of the few genres I purposefully steer well clear of (or so I thought). But, improving craft includes expanding your knowledge to other forms, techniques, and genres you normally wouldn’t try. No one gets anywhere by refusing to change routine or habit and by putting life (or writing) on autopilot. It also came at a serendipitous time just after I bought The Anatomy of Genres by John Truby, which I’m excited to read, so it would seem that all signs pointed to expanding my writer’s repertoire by digging into genre. So despite my doubts, I committed to reading Writing in the Dark front to cover.

Read the rest of this post (and some of my favorite recommendations on prompts, workbooks, and more!) on my Substack newsletter: Follow that story.

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