Writing in the Dark



Writing in the Dark received the 2020 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Non-Fiction

In this comprehensive textbook devoted to the craft of writing horror fiction, award-winning author Tim Waggoner draws on thirty years’ experience as a writer and teacher. Writing in the Dark offers advice, guidance, and insights on how to compose horror stories and novels that are original, frightening, entertaining, and well-written.

Waggoner covers a wide range of topics, among them why horror matters, building viable monsters, generating ideas and plotlines, how to stylize narratives in compelling ways, the physiology of fear, the art of suspense, avoiding clichés, marketing your horror writing, and much more. Each chapter includes tips from some of the best horror professionals working today, such as Joe Hill, Ellen Datlow, Joe R. Lansdale, Maurice Broaddus, Yvette Tan, Thomas Ligotti, Jonathan Maberry, Edward Lee, and John Shirley. There are also appendices with critical reflections, pointers on the writing process, ideas for characters and story arcs, and material for further research.

Writing in the Dark derives from Waggoner’s longtime blog of the same name. Suitable for classroom use, intensive study, and bedside reading, this essential manual will appeal to new authors at the beginning of their career as well as veterans of the horror genre who want to brush up on their technique.


What They’re Saying

“More than just a generalized survey of spooky stuff, this book addresses horror in all its many manifestations, from Quiet Horror to Extreme Horror to Country Horror. Beyond discussions of plotting and character, Waggoner also offers helpful advice on interacting with agents and publishers, as well as best practices for marketing your work.”—Booklist

“I was in the final edits of a novel that I believed to be solid. Waggoner’s advice suggested I dig deeper. I did and now the story feels so much more alive and relevant…Enroll in this fine course with Professor Waggoner. You won’t mind the homework—even if the monster does eat it.”—Dave Simms for Cemetery Dance

“Reading Writing in the Dark by Tim Waggoner is like sitting through your favorite lecture in college, listening to your favorite professor talk about your favorite subject. When I finished the book, I felt like I did at the end of one of those lectures—I wanted to hang back and keep talking with fellow students and the professor about what we had learned. Down to the bone, Waggoner tells us that horror is not about the monster, but about people, that horror stories are reaction stories, and horror is an emotion. Throughout, we are reminded that to be a better writer you have to be a good reader and practice your writing.” —LitReactor

“This is a fine guidebook for writers of all stripes, levels, genres, and interests. Let the professor work his magic on you. Highly recommended, right up there with King’s On Writing.” —Monster Librarian

“Tim’s writing voice is like that of a teacher who really cares about his students and their writing journey—however far along you may be.” —Mother Horror, Sadie Hartmann

“Through a combination of many years teaching and many more writing in the genre he loves, Tim Waggoner has created a unique writing manual that stands head and shoulders above other creative reference books.”— Thomas Joyce, This is Horror