Horror writing, unlike some of the fiction genres we have already looked at, tends to be a much more self-contained category of novel.
With mystery writing, for example, there are huge gray areas where the novels blur with other related genres, such as thrillers and suspense fiction. But horror fiction, generally speaking, isn't like that.
The defining characteristic of horror fiction is simply the intention to frighten readers by exploiting their fears. It aims to evoke a combination of fear, fascination, and revulsion in readers.
Essentially this genre of fiction is about the battle between good and evil.
Even more essentially, it's about the things that scare us, and a way of giving form to the more amorphous fears of our lives.
Over the years, as readers' tastes have shifted, horror writing has moved from stories with a religious or supernatural basis to stories with medical or psychological ones.
Horror fiction often begins with the real and the commonplace, but the main characters are soon under threat from whatever the evil force happens to be.
Here is a definition from Robert McCammon, one of the founders of Horror Writers Association:
"Horror fiction upsets apple carts, burns old buildings, and stampedes the horses; it questions and yearns for answers, and it takes nothing for granted. It's not safe, and it probably rots your teeth, too. Horror fiction can be a guide through a nightmare world, entered freely and by the reader's own will. And since horror can be many, many things and go in many, many directions, that guided nightmare ride can shock, educate, illuminate, threaten, shriek, and whisper before it lets the readers loose."
Make of that what you will!
Bottom line? The best thing you can do, if writing a horror novel appeals to you, is figure out what scares you the most - perhaps something tangible, perhaps not - and then put a name and a face to it.
As with all of the genres of fiction I have discussed here at Novel Writing Help, the purpose of the articles is really just to give you an overview of each of the categories, so that you can decide which genres appeal and which ones don't.
Once you have settled on a fiction genre that you think might be for you, the next step is to research it further.
One way to do this is through reading. So if horror writing is your thing, lay your hands on as many horror novels as you can and devour them (if you haven't already been doing so for years).
The purpose is not to copy these novels in any way, but simply to get a feel for what writing horror fiction entails, together with a feel for the marketplace you want to enter.
Another way to research your intended market (and doing this is crucial if you want to increase the chances of getting your novel published) is to read specialist guides to how to write that particular category of fiction.
Don't you already get writing advice from me?
Well, yes you do. But my job is to teach you how to write novels in general. Because I am not an expert in every conceivable category of fiction (nobody possibly could be), you still need to track down a guide to your chosen genre of novel for specialist and very specific advice from an expert in the field.
(You will find specialist guides to writing horror novels, and to all of the other categories, in this reading list.)
Horror, of course, is not for those of you who don't enjoy the darker side of life. If you are drawn more towards the light than the shadows at the edge, perhaps you would be happier Writing a Romance Novel...