Women in Horror: Get Your Work into Print

By Eden Royce (@EdenRoyce)

With Women in Horror Recognition Month (WiHM) on the horizon, I thought a post on this topic might inspire you to create something horror-filled. As the horror submissions editor for Mocha Memoirs Press, I come across a great deal of stories, the majority of which are written by male authors.

(Duh, Eden. That’s why places like Graveyard Shift Sisters exists.)  Yeah, I know. Stay with me a minute.

As the numbers were so skewed, I suggested we begin a call for stories written by female horror authors in celebration of one of my favorite causes.

Women in Horror Month assists underrepresented female genre artists in gaining opportunities, exposure, and education through altruistic events, printed material, articles, interviews, and online support. WiHM is a service provided by the Viscera Organization, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization expanding opportunities for contemporary female genre artists by raising awareness about the changing roles for women in the industry.

The call for submissions is still open but I wanted to share my insights on writing horror and how as a female writer in this genre, we have to push to make ourselves heard—read—by some publishers.

I’ll set the scene:

There I am, sitting at my desk with my beverage of choice (Let’s say it’s a dirty chai—hot chai soy latte with a shot of espresso) reading submissions for a horror anthology. It’s late, there’s over 100 short stories and little old me.  And my ponytail is probably too tight, but I digress.

Like many editors, especially those that work for small presses, I have a day job and I edit in my dwindling free time. As such, your story has to make an impression and do it quickly.  That first paragraph, sometimes even the first line, can be the deciding factor. Choose it carefully. 

Rising anticipation is key in the horror genre, so the opening doesn’t have to drop me in the middle of the action but it needs to keep me reading on. Mood and tone can be your biggest assets here. I’ve found that female writers usually create atmosphere well with sensory details that many male authors overlook. Use that to your advantage.

(Oh, and make sure you check your manuscript for errors before submitting. If there are any spelling errors, please don’t let them appear on the first page.)

A few other suggestions based on some of the submissions I’ve read:

Scare me. Sounds obvious, but many of the stories I read weren’t written to inspire fear. They were weird or strange, but not frightening. Make me tremble thinking about that sound in the hall or that creepy neighbor with the lazy eye.

Make it last. Seems more like advice for an erotica author, but it holds true for horror as well.  Much of horror relies on the build up of anticipation that it’s a good idea to spend a little time establishing a norm for your characters before you begin to chop away at their stability and sanity. Don’t relieve the pressure or the danger too fast, either. Give us a breather from the action for a bit, then plunge us back in.

Be different. Some writers pattern their work after successful authors in hope of hitting a magic formula that will gain them notice. I encourage you to push at those molds, break them, and take horror to the next level. Breathe new air into an overused trope of the genre. Create your own image of the face of horror. Make me place my hand on my collarbone in a “touch the pearls” fashion.  (Yes, I’m Southern.)

Be fearless. Scratch at the walls of what is sacred in horror. Rend the traditions and the status quo. Don’t be afraid to “go there” in your writing. Scare yourself at what you’re able to think of and write it, unapologetic for the ideas.  It’s the only way we as women will be able to make our version of horror heard and felt.

I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite actors, the original portrayer of Dracula circa 1931, Bela Lugosi:

“It is women who bear the race in bloody agony. Suffering is a kind of horror. Women are born with horror in their very bloodstream.”
It’s time we share our vision of horror with the world.

Eden Royce is descended from women who practiced root, a type of conjure magic in her native Charleston, South Carolina. She’s been a bridal consultant, reptile handler, and stockbroker, but now writes dark fiction about the American South from her home in the English countryside. She has written for the Los Angeles Review of Books, Dirge Magazine, and is one of the founders of Colors in Darkness, a place for dark fiction authors of color to get support for their projects. Find out more about Eden’s brand of horror at edenroyce.com or follow her on Twitter (@EdenRoyce)

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