How to Write New Adult Horror

Okay, this title may be a tad misleading. There is no way I will tell you HOW to write, let alone how to write horror. However, there are some things to keep in mind when writing horror in the NA category.

Keep in Mind the Age of Your Characters

NA characters are to be college age–meaning 18-25ish. This doesn’t mean they have to be in college, but at the very least they should be out on their own for the first time. The main character in my story actually turns 18 and begins her journey into full time employment.

Your Characters Should be Having New Experiences

Meaning, your character should be having relationships that they may have never experienced in high school. No, I’m NOT telling you that they need to have graphic sex, but some fall in love for the first time after high school and it’s best to highlight this relationship.

Make the Horror Real

Listen, I’m all up for a good and bloody slasher story, but that doesn’t mean it’s natural for your story. Write the story the way it should be told. I write psychological horror, because I’m fascinated with how a person’s mind works. Sociopaths are the biggest draw for me. Why? Because there’s nothing scarier than someone who appears normal turning into the bad guy.

Don’t worry about what’s trendy. PLEASE! First of all, YOU might not enjoy what you’re writing. What you write, no matter how you are published, is something you have to live with for YEARS!!!

Second of all, If you are lucky enough to snag an agent, then have a publishing company buy your story it can still take up to 2+ years to see your book on the shelf. That’s a long time. Even if you self-publish your novel, between revisions, editing, cover creation, and all of that hellish formatting it can take upwards of 1-2 years (I know some of you are faster than that, but I’m averaging here). After all this time, what was once popular in books no longer is.

Don’t Rely on a Trope

There are some who are fantastic at writing horror tropes and making them work. Case in point…Joss Whedon. Whether you like him or not, his Cabin in the Woods took some very worn tropes of horror to created his movie and they worked. If you aren’t the master of this, please don’t try it. We all have our niche, so there’s no need to force the story–that’s where writer’s block can become a problem.

Know What You’re Getting Into

Not many agents or publishers are looking for NA horror. Why? Because it has yet to prove itself as a viable category and genre combo. The ONLY way to change this is to write, buy, and sell it online. This is a business and publishers want to see the bottom line before making a huge decision. They want to see that whatever they buy, will sell. Makes a lot of sense, right?

Obviously, I know there are very few who get into writing thinking that it will make you rich, but the horror genre is especially difficult. Write horror because you love it, because in the end this is all that matters. Yes. Getting a big paycheck would be icing on the cake:)


Please let me know if I missed anything or comment below. Let’s band together to make NA horror accepted!


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  • Kathy Palm
    June 30, 2015

    I think horror will find a spot in the NA category. I also believe it will trickle its way into MG and more YA… and then we shall take over the world. Mwahahahahaha! But the most important thing… “Write horror because you love it…” Amen to that!

  • Amy Giuffrida
    July 1, 2015

    YES! I think you are totally right about horror in EVERY category. I see it as the next “big thing,” don’t you;)

    • Kathy Palm
      Amy Giuffrida
      July 1, 2015

      Crystal ball said, “Horror is the next big thing.” We’re good.

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