A friend and fellow writer has turned her fiction endeavors toward horror, specifically short stories, and has proven to have an aptitude for the macabre. Several of her stories have been published, or are waiting publication, and in a genre she didn't expect.
I didn't expect to have an association with the horror genre, either, but have been volunteering as a submissions reader (slush reader) and a proofer for Fear and Trembling online magazine for almost two years. There was a call for help, and I signed on -- for the experience and the practice, if nothing else.
My friend's creativity was set free by exploring a new genre; I may read for it, but have yet to write anything frightening enough to make folks turn the page, let alone turn on all the lights.
However, this horror magazine gig has reinforced a few principles that seem tired to some writers who submit their work there -- principles so tired, in fact, that many of these writers feel no need to abide by them, things like "Show, don't tell," or "Learn to spell, dagnabbit!"
Actually, one thing that has been hammered into my skull after reading so many bad submissions is this: "Don't waste the reader's time."
In other words:
Get to the point.
Don't load the beginning with the back story.
Don't be cute.
Don't try to appear lofty, intellectual, or literary.
Don't get so wrapped up in your style that you forget to tell the story.
Don't rely on gimmicks i.e. no gore for gore's sake.
Don't rely on foul language to make your characters tough or your fiction gritty. Any fool can cuss.
Skip the sentiment, and go straight to the heart. If you want readers to feel the love, show the love. If you want them to feel the fear, make them afraid.
Don't over-write; stop explaining. If you tell the story in a clear, concise manner, your readers are smart enough to understand it.
Keep your promises. Don't mislead readers into thinking they're getting one kind of story but you deliver another. If you introduce a plot element, follow through.
Don't use opening hooks that go nowhere. If you start with a bang, don't end with a whimper.
Tell the story first, and worry about the word count later. If you tell a good story, and you tell it well, editors are apt to ease that word limit to include excellent fiction in their publication. As Jerry Jenkins said in the quote I included in my previous post, "(A) good book can't be long enough for my taste. And a bad book can't be short enough."