World-building for Fantasy Authors

Okay – so you’re going to write a fantasy novel set in a fantasy world. It could be an alternate version of our world [which is fine] but, more often, writers choose to set their story in a new world altogether — a world of their invention. It’s up to you which path you go down.

So, what’s the big deal about world-building? You just make it all up, right?

Well … ‘Yes’ … and ‘No’.

Yes, it’s up to you as the author to create the world for your story. But also, No, it’s not a simple exercise. It can, in fact, be quite complicated. And the level of complexity will depend, at least to some extent, on the type of story you are setting out to write.

One thing is for sure. If you just sit down to start writing without doing the world-building first, you will very quickly find yourself building your world anyway, probably before you get to the end of the first page, if not the first paragraph.

You might start with a character walking down a street, for example. What sort of street is it? Where is this street? Is it a modern, paved road, or cobblestone, or a dirt track? Do cars go by, or carts? How is he/she/it clothed? What colour is the sky?

The answers to all of these questions and more will be determined by the type of world your story is set in.

Let me use my current project as an example of how I go about this. I hasten to add — this is just an example, I am not saying this is how you should do it. I am merely using my own process to illustrate the types of questions you may need to address.

I am currently planning an epic fantasy story set in an entirely new fantasy world. At this stage I expect it will be a trilogy, so the story will encompass a relatively large canvas.

I’ve thought through what I envisage as the primary plot line, who some of the central characters will be, etc. Now, before I get started, I am putting in some quality time on world-building.

That means building the world my story will be set in from the ground up.

Some writers do this as they go along. They admit that taking that approach often results in a fair bit of rework at various stages, having to go back and make changes so that the world their story takes place in maintains consistency, or coherence. For them, that is a small price to pay. Building it as they go suits the way they write and allows their creative juices to flow unimpeded. That is, of course, completely acceptable.

Whether you pre-plan or build it as you go is totally up to you. Do what works best for you.

There is one rule, however, that you must keep in mind. The setting for your story [in this case, the world in which it is set] plays a huge role in convincing your readers to embrace it, to accept it, to want to go along with your characters on the journey they are taking within it. Coherence is one of the most vital elements in this regard.

For your fantasy world to be believable, it must have coherence.

Sure, there are some stories that are set within worlds that have no coherence whatsoever. They are rarities. As a general rule, it takes exceptional writing skills to pull that sort of thing off. All credit to you if you can do that. If you have that level of skill, then stop reading this blog and get back to writing!

Back to my example, however. In what is probably a break with conventional wisdom, I started with a map. Actually, that’s not totally true, I started out by spending a fair bit of time just thinking about the sorts of elements I wanted in my world, and then I created a map.

Maps are a good way to start and whether they be hand drawn or something you build in Photoshop, it really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have to be pretty. Prettying it up can come much later. Just be aware, it is going to change. In fact, a word of warning here.

Do not finalise your map until you are pretty sure your story is all but complete — and I don’t just mean after the first draft.

The final editing process may very well lead to changes to your storyline or, at the very least, changes in some of the names you have used for regions, places, towns, countries, or whatever. Leave yourself the flexibility to accommodate those changes. You don’t want to reject a very good suggestion for change simply because you’ve already paid someone to craft a beautiful map and you don’t want to spend yet more money making changes to it.

So, what did I do when I sat down to draw an initial map? Did I just put down whatever popped into my head? No! I said earlier that before I drew a map I spent some time thinking about the elements I wanted in my story. Those elements informed the map that I drew. What were those elements? Well, here are a few of the things I wanted in my map:

  • at least one large continent, sufficient to hold several countries, at least, two of which were at war with each other,
  • some large islands, or secondary continents, which would allow for sea travel to feature in my story, and would also allow for traders, port cities, perhaps even pirates [of course, even with one large continent, trade and/or travel by sea is still viable, but probably by coastal vessels rather than ones capable of crossing seas or oceans],
  • scope for my story to expand into further parts of the world should I decide at any stage to write further novels set in this same world,
  • scope for there to be other continents which are yet to be discovered.

In other words, I had some sort of structure in my mind before I picked up a pencil and started drawing. And so draw I did. I had a few goes before I settled on a rough version of what felt right for my story. And then a curious thing started to happen.

The map started to inspire further ideas for my story — sub-plots, twist and variations. The physical aspects of the world began to inform the story, just as the story had informed the map.

Some people take exception to this. They say that ‘the world you create should serve the plot’, and not vice versa. While I think that’s generally true, your fantasy world is very much like a character. I would go further and say it is and should be one of the central characters in your story.

If you haven’t found this out already, you will when you start creating characters [more about this in coming blogs]: they have a nasty habit [actually it is a very good habit] of doing things you hadn’t originally intended, or expected, them to do.

Soon as you create a character and give him, her, or it, free will and individual characteristics, they have an alarming tendency to start acting in accordance with those characteristics. Very often that means they start doing things you hadn’t quite expected. The consequence is that your story begins to take some turns that you hadn’t expected. And so it is with the world you create.

Don’t be surprised if the world you create begins to inform your story. In my view it not only will, but it should.

So, I had a map. Great! What next?

Slowly, I began to flesh out the other elements of my world — and believe me, there are a lot of factors to consider. And herein lies my next important warning [actually two warnings].

  1. Building a rich world can be a very good thing, and can be fun and extremely rewarding. It will help enormously once you start to write your story. But be careful. It is one thing for the world you create to inform your story. It’s another altogether for your story to become a slave to its setting. The story is the thing. Don’t let it become secondary to its setting.
  2. World-building can be intoxicating. While I would and do argue that there are some important elements you need to think through before you delve too far into your story, you can easily go too deep. If you’re still stuck in world-building six months on, you might have a problem. Maybe. Maybe not. If a year has gone by and you’re still stuck in world-building, and haven’t begun your story, then I think you really do have a problem. You have a choice then. Keep going with the world building if that is your thing and you are enjoying it. But if you want to get your story written, then at some point you will need to say to yourself: enough is enough. Let the rest be fleshed out as you go along. Don’t lose sight of the main game — writing your story.

I mentioned the other elements of world-building. What are they? Well, here are just a few:

  • The world itself: is it a planet or is it a flat world where you will fall of the edge if you sail too far from land? Is it a different planet to our own? Does it have moons and, if so, how many? How long is a day? How long is a year? Are there four seasons like we have on earth, or is it, for example, in perpetual winter, or summer?
  • Geography: the shape of the landmasses and their terrain — mountains, rivers, forests, deserts, lakes, swamps, bays, estuaries, etc. How much of the world is covered by sea and how much by land? Are there any islands and, if so, how many and of what shapes and sizes? Are there polar regions? How big is the place? Is there enough scope for any long journeys you may envisage occurring within your story, or have you narrowed the range by making it too small? Conversely, have you made it too big?
  • Climate: is this a tropical world, a temperate world, a desert world, an ice world, or does it have elements of all of these climates, much as our own world does?
  • Races: what sort of races exist in your world — humans, elves, dwarves, goblins, giants, hobbits? The potential list goes on and on. It’s up to you!
  • Animals and other creatures: what sort of animals exist in this world? Do they have fish, birds, horses, cows and the like, animals and creatures that we would be familiar with, or do they have more exotic creatures, or a mixture of both the familiar and the unfamiliar?
  • Time: how is time measured? Do they use seconds, minutes, hours, weeks, months and years as we do on our world? Do they use the same words for these ways of measuring time as we do?
  • Nations or countries: are there a number of countries with established, even if disputed, borders, or are there simply tribes with their own areas of influence, or some other configuration?
  • Governments: what sort of political structures exist in your world? Are there monarchies, dictatorships, theocracies, plutocracies, republics, democracies, anarchies, communist governments, or a mixture of some or all of the above?
  • Laws: who sets the rules and who enforces them? What sorts of sanctions might be imposed on law-breakers: fines, stoning, stocks, hanging, beheading, other?
  • Magic: does it exist and, if so, what sort of magic is it? Who can use magic? Are some people more adept at it than others — major magic users and minor magic users? What is the general attitude to magic? Is it commonplace, accepted, or something most people are wary of? Importantly, what rules or limitations are there to whatever magic is possible? What consequences are there for inappropriate use of magic? Are there guilds of magic users, schools for training, such as Hogwarts, or are magic users basically lone-wolfs?
  • Technology: is this a feudal world, a futuristic world, a post-apocalyptic world [which may have lost some elements of technology but retained others, creating a curious hybrid of the old and the new]? What weapons are available: swords, bows, spears, guns, cannons, catapults, other? What modes of travel are possible? Is riding horses the fastest way of getting around? What sort of architecture exists: walled cities, wooden houses, stone houses, straw houses, skyscrapers, huts?
  • Economy: How does the economy work? Is it feudal, capitalist, something else? Are there guilds, or large corporations? Do the rulers impose taxes? Does the church? What currency is used? Are there banks or do people hide their money under their beds or in holes in the ground?
  • Religion: what gods, if any, do they believe in? What are their creation beliefs? Do the gods, if they exist, play an active part in the world or are they simply entities people believe in? Are there organised religions, such as churches or sects, and, if so, how are they organised and what is the extent of their power or influence? Do they build churches, or temples, or shrines, or all of the above?
  • History and/or back-stories: What are some of the important events of the past? How did certain countries arrive at the state they are currently in?
  • Culture, customs, slang: What are some of the unique features of the various societies that exist? Are they open societies or closed in some way? Are they patriarchal, matriarchal, or egalitarian in nature? Are they mysogynistic?
  • Festivals, celebrations, holidays: are there any specific festivals or celebrations that occur? Do people work all week? Are there holidays?

You can see by the above list that world-building can be a bit daunting. It need not be. Go as deep or stay as shallow as you want to. Cover as many or as few of the above elements as you wish. Depth and comprehensiveness help build believability. But don’t overdo it.

Do your readers want to constantly struggle with a myriad of new terms for hours, minutes, days, months, miles, and so on? Too much complexity can make the story too dense, or can divert focus from the main game — the plot.

Think a bit about how much we all need to understand how our world here on earth operates. Most of us live in democracies [so-called; I would argue that most of them are actually plutocracies, but that is another story] and capitalist economies. But how much detail of those systems do we really understand, or need to know, to go about our daily lives?

Importantly, you don’t have to spell it all out to your readers. Its primary purpose is to inform you of the type of world your characters are operating in, what constrains them, what governs some of their behaviours, why they don’t openly speak about certain things, why they pray every day to the Great Goddess, or not, and so on. Some of that you will want to spell out explicitly to your readers. Most of it should be left for the readers to derive for themselves, implicitly, from the actions and words of your characters.

Finally, here’s a great article by Chuck Wendig with an out-of-the-box take on some of the things to think about when world-building.

NEXT WEEK: Creating and developing characters

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I have recently published a new fantasy series, Chronicles of the Ilaroi, over two volumes. Both books are now available in both Kindle and Paperback formats – Book 1: As Fire is to Gold and Book 2: When All the Leaves Have Fallen. Click here if you want to go to my Author Page on Amazon.

Getting Started 3: Just start writing or develop a planned outline? ‘Plan or Plunge?’

So, you’re ready to start writing. What do you do now?

Well, there are a couple of different schools of thought on how to proceed. You can do either of two things:

  1. Just jump right in. Sit down at your keyboard, or your desk, or whatever, and start writing, letting your creativity take you in whatever direction it wants, or following that kernel of an idea that’s been floating around in your head for some time.
  2. Start by doing a bit of planning, some storyboarding perhaps, or working up some notes on plot ideas or some characters you thought might work so that you have a stable platform with a number of these elements in place and ready for you to call upon before you start writing your story.

People sometimes refer to Option 1 as ‘plunging’, or ‘pantsing’ [i.e. just flying by the seat of your pants, so to speak]. Option 2 is sometimes referred to as ‘planning’ or ‘plotting’.

There is a lot of advice out there on which of these two is the best way to go.

Some will tell you that, especially for fantasy authors, planning is essential. How can you develop a coherent plot without a plan? How can the world your story is set in have any credibility if it hasn’t been adequately thought through? How can your characters seem real if you haven’t put some planning into aspects such as: what their character traits are, what are their flaws or their belief systems, what do they look like?

All of these are valid considerations.

On the other side of the coin, many will tell you that planning is all very well, but this is a creative process, and you need to let your creativity flow. You need to give it free rein so that you can be at your best and can produce the very best material.

Also very valid!

The answer, in my view, hinges on two considerations:

  1. We are all different. And so, there is no one rule that applies. Some writers can’t get going without having done a fair bit of planning first. For those, the amount of planning varies. Some need at least a rough outline of where they would like their story to ultimately go before they start. For others, the planning phase can be quite extensive. After all, there is a whole fantasy world they have to build in which their story can then take place.
  2. What matters most, however, is what works best for you. Don’t try and force yourself to be creative with a blank piece of paper in front of you if that won’t work for you. On the other hand, if you work best just getting words down and then letting the planning and shaping follow, that’s fine too. Follow your instincts. Or try both approaches until you work out what works best for you. Don’t force yourself into a way of operating that doesn’t suit you. That, more than anything else, will stifle your creativity.
  3. Light bulb moment: the two approaches — plunging or planning — don’t have to be mutually exclusive! I consider myself a ‘planner’. And yet, when I think back to my first novel, although I certainly mapped out a basic structure for my story before I started, that structure, that plan, was neither comprehensive nor rigid. For me, I needed to have the basic idea of how the story would work before I could start, but, like most writers, once I got started, it began to go off in directions I hadn’t anticipated. The characters began to come alive, and I soon found that they had a mind of their own. That, in turn, began to impact on the direction the storyline took. The final story was different from what I had thought it would be

In short, my message is: don’t get hung up on whether to be a planner or a plunger. Follow your instincts and do what works best for you.

That having been said, for me, all good stories need a bit of planning. If you allow the plot to wander all over the place, then its readability can suffer. And if you have a couple of sub-plots going at the same time, it helps to have a sense of how all those threads are going to come together. Some people can do that as they go. I’m not one of those. I need to map it out a bit, even if the map later gets rewritten or revised!

You also might want to keep in mind the overall arc of your story. If you’re aiming for a novel of, let’s say, 90,000 to 100,000 words [this is just an example, novel-length can vary considerably], and you write 20,000 words for your opening chapter, you might have a problem, or at very least some wasted effort. Granted, its easier to cut material out than to add more later [an arguable statement, I know], but you do need to beware of taking too many side paths or, worse still, dead ends.

The fantasy genre has an added complexity that a story set in the modern world doesn’t. It’s called ‘world-building’. If you are going to set your story in a mythical world of some kind, then there are a lot of things you are going to have to decide, like: what is its physical structure and environment, what about its social and political structure, its religion[s], climate, vegetation, cultures, and so on. What sort of people live there? Are there elves, or centaurs, or talking lions, or flying wizards, or dwarves, or dragons, or all of the above? Is magic an element in this world and, if so, what sort of magic? How does it work and who can use it?

You have to make some decisions here. You could spend a lifetime just doing your world-building. At the other end of the scale, you could devise or build these elements as the story goes along. For most of us, the answer will lie somewhere along that spectrum.

Beware, however! Don’t fall into the trap of spending so much time world-building that you never get around to writing your story.

One other potential trap of having no plan whatsoever is that you might end up with an impossible ending. Don’t paint yourself into a corner so that, in the end, the only way your chief protagonist can get out of whatever situation they have ended up in is to do something so unbelievable it undermines the credibility of all of the excellent work that went before it.

It’s because of issues like these that, if you read everything there is out there about which way to go, you’ll find the majority of ‘experts’ will advise you to plan or ‘outline’ first. Even though I’m a ‘planner’ myself, I think this is bad advice!

Certainly, consider all of the issues I have outlined above about potential traps of not having a plan. But, ultimately, I believe that your writing process should match the way you think.

Put more simply, ‘planners’ also tend to be ‘list’ people. They tend to be the sort of people who love To Do lists [that’s me!!!], for example. Does that mean everyone should love lists? Does that mean people who don’t have To Do lists will never get things done? The answer is a resounding ‘No’.

So let me reiterate. Don’t do what anyone else tells you to — including me! Do what works best for you. If you don’t know what that is yet, start writing and you’ll find out along the way. Enjoy the journey!

NEXT WEEK: More about world-building

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I have recently published a new fantasy series, Chronicles of the Ilaroi, over two volumes. Both books are now available in both Kindle and Paperback formats – Book 1: As Fire is to Gold and Book 2: When All the Leaves Have Fallen. Click here if you want to go to my Author Page on Amazon.

Getting Started 2: I don’t have the talent to write a fantasy novel

In my last blog, I discussed one of the biggest obstacles to writing that novel you always wanted to write — finding [or allocating] the time to do it.

The second obstacle to Getting Started on Your Fantasy Novel that I want to deal with is self-doubt!

I’m not good enough to do that or I really want to write a fantasy novel but I just don’t have the talent to do it. Do these thoughts sound familiar?

NewsFlash: We all have them – or have had them!

Here’s just one of thousands of examples, from Paul Tremblay, whose book, A Head Full of Ghosts, won the 2015 This Is Horror Novel of the Year:

“I struggle with self-doubt every time I sit down to write. Its severity fluctuates, but it’s always there, and some level of it should be there, frankly. I think it’s healthy. I’d be more worried about myself if I thought that when I sat down manna was about to pour out of my fingers (eww… and that would be messy, wouldn’t it?). Every writer is different but doubt, at times, drives me, and makes me want to get better.”

https://litreactor.com/columns/dealing-with-self-doubt-tips-from-7-popular-authors

Interesting! Paul, an accomplished author, still has doubts. More than that, rather than finding them a hindrance, Paul seems to embrace them. He uses them. They help him strive to keep on improving.

But what’s the worst that could happen anyway? You write that novel, you give it your best shot, and no one likes it.

If that’s the worst that could happen, you will still have achieved one very important thing. You will have scratched that itch. You will have written your very own fantasy novel!

Hopefully, if that is what happens, you won’t then just give up. Hopefully, you will learn from that first experience and sit down and write another one — only better this time.

“Agatha Christie completed her first manuscript at the age of 22. She submitted to many publishers only to receive a stream of rejections. She sought the advice of a family friend writer Eden Philpots who introduced her to his own literary agent who rejected the manuscript but suggested she write a second novel. Agatha Christie’s first novel was never published. Her second novel was also repeatedly rejected before being finally published on the agreement that she change the ending. Agatha Christie went on to have a prolific career writing 72 novels and 15 short-story collections.”

Source: wildmindcreative.com

But what about the potential positive outcomes?

Putting aside the prospect that what you write might be a masterpiece and you might become as rich as J. K. Rowling [Or even richer. Hey, if you’re going to dream then dream big. After all, it’s your dream!], what if you’re simply really happy with the result?

You spend months reviewing and polishing the completed work and either find a traditional publisher or decide to go down the indie publishing path. Your book gets printed and your first published copy arrives in the mail.

As someone who has been there, I can tell you — that is a great feeling! The sense of accomplishment when you get to that point is pretty intense.

“The moment I held my book in my hands—my actual work, in physical form, in my hands, was indescribable. (Is that a word? Oh well.) I had to pick up my books at the bookstore, and the bookseller handed me a copy and I swear I felt tears well up in my eyes. All of your hard work, abstract concepts, words on a page—now made concrete. It’s amazing.

Publish your book. Whether you feel it needs more work or it isn’t long enough or it’s not good enough, publish it anyway. Even if you only have author’s copies. You can always tweak it later. But the feeling of accomplishing it is beyond compare.” 

Alison Moxley, quora.com

I asked the question above: What’s the worst that could happen? You write that novel, you give it your best shot, and no one likes it.

That’s not the worst that could happen. The worst that could happen is that you have this dream, this urge, call it what you will, to write a fantasy novel, or any other genre for that matter, and you never give it a go!

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.”

J. K. Rowling

So, get to it. Start writing. Take the risk. Follow your dream. The rewards will be worth it.

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Click here if you want to go to my Home Page. I will be publishing a new fantasy series in April 2019 and you can find more information about that on my website. You can also download a FREE PDF of the first two chapters right now without having to wait for the books to be published.

Getting Started on Writing that Fantasy Story

Does this sound at all familiar? You’ve got this great idea for a fantasy story that’s been bubbling away in your head for some time now, but you just can’t seem to get started on putting the words down on paper. All you have is a blank page.

Something more important always seems to come up, just when you think you might get started.

Or perhaps you just don’t know where to start!

Well, don’t get stressed. We’ve all been there. Getting started is your first big hurdle. Get over this and you’ll be off and running!

So today let’s talk about one the most common hurdles:‘I’d love to do it but I simply don’t have the time.’

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OBSTACLE # 1 – TIME

Scheduling Writing Time

This is one of the biggest obstacles to writing your story.

There always seems to be something that absolutely needs to be done before you start writing. Needs is an interesting word, though, isn’t it?

Generally speaking, there are:

  • tasks you must do as you go about your daily life,
  • tasks that are important and which, therefore, have a high priority,
  • tasks which are important but which don’t have to be done straight away, and
  • tasks which are optional. 

Life, of course, won’t come to an end if the optional tasks don’t get done.

If you’re committed to being a writer, and you want to become an author, then your writing has to be up there amongst the important tasks. 

There will certainly be lots of other important tasks, like paying the bills, eating, sleeping, looking after and/or spending time with family or friends, and many others. But for an inspiring author, writing needs to be one of your important tasks.

Not the highest one. Let’s not lose perspective. Eating, sleeping, and paying the bills are just a few that will be right near, if not at, the top of the list — and rightly so. But writing has to become one of your important tasks, nonetheless. Otherwise, it will keep getting bumped and you’ll keep thinking: ‘I must get started on that novel/novella/short story one day!’

So, if that is true, why not schedule some time each week that you will dedicate to writing? Perhaps a few hours in the morning, on a number of specific days, or late at night, when the house is finally quiet. Whatever suits you best, taking into account likely interruptions or distractions as well as what time of the day you are generally at your most creative.

And then, once you’ve worked out where in the schedule it best fits, stick to that schedule as closely as you can! Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t keep to the schedule 100% of the time, but be determined.

Make failing to stick to your schedule be the exception rather than the rule.

Don’t set your goals too high at first. Perhaps start with just two mornings a week. Set easy goals, achieve them, and then build on that success. Most of us had to crawl before we could walk.

It might take a bit of trial and error. Perhaps mornings won’t turn out to be the best time after all. Or the end of the day doesn’t work for you after all. You’re just too tired then. Listen to your biological clock. It’s probably the best determinant of when you will be most productive.

Be prepared to review and re-think your schedule until you find what works best for you. Perhaps a more flexible schedule, not locked into set times but focusing on the amount of time you will find for writing over, say, a week, will be the best way for you.

Ultimately, though, it will come down to commitment.

As J. K. Rowling has said, you need to “be ruthless about protecting writing days”.

If you want to be a writer, then the one thing you simply must invest is time.

The bad news is “time flies”.

The good news is “you’re the pilot”!

Time Allocation – The Bigger Picture

That’s fine down at the micro level, but I remember how it was for me. For many years, I had dreamed of writing a novel. But that was all it was — a dream [sound familiar?]. I just couldn’t see how to turn it into a reality. I had a busy and demanding job. I didn’t know where to start. I was scared that I didn’t have the talent to match my ambition, and so on.

Then my boss sent me on a management development course. Only, this turned out to be one that really helped turn me around.

One of the ideas put to me on that course was about life planning.

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As a senior manager, I knew how to develop business plans and project plans. They were some of the key tools you used to help you ensure things that needed to be done in the workplace actually got done.

So what about things I wanted to achieve in my personal life? Why wouldn’t a Life Plan, covering what I would like to achieve in my personal life over, say, the next five years, help me at a personal level just as much.

That seemed both a reasonable and a novel approach to me.

And so I drafted one. And lo and behold, when I thought through what my goals and aspirations were, writing a fantasy novel was right up there on my personal ‘To Do’ list. So I put that down. And, just like I would with a Business Plan, I then worked out what resources and skills I would need to achieve that. I set myself some goals and milestones, and, very importantly, I determined to focus on achieving that dream which had eluded me for so long.

Well, I wrote that novel within two years of going on that course!

At the end of the day, recognising and prioritising what was important to me turned out to be the single biggest thing I needed to do. Once I did that, setting aside time at the more micro-level became fairly easy.

Of course, there were still some other hurdles to jump over, but more about those in my next article.

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Click on this link if you haven’t already signed up for my Mailing List but would like to do so. I will then drop you an email to let you know whenever I post a new blog.

Click on this link if you want to access a list of all of my Writing Tips posts in one place.

Click here if you want to go to my Home Page. I will be publishing a new fantasy series in April 2019 and you can find more information about that on my website. You can also download a FREE PDF of the first two chapters right now without having to wait for the books to be published.

Writing Tips for Fantasy [and other] Authors

Hello, and welcome to my Writing Tips for Fantasy [and other] Authors. This is the first in a series of blogs I will be posting focusing on helping those who want to turn their desire to put down their stories on paper into a reality.

My hope is that these posts will help others find their way along the exciting path that takes one from being a writer to being an author. As with any worthy goal, the journey there can, at times, seem an arduous one, beset with doubts, pitfalls and innumerable other barriers. Just getting started is probably one of the biggest hurdles of all.

I’ll deal with all of these obstacles, and much more besides, in the posts to follow. The first bit of good news is that none of the obstacles are insurmountable, however daunting they may at first seem. The second bit of good news is that the feeling of achievement and satisfaction once you get there is, I can guarantee you, well worth the effort.

Hopefully, just the fact that you are reading this post shows that you have begun to take your first steps along that path. Well done! Keep going.

Before I go any further, I should start off by making it clear that I don’t lay claim to being any more of an expert in these matters than anyone else. For my undergraduate degree, I majored in English, Latin and Classics [the classical world, that is, not the works of Jane Austen and co]. I’ve written and published a high fantasy novel. Before I retired, I had a long career in the public sector which required me to produce lengthy, high-quality, written work on an ongoing basis. But I know that many others have similar if not vastly more impressive credentials.

The thing is, in my experience, some of the best advice I’ve ever received has been suggestions that I’d already heard, or had seen before, but which I hadn’t previously embraced. It seems that, for many, if not most of us, it is not what is said, but how and when, that determines how well we absorb it. We often have to hear it at just the right time, or in just the right way, to ‘get it’.

Perhaps, it’s more the case that when we are absorbing a very large amount of information or advice, our subconscious files some of the overflow away in a safe place until something happens to bring it back to the forefront of our mind, or until we are ready to pay heed to it or give it proper consideration.

One thing is certain. We are all different, and the kind of advice which resonates with some people will differ from what resonates with others. Hopefully, what I have to say will hit the right note for you.

Having put all those qualifications on the table up front, I hope you find my posts in some way useful. If you do, or if you know someone else who you think might benefit from them, please feel free to share them.

These tips will be based on my thoughts, my experience, and my perspective on the great volume of information and advice that is out there for writers, or would-be writers, to consider and absorb. There is a lot to chose from, and that alone can be a barrier. Where do you start?

I’ll try to help you with that. To do so, I’ll follow a very old bit of wisdom. I’ll start at the beginning and work my way through to the end — topic by topic.

Enjoy the journey. I hope this helps you get to where you want to be. To quote one of my favourite authors [JRR Tolkien]:

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

_______

Click on this link if you haven’t already signed up for my Mailing List but would like to do so. I will then drop you an email to let you know whenever I post a new blog.

Click on this link if you want to access a list of all of my Writing Tips posts in one place.

Click here if you want to go to my Home Page. I will be publishing a new fantasy series in April 2019 and you can find more information about that on my website. You can also download a FREE PDF of the first two chapters right now without having to wait for the books to be published.