Have you ever noticed how hot genres come and they go, sometimes up, sometimes down? But this one’s been a perennial for some time now, although it’s more complicated than it might seem. So what are the fantasy writing tips that editors know, and most often see discounted?
Here’s a list of 7:
Know Your Market
Although true for all genres, this one tends to confuse fantasy writers the most. “I’m writing fantasy,” people often say.
But what kind of fantasy? Urban? YA? Do you have werewolves or elves? How old are your characters?
Fantasy is a truly broad genre, and knowing up front your subgenre will save you lots of heartache (and revision!) as you go.
Here is a great list of subgenres:
Outline Your Plot
Now, some writers write from discovery (letting the characters take them where they want to go), and some plot out everything from beginning to end. I most often counsel my writers to use the method that works best for them.
But Fantasy of all subgenres relies so much on the world you build, and are so often epic in nature, you don’t want to get lost along the way and forget that everything finally merges into the mainstream of your plot.
If you plot out your story and uses this as the infrastructure to tie everything together, you can identify the places to build your world as you go.
And not end up in a black hole in the end!
Stay True to Your World
Of all fantasy writing tips, this is one of the trickiest issues of all.
You’ve constructed your fantasy world. You’ve tied it to your plot and characters. Think Stephen King’s Under the Dome, where a transparent dome cuts the town off from the rest of the world.
Of course, King knows what makes a good novel. He knows you have to stay true to not only the big points but the small ones.
In other words, you can’t slip and let a piece of mail come through. Or a mosquito. Sounds straightforward enough, but we see this sort of thing happening all the time.
Write Short Stories about the Characters Involved.
This exercise I recommend all the time, but especially for fantasy writers because again, you’re going to have a number of plot threads weaving through. It’s a great way to get to know the folks before you begin writing, so you’ll have all that information at your disposal.
And don’t think in terms of including these in the book. They are for you, the author, to get to know your folks off-screen so that you can portray them more fully on the page.
This exercise pays huge dividends!
Know How Your Fantasy World Works.
Again, seems straightforward enough, no? But it gets complicated pretty quickly.
What are the rules? What currency do they use? Is religion involved? What is the political structure? What are the basic philosophies?
In other words, not just who runs the show, but how they do it.
And if you know this going in, you’re far less likely to break a cardinal rule that you’ve instituted in the first place.
Because you know what happens when you do the latter—you’ve just created your world, and your reader leaves that planet.
Keep Asking Yourself, and Your Characters Questions.
This is such a powerful tool. Funny thing too—your characters want you to ask them why they’re doing what they’re doing. And how they’re doing it.
This can be as simple as, “Why did you build the transit station here?” Is it because it’s the final frontier? Or is this the most used route in the Milky Way? Or does the famous bar here just serve the best margaritas in the Southern Hemisphere? And if so, who’s the famous bartender? How did she become a bartender in the first place? Isn’t she afraid of the dancing bear? If not, what is she afraid of?
Let your imagination run free here, and keep asking every question that arises from each answer.
Read in Your Genre
I know—I talk about this a lot. But you just can’t do it enough. See how the masters of the genre you’re writing accomplish their goals.
How did they build their worlds? How is that world different from any other? What makes yours different from theirs?
And, where did they fail? Even the best books can have flaws, and by studying them, you learn to avoid those in your own fiction.
The more you read, the more you hone in your voice as well, and what makes it different from other authors.
Agents and editors don’ often agree upon much! As they often say, they’ll know what makes a good novel when they see it. But these few fantasy writing tips they do agree on. Use them to your advantage!