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So I've taken up writing a fantasy story...


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In reply to an earlier post on Jun 13, 2012 5:54:39 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 13, 2012 5:57:58 AM PDT
I know you posted your questions more than six months ago, so my response may not be helpful to you. When I first set about to write my fantasy, I had a similar problem to yours. It was a short story, and when I went back and read it a month later it seemed dry and lifeless. About that time I saw an ad on the A&E cable network for scriptwriting software called Final Draft. I realized that my story was lifeless because it contained very little dialogue. I imported my short story into Final Draft, and I created a screenplay. It took me several months, but the result was an impossibly long screenplay which, if produced, would have been seven hours long! I converted it into a trilogy, but I did not like any of the three, so I converted the screenplay back into a novel. Here's what happened: In the process of creating the screenplay, I had to give depth and personality to my characters. I also had to add more logical flow to the story so that the reader/viewer could follow the action. Eventually, the fantasy was much longer, and it is now here on Amazon as an epic adventure fantasy. Once the characters had depth and substance, their personalities drove the plot. The whole effort took ten years of mostly part-time effort. I had to hire an editor, but I found a grad student working her way through school that did the job very slowly but effectively -- and at 80% less cost than a professional editor. The professional would have taken two weeks, but my editor took more than six months. It was worth it. My reviews are excellent. The point is, be patient with yourself and with the process. I hope this post is helpful to you.

Posted on Jun 13, 2012 6:41:49 AM PDT
For anyone else who might want answers to the same question as the OP, and I guess thatthere are a lot:
i recently had the good fortune, at Hay Literary Festival, to hear the same question asked of the brilliant Sir Terry pratchett. His reply was: Stop writing for two or three months, and read everything you can get your hands on. Everything of quality. Then go back to your writing, and start again...

I would also recommend people to join one of the online writing communities, like authonomy.com or figment.com (depending on their age) and get some proper peer assistance before doing anything else at all.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 15, 2012 12:43:33 PM PDT
Good advice, Will. Taking regular breaks between chapters or between drafts gives an author fresh perspective.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 17, 2012 6:56:42 PM PDT
cleo says:
i had never writing a book until i got nicked for growing weed. i wrote a a fantasy novel in a month to keep my mind of it so go and do something that makes you fell alive. J handrahan

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 20, 2012 4:24:03 AM PDT
LJA says:
I toy with the thought of writing on and off but I'm a bit dyslexic and really struggle with spelling and proper punctuation. I tend to loose focus when I can see that the spelling is wrong but I have no ability to correct it (lost my google toolbar and can't get it beck to get my spellcheck back). It really hurts the fluidity of the writing.

But when I did have to write for school I always got high marks for the story but grades came down when the spelling and such was factored in.

My way may help. I'm more artsy so I would start by drawing the characters and writing a discription of them. And I would try to graft out a timeline, fleshing out the story in small bites (scenes) like working on a hand or flower within a painting. Then read it through smoothing out the juntion between the scenes. Sometimes I'd end up with half a dozen drafts before having something I could turn in. And this would be for a short story, the work it would take for me to write a novel is kinda really scary.

Dyslexia is funny as it is differant for everyone who has it. I have always read well, even outloud in school. I go through a typical 300 or so page novel within a day (2 if I have alot of work to do otherwise). I often have a audiobook in the truck and read a book in print when I'm not driving. In books I can always pick out mistakes and even mispelled words while readingand automaticly find myself backtracking and rewriting the mistake to make it fit my minds veiw in the story (misspelled words though have to remain as they are I just notice them.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 20, 2012 4:46:54 AM PDT
cleo says:
yes i have moderate dyslexia. i wrote for the first time last year. i have written 3 novels 1 novella 2 novelettes and several short stories since last year. i cant think about the the editing as my wife has to do it. i cant see the mistakes. when i can afford it i will by some voice activation software. terry Pratchett is using it. look at the plus side. dyslexia means i never run out of ideas, or stories. however i know my work will never read as high quality literature as a terry p. i just self published my first novel Creation News and this took a year to get rid of the mistakes and edit, but only a month to write.remember Agatha Christie was dyslexic and he did alright. my wife said my seconds novel furry zombies is better, than the first. i could do with one of those really anal English people who have no imagination to ghost write and duel author with me.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 20, 2012 6:09:09 AM PDT
There's a couple of easy solutions, guys, to get you over the first hurdle, here.

I have immense sympathy and respect for anyone who is dyslexic and driven to write. It's an enormous extra challenge. Obviously, the first stage is just write the dam book. Don't worry too much about spelling etc, just get it written. Then, run spellcheck on the whole book. I haven't got dyslexia, and that still takes me a couple of days, just because I'm a poor typist.

Next, upload the text to a Kindle, and use the 'read aloud' function. I'm told that MS Word 2010 has the same function somewhere. You will be amazed at how many of the problems you still have come to life when the text is read to you..

And a final step is to hire a proof reader. There's loads about, and it needn't cost you an arm and a leg..

THEN get a couple of beta readers from online writing groups.

And be assurd of one thing - even the best professions, like Sir Terry, do not rely on self editing. You can't do it alone.

Posted on Jun 20, 2012 9:25:13 AM PDT
LJA says:
One of the problems I have is with spellcheckers is that I can't get close enough to the correct spelling for the program to pick up the word I'm after. In school they were always saying look it up in the dictionary and I couldn't find the word because I couldn't break the word down into corisponding letter sounds. Give me a printed word and I'll be able to pronounce it but turn the prosess around and I'm screwed.

I spend loads of time struggling with passwords. At work (USPS letter carrier) it takes me longer to learn the addresses on the route and even when I know a address if someone reads it to me, Like a coworker asking "is 52694 County Road 508 on your route?" I can't vizulise it I have to look at the address. Kinda weird huh.

On the imagination angle though I so get that. I could never listen to music and write because in my mind a song could become a novel or even a series. LOL I have a very rich fantasy life.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 20, 2012 11:16:56 AM PDT
I see your problem, it must be a nightmare.

Maybe having a writing buddy would solve that issue?

Posted on Jun 20, 2012 12:04:24 PM PDT
Brian Rush says:
All of the above advice has been good. Let me toss in a few other thoughts, as someone who's written a lot of fantasy already.

First, if you're having trouble writing fantasy specifically more so than writing fiction generally, that may be because of an impulse to make the language sound weird or archaic or foreign. While this can be done, it's quite hard to pull off; Tolkien had completely different styles of writing depending on whether he was doing it from the PoV of hobbits (colloquial, normal English), or that of historians/chroniclers of Gondor (very stilted, archaic, formal) -- but he was a linguist. It's kind of hard for most writers to pull that off. Your characters are used to talking the way they talk, and have the same attitude towards it that you do towards modern English of the sort you use hanging with your friends. My suggestion is to use that, but cut out any obvious anachronisms.

All of the usual rules about writing fiction (characterization, conflict, plot development, etc.) apply to fantasy. It also has a few rules of its own. You're introducing magic (of some sort) to the world, and possibly an alternate universe as well -- you say that's the case with your own story. All of these fantasy elements must be self-consistent and make logical sense in terms of the premises on which they're based, which of course does not mean they have to make sense in terms of what happens in our world, but you should have a clear idea of what's possible and what isn't in your fantasy context and not violate that.

Finally, I have an opinion -- this is just my opinion, but I think it makes sense so I'm going to share it -- that all really good fantasy has a religious theme to it. By which I don't mean a theme borrowed from any existing religion. I mean something to do with who we are and our place in the cosmos, personal morality, and themes like sacrifice and redemption, death and rebirth, personal transformation, and crucial moral choices. These should be fairly near the center of your story, although other themes (not specifically fantasy-oriented) can be included as well.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 20, 2012 2:44:23 PM PDT
I write comic fantasy, so I get a pass on Brian's themes.

But as a generalisation, if your world doesn't include your character's feelings about such ideas, it is unlikely to be believable...

I like the point about language too. Spot on for me, Brian

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 20, 2012 2:58:29 PM PDT
LJA says:
I agree a character isn't complete without a moral code, good or evil it has to be there or the person is about as compelling as a coat rack.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 20, 2012 3:05:05 PM PDT
Actually, I'll disagree. Conflicted characters can be rather interesting, too. Gollum/Smeagol as an example...

Posted on Jun 20, 2012 3:18:06 PM PDT
LJA says:
If a character does not have a moral code there can be no conflict. Gollum/Smeagol did have the moral code of the Hobbit he started as. The obsession with the ring was his conflict. Someone without a moral code is just a follower letting others choose his or her path like a cult follower.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 20, 2012 3:23:56 PM PDT
And that too can have a lot of realism, too. And it's a real feel we are aiming for. Look at the people you meet every day. Unles you work/live in a highly religious environment, how many of your co workers clearly show a single, unified moral code in their day to day actions?

Posted on Jun 20, 2012 3:26:47 PM PDT
Brian Rush says:
Let me see if I can clarify what I meant above. Any individual character can be amoral. But the story as a whole (and I agree that for comic fantasy this doesn't apply; comic anything just needs to be funny) should have a religious or spiritual theme. In LOTR, for example, it was all about the temptation to power, symbolized by the Ring. Gandalf, Aragorn, and Frodo all had to resist this temptation in order to complete the quest and destroy Sauron; Boromir failed to resist it which resulted in his death.

Other examples abound. In the Wheel of Time series, the themes are resistance or acceptance of destiny, use and misuse of power, and blind rush to judgment (among others). In Donaldson's Thomas Covenant series, the themes are skepticism versus credulity, and the danger of a good person becoming evil through hating evil too much. And so on.

Posted on Jun 20, 2012 3:49:02 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 20, 2012 4:06:43 PM PDT
I had similar challenges, Arseface (if that's a Preacher reference, I'm sold). I'm struggling through writing a pulp fantasy series (I'll admit I'm not a good enough writer to be the next Martin, ha ha). Also, when I say "series" I mean I'm on book one, but my universe has been boiling away in my mind since college. I was trying to write an interesting leading hero. I have the hero and heroine beginning their journey in completely different worlds (she is apprenticed to a woman who oversees the operation of the hero's magical artificial planet/biosphere).

The female character just flowed from me (I must have been in touch with my inner lady). She was witty and flawed and "realistic" according to a few female friends who I had help me edit. The male character, on the other hand was just....just AWFUL. First he was ugly and scarred. Then he was troubled. Then he bascially became an Aragorn clone or Taran from Prydain. He was either too derivative or too dry and forgettable.

My solution? I scrapped him and completely rewrote everything including the parts that weren't actually written on the page (like his full backstory, parentage, etc that was in my bible). I made him a jerk, I gave him dialogue that made me laugh but would never come from the lips of any serious hero of fantasy literature. Now he's a real person.

So my long-winded advice? If your story doesn't feel real, if it doesn't "flow" right, then destroy it and start anew. Don't trash the whole book, your whole universe. That would be overkill. Instead, take the parts that you think are stale and rotten and denude them. You used to be a fantasy fan as a kid, so I know there is some raw pink creativity under all that stylistic concern!

*Edit: Another useless tip from an unpublished fantasy novelist: Try not to be too concerned with your audience. If you spin a good yarn people will appreciate it. Genre boundaries can be especially troubling. I wanted my characters to use swords in a magic/tech world so I explained that the supreme ruler of the world magically altered physics to make combustion impossible (no guns). As a side-effect of my choice I've decided that everything from fire to factories to modes of conveyance are powered by magical convection because it's impossible to spark a simple fire anymore.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 24, 2012 6:06:47 AM PDT
Firebird says:
I would say go to the fantasy convention they have. Normally they have rooms set up so the pros can talk about what to do and what not to do plus they give good advice on top of answering questions.
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Discussion in:  Fantasy forum
Participants:  24
Total posts:  43
Initial post:  Sep 28, 2011
Latest post:  Jun 24, 2012

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