In 2018, it feels like anyone who takes the time and commitment to do something they’ve always dreamed of doing can accomplish it. There are Gen Zers as young as 18 doing business on Instagram and using all the right Instagram Tools, and business leaders who have dreamed of it for years are finally going remote, using ACH payments to pay their employees. Writers are taking on the online world by becoming content writers and bloggers, and many of them are publishing ebooks, putting their book’s destiny into their own hands. And you’ve been inspired by this, which is why you’re thinking of writing a fantasy novel.
After all, fantasy is a genre that everyone loves. Especially now with shows like Game of Thrones being so popular, you love the idea of writing one. But you aren’t exactly sure where to start. Luckily, here are some tips that’ll help you embark on one of the greatest journeys of your life: writing your first fantasy book.
Read your favorite authors--and some new ones, too
A world of fantasy is an amazing place. It’s a place to get lost in, a distant land where values are different than they are in our modern world, and where almost anything can happen. Whether it’s Tolkien that first inspired you, or J.K. Rowling (who was successful enough to make $95 million between June 2016-17), you vividly remember every detail. Every character you met, and the way the language magically captured each place perfectly. And if you want to write something like that, it’s important to read the authors you love most. While you’re doing this, jot down some notes about what they do well when it comes to character development, structure (including structure analyses of chapters), dialogue, and language.
Additionally, read in other genres. Even though it’s not always that fun, you’ll learn from these books, too. For example, an ordinary YA novel can help you understand how to get into a teenager’s head before you put your teenage heroine into a magical kingdom. Browse through your local library, and ask friends for recommendations.
Hold yourself accountable
One of the most challenging things about being a writer is forcing yourself to write. Sure, it’s easy to dream up a fantasy world--whether it’s something like Dante’s Inferno or the universe of Buffy the Vampire Slayer--but once you’re setting pen to paper, it can be hard. Do whatever prep you need, sketch out your characters and plot in advance if it’s necessary. But at a certain point, you have to start writing.
The best way of holding yourself accountable is by setting up a writing schedule. Figure out how to balance your writing with your job or schoolwork, and choose what days during the week you want to write. For each session, have a goal of time spent writing or words written. Setting up a writing ritual can be helpful, too. If going on a run beforehand helps you focus, or sitting in the same café drinking the same cappuccino every day, then do that.
Another way of holding yourself accountable is also by having a writing partner. If you both write together, you’re forcing each other to sit down and get work done. There are also cool online competitions like National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), where writers across the country spend the whole month of November writing novels--and encouraging each other to keep going. A little friendly competition never hurts, either. In 2016, NaNoWriMo had over 34,000 winners, which means that these people wrote at least 50,000 words in only one month!
Take a class
Finally, it’s worth thinking about taking a writing class. In addition to holding you accountable--because you’ll have to submit pieces of your novel for the workshop--you’ll also learn a lot of new skills. You’ll have a teacher showing you how to write a scene, and how to develop a character over time as you explore their inner world. And you’ll also learn to critique, which will be helpful to you later on if you’re revising your novel.
If you’re serious about writing your novel, and about becoming a writer, you might want to apply for MFA programs, too. Even though it may seem silly to get a masters in something creative, it’s a way for you to dedicate two to three years to what you love, and it’ll give you many opportunities upon graduation. Many of these programs are fully-funded, too, which means you’ll get a great education for free (and sometimes with an extra stipend or fellowship!). There’s a reason why the number of MFA writing programs rose from 156 to 244 between 2008 and 2016--and that’s because they’re becoming a large part of how writers become writers.
As a fantasy writer, remember to apply for programs that are friendly to this genre. The last thing you want is someone forcing you to write over a hundred pages of realist fiction for your final thesis.
These are some of the best ways to get your first fantasy novel written. What strategies do you think would work best for you?