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How does one write good fantasy?


The subjectivity of perfection, as it pertains to writing, means that we each must seek perfection on our own terms. What rings as perfect to us, and likely some readers, will not be viewed as such by everyone.

Accept that, and you're far better off. If you write a story to please everyone, you'll please no one.


Queen of Titania
The first step is indeed to read various styles of novels and also shorter stories created by other people, so you can familiarize yourself with the world of narrative and you eventually choose what is best for you to work on. Some people do well with long novels while others are better at short works, some prefer First person while others do Third and so on.

With time, patience and practicing a lot (and I mean, for years!) you will eventually find your own writing style, and your own voice and style of narrative as well. It all develops very slowly, so patience is very important in what we do. As a little girl I struggled to finish short fanfictions, as a teenager I struggled to finish a few original tales and it was only when I turned twenty that I finished my first, shaky 50k words Fantasy novel.

Also, you need to keep in mind that writing and storytelling are not quite the same thing.

The most important ingredient to be successful in what we do is to have a great story to tell, and also to have a strong connection between the story and yourself. The best results come when we work with a story, characters and world that we really love, you know, the stuff that really comes from the soul, the heart or whatever that you prefer to call it.

I like to say that a good story can shine through poor writing, and at the same time, not even the best writing in the world is going to take a bad story to success. Certainly we need to have decent writing abilities, but as long as your writing is acceptable there is no need to worry about it because it's the story that does the trick, not the writing.

As a beginner in writing and storytelling, perhaps the best recommendation for you is to start with short and simple stories instead of trying to go too far too soon. After all, it's very satisfying to discover how your skills get better as time passes and you get to tell more complex and deeper stories.

Patience, loads of patience, discipline to keep going... And also at least a bit of talent for the art of telling stories, that is necessary as well even though it may sound discouraging for some people. You have to believe in yourself.


You write good fantasy by coming up with Interesting Characters and Worlds, and coming up with Interesting Stories to happen to them, and then writing them with Good Prose.

You practice all three by writing, reading and thinking (yes, stating the obvious I know).

To answer the OP's problem -

You don't have to get your grammar right on the first pass. Hell, if you're really, really struggling with it, an understanding and patient editor will cover your butt entirely there. Jane Austen's drafts were nowhere near as well polished grammatically as her books. That said, work on it, take classes on it, do online lessons on it, whatever works for you. Clarity is key. Although, it doesn't look too bad from your posts here.

Head-hopping/multiple PoVs - This is only ever a problem if

a) You don't make it clear and lose your readers
b) Your readers love some of the PoVs and hate the others

Honestly? Just go on and write it, and your beta readers will pick you up if you're going wrong.

Alternately, just don't do it. You don't have to. Or only use one PoV per chapter.

Your main issues seem to be with clarity. The best advice I can give is write stuff, have other people give you feedback, and put the feedback into practice.


Myth Weaver
I started the 'Top Scribe' Challenge series in large part to address the issues raised by the OP. 'Top Scribe' is a successor to 'Iron Pen' where I honed my writing skills.

Current Challenge still has a week to go!


Fiery Keeper of the Hat
So you want to be the perfect author . . . .

Everyone has been giving the answer that you should write more and read more, but I find those to be pretty generic, "just do it" answers. You can read and write an awful lot before you start to get anywhere. By all means, schedule yourself that sacred time for writing and stick to it. You have to do that to get anywhere. But even so, once you have that time, there are better and worse ways to make use of it.

In my opinion, there are five parts to writing.

1) The core concept of the story, the combination of character, plot and setting, best identified by the point where the main character, having screwed up and made things worse, resolves to change personally to overcome the conflict.

2) Your writing voice, which includes your ability to capture the character's mindset, present an interesting narrative, and deliver on the emotion of your story with your use of language.

3) Your creativity, which includes your ability to surprise and entertain your reader on a chapter by chapter basis, spicing up even mundane scenes with entertaining but relevant events.

4) Your use of theme, using your ability to comment about life and the human experience subtly through your characters' experiences, capturing dramatic ideas about life, beauty, and other big ideas.

5) Your ability to structure the events of your novel by managing rising action, scenes and sequels, the flow of the setups and payoffs, introductions and reveals, and other ways of pacing your novel.

If you want to get better, in my opinion you should find ways to isolate and work on each of these in turn, both as you read and as you write.


Article Team
There is lots of good advice given above, so I don't have much to add on those terms. But here's how I approach improving.

When I first started to take writing more seriously, I threw myself into studying the craft. I read lots and lots of books on writing.

But reading about something isn't the same as doing it. One of the things, not necessarily craft related, but rather an attitude that I took that I found very useful was I stopped worrying too much about being good.

What I write may stink, but I can always make it better in editing.

And, if I'm going to fail, fail spectacularly. Don't hold back because you're afraid something won't work. Better to go for it, go down in flames, and learn something from it, than to stumble into some success, and not know how you did it, nor how to replicated it.

Though... if it's stumbling into million or billion dollar success, I hate to admit it, but I'd take that over a two dollar lesson. :p
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One of the things, not necessarily craft related, but rather an attitude that I took that I found very useful was I stopped worrying too much about being good.

What I write may stink, but I can always make it better in editing.

I took a different route to this point - too much time writing without knowing what I was doing - but this is gold right here. You can always improve on what you've written but you have to write it first. I used to write something, get worried it wasn't perfect, ditch it. Now I write, force myself to finish, and edit.
Issues of Multiple POV
Sentence structure.

The thing is readers CAN understand what I'm writing, but MY writing DOESN'T reflect that.

Going over my profile entry which I was editing, I was asking myself this same question two seconds ago. I noticed that I sort of head hop. It seemed like I was in one characters head one second and then without much action or reaction in anothers. I managed to successfully edit those, and all I did was role-play the situation in my head. The worst part about this is the time it took. I guess I'm telling myself assume the reader knows enough not to be pedantic, but keep my characters animated. My point of view seems to be OK though. I have a style of character one flesh > descriptions < character two flesh. I guess I mean I try to resort to the environment to show point of view changes. Uneasiness, sudden excitement, etc. Insofar as complex grammar admittedly I'm the worst. I have edited my profile entry three or four times since it was published (some time ago I might add) and I found lots of mistakes each time. This time I think I got it well edited grammatically, and I'm prepared to go back and add hints and dashes of headhopper stopper. I'm telling myself the head hopping isn't bad for a first draft though, and I may continue writing the second chapter (or first) before I get into editing too too much.
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I'm always reading for enjoyment unfortunately. I don't know why, but it happens like that.
Those tips you have said are excellent, but then how do you avoid copying author's character 'style' so to speak?

As far as reading for enjoyment, you should be able to enjoy the story, but at the same time you should take time to analyze the words. You have to start recognizing storytelling mechanics. (this is where studying the craft of writing fiction comes in.) Once you can see these mechanics, then you have to see how the writers use word choice; no two writers will say the same sentence the exact same way. See how Edgar Allan Poe writes differently than Nathaniel Hawthorne (both men are contemporary).

As far as copying, in the beginning it's inevitable, but think of it as a stepping stone towards your own voice. No writer ever started writing stories as themselves. When I started writing, I wrote in a very Poe-esque style with a tinge of H.P. Lovecraft. Eventually i began to move away from it because I started to read more about the craft of writing and thought about how i would want to say sentences as i would want to say them. It takes time to hone your craft, but with enough determination you can get there.


Great advice given by many above, but...

If I may be so bold as to add specific suggestions?

The problem seems to be centered around POV. What I would suggest is that you pick one main character then decide which narration style you want. Each style has its own pluses and minuses.

3rd omniscient- you can go from head to head in any given scene.

3rd limited- you stay in one head per scene. (Usually change in a chapter)

1st person- stay with one character, in their pov, through the entire story.

Now these are just generalizations, more information can be found on the web. But for writers we should ask ourselves, which one allows us to tell the best story? Once you've answered that then you can move on to some of the specifics.

Immersive writing is something that I think we all strive for. We lose ourselves in the story and it's difficult to see just how it was done.

Basically, the reader already knows things.

He saw
She felt
She heard
He looked

If you are in that characters POV, then as the reader, we already know who is looking. There is no need to say it twice.

This mechanic of writing will tighten up your narrative. It will also make it more difficult; I'd suggest waiting until you finish the first draft before trying it out.

Hope that helps.


Article Team
Another question you may want to ask, even if just out of curiosity is "how do readers read?"

What I mean by this is that it can be helpful to understand how readers process the words on the page. How long does it take them to form an impression of something? How does association work? What are expectations?

There are plenty of fussy little details to get confused about which aren't necessarily related directly to putting words on the page, but which may still be helpful when writing.

Bruce McKnight

My process recommendation (acknowledging that everyone is different, but this is how I do it):

1) Download Feedly (to read RSS blog feeds)
2) Subscribe to blogs about the writing craft (Flogging the Quill and Creativity Hacker are great for critiques. I also like the advice in Fiction University, DavidFarland.net, and, of course, Mythic Scribes. Google stuff like "Top Blogs for Writers" and find more, like Elizabeth Spann Craig's Twitterific Writing Links)
3) Read your feeds daily, sprinkling in books on writing like Save the Cat and Writing the Breakout Novel
4) Write your story daily
5) When your story is done, take a break from writing and feeds to read a good, relatively recent fantasy story beginning to end (some of my recent favorites include Half A King and Lies of Locke Lamora)
6) Start rewriting your story with all the new perspective you have gained - you will be surprised at how much you have learned

I keep rewriting and keep surprising myself with how awful I was when I thought I was getting better. There is no such thing as perfection, but keep pushing yourself and embrace the growth process. And don't forget patience - it's a long process. Enjoy it.
On top of the great advice everyone else is giving, remember that there are endless phenomenally talented writers in all genres, and you don't just have to read fantasy to become a better fantasy writer.
I love Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. I have a viciously dog-eared and highlighted copy that I've torn through for a decade, studying the weirdly rhythmic prose and story-chapters and unique voice and fact-injected-fiction.
I have no interest in writing just like Mr. Palahniuk, but there is something about his rawness and hypnotic style that I very much want to capture.
I want Gustave Flauberts "show don't tell" skills.
I want to nail a short sentence like Hemingway and a long one like McCarthy.
As poetic or lyric inspiration, give me Tennyson over Tolkien.
If you want to be a better writer, read the best there is.
And don't forget the 10,000hr rule.
Mastering something takes 10,000 hours of doing it.
If after writing for 10,000 hours you still find you're unhappy with your writing, you are allowed to be down on yourself.
Until then, welcome to the struggle.
It is, in fact, real.