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The Fantasy genre is intimidating!

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Jess, Aug 16, 2016.

  1. Jess

    Jess Dreamer

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    I can't be the only one who has that horribly negative voice inside that keeps shouting, "What are you doing?? Why are you trying to write a fantasy novel?? Don't you know all the good ideas have already been taken? You are just going to rehash the same tired ideas and be hated for it. You should probably quit while you are ahead."

    Seriously, I have contemplated deleting my novel multiple times now. I've got 30,000 words towards something I have been working on since I was 17. It would be a shame to never see it amount to anything. It would also be a shame to realize that I'm just rewriting every fantasy cliche there is. I have obviously not read enough in this genre to know how original my writing is. The problem now is a barely have enough time for writing. So to add in time to read through multiple fantasy novels seems impossible.

    All in all I'm just working myself into a complete ball of anxiety ridden writer's block. If I can't write I suppose I would have time to read. I'm losing it. I'm letting my characters down.
     
  2. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    It takes a lot to get good at writing, and several writers talk about the importance of scrapping their first novel or two or three. Even the successful first-book stories often leave out the fifteen times the story was reworked before it was ready.

    You're 30,000 words into a story. Keep going with them. Scratch them. For whatever reason you want. The truth is, it's a very early step for you in the process of becoming a writer, and what matters isn't the word count or the quality of that first story but the writing process and skillset that you're developing. Focus on that. When you're a better writer you can decide whether the story you're working on has any merit and the best way to tap into it. In the meantime, focus on that process.
     
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  3. Jess

    Jess Dreamer

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    Thank you, that's a really good way of looking at it. This project is close to my heart which is where the anxiety is coming from. I know I just need to push forward and finish it. No matter what.
     
  4. The first thing i want you to know is: it is COMPLETELY NORMAL to feel this way.

    Yes, it's worse for some writers than for others. But every writer feels these things. The fear that all your hard work will be for nothing. That you won't be good enough to write your story to its full potential. That you'll end up making all the mistakes you revile in books you read, that you'll let down the people you love, that you won't live up to the potential of your characters, that you'll never finish, that you're not brave enough or smart enough or stubborn enough to make it to the end--we have all been through it. For some, it's just little whispers. For others, it's paralyzing terror that makes you feel like everything you write is worthless, that YOU are worthless, and makes you want to curl up and die somewhere.

    I know how horrible it can be, because these are just a few of the things that torment me, and i've fought them and i still fight them and it doesn't always get better, but i can keep going and that's enough.

    You say that you've considered giving up...that's not good. It speaks to how hard the stuff you're going through is. But you haven't given up yet. The fact that you're fighting the voices of fear and anxiety makes you the exact opposite of a failure.

    You say you're worried about repeating all the cliches, and that you feel all the good ideas are taken. This is true, to a degree. Practically everything has been done before. But that's okay. Cliches are cliches partly because people consistently like them; they wouldn't be cliches if no one read and loved the books they were in. In fact, stories with cliches in them aren't consistently failures like you would expect, but often are well read and well loved. Almost every reader will forgive any cliche if they tell a good story.

    Those that would hate you for writing something cliche are definitely a minority (if a vocal one) and definitely not worth listening to.

    Ideas are nothing. They're everywhere. They're a dime a dozen. They grow on trees and rain from the sky. The difference between someone with a published book and an average person isn't that the writer had good ideas and the average person didn't. The average person might have had 20 times more ideas than the writer. The difference is that the person with the book plunked their butt in a chair, wrote, and didn't stop.

    Those authors with their names on the spines of books that seem so different, so much higher...they're no different than you. They're not more talented than you. The reason they're published and most people aren't is that they plunked their butts in a chair and wrote and didn't stop, and most people didn't.

    You haven't given up yet. You're still trying. And you're reaching out for help. That's something. It may not feel like it, but i promise it is.

    Don't be intimidated by the fantasy genre--don't let yourself be intimidated by the story you have in you. Having a huge project is, yes, very scary. But that fear doesn't have authority over you. You have a story and no one has the right to say you aren't good enough to write it, that it's too hard for you, that you're not qualified. You don't need qualification to write your story. Fantasy is a scary genre to go into. But in reality, genres are just thin varnishes. Stories are made of humanity. You have everything you need to create a story inside you already--you have a heart, you have a mind, you have feelings, you have dreams, you have thoughts--and those are the things that are common to all humans and to all stories.

    You seem to be under the impression that the world doesn't need your story. Or even that the world would be better without your story. That's a lie. You're worried about being hated--you will have haters, yes, EVERY author does. There is no way to please everyone. But that's okay. Because your stories will also be loved. You're going to write someone's favorite book. There is someone out there that needs your story, who needs the story only you can tell. Stories are very, VERY powerful. You have thoughts and ideas and experiences that NO ONE ELSE is brave enough to write down. There are people out there whose lives could be changed by those and if you write your story you're telling them, "You're not alone." If the voices in your head tell you that your story isn't important, that writing it is pointless--they. are. LYING. Think of all the books you love and imagine what the world would be like if they had never been written. What if, when J.K. Rowling got the idea that would become Harry Potter, she had thought, "That's silly. No one would read that. Wizards are cliche. People would hate me."

    The world would be a very, very, VERY different place.

    You might think, "Well, that was a good idea! My ideas aren't good!" First: Anxiety lies. I know this because i have it. It makes you believe things that aren't true, and it is so, so convincing. It clouds your head so you can't see the good in any of your ideas. Second: Really, ideas are all the same. It's all in what you do with them. Harry Potter wasn't original at all. Come on, it has a Dark Lord, a wise old wizard mentor with a long beard that dies at the end, a Chosen One-type hero with Special Snowflake Syndrome...It's not original.

    And it really isn't that J.K. Rowling is a particularly good writer! Her prose isn't stellar! I've read much better.

    You might never be as popular as J.K. Rowling...you might sell only 1,000 copies, or 100 copies. But if you could bring light into the life of only one reader, would you still do it? If you could inspire only one person to write their own stories, to follow their dreams, or to keep living, would you? I definitely would.


    P. S. As for having time to read, there's time. 10, 15 minutes a day. 20 minutes a day is plenty. You don't need much. And you don't really need to read all the fantasy there is to write fantasy. In fact, your ideas will probably be more original if you read only other genres.
     
  5. Peat

    Peat Sage

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    Welcome to the forum.

    I reckon there's two ways of looking at this.

    One is your work is fine, that its not cliche-ridden, and this is just worry.

    The other is your work is not fine, but you're going to become a better writer and improve it, so its all going to be fine and there's no need to worry anyway! :p I know you've said time is at a premium right now but I'm guessing you have a fairly long time limit for getting this done. Or at least I hope you do. As Devor says, its a long road for just about everyone.

    So, its all gravy right? :D


    Now, in the here and now. You sound like you need to take a step away from your work, get some perspective. Most writers need to do that from time to time, a lot of us find the negativity and worry building up after spending too long in a work. So take that step back. Maybe read some books on writing, do some writing exercises. Or read up on fantasy cliches and tropes - you can keep current with what's super common in the market without reading everything. Then... after a month or so, go back to it. Have a read. See how you feel. Maybe show it to some others you trust to know things. See where you are then.

    I do think you may need to worry less about being original though. Amateurs Borrow, Professionals Steal - there's a reason there's 425,000 hits on Google for that quote, and it applies to all creative processes. You can wear your influences very openly and still be loved by readers if you're a good writer.
     
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  6. Jess

    Jess Dreamer

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    I'm crying. Your response is incredibly beautiful, moving, and thoughtful. Thank you so much for taking the time to not only read my post but to put so much into your response. You're seriously my favorite person right now.
     
  7. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    I think there may be an official rule that states if you don't at one point or another think your writing stinks and should be burned to save humanity from it, then you can't call yourself a writer. :D

    Originality doesn't lie in the ideas. Originality lies in the execution. What I mean by that is what makes a story original is you, the person. Your life experiences, your views on the world, they're uniquely yours, and that's where the originality comes from.

    Let's take the tried and true tale of Romeo and Juliet. How many times has that story been retold? Look at Westside Story. Romeo and Juliet in New York with gangs instead of families. Look and the Romeo and Juliet with Leonardo DeCaprio. They set it in modern time between Mafia Empires, with guns, but kept the Shakespearean dialogue.

    Every idea has been used many times over. If you put up an idea for people to critique, it's almost 100% assured someone will say, "Oh yeah, that's like X." So if you intend to find that original idea, good luck. It'll be a long time coming, and you'll never write anything EVER.

    In addition, originality IMHO is overrated. There's nothing wrong with a well told story that's not all that original. People like the familiar. They're drawn to similar things. Look at James Cameron's Avatar. The story isn't all that original, but it was well told, and millions flocked to watch it.

    For me, I worry about writing a good story, original or not, and let everything else fall where it may. Because as long as I'm glad I get to find out what happened, then it was worth writing.
     
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  8. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Isn't all that original is generous for Avatar, it was forumlaic to an extreme and carried by the visuals rather than story. The whole story makes me groan and pull my hair out, and that's before all the PC BS. But it also points out another fact: There are large numbers of people who don't realize that these stories are old hat. King has made a living pretty much rehashing old stories in semi-new ways.
     
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  9. FatCat

    FatCat Maester

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    Fantasy is difficult because so many people aspire to success in the genre, and like you've said ideas tend to repeat. Maybe it's okay to delete what you've wrote. It's not the worst thing to know revision.

    Are you writing fantasy because the tropes and understanding allow you to tell a story? New age fantasy will not be inns and knights and wizards, just wait.

    In a forum in which everything is allowed, where the author's mind controls the narrative without the need for realism, this is fantasy.

    Disregard the keystones read, the expected world, and realize the genre is as marketed, fantasy. What story do you want to tell?
     
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  10. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    'The good ideas are all already taken.'

    The OP should take a peek at the tales in the various 'Top Scribe' Challenges - or maybe consider entering the current one.

    'Top Scribe' revolves around incorporating four prompts into a short story - but you'd be hard pressed to identify those prompts from the stories alone.

    Tell ten different writers to include the same set of prompts within their works, you DO NOT end up with ten different versions of the same story, but ten different stories.

    That said, I have been batting notions around for a near to mid future Lovecraftian series for a couple years now. Read a fair pile (upper double digit range) of stories written by Lovecraft's literary descendants as part of this. Thus far, I have found a grand total of three stories that come close to what I envision. And not really all that close, either, because those tales and my notions revolve around different things.
     
  11. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    I began writing in 2001 and I didn't have a "golden idea" but rather a need to fill hours of boredom at work with something to make me look busy. I wrote. A lot. I wrote ten novels over the next ten years, and honestly, looking at them now, the first three should never EVER be read by anyone. But they weren't a waste of my time. They taught me to write and to care about writing, and I just honestly never worried about whether they were "readable" because no one was reading them but me. The thing is, it's YOUR story, and it doesn't matter if you're writing the most overdone cliche or whether you have a completely original idea that no one's ever written before.

    Just write and work as hard as you can. That's all you can do. Confidence is hard-won. It doesn't come easy. Writing is honestly the hardest thing I've ever done in my life.

    Anxiety and self-criticism are natural responses. After all, stories are meant to be shared. I didn't worry because I wasn't writing to share. I wrote to entertain myself. I'd encourage you to do the same. Write for YOU. And the worst thing that can happen at the end of that, is that you don't love the story you wrote, and you begin something new.

    There is no harm in writing even a truly awful story. If you don't share it, no one will ever know. But what if you finish this story, and you learn how to put those writing tools to good use? What if the story is entertaining, exciting, and fresh? That, honestly, comes more from the voice and style of a piece, and less from the concept that began the inspiration.

    There are many great threads here that can help advise you HOW to write, but really, that's a tricky place to begin. This article pretty much sums up why. Writing With Confidence

    The thing is, it takes time to build confidence, and the best way to do that is to not care. If you care too deeply about the story you're writing, it hurts when you feel like you got something wrong. That's the fear voice in your head that says, "Oh, that's not good. You have to do better or people won't like it." I mean...the first time I submitted a story to an agent, the first thing I did was cut all the sex and violence out because I was...wait for it...afraid I might offend someone. I was afraid of offending ANYONE. I was so worried that even a single person disliking my work would mean it was crap. Looking back, I realize how silly that was. But at the time, I just didn't know. So I wrote a very bland edit, and sent that off, and it was rejected...um, because it was boring and horrible.

    We've all come here to learn more, to engage with other writers, to find support. You're in good company. I think most of us have felt as you do.

    Don't listen to the demons in your head. They want you to fail. Don't engage in what I call "fear-writing" where you make choices in your work just because you worry someone will hate it if you use your own voice, use a cliche, make the love story sappy, write a gay character, don't have all the answers, mix genres, have a bittersweet ending, etc. etc.. Don't listen to that voice in your head that's telling you you can't do it. Know that you CAN do it. IN fact, this article may help you get past those things you aren't good at and focus on the things you think you're really good at: One Letter Every Writer Should Write

    And if it's too hard to work on the project that's causing the anxiety, please try writing something you don't care so deeply about. Enter one of our challenges, start a journal and write things you see every day that maybe aren't amazing to others, but inspire you to think and feel. Write anything you can. Call it practice or whatever you need to, to allow yourself free rein. Even the nest writers in the world have these feelings.

    I recently checked out an audiobook from the library. Bud by Bird, by Ann Lamott. I highly recommend that. Try to get the audio book. It is 3 hours long, and i think it's excellent. She goes over all this stuff, and puts in a way that makes it really accessible to expert or beginner alike. She'll make sure you don't feel alone in this self doubt, for sure! Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life: Anne Lamott: 9780385480017: Amazon.com: Books

    Best wishes. Hang in there. You must either choose to listen to the voices, or tell them to f*** off, and keep writing! Here's two songs I play before I sit down to write a scene that has me terrified.

    Eli Young Band; Even if it Breaks Your Heart [ON-SCREEN LYRICS] - YouTube

    Brave - Sara Bareilles (Lyrics) - YouTube
     
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  12. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

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    The quality of the storytelling is paramount. You can take old ideas and write great stories if your writing is up to snuff.
     
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  13. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    To springboard off this a bit. A few years ago just a little before Game of Thrones came on TV, I had this idea for a story and the world. All the known lands were surrounded by a wall and there were tales about what lay beyond the wall, beings known as the Others. Sound familiar?

    I'd never read Game of Thrones before that. A friend had been urging me to do so for ages, but I never did. When the TV show became I hit. I decided to check it out, and discovered what GRRM did around ten years before.

    This was my reaction.

    [​IMG]

    After that I had two choices, give up or go on. I went on. My story was different than what GRRM did and was doing. It just had similar elements. I finished the story and I'm glad I did. I'm still editing it, but if I get it right, I think it'll be a great story, original or not.
     
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  14. Peat

    Peat Sage

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    This cannot be repeated enough. I feel like 90pc of the discussion I see on fantasy writing sites are about ideas and 10pc about writing. Those proportions are the wrong way around for without effective writing, no one will ever care about our ideas in the first place.
     
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  15. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Yeah . . . . I personally feel that the discussion about ideas and execution is completely misleading. You've got ideas on every page of a book. In fact every sentence expresses an idea. I think the notion that creativity pales behind execution misses the fact that creativity is part of your execution. It's one of the skills you should be developing as a writer.

    I mean, sure, we tend to focus on the story concept, and not the little micro-uses of creativity that you need to employ as you write. That is, in some ways it's worse - we talk about "ideas" too much, but we don't even learn much about ideation or how to employ good ideas consistently throughout your story.

    Instead, we repeat that ideas are cheap, and that they don't matter, because execution - execution something or other, which is just another way of hiding from the tougher discussions.

    Last week I picked up a book on creativity - Idea Stormers by Bryan Mattimore - and one thing that was immediately apparent while reading through it: The genre advice on creativity is extraordinarily lacking. We write fantasy. We could literally write about anything. And we don't even discuss how we can explore those possibilities, let alone ways to be creative later in the work, long after we decide on the concepts.
     
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  16. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    When I think about executing my darlings....well, it could go either way.
     
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  17. Peat

    Peat Sage

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    When you talk about ideation, what do you mean?
     
  18. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    So, "ideation" is a word they use in business and academic circles for the creation of new ideas. They use it because "brainstorming" has a specific old meaning in the literature, where a group of people just shout out whatever they can think of as they go. Brainstorming really isn't effective.

    I'm not very far into Idea Stormers, but the core concepts so far are all very familiar to me. It's all about finding and changing the triggers you're using to inspire the ideas you're getting (something I've been talking about for a long while now). The book is written for groups in business, so I'm not going to get into it the specifics.

    But taking a few of the principles and applying them to writing fantasy . . . .

    Just for instance - seriously - make a list of the things you think of when somebody says . . . . ohh, I don't know, "Orc."

    - Evil / Aggressive
    - Big
    - Teethy
    - Green
    - Slave Warriors
    - Infighting
    - Tough

    ^ These are some of the things you might think of when you're writing about orcs. What, to me, is the central or defining part? I'm going to pick Slave Warriors. I want a group of slave warriors who feel unique. I'm going to develop them by changing the triggers.

    - Evil / Aggressive = Cautious, Strategic
    - Big = Non-Humanoid
    - Teethy = Handsy
    - Green = Camouflaged
    - Infighting = Submissive/Loyal
    - Tough = Determined

    Using these new notions as my prompts, I can start to think of a very different kind of slave warriors. For instance, trying to reconcile loyalty and slavery, I might develop a system where the creatures have an "Alpha" that has led them into slavery. Thinking about "non-humanoid" and "handsy," I might develop them as insects, or as 4-armed centaurs, or as gorillas who carry extra weapons in their feet and tails. Thinking about camouflaged and strategic, perhaps they have a way of surrounding you before you realize they're even there.

    Putting it all together gives me a type of wolf-chimp-hybrid that fights in packs, attacks from the treetops, shows fierce loyalty to an alpha that volunteered them as slaves, and terrorizes a countryside without ever presenting a single army to destroy.

    By changing the triggers, I've just taken a massive leap in developing the Slave Warriors for a story.

    The skill, of course, is in identifying the right triggers, finding the best way to change them, and then drawing more from them. And, y'know, doing it quickly in your head as you write so you don't feel like an obsessive planning person.
     
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  19. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Perhaps there ought to be a new thread devoted to this subject of ideation.

    I have some issues with a current story in development that would probably benefit from it. For weeks I've found myself in that brainstorm maelstrom, in which many ideas come but no matter how intriguing, interesting, or full of potential, they quickly get washed out in the chaos. There's always a feeling of yes, but. Nothing gels.

    Well mostly the issue is the magic system(s), the cultures involved. But other areas are suffering from the same sort of excess of potential.
     
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  20. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    If anyone is interested I'll start a thread on it later this evening.
     
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