Need a guide to walk you on how to write a fantasy book? You’re at the right place!
The popularity of the fantasy genre reaches across adult fiction, young adult and children’s fiction. And this moment right now is the moment for you to open a Word document or grab a notepad and start writing your own fantasy novel.
There is a lot of interest from readers and editors alike for fantasy stories, making this an excellent time to be a writer.
Now where to start? If you’re excited about a possible career as a fantasy author but feel a little overwhelmed by the work you’re going to be putting into the project, look no further.
In the following points you’ll learn about how to start developing your novel’s storyline and how to know what readers of this genre will expect from your book.
The first thing to do is to read, a lot. Research is a huge part of a writer’s job, especially researching your fellow fantasy writers who’ve already gotten good enough at what they do that they’re published; they are your role models.
Also look into near-future releases – what’s coming out in the next 6 months or a year. Read reviews, blogs and forums to find out what readers like about these books, what they don’t like, what they want to see more of.
Those are the ingredients you want to put in your book.
Make sure your story has a central focus, or a main event that the whole book hangs upon. Something interesting, important, scary, exciting, threatening, shocking, touching, unbelievable… you get the picture.
Pick your main character. This is the guy or gal you’ll be spending the most time getting to know, and writing about the most. What is their integral part to play in your main event?
Because you’re writing fantasy, where will your setting be? On earth or in space or an alternate dimension? One of the single most important things in fantasy writing is to engulf the reader in your foreign world.
Make them feel like they’re home, that they’re a native in your steam punk China or medieval clan of aliens on Mars. The setting is also what mainly defines fantasy as fantasy; what sets your story world apart from reality?
Flesh out your plot. Fantasy novels are usually dealing with saving-the-world events and that take cutting edge character development, superb plotting and tight sentence structure.
How to write a Fantasy Book Step by Step Guide
An outline is much advised; I always make one before I start too much writing, although I don’t always stick to it, it helps immensely in just getting me going.
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Writing the First Draft
My first novel is almost ready to be published, and now as I’m writing the sequel as well as a few stand alone books, I’m finding it hard to get back into the flow of writing.
Since I took a few years off of writing and then I was editing my first book, it’s been a while.
I find myself unable to write as fast or as often as I used to before that break. I’m really feeling my “inner editor” pushing my inspiration away to correct a word or punctuation before I even have a fully formed thought.
There’s many other writers out there that struggle with just writing and not correcting, and I was never one of them, until I had been through the editing process once.
Now that I can see how much I had to improve on with my first book and how I was able to change it, I can’t seem to let go and just write another crappy first draft.
But you have to! Even brilliant, bestselling authors write crappy first drafts, and I have to remember that I can correct it later. In the beginning all I need – all anyone needs – are words on the page. Once you have that, no matter how bad it might be, at least you have something to improve upon.
Getting too hung up on being perfect the first time will result in your never finishing the book.
To turn off your inner editor:
- Play music while you’re writing
- Read an inspiring book right before you write
- Make a rule that you can’t reread anything you wrote the day before (even the hour before)
- Make your favorite snack (mine is hot chocolate)
- Basically do anything that gets you in an inspiring, creative mood
It may take some practice and some time. I’m still not back to the word count that I used to be able to write each day, and it’s been a few months, but don’t give up.
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When writing fantasy, names are particularly important as they reflect the unique characteristics of your imaginary world. There is a lot of meaning in a name.
Sometimes you want your characters’ names to match their personality or profession, and other times you want it the opposite, to surprise the reader and let your character break out of a stereotype.
Names are important, but don’t lose too much sleep over choosing a name. There’s always time to change it later, while you’re writing the rest of the story and even while your editor/agent is going over your manuscript.
Just pick any name when you begin writing so that you can get writing and worry about the details later.
For the meaning in a name when you are writing fantasy, you could give a character with fire magic, for example, a name that loosely means heat or flame.
Alternatively, you could give him a name meaning cold or ice to create some irony. It could be he believes fiercely in fate and rejects his gift because of the meaning of his name, of his life.
A lot of my names, especially for medieval fantasy or partially human creatures, I make up entirely myself.
Its fun to try: take two or three names you like and try combining them in different ways, using parts or even one letter from each of them.
Your names would be totally unique to your story, and that way say a lot about your character’s personality as the reader would likely not find another character in someone else’s book with the same name to confuse yours with.
This also adds some authenticity if your story is set in a completely fantastical world – if all your characters have original names it gives the story a tone that the reader can pick up on, and will, in the future, associate with the same moods and setting that are in your story while reading other novels.
Another thing to think about when you are naming your characters is what role they will play in the story. Again, you could use their name to fit their character, or use it as a foil to contrast with what the character’s real role is.
For example, an incredibly smart and talented man named something bland like Bob, or a dunce who’s named Balthazar.
Writing fantasy can be very rewarding in respect to naming characters, because really, it’s your world, and who’s to say what names you can and cannot use?
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As important as personality, occupation, and motivation are, another quintessential aspect of creating your character is their physical appearance.
There are more writers than you would think that do not pay enough attention to their character’s appearances in their writing.
This doesn’t necessarily mean eye and hair color, height and weight, etc, but also takes into account things like race, scars and deformities, clothing choice, makeup, and even hygiene.
Each of the above details can tell the reader a lot about a character, and possibly can be used to foreshadow a future event (like the girl that cut her hair before dumping her last boyfriend and who is in the mood for another haircut).
Depending on the setting (though you can do whatever you want in writing fantasy since the setting will be a product of your own imagination) you may want to shy away from taboo characteristics, or embrace them, whichever fits your character’s personality and sense of identity.
The social, personal and professional ramifications of dressing a certain way or being from a certain country, family or class, can be as infinite as you make them.
If the story depends on, say, your protagonist being fired from his job in chapter one, is it because of something he did? Maybe it could be that a co-worker who doesn’t like his dragon tattoo was just promoted to a position with power over your protagonist.
If your character has always regretted getting that tattoo, it could drive him to finally invest in removing it, or, if he’s proud of it, to switch careers and become a tattoo artist himself.
See what I mean? The physical can often be overlooked because of its apparent simplicity or low ranking in the important aspects of writing a character.
There are a lot of characters whose physical appearance may not make any difference to where the storyline goes, but it is more influential than you may initially think. People in real life spend a significant – or sometimes extravagant – amount of their time on fashion, makeup, and things indirectly tied to their image such as cars.
Physical traits can be a useful tool for fleshing out your characters and bringing them to life for the reader, especially in writing fantasy.
Your Writing Style
Not a lot of people know what a person means by your writing style, and how style can differ from writer to writer. You’ve probably heard a lot about a writer having a particular ‘style’, but what exactly is that, and how do you develop a unique one of your own?
Writing style is the way you write something, the words you choose to express yourself. For example, one may write, “The sky was black with ash.”
Another may write, “Black clouds of ash hung over the horizon, blocking out the sun.” See the difference? Both sentences say essentially the same thing, only in a different way, and one not necessarily better than the other.
Here are some ways to hone your own unique writing style:
To start, read a lot. Read your favorite fantasy books again and try to pick out a few things you like about how that author writes. Do they use many short paragraphs, or take extra time to describe significant details?
Jot down a few of the things your favorite authors do and keep them in mind with your own writing. Since you are not copying just one writer but taking a piece here and a piece there, it’ll be unique to you the way that your writing style develops.
As well as reading fantasy, try to read outside your normal circle of favorite books. Many books these days have more than one genre, like fantasy-romance, or fantasy-mystery.
Read books in some of the other genres to see if you’d like creating a novel that has more than just fantasy in it.
And while you’re reading in other genres, you may even find you like another one just as well or more than fantasy, and develop ideas for that genre as well.
As important as reading is, the only way you’ll ever get better at developing your writing style is to write. You should be writing something everyday, even if it’s only in a journal you keep for recording your thoughts.
Experiment with different story lines and elements of your favorite writers. Practice may not make perfect, but it sure gives you a definitive head start up against so many other wannabe writers.
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Stuck on your own novel? Delve into somebody else’s for a dose of inspiration. Pick a fantasy novel similar to your own, whether you’ve read it before or not, for an escape into the realm of imagination.
Sometimes just the break from your own words does the trick.
Watch a movie, or read a script. Again, something similar to your own work, to recharge your writer’s energy.
Edit an already published book. Some of you may even do this already.
Take a book you’re reading and pretend you’re the editor. See what corrections you might make, whether from spelling errors to even major plot changes.
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Don’t Give Up!
Starting a novel or story is easy. Anyone can do it. But not everyone can finish that story, revise that story until it’s gold, sell that story, or publish that story.
You hear all over the web, and in books and magazines, how hard it is to break into the industry. It takes years to write and revise a novel, years to to get an agent to represent you, and even more years to find a publisher and finally achieve your dream.
Book publishing is not for a person who can’t deal with the slow and steady lifestyle the industry is known for.
The key is to not give up, no matter how long it may take (and it may be way less time than you’re thinking!) and no matter how many stumbling blocks find their way into your path.
Trust me, it’s worth the effort.
Getting a Beta Reader
The best beta reader is a friend that loves to read. They either need to be an honest stranger or a friend that you can trust to be impartial when they look at your manuscript.
There’s no set number of beta readers you should have, but I would think at least one.
When I was getting my first published book ready, I had 4 beta readers that provided hugely helpful insights and in fact their comments changed big parts of the book.
It was crazy that I’d missed so many little mistakes or forgotten to change things I thought I’d taken out, in my own edits. You really can’t skip having at least one person do this for you!
I love my beta readers and they were kind enough to read over my book in a month’s time – some people might need longer if they’re very busy, but it’s worth it if you know they read widely and their comments would be helpful to you.
Even if you’re planning to hire a developmental editor (which I highly recommend) you should still have beta readers because you’ll be getting more out of your money that way.
If the beta reader catches the spelling mistakes and calling a character the wrong name, etc. then your paid editor can focus more on the theme, plot, overall structure or other important parts.
And yes, beta readers and editors are important for both kinds of authors: those who want to go after an agent and traditional publishing house, and those who want to publish it themselves.
It is our hope that you now know how to write a fantasy book step by step. See you soon!