I know. I know. But you loved that last installment of Hooglits Vs. The Olympivergents! The thing is, that was already written. The story and all the characters belong to someone and to a fan base that is already built and already has expectations. Besides avoiding a huge law suit for infringement, you’ll be saving yourself a lot of headaches in the future if you want to be a serious Fantasy novelist.
Fantasy, at least in my esteem, is one of the toughest fields to write in. The fans can be brutal. They want what they want and they want it done right. They will question everything! So if you want to write a book based on a universe and character set that someone else created, you cannot err from the path already set. You cannot alter a thing. You have to work within the parameters already given. That’s not very fun. I mean, your fanfic diverges from the cannon, so how can you possibly make yourself pen things so hemmed in?
Don’t. Write your own story. How?
2. Read a lot of published works in the vein, out of the vein, around the vein, far from the vein of what you’re thinking of doing.
OMG, but that’s so hard! I know it is. I did a series, which I hope to hell will be viewed favorably by a community that will crush me, should I have failed them in my endeavor. I totally feel your pain here.
The best medicine for this sick feeling you’re getting reading this, is to read more fantasy. Read everything you can get your hands on, from the classics, to contemporary, to indie, to comic books. Read it all. Suck it all in. Watch the movies, cartoons, all of it. Immerse yourself. This is your world, baby!
Now, that you’ve devoured the universe, and about 30 others, like a dragon gone madder than Smaug on the Lake Men…Your head is swimming with ideas and visions and you feel like you’re falling down the rabbit hole. What do you do next?
You’ve got a long way to go before you start writing, so don’t sweat it. Trust the process. Field, or float, ideas on index cards–have a story board on the wall (white boards are great for this) you can write on and make notes and change things. You can use a notebook, if a whiteboard isn’t possible–use a pencil so you can erase it. Nothing is too sacred that it cannot be sacrificed at this point.
You know how you have that epic dream where you’re riding a giant iguana through the forest of Endor and you come face to face with those weird scrabbly muppets that can take off their body parts and then try to find out if you’re parts are detachable–and you wake up thinking “Woah! That was so amazing! I think my hero, Mightor will find something like that in the woods on his way to rescue the Duchess Canoli,” but, then by 3 o’clock you’re blushing and hiding at your desk thinking of what an idiot you were?
These index cards, they’re going to save you from having to expose your inner process to the public, only to find ridicule. Great ideas don’t just pop up. They’re thought over for long periods of time. No one sees that process behind the scenes until well after the final product has been established and gained credibility. Then everyone wants to know how you did it, and they respect that process because you’ve got +10 Charisma now. Infallible!
But how long? I want to do this yesterday.
4. Come Back To It.
How long does it usually take you to realize that something you created is the dumbest thing you’ve ever created? That’s about how long you should let something sit. Unless you are surrounded by a cavalcade of friends who will review your ideas and tell you flat out what is shit and what should move to the next level, let your ideas rest for a while.
Now is the time you can return to your fanfics. Please do. You don’t want to stop writing, just because your project is simmering. Exercise those writing muscles. I have an X-men series, which was intended to get me started writing again, when I was met with so much resistance by the publishing community that I nearly gave in and stopped altogether. You can’t let them stop you. Their intention is to stop you. They need to weed out the ones who are dabbling and won’t be doing this for the rest of their life. Will you? Maybe. Do you intend to publish? If so, you’ll be doing this the rest of your life. If not, you’re just dabbling and it’s neither here nor there. Either choice is valid, but the choice made determines whether or not you’ll go to the next level, care to hone your craft, and follow all the thousands of steps that are between penning a manuscript and publishing it.
Go have fun!
How’d that fanfic do with your readers/friends? Don’t you feel better getting that all out. Congrats for following through. Now you know how to end a story, write a story and organize it. Hopefully while you were letting things percolate, you did some writing courses and seminars. You kept mulling over your ideas and cultivating the garden of your ideas. You probably have a sense of order now. Things aren’t just planted wherever there was room. Well, not anymore anyway.
About now, you should have a pretty garden, but it might start to look rather overgrown and there are things here that are just fucking up the whole flow. Who’s been painting my roses red?
It’s time to weed and prune! Yup. Start going over those note cards, that white board, through the trusty idea notebook. What sounds stupid to you? Axe it. That’s it, just wipe it right out. That shrub doesn’t go there. It doesn’t go anywhere in THIS garden. Ideas you like but trouble over can be saved for other projects. Make a file.
If you’re writing in a notebook, collect your ideas on one large sheet of paper and see how they form your project. Note card people: you can throw out the bad ones and keep the good in rough circle on a pin board or something. The idea will form clearly on a white board as you start erasing things. Do this over time. There is no need to rush. Good things take time to cultivate. If you prune your garden too roughly and too quickly, you will kill the ideas–take off too much and hobble them.
Take a step back. Wow. Look at how that garden grew!
6. Start Writing.
So now you have your ideas organized into a bit of a picture. Of course this isn’t the complete picture and characters tend to run off where they want to, as they become more autonomous. You will have to be willing to bend. Some ideas you had kept might fruit nothing and have to be pruned here, some will be pruned later in the edits.
Just start writing. Whatever your writing plan is, whether you pants it or plan it, do your thing. You’re ready.
K. Williams has twenty years of experience in writing, with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Historical Studies and a Mast of Arts in Liberal Studies in Film Studies and Screenwriting. K is the author of the new fantasy/sci-fi trilogy The Trailokya Trilogy. The first installment, The Shadow Soul, is out now!