Ten things I have learned as a fantasy writer

Over at Ben Peek’s blog here and at Elizabeth Bear’s here , there are great lists on what they have learned as a writer…

So here’s my ten things I have learned as a fantasy writer:

1. No matter how brilliantly you write, there will still be people who will assume you write crap because it’s fantasy.
2. There is no way a fantasy writer can answer the question, “What’s it about?” without sounding like an utter idiot.
3. There will always be the odd person who thinks you write the other kind of fantasy.
4. No matter how much you think people who read speculative fiction of any kind must be in search of writing that is sharply different, imagination-challenging and intellectually stimulating, the truth is that, by and large, what sells best is the comfortable stuff that wouldn’t challenge a Barbie doll.
5. There is no way a fantasy writer can answer the question, “Will they make a film out of it?” without sounding like you’re making excuses for not being good enough.
6. It’s better not to look at the expression on the face of the person who has just said, “Fantasy? Oh, you write children’s books!” as you try to explain that no, you actually write stuff for adults.
7. Fantasy writers stutter a lot when speaking to people who don’t read fantasy but want to know all about it.
8. Science fiction writers are not always kind about fantasy books or fantasy writers.
9. Any sff book that achieves success in the wider world of literary fiction gets called something else—like “magical realism” or “surreal fiction” or “fabulist” or “a visionary portrayal” or “an allegorical look at the modern world” or “a futuristic tale of…” You get the picture. Never science fiction or fantasy.
10. Marketing people think dragons on the cover sell books, even if there’s no dragon in the story. Likewise with wolves, chain-mail (especially on women), swords (especially wielded by babes), castles on crags, bearded ancient sages with staffs, eagles, stormy skies, ravens…

Originally posted in Glenda’s blog on Sunday, 26 March 2006 (11 Comments).


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