Why I chose to write fantasy

It wasn’t really a choice, it was more of an attraction. I’ve always been more intrigued and drawn to fantasy. Escaping into a world of superheroes, where you can disconnect from your daily problems and root for the main protagonist to succeed in their quest to defeat the evil forces…

I have always had a lot of imagination and I spent a considerable about of time daydreaming especially during my teenage years. I didn’t really fit in school among the other students and disappearing into one of my fantasy worlds would be a temporary escape for me. I remember sitting in an overly hot class (the air conditioning had broken years ago) trying to concentrate on what the teacher was saying, and I found myself imagining a handsome young man in military clothing bursting through the door in the middle of class and telling me I had to come with him. And the teacher and students would all be surprised at what the guy wanted from me, and I had to explain that I had to go with him because I had some special powers and was working with the military to protect the country against some threat [I’m deliberately not giving out too many details 😉 ]. I could imagine a whole story within 3 minutes, while stuck in a classroom. And I could imagine things out of any situation, there was always a way for me to escape. The door to my imagination was always wide open.

When I wrote When Colour Became Grey I wanted to create a hero story with a female lead. I was tired of reading superhero stories with a male lead and I wanted to show that a woman could also be the hero. The idea was born in a dream and initially was written with a male lead, but I switched it to a female lead after realizing that what I had written was too similar to what was already available. And when I rewrote it with a female lead, I saw other opportunities to make the story different from other mainstream fantasy stories.

I’m also intrigued by other genres like horror, thriller, science fiction… but I’ve spent so much time in various fantasy worlds that I naturally fell into fantasy when I decided to pursue writing more seriously. My very first story was actually an epic fantasy story that I haven’t finished writing, but I plan to pick up again at some point. I would also like to explore other genres, but at the moment I’m focusing in the sequel to When Colour Became Grey.

Why other authors are not your competition

From the outside it can look like you’re in competition with other authors, but I don’t feel that way. And I don’t think it’s useful to look at other authors as competition, even if they write within your genre.

You can argue that when someone decides to buy a book, they could buy someone else’s book instead of yours, and therefore you’re in direct competition with other writers. But that is just a temporary restriction; a reader may not buy your book that time, but they may buy it at another occasion. And the more people read and buy books, the better it is for all writers because the audience gets bigger.

Most people don’t read books

The number of readers is relatively low. I think a lot of people prefer to watch TV or movies instead of reading a book because it requires more mental engagement. So to me writing has always been about getting more people to read in general, not stealing away readers from other authors. If more people read, then more books will be read by more authors. If a new reader discovers a good book, they may be inclined to read more books by the same author, or read similar books in the same genre by other authors. So you can only win.

Those that do, read lots of books

Most of those that read regularly, read lots of books. Some genres are dominated by a handful of authors, but that doesn’t mean there is no room for you. On the contrary! Sure, most readers have their favorite authors. But that doesn’t mean they won’t ever read anything written by other authors, especially if their favorite author is still working on a sequel or taking some time off. It’s like having a favorite TV show; you will not watch that show exclusively and nothing else ever until you die. You will want to try out other things in the same genre or something completely different, either to wait until the next season comes out, or to mix it up. So once again, you can only win.

And there is also another huge upside; once a book series has ended, those readers will look for the next great series to read and that may be yours. Why then waste your time being bitchy at other authors?

Authors’ advantage

If authors help each other out, and promote newcomers and other authors (even established ones) they really like, it will benefit everyone. You interact with your audience, the readers get to know another author, the other author will be grateful (and may return the favor when he/she is the big shot!) and you create a positive atmosphere for everyone.

For me the author’s community is like a company; there is no point in fighting within our midst since we’re all selling the same product. It’s about working together and promoting the creative writing space as a whole in all its genres, from comic books to poems and everything in between. It doesn’t mean you have to be loyal and defend absolutely everyone. There are “authors” that I don’t think are worthy of that title, but ultimately the readers will decide who they support and buy books from, and as I said above there is no point in tearing each other down. Best case scenario you start a feud with a fellow author and you both lose respect from the audience (because newsflash, everyone can publish a book.). So don’t waste your time on being negative and judgmental, take that energy and do something positive.

Setting realistic goals

It can be frustrating to write a book. When I started writing I used to constantly compare myself to the big names and be annoyed I wasn’t writing at their level. Or the plot is just not going in the direction you had anticipated. Or your characters are so annoying and you can’t make them likable in your story, but you need them for the plot development.

First of all, don’t put yourself under so much pressure. You should compare yourself to the great names in your craft, but do it with the outlook to learn from them, understand their way of working and making it your own.

[DO NOT COPY other people’s work and slap your name on it. A copy of something is generally a shitty version of the original one and you deserve to show your own talent. And if you get caught you will forever be a fraud, and possibly have to pay huge indemnities, etc. Don’t do it, it’s not worth it.]

And if this is your first book, then make it the best it can be, but don’t be saddened that it’s not immediately a bestseller. Not only does it take time to sell books, but it also takes practice to be the best in the field.

Don’t pressure yourself to finish your project in a given time frame, especially if you’re self-publishing. Time frames are fluid and you cannot always ‘force’ the imagination out onto a page. To take a famous example, George R.R. Martin hasn’t finished the last two books for his ‘A Song of Fire and Ice’ series and has repeatedly missed deadlines. Try to have a schedule of when you’re working on your book, but don’t arbitrarily decide on June 16th it has to be finished, potentially releasing it with errors or a flimsy conclusion because you didn’t have time to finish it properly. Your name is on that work so make sure it’s the best version it can be.

This brings me to my last point; don’t set high expectations and then be disappointed and hate yourself when you don’t meet them. Don’t pretend you’ll write 20 hours a week when you can realistically only manage 5 hours. Then aim for 6 or 7 hours and be happy even if you only managed 5 hours. There is a difference between motivating yourself to sit down and do the work, and setting yourself up for failure by setting the bar way too high. And note that I said ‘way too high’. It’s healthy to set the bar a bit higher and encourage yourself to improve, but if you set it too high and you’re constantly disappointed you may give up on your craft altogether, which is also not the goal.

Self-publishing: Why should I pay for an editor?

You may think this is unnecessary. I certainly thought so. But if you’re self-publishing (and if you intend to take your writing seriously), you cannot skip the most essential part; your written work! In my opinion, if you’re self-publishing and you want to spend the least amount possible on your launch, then pay for an editor, and do the rest yourself. You are about to click that button and make your work visible to the whole world. Your name will be on this work, even if it’s your pen name. Why not make sure that the script is the best possible version it can be?
Working with my editor has been hugely beneficial.

He saw plot holes that I was sure I had explained, but turned out to only exist in my head. A good editor is just a guide, you’re still the one writing it. And you’re not obliged to agree to all of his proposed changes, but it may give you a healthy perspective on your writing. It’s hard enough to get people to buy/download your book when you’re a nobody, but if on top of that you have gross errors in the manuscript that could have been avoided (they’re vs their), or your main character switches name from Peter to Pete, with plot holes dotted everywhere (Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark, wink wink), the reviews will tank your book before it has even taken off. And your name will be associated with poor writing. And then it will be even harder to sell books. If you’re self-publishing, define the budget you’re willing to spend and prioritize where you want to spend your money.

If you publish on print: Don’t forget to include ISBN/barcode purchase on your list. You don’t always need one, but it helps libraries and bookshops to find your book, so don’t overlook this.

Why you should be grateful for criticism

Finally. The day is here. You’ve been writing for a while and you’re now ready to tell your friends and family that you’re writing. And this is not just a hobby to you. You have a connection with your craft. This means something to you. This is possibly your destiny.

And then your enthusiasm falls on deaf ears. Or worse; people start discouraging you.

Do you know how unlikely it is to make it as a writer nowadays?

You didn’t study creative writing/Literature, what makes you think you can write?

People don’t read books anymore! You’re wasting your time!

It’s disheartening to hear people’s negative comments. But that’s because most people set themselves limits to not disappoint anyone, including themselves. It seems to be some sort of societal norm engraned in all of us; the moment someone wants to do something else, earn money differently, live differently, pursue something out of the ordinary, suddenly we all frown and shake our heads. Daydreamers. They will fall flat on their faces.

I choose to draw strength from those that doubt me. There is no point in trying to convert people that clearly don’t think you can make it. Maybe they don’t want to see you fail, or get your hopes up. I understand that. It’s a survival instinct. Standing out is lonely and difficult. But I would rather fail, than never have taken a shot. Failure is part of the journey. There is no major success, no man or woman that is praised for their accomplishments, that has never failed.

You will always come across people that don’t like what you do, that don’t think you’re talented, or that simply want to break you down because they feel bad about their own lives. But most people also just live within the confines of their boxes. Go to school, get a job, get married, buy a house, have children, retire, die. It can be hard to understand if you’re pursuing something completely out of the ordinary.

I have learned that often when people trample on your dreams, it’s mostly a reflection of their own ambitions and life, and has little to do with you. So when people try to discourage me just for the sake of discouraging me, I don’t listen. I take in constructive criticism, but become deaf to the serial negativists. No one will discourage me from pursuing something that makes me happy. And neither should you. Keep working on your craft and perfect it!