One of the best books I’ve read about the writing life is Sometimes the Magic Works, Lessons from a Writing Life by Terry Brooks. The Shannara series is a popular epic fantasy starting with The Sword of Shannara from 1977, which helped put the fantasy genre on the map, a genre exploding to life over the years.
This book resonated with me for a variety of reasons. I’m not a lawyer and don’t have the extensive educational background that Brooks did. My writing career began in 2018 with the launch of Fury, Book 1 of The Fae Awakening, in November. I was 33 years old, supporting myself by freelancing as web developer and digital marketer since 2009.
I never, not once, thought writing could be a career path, especially since my background was in computer science and mathematics, far away from the idea of creating stories.
Before 2018, I researched writing like a crazed scientist on crack mixed with an assortment of stimulants. I always do this. When I commit myself to a task, I research it long before I begin. The goal is to do it right, do it well, and not have to redo things.
This Is How I Connected with Brooks
My style of fantasy is far from his style. He writes epic, detailed fantasy. The books tend to be long. I write in the 150-300 page range, averaging around 200 pages for my books, and my style is easy and straight to the point with less description and repetition.
I love his work, but like most creatives, I’m have my own ways.
What are some points I connected with?
The Creation of Ideas to Write Stories
We come up with our ideas “from asking questions and thinking about the answers.” He talks about his process of waiting a good deal of time before ever putting a pen to paper or fingers to a keyboard.
I do the same.
My ideas have to ruminate in my mind as I ask the questions to fulfill the needs of an entire story. Before I write, I know the entire story front to back. There will be a fluid nature that changes some aspects as the words come together, but at least 90% of the story is finished and just needs written.
“Just dream for a while and see what happens. There isn’t any timetable involved, no measuring stick for how long it ought to take. For each book, it is different. But that period of thinking, of reflection, is crucial to how successful your story will turn out to be.”
As writers, we need to learn. We need to make ourselves better writers. Recently, I reread Frozen, a standalone Fae Awakening story. It wasn’t published. It was the second book I wrote at the beginning of 2018.
It was horrible.
I rewrote it, then published it.
The story remained exactly the same when I rewrote it. Nothing changed. My style changed.
Over the years, I learned my writing style. I learned more about how to write a story, dialogue, description, and other techniques needed because writing is a craft.
We learn the craft with experience. Our skill in the craft grows with more experience.
“Writing isn’t a crapshoot. Publishing, yes—but not writing. Writing is a craft. You can learn it, and you can learn to do it better. … you might have it in you to be a writer or you might not; that’s just the way it is. But if you do have it in you, what you would like to do is to reduce the odds of producing a piece of writing that doesn’t represent your best effort.”
Don’t be surprised if your first piece of writing isn’t your best. It may take several books to find your audience. To date, my most recent fiction book will be Revenge of the Brownie. It’s in editing, and by far my best story.
That version of Frozen, the one I rewrote, helped me realize how far I’ve come in just two years.
Success takes time, effort, and patience. It takes learning—learning the craft.
Don’t Bore the Reader
Now, this is something I whole-heartedly agree in, but I don’t agree that mass market books like the Shannara series adhere to it. My biggest gripe with mass market publishing is the need to fulfill a specific page count. This leads to my most hated aspect of reading…
Repetition is the bane of the fantasy genre.
When there’s a page count minimum, authors repeat description over and over and over and over. Sometimes entire paragraphs, even pages, could be removed to eliminate the boring pages, pages of story told many times over just to fulfill a page count.
I agree with this statement. “Don’t bore the reader.”
However, I think the fantasy genre suffers by boring readers with repetition and unnecessary story. If any part of the writing doesn’t have a purpose in the story, it should be removed. If it’s repeated, unless it’s for emphasis, it should be removed.
Tell the Story, Don’t Bore The Reader.
Leave page minimums, word minimums, or whatever minimum you might adhere to, in the dust.
Focus on telling your story, an exciting story that doesn’t bore the reader. If it takes 100 pages, perfect! If it takes 800, perfect!
Let it be what it needs to be without forcing it. Sure, you might not meet publishing requirements for various publishers, but that’s why there is self-publishing. *wink*
Go forth and learn! Enjoy the craft of writing!
And while you do, check out Sometimes The Magic Works. Every writer can learn something from Brooks’ journey.
Wow! I can say I wrote ten books in a single year! What Are Some Lessons I Learned? That’s what I’m going to share about this journey. I might even write a few posts about this as I ruminate on the crapshoot of a year that was 2020, the dumpster
One of the best books I’ve read about the writing life is Sometimes the Magic Works, Lessons from a Writing Life by Terry Brooks. The Shannara series is a popular epic fantasy starting with The Sword of Shannara from 1977, which helped put the fantasy genre on the map, a
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