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How to make the most of your writing time

Often in the early stages of a writing career, and sometimes even in later stages, there can be a lot of demands on your time. This often results in reduced writing time. When you’ve not got long to write you don’t want to be wasting it by not writing, so I thought I’d explain some of the things I do to help get the most out of the time I’m spending writing.

The fairly obvious one is cutting down on the distractions. Mostly no internet, but sometimes I also find I need to go somewhere else. Somewhere I can’t answer the phone, the cat can’t meow at me to let her out or play with her, and I can’t see my emails coming in, or anything else that might distract me.

Depending on how rich I’m feeling, and the weather, I often go to a nearby park or a cafe. I always take paper and my favourite fountain pen if going to the park and I take my really old, but light, laptop to the cafe. It’s about 8-9 years old and just can’t handle the internet anymore. Which means no distractions and I also feel like I’m going to a workplace.

On top of that I’ve found going to a cafe makes me feel guilty about procrastination and spending too much time doing other things. I am spending money to be there so I better be working or it’s a waste of money. At least, I tell myself that and find the motivation helps.

However, a lot of the snatched time can’t be done somewhere else so I employ different tactics when I have to be at home. Firstly I check a few basics, like making sure the cat has food and water, then I cover the basics for myself. Being dehydrated can really slow the brain down so a pint glass of something water based comes with me to my writing area, sometimes even two pint glasses. This is especially important if you drink a lot of caffeine. Caffeine needs water in your body to work properly and it also drains your body of the water molecules so drinking extra water at the same time or just before works really well.

I again switch to my really old laptop so my distractions are limited but I know a lot of other writers also unplug their internet and often the phone too. I also found that it was really good to let certain people know that it was my writing time and during writing time I wasn’t to be disturbed. At first not everyone in my family understood but now the first thing my mother asks if she phones during the day is, ‘you’re not in the middle of writing are you? If you are I’ll phone back later.’ If you tell people not to disturb you because you need them not to, they will learn to respect that boundary.

The other thing I find that helps is taking five minutes during the day, before I intend to start writing, to think about where the story is at and what I want to write in the next section. I often do this in bed in the morning before I’ve got up but I find the shower works well too, as does a loo-break. I’m not really a planner but I find it helps me get into the flow a little quicker when I do get to sit down and write if I already have a vague idea of what I am trying to write.

Finally, I have also worked out when I’m most productive during the day. For me, mid-afternoons, about an hour after I’ve eaten lunch, is the best time to churn out the words. My brain just seems to be happier to work then so this is when I plan in most of my writing time. I found this out, pretty much by trial and error and keeping a track of how many words I wrote per hour and when I started.

It’s taken a little while to get this routine going but I’ve found that perfecting it and working out what I need has over doubled the amount of words I can write in the same amount of time.

Knowing When to Break the Rules

When it comes to writing anything there are rules. Grammar rules, spelling rules, style rules, layout rules, format rules and all sorts of other rules to do with genres, characters etc.

The first hurdle is learning all these rules but if all of them were obeyed 100% of the time the books, films, poems and everything else we write would be rather boring if they all followed all the rules. We’d all sound similar and nothing would feel that unique.

So here’s some of the reasons I break the rules:

If the emphasis of a sentence is lost if I stick to the grammar rules I occasionally have something not quite so correct. Often this is when the subject of the sentence isn’t what I actually want to focus on. I probably only do this with 2-3 sentences in an entire book though.

The only other grammar rule I break is because I think the language has moved on and it involves the ellipses. I always miss the space before and have it follow on the previous word like this… rather than likes this … because the ellipses was origionally used when quoting to note that something had been missed out, and when that’s why I’m using it I still put the space before in there but I also use an ellipses when a character trails off a sentence and then it’s used online without the space beforehand.

I also occasionally break the ‘rule’ not to use passive voice as again it can help get the right emphasis to break the rule. There are some other good examples of breking these sorts of rules. The line ‘to boldly go where no one has gone before’ breaks the rule of not splitting infinitives. ‘to go’ is being split by ‘boldly’ but ‘to go boldly’ doesn’t sound right.

There are also rules about not having scenes in books and films unless they move the plot forward but occasionally I keep a scene that’s just character based and helps the reader get to know the character. While this can slow the pace of a book it also helps the reader feel connected to the people they’re reading about. A balance should be struck between these two. My editor and proof-readers weigh in heavily on whether I keep these scenes or not as they are less attached to the characters than I am.

There are a few others I’ve broken over the years writing but they always come down to whether I think they add to the overall storyline, feel and point of the piece. It’s important to remember that the rules are there for a reason but sometimes breaking them just works.

How to Make a Hand-Bound Book: Part 1

I have been making hand-written and hand-bound version of some of my stories lately to both sell and giveaway as prizes. I thought I’d run through how I do it so others can follow suit.

The first part is finding the right paper. For the latest one I made I bought parchment paper in A4 sheets. Using the dimensions of the sheet folded in half I worked out a margin around the page and how many lines would fit on if they were 8mm tall and I left room at the bottom of each page for the page number.

Once I’d done that I worked out roughly how many of these pages I’d need to fit the entire wordcount of the story. In the case of Wandering to Belong (the example I’m using for my pictures), Which is 16,150 words long, I’ve got 22 A4 sheets which will give me 88 pages to work with (187 words per page being my work with number). I’ve split the sheets in three and folded each set of 7, 7 and 8 A4 sheets in half together, making 88 pages in the new booklet. Please bear in mind the front two pages will just be title and then a blank page or page for a message before you start the book.

I recommend splitting pages into groups where there are between 6 and 12 sheets per section and the sections are as even as possible. So this could also have been split into 11, 11 to make it two sections rather than three(I usually lean towards the smaller number for eace of recalculating as I go through). Only do the next few steps for the first section as you may find your calculation was a little off and you need to adjust the number of pages in each section to account for the extra or less words you can fit on a page. (The more of these you do, the more you’ll get used to what you need).

Once the pages have been folded and there is a nice defined fold line right in the middle, hold them open and mark 6 dots at even intervals along the middle with each end dot being 1.5cm’s away from the edge of the paper (if you use A4 paper the dots go at 1.5, 5.1, 8.7, 12.3, 15.9, and 19.5cm’s along the centre fold). Then, using a sharp needle (you will definitely need some kind of thimble) make holes through all the sheets in the section at the same time. I find this easiest with the pages almost totally folded over the needle and it standing up so I’m pushing the needle horizontally. That way I can make sure the needle comes out the fold at the back and doesn’t veer off to one side.

I then pick my colour of thread. Sometimes I pick a colour that blends in and sometimes I deliberately pick a colour that stands out. Here I’ve got black thread. I cut off about 6 times the length of the folded edge for my thread length and make a reasonable large knot in one end. Then I start from the back and the top hole and thread through to the front, then move down a hole and thread back, without pulling the thread through too tightly. I want it to be reasonably tight but not to risk pulling the knot through the top hole or ripping the page.

On reaching the bottom there should be three sections of thread on the inside with equal length gaps and two sections on the outside. I then thread back up to the top, filling in these gaps, so by the time I’m back where I started it’s a continuous line of thread both inside and outside (with the 1.5cm margin at top and bottom still).

Repeat this another two times (3 times down and then 3 back up in total) and then tie off the lose ends on the outside. You should then have a continous line of black down the back of the section and in the middle of the section, with your small knot on the back where it can be covered up.

Then you need to mark out to write in straight lines (unless you feel confident about writing neatly and consistently). Now depending on how thin your paper is you probably won’t be able to print out a sheet with lines on to hold underneath, so I’ll assume you can’t and explain my other, slightly more complicated method. This will mean you need a very good rubber that doesn’t smudge and a lot of patience, however. You will also need to make sure the little lines you make are feint enough to be rubbed out but prominent enough to see while you’re writing.

Firstly I mark out my lines (8mm wide, leaving room for 10mm at the top and not marking the final line at the bottom so there’s room for a page number) by putting the ruler up against the left hand edge of the page(the bottom on the pictures) and making a small not too deep mark on the right hand side. I do this all the way down and then flip the page 180 and repeate the process for the other side.

I’ve now got marks to aim for to help keep my lines straight. It’s not entirely fool proof but they act as a guide and often you can write over the top of them so it hides them as you go.

When I’ve finished writing every page in a section I go back through with that really good rubber and remove the marks that can be seen still. It doesn’t take too long and it’s not entirely perfect. Anyone looking really closely can often see one or two remaining here and there but anyone reading through and focusing on the words is sless likely to notice and at a glance it should be fine.

Viola you have your first section.

This is when the hardwork begins. I then write out the book as far as the middle A4 sheet (the one either side of the centre stitching) and stop before I write on this middle sheet (for clarification see the two next photos). At this point I work out how many words I’ve got written and just double check I’m on target for the right number of pages.

The reason I stop here is because the easiest sheet to remove (if I need to) is this middle one. If I found I needed to just take out 1 sheet from the full count (in this case 22, becoming 21, or 88 pages of 185 words becoming 84 pages), I would remove the extra sheet from the section I’ve not made up yet and have 7,7,7, rather than try and undo what I’ve got already. And the same if I needed to add 1, I’d add it to one of the later sections.

If, however, you’re already starting with uneven numbers of pages and it’s going to make the difference between sections more than 1, you can remove this page by cutting very carefully up the centre fold.

Adding pages to this section is significantly more difficult (and less likely to need to happen as you always have to round up pages anyway) so unless you really can’t add pages to another section don’t add any at this point. If you do have to add some, the best way is probably to undo your stitching (you might have to cut some knots off), add the page to the middle and then re-stitch.

Once this section is complete and every page is written on, you can move on to making your next section, follow all the steps above and, just in case, I usually recalculate my word count and page requirement at this point too, always remembering it’s a lot easier to take pages out of the middle of a section than  it is to add them.

In my next how-to blog I’ll run through stitching the sections together and then making a binding for the whole thing.

Learning the Craft of Writing

A lot of people start out on  the journey of writing a book and never finish and I’ve talked about the things I often do to help myself finish the things I start, but today I want to talk about the next stage.

Often when the very first story is finished it’s not that great, and it can be very tempting to sit down and edit right away, wanting to get it ready to show others. I’ve found it’s better to leave the book for a few weeks. When I come back to it I find it easier to spot the mistakes because my brain has had time to forget what I meant to say. Also, during that time of reading and writing in between I’ve already grown a little more as a writer (at least I’d hope I had).

It can also be tempting to just keep editing. And then edit again, based on the rules we’ve learnt since the beginning and the suggestions of those first few readers. While this does help a little, it can actually kill that precious voice and style that is unique to each of us.

When the pen first hits paper (or our fingers press those keys) we are in our creative mode. The words are flowing from the more subconscious part of our brains. The part that more intuitively knows what it’s doing. It’s been reading books and words since we were kids so it’s picked up on more than the conscious part of the brain has. It will already have an idea of who it is and how it should sound too. But near the beginning of our careers our critical side, the part a lot of people edit in, is not so clever. It’s read those books too but it used to just enjoy them. It never looked at the way other authors did things. A blog I read recently even goes so far as to suggest we shouldn’t really edit in our critical mode because it will never be as good as our more intuitive creative side.

Everyone who writes is different, there’s no one way to do things and I think this includes how we edit. I have found, as I’ve written more books the need to edit has lessened. I’ve got better from reading books and finding tips all over the internet in a more intuitive manner so my first drafts are getting closer and closer to perfect (If you don’t include typos and other grammar issues I’m still struggling with) and my editing is getting less and less.

If I’d spent all that time editing up the first few of my stories (which really aren’t as good as the work I’m doing now) I don’t think I’d be as good as I am now.

In short what I’m trying to say is, read the how-to’s and learn what you can from reading other books, but when it comes to your own work, do as little editing as you can get away with; at the very least typos, grammar and structure editing. Then spend the rest of the time writing something new, with what you’ve learnt from the previous attempts. You’ll get better, faster that way.

Finding Good Books to Read: How-To

This was a topic requested in my comments a while back. I said I’d do it so here it is.

Good books can come from all sorts of places so I thought I’d share some of the ways I find the next books for my to-read list.

The first way has to be recommendations. Books other people have read and raved about, old classics I was told about long ago and am only now getting around to reading and finally Amazon’s recommendations themselves.

When I first got back into reading lots only one source of these worked, the classics but I found as I read more and talked to others about what I was reading they started talking to me about similar books they’d read.

Another way I get good books to read is definitely Goodreads. It’s one of the best sites out there for a reader and it also keeps track of my massive to-read list as well as the books I’ve said I’d review for one reason or another. For that reason alone I’d recommend it but it’s also a great place to meet people with similar tastes, by joining genre groups or all sorts of other groups or following someone’s reviews who you’ve come to trust.

On top of all that Goodreads recommends books based on what you’re already told the site you’ve read and rated. It also helps you find books by the same author as you’ve already read and even get into contact with those authors too. Then there’s the giveaways. I’ve entered several and one won a paperback of a book I liked the look of recently. Plus all the review opportunities in the various groups. There’s always a thread somewhere with authors offering free ebooks in exchange for your honest review. It’s a great way to try new genres and new authors.

If Goodreads fails me (which is rare) there’s also a lot of facebook groups that try and connect authors and readers together to help them find each other and help them find books as well as many pages which share ebook links daily of their recommendations.

Finally, you can set up a review blog and let the books come to you. There aren’t enough good book bloggers out there to keep up with the demand caused by the currnet influx of authors so I pretty much guarantee anyone who starts one up and lets people know about it that plenty of books will come your way, to the point you’ll have to turn lots away.

I hope that helps with finding good books. I use a combination of all of the above and I don’t think I’ll ever get my to-read list to come below 100 books ever again.

Knowing which ideas to write: How-to

I always get far more ideas than I will ever have time to write. In the last year alone I’ve had the ideas for an epic fantasy series (the Winter series I’ve already begun), the plots for the second and third book in the Sherdan series, two more sci-fi ideas, a modern romance/mystery idea, an idea for how I can work a true story in the Mountifield history into a novel, and three fantasy ideas on top of the series. That’s twelve books worth of ideas.

In the same time (a year), I’ve finished writing sherdan’s Prophecy, written two fantasy shorts, begun the Winter series, the trafficking novel idea I already had and the sequel to Sherdan’s Prophecy, Sherdan’s Legacy. So I’ve added eleven ideas and only actually fully crossed off two, although I’ve got another three in the stage of ‘in progress’. So in total, sitting in my notebook I have: Seven fantasy books, five historical, three modern romances, and four sci-fi waiting for me to consider them and three started. For a total of at least another twenty-two stories! That’s about ten years worth of writing at my current rate, if I don’t get any more ideas in that time!

The biggest problem I have when I reach the end of a book is figuring out which one of these many ideas I should start next. Admittedly some are better than others. Some of the historical ones will probably never get written, but the charge still falls to me to pick the right one. My husband says I get so many ideas because I get the privilege of choosing the ones to actually create. There are days when this can feel like more of a burden than a privilege, however.

I also know I’m not the only one. Other writers share this problem. So I thought I’d share some things I do and use to figure out what to write next.

Which one is easiest to write? Some ideas sound amazing until you actually think about the logistics of the plot or the motivations of the character or where you wish to begin and suddenly the idea’s not quite well formed enough to actually begin yet, and it might never be. I prefer to leave these ideas in the melting pot. Sometimes the best bits pop up again later in other ideas anyway. So I tend to look through and think over which ones I could start without too much effort. That eliminates some from the next pile.

Which ones are going to sell best? Let’s face it, some of our ideas are just right to jump on a bandwagon and this can be a good thing sometimes. I will admit. It’s rare for me to pick a book because of this factor, but it can play a part. I prioritise the sequels of a series already on the go over other ideas simply because it keeps the fans happy and does tend to sell better. It’s important to keep fans happy, especially the ones from early on in a career, who gobbel up the books and eagerly ask for more.

Which ones are the most original? Some ideas are pretty much a rehash of old ideas in a new setting and while these can be great easy books to write to bulk up the backlist they aren’t always rewarding and can feel a little like a cop out. Something that feels original and fresh can be very rewarding to both author and readers alike. While occasionally a risk they can suddenly take a career in a brand new unthought of direction.

Which ones are the most exciting? It can take a long time to write a novel and writing the ones that give us the maximum excitement can help get through the tougher moments in the process. If our heart is most passionate about a particular few ideas then they are likeliest to be well written and to be loved through the full journey from plotting to publishing.

Which ones feel right? After I’ve gone through the above set of questions I often find I still have two or three on my list of books to possibly write. At that point I let them circulate in my brain for a few days and try to ‘feel out’ which one would be right to write next. Usually I’m led to one over the rest.

But since I’m in a sharing mood. Here’s a few ideas that might get written in the next little while or might not.

Sci-Fi – A female is woken from a coma to find her business partner has used all her companies and wealth to get their business holdings and houses into the sky, as that’s what everyone left on earth is trying to do. Dwellings are built that are added to and eventually turned into spaceships. But her business partner stuffed things up and not long after getting into space he gets captured by a space pirate who turns him into a cat and keeps him as a pet. She wakes up to find her companies in a mess and has to sort them out, get on a spaceship’s crew and go rescue him. She quickly works her way up to captain of a trading vessel and uses it to go fetch him, making a deal with the pirate for him.

Modern Romance/Mystery – A widow is applying for a new job and is hired by a wealthy bureaucrat who is trying to gain his inheritance from his rich father. He needs to move the historical and grade listed family home. She is hired as an office junior to help get his companies and his house through the move but the current office employees take a dislike to her and blame her for all the mistakes they make. She manages to find all sorts out about the house and even finds forgotten secret passages. She ends up dating him and finds him a fortune and they take over the world, sorta!

Fantasy – Choose your own adventure Dragon Steampunk. Young man works as a servant in a large household. He feeds and looks after the two adolescent dragons in the cellar. Dragons power the steam powered technology of an otherwise Victorian era civilisation. A bit like how to train your own dragon but steampunk.

And yes I do really want the box on the right. So pretty!

Well there’s three of the nineteen ideas still waiting for me to decide to write them. Maybe one day I’ll write them. Of course I fully believe in keeping the fans happy so if anyone preferes one of them over the others, feel free to say and let me know what you’d like me to write.

A female is woken from a coma to find her business partner has used all her companies to get their patch of earth into the sky as that’s what everyone left on earth is trying to do. Dwellings are built that are added to and eventually turned into spaceships but her business partner stuffed things up and not long after getting into space he gets captured by a space pirate who turns him into a cat and keeps him as a pet. She wakes up to find her companies in a mess and has to sort them out, get on a crew and go rescue him. She quickly works her way up to captain of a trading vessel and uses it to go fetch him, making a deal with the pirate for him. She then quite literally tries to take over everything and help the people back on earth.

What do you want to know?

This is normally my how-to slot in my blogging calendar and seeing as it’s a new year I thought I’d ask what how-to’s you lovely readers might like.

So far they’ve varied from t-shirt designing to all sorts of different writing topics and even a few on deeper topics like changing the world. Is there anything I’ve not covered about writing that people are particularly interested in? Perhaps on how I go about deciding some things?

Alternatively I could talk about marketing, formating, or something not even book related. I’m not too fussed what I talk about really, as long as it relates somehow to something I’m getting up to.

Or if you’re bored of this How-to slot (that may be the case) are there other types of blogs you’d like to see. Should I bring back the author interviews, or maybe do some kind of indie spotlight?

The choice is all yours!

Conflict: How to Create it

Yes I know that conflict is not something most people want more of, especially at this time of year, thankfully I’m talking more about writing stories than I am about real life.

Conflict keeps books moving and keeps readers interested in what’s before them. That person trying to split up the two love-birds or that dodgy radiator on the race car that doesn’t have time to be fixed before the big race are all conflict creators. Conflict is the things the characters have to overcome to reach their goals. The spanner in the works.

Often a full length novel has more than one thing causing that conflict. A single main problem and several little ones along the way. Sometimes even a series of problems that have to be overcome one after the other.

All too often in creating a book I hear of people getting part way through and finding the book drags a little. The conflict is already sorted out and without some more the book has no where to really go.

I plan my conflict around several things. Here’s a list of the questions I ask myself to decide what I could add to make the book more interesting.

What conflict could challenge a defect in an important character? If a character is too shy or not brave they need something to challenge them to be brave and face up to a fear. Character’s all have weaknesses but life often teaches us to grow past those. Realistic characters with depth all manage to grow as well.

What conflict could be a result of character flaws or earlier bad choices? If a character chooses to share a secret that’s not their own out of a desire to stop someone else from saying something stupid, there could be conflict when the people find out that secret has been shared. It could lead to the wrong person finding out about the secret.

What conflict could arise thanks to the setting? If the book is set in a prison then another prisoner could break out, forcing the officials to bring in harsher restrictions. In a book set in the Caribbean islands, there could be a hurricane or a massive storm. The surroundings can be a great source of conflict and delay to the ending of the book.

Whatever ends up being the conflict that stops our hero’s from achieving it’s the thing that hooks a reader and keeps them reading. People want to know how the main character it going to get through it all. They want to be tricked into thinking they might not manage it and to be held on the edge of their seats until right at the last minutes, when everything is finally overcome.

And of course, there’s always real life inspiration. I’m sure most people can think of something that’s probably gone awry over the last week or so.

How to write helpful reviews

Review writing is getting more and more common for the average person with sites like amazon and goodreads for books, imdb for films and lets not forget blogs and social networking but what kind of reviews actually help people?

For starters, reviews can actually be quite a subjective thing. We all have very differing opinions on what’s good or not. Reviews are most helpful when they look beyond our own personal tastes and look at whether the art, film or book was well executed and stylish, conveyed it’s message well etc. These are things we can evaluate that let everyone know something new about it.

For example, if you write ‘I hated this book because it was full of fluffy bunny rabbits and I hate rabbits, they scare me.’ All the people who read this review only learn two things, there were rabbits and you don’t like them. They don’t learn how the rabbits were used. They could have been a comical plot device meant for light relief and a way to move the book along and this could be something another reader really likes the sound of, likewise from the review they could have decided ‘oh I like rabbits’, picked up the book and read it, and then found they didn’t like how they were used as comic relief. The same goes for films, sometimes what we love others hate and we have to explain how things were used and why and then, if we want, say why we liked it.

Another common mistake reviews make is to criticize the creator. Often things like ‘this person can’t act’ or ‘so and so is the worst writer I’ve read in a long time’ is put into reviews, especially when the reviewer doesn’t like what they’ve seen or read. There are two reasons I don’t think reviews like this are helpful. Firstly, I actually think this is rather rude. The internet seems to give people the feeling of safety and anonymity to say things about people they would never normally say to their faces and to do so publicly. I tend to go with the concept don’t say things to people on the internet that you wouldn’t say to their face.

Secondly, you are only seeing one example of something they have created and it wouldn’t be in a finished film or a book if someone somewhere hadn’t said it was good. If you really don’t like something it’s good to think about why. I’ve seen someone say a person can’t act because they happen to have watched two films in a row with the same actor in and the roles were almost identical so the actor seemed samey. A good way to review it would have been ‘this was a very similar role to his role in film x, I didn’t like that one much so more of the same left me feeling dissapointed’. Anyone who reads that and loved film x for that character is now going to know they will love this new film and anyone who felt the same as you is going to stay away. Your review does the job.

It’s also good to remember to check your facts if you are criticising something for being inaccurate in a certain way. I’ve seen book reviews where an American reviewer has given an English authors book a 1 star review for bad spelling for having colour instead of color and having her main character eat a doughnut rather than a donut. Any American who looks it up will realise that colour is the English equivalent of color and the author hadn’t spelt anything wrong at all.

Anything Historical is another thing to be careful to criticise. I’ve actually received a review myself where the reviewer decided that in my 1805 set book, With Proud Humility, Marie’s mother couldn’t possibly have painted one wall of her room in a pretty garden scene because paint for walls hadn’t been invented yet. I have to humbly enquire how Michelangelo painted the Sistine chapel (1508-1512) if there was no paint to do so until after 1805?

With that in mind I’ll leave you with some ‘interesting’ reviews of some classics.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – Endless, pointless description. DESCRIPTION, DESCRIPTION, DESCRIPTION!!! The entire book is written in stupid metaphors. The few places where there is actually any dialogue bore the reader to tears. Honestly, i think that this is dubbed a classic simply because it is older than sand. Gee, maybe if I just go out and slop a few words down on a piece of paper, it’ll be a classic in 160 years! It’ll be required of every high school sophomore, like this idiotic “story.” Excuse me now, I’m off to begin my masterpiece. I’m sure it’ll be better than this.

The Diary of a Young girl by Anne Frank – I didn’t like this book because it was boring. That’s all that needs to be said. It was very very very very very very very very very very very boring. If you have to read this book shoot yourself first.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde – it was so dumb and it is a waste of your time and i gave it 1 star because that the lowest nember you can give.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickins – after reading this book i think dickens would benifit from very low expectations. and by that i mean a lot of people will be returning this book and giving bad reviews. all the classics always in my opinion, are very bad

Yes those are all real reviews you can go find on Amazon.

Creating a Fantasy World

Ever since reading Lord of the Rings as a child I have always wanted to create my own special fantasy world with my own races and monsters.

Recently with my Winter series I’ve been doing just that. Making a fantasy world involves lot sof different aspects to make it believable and I’ve got spreadsheets and documents on all sorts of things to make sure my brain can remember the land, races, animals and all sorts of other things. There’s a lot of areas that need thinking about before the books can even be decided.


Most fantasy books have humans in them somewhere but often a fantasy writer has to decide what other races they want in there.

Elves are the next most common race in fantasy but you don’t just have to decide whether they are in the world or not but other things like, how pointed their ears are? Do they have any benefits over being human? How long do they live?

Common fantasy traits for elves are long living, even sometimes immortal, pale and fair, wise and mostly keeping themselves ot themselves. They value beauty and learning over many other things and try to be one with their surroundings.

The next common race is dwarves. These can be handled in several ways as well. More commonly these are offspring of humans and often shunned by society. The most famous of these is probably Tyrion Lannister from the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series. There are also the Tolkien style dwarves, however, where they are a complete race of their own. In the Lord of the Rings films Gimli the dwarf jokes that the dwarf women look so alike the dwarf men that it makes people think they spring up out of nowhere.

There are of course many other races you could invent. In my fantasy so far I have a race of flying humans called Nepharil and Tolkien also has Ents. Game of Thrones has Others, a type of possesing demon.

Finally the relationships between these races needs to be decided. Is anyone at war at the start of the series. Are there old rivalries and tensions. Which leads us nicely into the next area that needs to be thought about.


Every land has some history to it. How long have the elves lived where they do. What old grudges do families have.

Family trees can need working out and sometimes books in a series can span hundreds, even thousands of years. It doesn’t all have to be worked out right away but it helps to include little bits of information here and there. Readers like to feel like it’s a complete world they are being immersed into.


This is another one that features in a lot of fantasy. There’s usually some kind of God or gods and Tolkien even went so far as a whole creation myth, belief system, a heaven and angels. You don’t have to have any type of God if you don’t want to but people tend to believe in something and it helps make them relatable to readers if this involves religion for at least a few characters. Praying can be a great way to put a characters deepest worries into dialogue as well and helps give the reader some inside knowledge into the thoughts. It can also lead into great things like answered prayers, miracles and gives our good guys an extra weapon in their arsenal.


These aren’t quite as common but for fantasy that travels a good distance maps can be very important. They help the reader visualise the kind of terrain and the enormity of the journies travelled as well as helping make the whole thing feel real. I also personally find as an author they help with knowing what’s coming next.

I map out the areas and mark on where the big events happen, where the characters start and where they are going to travel too. At the least it provides me with an idea of how long it’s going to take to travel between A and B.


This is more Tolkien’s thing than anyone else. He made up four languages for Lord of the Rings and it can really add to the feel of the races if they occasionally talk in their own tongues. It set’s some mystique to a race and also ties in well with the mythology and history.

On top of that it adds well to the dynamics between the races if you can have occasions where they don’t understand each other because they speak separate languages.

I’m sure there are also many other areas of the fantasy world that need creating. It’s really quite an undertaking but can ber very rewarding.