*I received a free copy of this book with thanks to the author. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: ‘A Fantasy Writers’ Handbook’ provides detailed guidance on the pillars of storytelling as well as aspects of writing that rarely feature in other books, such as writing fight scenes and world-building. At times the focus shifts away from the technical elements and considers the philosophies behind writing, ways to help you maintain focus, and methods of battling the demons of doubt that forever loom over our shoulders.
Section two explores the thriving genre of fantasy and the many facets that make it what it is, before looking at the histories of our world that so often inspire our fantasy tales.
The final part looks at the things that come after you’ve finished your story—formatting, peer reviewing, finding publishers—and other things the contemporary writer can do to enhance their careers, such as making and maintaining a website, blogging, and marketing methods.
By the end, you’ll have a sound foundation upon which to build as well as the tools to venture on alone with courage and confidence. To reach that point, all you need is a commitment to work hard and the determination to overcome the challenges ahead.
This book is a really good starting point for anyone wanting to write fiction in the fantasy genre.
Split into three large sections, each broken into smaller chunks for easier reference, the book covers everything from the basics of writing a good story through to the after-work of publishing and marketing.
Richie Billing introduces the subject by first talking the reader through some reader turn-offs he has gathered in the course of his research. He then offers tips and advice on everything from character, plot and premise, to dialogue, viewpoint and editing. In each section he draws on relevant theories from authors on writing such as Brandon Sanderson and Sol Stein, and examples from well-known fantasy works: J. R. R. Tolkein, Robert Jordan, George R. R. MartinGeorge R. R. Martin and even other fantasy media such as Star Wars.
After the more general advice, Billing goes on to more fantasy-specific advice such as sub-genres, fantasy names (places and people), maps, magic and monsters. Most of this will be quite familiar to those who are already fans of the genre, but it does help to have it gathered in one place for ease of reference. ‘The Middle Ages’ gets a chunky section all to itself here, as a staple of the genre!
The final section focuses on marketing techniques and the publishing process (in various forms) and is invaluable to the debut writer looking to launch his/her story into the public eye. Also handy in this respect are the various opinion polls that Billing conducted on social media over the course of writing the handbook, and the tips and advice from others in the field: publishers, authors, readers, bloggers and editors. These lend the weight of popular opinion and relevant experience respectively to each subject under discussion, and are also a fun way to break up the explanatory text. Towards the end of this final section are also some extremely useful resources for the new writer, such as lists of fantasy-specific publishers, and templates for cover letters.
This is an ideal, accessible source for tips and advice, and practical resources for the aspiring fantasy author. It has even tempted me to have a little try for myself, although with the siren call of my TBR pile I don’t imagine I will get too far towards adding my own efforts to the genre. I will probably just stick to reading it!
They say write the book you want to read. When I first started writing fiction, with nothing but ideas and enthusiasm and an ignorance of the elements of storytelling, this is the book I would have wanted as my guide.
– Richie Billing, A Fantasy Writers’ Handbook
A Fantasy Writers’ Handbook is available on Amazon right now!