SCBWI NY: Writing Fantasy

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During the SCBWI 2010 Winter Conference, I attended a session entitled “Writing Fantasy” given by Arianne Lewin, Senior Editor at Disney/Hyperion. Here’s a run-down of what she said.

The problem with many first time fantasy writers is they get so excited about the concept, they lose sight of character.

When you set out to write fantasy, consider:

1. If your concept is workable

2. How you will unveil the world to your reader

  • Resist info dumping and long passages of exposition
  • Read Margo Lanagan and study how her worlds unfold
  • Pay attention to your word choice

3. How you will start your book

  • Only start at a pivotal moment if it’s right for your book
  • Consider starting with the normal world before introducing magic

4. If your plot is too complicated

  • Sometimes having too many plot lines/elements can show a lack of focus on world building

When it comes to acquisitions, here’s what she looks for:

  • Good, compelling writing
  • Good use of subplots and pacing
  • Does she want to keep turning pages?
  • Fresh ideas (not derivative)
  • Fantasy that works
  • Worlds that are completely built, with no lingering confusion or questions
  • A concept that isn’t complicated
  • A work that shows longevity
  • A work suitable for all ages, not written down to a certain level

Advice for authors writing fantasy:

  • Think it all through before beginning
  • Try to poke as many holes into your book as you can to make sure it’s solid
  • Don’t follow trends
  • Write well
  • Write an endgame with stakes high enough to make the reader care
  • Write an interesting premise
  • Know your audience and what will draw them in

9 thoughts on “SCBWI NY: Writing Fantasy

    Kimberly Sabatini said:
    February 5, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Nice run down. I didn’t get to that session so it was good to get an over view of what was said. Thanks for sharing :o)

      Amy K. Nichols said:
      February 5, 2010 at 2:49 pm

      Thanks! That’s the difficult thing about conferences: you have to pick and choose from the sessions. I’m looking forward to reading your blog for the sessions I missed out on. 🙂

    lori Polydoros said:
    February 6, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    Amy, we went to the same workshops! GREAT notes. I think I learned more from you here than actually being there. LOL! thank you, the world building elements are really helpful.

      Amy K. Nichols said:
      February 6, 2010 at 10:21 pm

      Hi Lori! I’m sorry we didn’t get to actually meet at the conference, but I’m glad I found you on Facebook. Thanks for reading my posts and for your kind comment. 🙂 Will you be going to LA this summer? If so, we’ll have to be sure to say hello in person.

    N H Senzai said:
    February 12, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    I didn’t get to attend NYSCBWI (I go to LA since I’m a Cali girl), so this post was educational and just awesome! Thanks!

      Amy K. Nichols said:
      February 12, 2010 at 1:45 pm

      You’re welcome. I was in LA in August, and should be again this summer (fingers crossed). Maybe we’ll get a chance to say hello in person. 🙂 Thank you for stopping by and reading. Just FYI, I have 3-4 more posts in the queue from the winter conference. I’ll be posting them early next week.

    warrenfitzpatrick said:
    April 11, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    This is my first time stopping in, but I wanted to thank you for the notes. I tried using your links but several didn’t work. I’ll google it though and probably find what you were talking about. Anyway, thanks for sharing the pointers for those of us who didn’t get to go!

      Amy K. Nichols said:
      April 11, 2010 at 9:38 pm

      Hi Warren. Thanks for stopping by and for your comment. 🙂 I’m sorry the links aren’t working! 😦 I’ll go through and try to fix them. I’m glad you found the notes useful. If you have any questions or need anything explained, just ask. 🙂

    Amy K. Nichols said:
    April 11, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    Warren, I found and fixed the broken links. Thanks for letting me know they were broken. 🙂

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