Every once in a while, I get the itch to write a story. These stories usually never get finished, whether from lack of direction in the plot, or my own conviction that they aren’t worth reading.

Still, when the itch strikes, I look up the writing Do’s and Don’ts of the Fantasy genre and I read blogs and How-to Guides by existing authors and critics. Unfortunately, this kind of generic help can only get aspiring writers so far – after all, if we all follow the same advice, we’ll end up writing generic Fantasy, which is what we’re trying to avoid by reading these guides in the first place!

So, in the wake of reading several of these types of articles, I came up with a more adaptable checklist to use a springboard. It’s just a series of questions and my personal answers, but I think answering these would give any brand-new writer a decent idea of what she wants to incorporate and what she wants to avoid.

What Do I Enjoy in a Fantasy Novel?

  • Vivid characters
  • Unexpected plot twists that are well-integrated into the plot
  • Humor
  • Dash of Romance

What Annoys Me?

  • The Favorite Phrase
  • World burning
  • An abundance of angst
  • Helpless characters who whine
  • Love triangles

Authors I Admire/Why

  • Mercedes Lackey – humor, wit, and fun.
  • Anne Bishop – character development and world building.
  • Neil Gaiman – wit, atmospheric writing, tension building and plot twists.
  • Paula Volsky – strong description, believable characters.

Mistakes These Writers Make

  • Mercedes Lackey – predictable plot, occasional flat characters.
  • Anne Bishop – Favorite phrase.
  • Neil Gaiman – sometimes a little too cryptic.
  • Paula Volsky – uninteresting villains, slow moving sections.

Authors Whose Work is Enjoyable But Not Spectacular/Why

  • Terry BrooksShannara series – clichés, predictability, standard “Fantasy”, however, there are solid characters and a decent plot.
  • Kristen Britain – very standard Fantasy faire with interesting bits. Rider Magic is unique, world and character settings are average.
  • Tamora Pierce – fun, fast-paced stories, but generic Fantasy tropes abound.

Authors I Avoid Like the Plague/Why

  • Cassandra Claire – flat characters, clichés, helpless heroine (Clockwork Angel).
  • Stephanie Meyer – ‘Nuff said.
  • George R. R. Martin – Personal Preference (too brutal and hopeless).

From here, you incorporate the elements you like, avoid the ones that annoy you, and strive to emulate the already successful authors who you feel write what you would want to read.

I’m not saying that will ensure that you write a great story on your first run-through, but it should at least help your inner-editor streamline your work as you go.

Next entry, I’ll expand on a few of the points I’ve mentioned here, but for now, I’ll stop for brevity’s sake.