Well. 2020 didn’t get off at all how I expected. The world is on fire, figuratively and literally, there have been earthquakes and plane crashes and the threat of war, and how in the actual hell does one keep their head down and write their silly little fantasy book with all this going on?
It’s overwhelming, to say the least.
But, I keep on trucking. That’s all I can do, really.
My partner and I recently sat down and consumed Netflix’s The Witcher, as I’m sure so many of you did as well, and I, for one, quite enjoyed it. While I understand the criticism of the interweaving timelines not being properly denoted, I actually found that to be my favorite part. I didn’t particularly want my hand held and I liked that the showrunners knew I would be smart enough to piece it together without their help.
Afterward, I was basking in the glow of a good fantasy, when I made the fatal error of turning my thoughts inward toward my WIP, Border Towns.
I’ve always described Border Towns as a political fantasy, one that heavily favored the political aspect and left the fantasy as sort of a backdrop. There’s no elves or dwarves, there’s no angels, demons, zombies, dragons, there’s not even magic. I’ve always been fine with this, happy to assume it would occupy a cozy little niche in the fantasy market, should it ever have the good fortune of seeing the light of day.
But, after The Witcher, I started to panic. Was my political fantasy fantasy enough?
I posed this conundrum to my excellent partner, listing all the things typical and, perhaps, expected of fantasy books that did not feature in my novel. I love him with all my heart, I do, but he looked at me dead on and said, “Well, then what makes it a fantasy?”
And then I really started to panic.
I spent the next few days in fervent worldbuilding mode, trying to figure out a way to inject some kind of magic system to shore up my fantasy bona fides, without disrupting the story I actually wanted to tell. And here’s another potential shameful confession for an aspiring fantasy writer: I hate worldbuilding.
I do. My roots are in fanfiction, and as such I’ve always been a heavily character driven kind of writer. I could very easily describe my first draft of Border Towns as just a series of conversations with some light context thrown in. I always think I want to worldbuild, but then I get bogged down in it and never start actually writing. Worldbuilding, I feel quite certain, is the leading cause of my previous WIP, that I labored over for almost 10 years without getting more than 10k words into, being on the shelf at the moment.
Needless to say, I was miserable. I came up with some ideas, some that might even add some interesting plot points, but eventually I just sat back and asked myself, “Why am I doing this?”
I didn’t want to have magic in this story. If I did, I would have included it in the first place. So what’s more important? Living up to some preconceived idea of what makes fantasy fantasy or writing the story I actually want to write.
The latter won out. As it always should do.
I went back to some old scenes I hadn’t gotten to transcribe during NaNo and found one I had really enjoyed writing, and weirdly enough, it’s still good! Maybe, just maybe, I can do this after all.
Write the story you want to write, folks. It makes a world of difference.
That’s all from me this week. Next week’s blog post will be about writing thin. Until then, may your writing be plenty and your struggles few!