M. T. Dremer is the author of four novels and received a Bachelor's Degree in Creative Writing from Grand Valley State University.
Part 1: Intro and Influences
When I first started as a writer I had no idea what sort of work load was waiting for me. I enjoyed writing and that was that. It wasn’t until I decided to write a fantasy novel that I began to realize how much work goes into these things. I’m not saying this to scare off new writers in the genre. In fact, the purpose of this five-part article is to help those who aren’t familiar with the process. When I first embarked on my journey to write an epic fantasy, I often found myself completely directionless and without any sort of guidelines to gauge my progress or the quality of what I was writing. But more than anything I wanted a mentor; someone I could talk to that was familiar with the process of writing a fantasy novel. I had (and still have) so many questions I want to ask a veteran of the genre. One day, I’m sure I’ll meet a published fantasy author and when I do, I hope I get a chance to sit down with him or her and really talk about the process. But until then I’m going to keep writing on my own.
So how does this relate to you? Well if you’ve ever tried to write a fantasy novel, or ever wanted to write a fantasy novel, then I’m offering up this article as a window into my own journey. I would have loved nothing more than to read about other fantasy novelists when I was first starting out and my hope is that someone feels the same way and finds this article helpful, if for nothing else than to confirm their struggles and relieve some of the doubts about direction and method.
What follows is my trial and error process from point A to point B with bits of advice sprinkled throughout. I can’t yet say that I’ve reached publication, but as I round the corner on the completion of the book, I feel that I have some genuinely good advice to give. My sincere hope is that another up-and-coming fantasy author reads this and realizes that they are not alone. This is a tough and long process but it is not insurmountable. You may doubt yourself, you may hate your book at times, but in the end it is all worth it. Don’t give up, no matter how long it takes.
There are many different influences that catapulted me into fantasy. I liked a lot of adventure and fantasy movies when I was a kid, but I didn’t really pinpoint the genre until I played the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64. Most gamers will recognize this name immediately as one of the high points in gaming history. That’s a bold claim, but few games have stood up to the epic fantasy quest that is the Ocarina of Time. My obsession with the game led to other games and movies like it, with a much broader awareness of fantasy emerging. Fantasy novels were not yet on my radar, but already I had dipped my feet into the pool of fan fiction, writing out a brief story that was intended to bridge the gap between the story in Ocarina of Time and the later release of Wind Waker. Here is a brief excerpt of that fan fiction:
“Demun Eires at your service. Please, do not be frightened by my appearance as I am fully aware of my resemblance to the defeated Ganondorf. But in answer to the question I am sure you are wondering, yes I am a Gerudo. Our male children are born far and few in between and I was unfortunate enough to be the next in line after the famed villain. But I assure you our demeanors are quite different. I seek only happiness and peace for all races of Hyrule; and this is why I seek out the boy hero. No doubt if he is alive he is a man grown by now and I sense an evil looming in the future that we cannot avoid, nor hope to destroy.”
“I have heard that you know of his fate, that after he emerged from the Temple of Time he sought you, and again before he embarked upon his quest from which he never returned.”
The queen looked away from the towering figure, reminded too much of the shadow that still plagued her dreams.
I wrote that brief and unfinished fan fiction before I started my fantasy novel, but just before that I started to discover the world of fantasy books. Prior to my junior year in high school, I wrote little and my favorite author was Paul Zindel (he wrote a number of gory teen books), but I wasn’t really a fan of fantasy books yet. I didn’t read during off hours and like most children and teenagers, I thought it was a waste of time. It was a ‘school thing’ and couldn’t possibly be as fun as playing a video game. It wasn’t until that third year of high school that I was introduced to Harry Potter. Originally I scoffed at the idea of reading the popular children’s book, but I agreed to give the first one a try as an exchange. I would read Harry Potter while they would read Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, of which I was a fan at the time. (I got into the vampire chronicles in an independent reading class, so I still technically wasn’t reading at home.) I read the Sorcerer’s Stone over the course of an entire Saturday. I enjoyed the book but it wasn’t until I started reading the Chamber of Secrets that summer that I was hooked for life.
At this point, I still hadn’t figured out that I wanted to be a fantasy author, or that I liked fantasy novels. During the end of my senior year, I wrote my first fantasy short story, but other than that I had no idea what to do with it or where to go from there. However I knew that this story I had written was something I wanted to work more with. I felt that maybe one day it could be a book, or perhaps in a book of short stories (for the record, it was terrible). I didn’t realize where the story needed to go until I purchased and read Eragon by Christopher Paolini. I picked this book because it was new at the time and I wanted to find something I could enjoy, like Harry Potter. And it was the first book that I embarked on that no one else in my family was also reading. I was going into uncharted territory and I felt proud of myself for doing so. I was reading and learning things that other people in my family hadn’t. I enjoyed reading Eragon and it pointed out a major flaw in my short fantasy story: I had no journey.
Fantasy fans can argue up and down about what constitutes a fantasy, but I was new to the genre and I needed some sort of jump off point for how to expand my short story into a novel. So I decided that I would incorporate my own journey sequence where my main character would travel around the fantasy world he inhabited and see the sights. I then set aside a goal that I would write at least one page per day on this new budding novel, starting with this epic journey. And off I went. Day after day I wrote more between my college courses until I had something that was beginning to resemble a novel. And I also took off with my reading. The gates were open now and every fantasy novel ever written was fair game. I blazed through the likes of Terry Goodkind, Orson Scott Card, Terry Brooks, Dan Simmons, Terry Pratchett, J. R. R. Tolkien, and George R. R. Martin, just to name a few. My journey towards my own epic fantasy novel had officially begun.
M. T. Dremer (author) from United States on January 24, 2015:
KMSplumeau - It's always exciting to hear about new writers embarking on the journey, and if I can help that in any small way, I've done my part. One of the easiest things to forget about writing (oddly enough) is to have fun with it. A lot of writing teachers (and literary agents) are looking for something very specific, and if it isn't what you enjoy writing, it can be very easy to fall into the mentality of 'my stuff isn't good enough'. But trying to force ourselves to write what we think other people want to read, we're betraying the first rule of being a writer: write what YOU want to read. Good luck to you and your writing, and thank you for commenting!
Kay Plumeau from New Jersey, USA on January 22, 2015:
"My sincere hope is that another up-and-coming fantasy author reads this and realizes that they are not alone." Just so you know, you have succeeded. These series was very helpful. For the first time, I've decided to write fiction, and maybe even complete a few short stories that have been sitting in notebooks beside my bed collecting dust for a few years. It has been a very discouraging process, but seeing that I'm not alone in my frustrations, self-doubt and occasional confusion really helps me feel like it's a real possibility. Thank you for all the advice.
M. T. Dremer (author) from United States on April 14, 2014:
no body - I was also a fan of the original Shannara trilogy (Elfstones was my favorite). But I agree that the series lost something as it got longer. I'm sorry to hear that you lost your manuscript. There was a famous writer, I can't remember which one, who said that his wife accidentally threw away his manuscript as well. He found, however, that it was the best thing that could have happened because the re-write was infinitely better. I did something similar with the fantasy novel I refer to in these articles. I was editing it for years, but was still unsatisfied with it. Something about the core of it just couldn't be fixed with a few new scenes or a new character. So I dumped a draft that was over 300 pages long.
It was scary, but crucial to the final version. I found that I 'forgot' all the bad parts and only rewrote what was most important. It streamlined the product into what it is today, which is a book that I can be proud of. So, I certainly feel your pain, but I encourage you to give it another go. I also consider writing to be a kind of medicine, but its benefits can be surprisingly easy to forget. Just getting back on the wagon can be an agonizing struggle. But, once the wheels are turning, you'll remember why you loved it in the first place. :) Thank you for the comment and thank you for sharing your story!
Robert E Smith from Rochester, New York on April 12, 2014:
It is so different commenting on hubs like this that play to the other sides of my personality. My impulse is to mention God in every other sentence like I usually do. Hahaha. See? I did it again... Anyway, my introduction to fantasy was with the Terry Brooks original novel to the Shanara series. It was as thick as my arm and I had read nothing that lengthy in my life. Well, in a few days I was done and aching for more. My life contained much pain and I was seeking a form of escape. It worked for a good while to move me to a place where my mind was on something else. Well, you see with me I stick to a medicine while it works for me. When the "medicine" stops working is when I discontinue use. I read Brooks for years and then his writing took a turn and it was not helping anymore. I had the writing bug by then so I began to try to write a fantasy novel involving gnomes and fairy folk. I had spent almost two years on a manuscript and was trying to find a title better than the one I had and then to print it out to send to a publisher and my home was burglarized. My computer along with all my discs and everything went out the broken window and door. I was destroyed and never tried writing again until I wrote a series of ten short hubs of epic poetry and someone that read it said I should get it published. I sent it out and it is in print but the publisher was a poor choice and nothing has happened to it except that Amazon features it for sale and none have sold. I realized that articles that I wrote get far more reading than a written work would so I have given up the notion of writing in that way.
I have my articles and my movies (looking forward to the next Hobbit movie) and that is it. Funny thing though, when the fantasy theme becomes a part of you, it never really goes away. I was recently introduced to the ocarina flute. It comes with a package deal of video games such as the one you mentioned. It is my "burden" that to enjoy the instrument I must tolerate the game. The game is fantasy so it really is not such a burden after all. I will read the rest of your series here. Something about your love of writing and "things" seems oddly familiar to me. Thank you, Bob Smith.
M. T. Dremer (author) from United States on September 30, 2013:
Sarah C. - I'm so happy to hear that my articles helped you! It's not every day that someone leaves such a heartwarming comment. There is nothing quite like setting out to write your first fantasy novel. I remember my journey fondly and that is such a big part of why I wanted to share it with others. If you'd like to read my book, it's called "Eternity's Reach". The e-version is available now.
As for copyright issues, I've been told that anywhere you post your material (that includes a time stamp) will have an unofficial copyright. In other words, if you post part of it on a message board, that post could serve as evidence in a trial, if someone was trying to steal your story. But, the internet is a slippery place. I've had several of my articles stolen and reproduced elsewhere. You can get them taken down, but the fight can be tedious. Personally, for fiction works, I recommend keeping them off the internet (with the exception of short stories and poems). Use friends and family to give you feedback, or even paid editing services. That way you don't have to worry about your ideas getting stolen, but you can still get helpful comments for future edits.
But, try not to concern yourself too much with that stuff right now. When you're setting out on a first draft, worry about nothing but the story as it's easy to feel bogged down. You might even consider writing this novel for National Novel Writing Month, which happens each November. And, if you have any other questions, don't hesitate to ask. :-)
Sarah C. on September 29, 2013:
First, I want to express that Zelda : Ocarina Of Time was also my first look into the fantasy world as well, and it remains my favourite Game and general thing to this day. I even plan to name my first son Link.
Second, I have been writing story snippets and fanfiction for ten plus years now. Since I am only 22, it never truly developed into anything big. Lately, however, a storyline keeps returning to me. I started it about 5 years ago and it keeps coming back into my mind where some key points will get developed further until I set it aside again. In the last few months, I have decided to dedicate myself to this story, which has potential to be published if I finish it. After, I quickly realized I couldn't even start the story as I needed to document the details and facts, which were so far only in my mind. I don't find it hard to come up with ideas and I actually enjoy this process, but I did need some help on how to go at it, such as what I all needed to document for this story.
Google brought me to M.T.Dremer on HubPages, and I have since read many of your articles here. I just want to express to you how helpful and enjoyable I have found your articles to be. Since I have read some of the articles, I have successfully written down character bios, countries and their histories, the creator of the world, and a DirgeWolf, my beastie that lives in the Reaper Woods. More happens every day, and it is so much easier with the help of your articles and lists.
So thank you. Thank you very much for these helpful articles you posted. I appreciate it, as it has made this enormous story something enjoyable and rich in depth to me. And this story is looking to become something very large so far.
Ps. I LOVE ZELDA! (If I didn't mention that already...) I hope to read your story one day if it was based off of Zelda inspiration. :)
Pps. I am concerned about Copyright. I want to share my story but I want to secure my ideas first. Is it costly? Or free? Do you have any tips on this?
M. T. Dremer (author) from United States on January 11, 2012:
Chris Qu - A lot of non-gamers forget that video games also convey stories. Some of the most memorable narratives I've encountered were in video games, like Knights of the Old Republic, Beyond Good and Evil and Prince of Persia (off the top of my head). So, if I ever become a success with my novel, I'll be sure to credit the proper inspirations. Thanks for the comment!
Chris Qu on January 11, 2012:
This was pretty interesting to read. And as a gamer, I love to hear that ideas are coming from Zelda and MtG. ^^
M. T. Dremer (author) from United States on January 18, 2011:
V. Nogueira - Ideas can come from the strangest of places. I believe the original source of inspiration for my novel came from a Zelda video game, so don't feel bad about it coming from a Magic card. :) But plot holes are particularly damaging in a fantasy novel. Fans really know how to read the fine print and if you've left out a reference point or a bit of information, they'll call you out on it. Part of my editing process is just combing over the story to make sure everything I reference is still in there (after rewrites). It's a long process, but ultimately, I hope, a rewarding one.
I've also had issues where I don't want to delete something. Maybe it was a great line my character said, or a description that reminded me of something vividly, but in the new version of the novel, it doesn't make sense to have it anymore. It can be really sad to cut it, but there is some consolation. Often times I'll cut a sequence of the book without ever intending to bring it back, then out of no where it finds a new place later in the book or in a different book entirely. No idea is ever really dead when you're a writer. But having said that, making cuts is always in the best interest of the story and though it may sometimes be difficult, the novel will be better for it in the end.
Thanks for the comment!
V. Nogueira on January 17, 2011:
I've started my fantasy novel when I was 18. I'm 21 now and I still haven't finished it. Not nearly. I started because it would be fun. I had some inspiration from a picture on a magic Card (yeah, I know...) and it went on from that. Until I realized my story was based on thin air. I had no base map for my made up world, no idea what type of forest that was that I was so eagerly writing about, no timeline or family trees. I hadn't planned it out. I had to start from the beggining and rewrite what I just had. Now, I keep findinf holes in my sotry. I admit I haven't had much time to spare on it these past 4 years, but every time I go back I feel like it'd all have been more simple if I'd gotten attached to my ideas after I made a plan. Now it's just too hard to let go of some, even though they don't exactly fit...
M. T. Dremer (author) from United States on September 21, 2010:
satomko - Thank you, I hope you enjoy it. :D
Zuhaib - I've had the concern of over-hyping a project as well. Though mine tends to come when I've written a really good few pages and then the next time I come back to write, I feel like there is no way I could live up to those pages. But the way I always think about it is; the story isn't going to write itself, so I might as well give it a shot. And, if what comes out is kind of crappy I can always edit it later. Though more often than not, when I go back and re-read what I wrote later, it fits in just fine (I was just being melodramatic).
Zuhaib on September 20, 2010:
I'm just starting out writing my fantasy novel, I've been working on it for the past month, bullet pointing ideas and creating the plan but I didn't start working on my firat draft until this week because I was kinda worried that I'd built it up so much that I wouldn't be able to write up to the hype. It's good to know someone knows where I'm coming from.
Seth Tomko from Macon, GA on July 21, 2010:
This hub series sounds like a good one.