You Know, You Almost Had Me

Indonesia2002Wildlife-LI’m talking to you, Doubt. There you were, lurking about like a bloated but still hungry spider every time I heard, “No” or “I don’t take high fantasy novels.” I fell into your web for a while. But now I want out.

Hold on a minute, Doubt. Someone somewhere is probably asking this question: “What’s high fantasy?” Let’s ask our dear friend, Wikipedia, shall we?

High fantasy is a sub-genre of fantasy fiction, defined either by its setting in an imaginary world or by the epic stature of its characters, themes and plot.

Gandalf2Thank you, Wikipedia. Some high fantasy books/series you may have heard of include

• The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien
• Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
• The Riftwar Cycle by Raymond Feist
• A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin
• Earthsea (A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, etc.) by Ursula LeGuin
The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
• The Abhorsen series (including Sabriel) by Garth Nix

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Go here for others. Writing a good high fantasy novel, let alone a series, takes a ton of effort that includes research. Yes, these worlds are made up, but the laws of physics, biology, and chemistry still apply. You have to research such things as the anatomy and physiology of animals and which types of plants and trees mix well together, even if you’re making up your own animals and plants. But the people who write these books put in the effort, because they love what they do. I don’t have to tell you this. If you love their books, you love them because their authors loved them first.

And that’s the problem, isn’t it, Doubt? I stopped loving my books and valuing the high fantasy genre because of the few who didn’t value them or the genre or because they valued something I’m not currently writing. Shame on me.

And shame on me for thinking that I should switch to another genre in the belief that a story in that genre will sell or at least get noticed. Okay, Doubt. I’ll give you that round. I’m human. I fear writing a book absolutely no one would want to read.

But you know what, Doubt? Remember the times when I’ve written books that paid $500 on a work-for-hire basis? Though the publishers profited greatly and I didn’t get a cent in royalties, I enjoyed the writing ride.

And that’s what I’d lost sight of, Doubt—the fact that I enjoy the ride, regardless of who else does or whether or not I profit by it. I profit by the fact that I get to visit characters I love. And I love even the characters who do ghastly things. They remind me that I’m not perfect—that I sometimes do ghastly things. And one of the ghastliest things I’ve done recently was to stop writing.

Jordie the Jester (my blog mascot, given to me by Lyn Miller-Lachmann) is handing me a tiny notebook (it’s actually a playing card, but I’d like to think of it as a notebook), which I guess is his way of saying, “Get back to work.” Thanks, Jordie. You always know just what to do.


Thanks especially to my good friends Sharon Van Zandt and Laura Sibson for coaxing me out of my hiding place and telling me to get back in the saddle and continue writing my series. You are the best! Maybe someday, my readers will thank you too. 🙂

As I end this post, I’m reminded of words spoken by Charles Xavier to Charles Xavier in X-Men: Days of Future Past (you have to see the movie to know why and how): “Please Charles . . . we need you to hope again.” Truer words were never spoken.


Other good posts on the courage to write or writing past doubt:

Spider from Gandalf from Book covers from Goodreads.

41 thoughts on “You Know, You Almost Had Me

  1. Nice spider. Is it a Huntsman? Don’t they lurk in dark, warm, comfortable places? Like our egos?
    I’m glad you’re back writing what you were born to do. There is no other path for a writer. Everything else is a distraction, one that we tell ourselves we need. To encourage ourselves that we’re not completely mad trying to write a novel about ————– (add your own choice here).
    Set yourself a goal to finish it by a certain time and then just enjoy the struggle. Good luck.

    • I believe it is a huntsman. Quite a large brute, isn’t it?
      Yes, you’re right. I need to set a goal. When I finish outlining, I’ll have a better handle on how long writing this book will take!

      • I think their bite can cause necrosis. Bits of us slowly dying… now there’s an ugly thought. The same thing happens when we don’t write what we need to!
        All the best.

  2. “Yes, these worlds are made up, but the laws of physics, biology, and chemistry still apply.” They can be tweaked with a spell here or there. 😀

    Something I always thought in regards to high fantasy is that the world itself is a character. It’s probably the most complicated character in the entire book because it’s always being developed and revealed. Each city, area, ruin, and inhabitant brings more color and depth to the world, so it has to be treated carefully. I’d say even if the author doesn’t do research, they should at least keep notes of their own world to make sure they keep it consistent. Although, there are so many strange things you end up researching as you get further into world building. For example, did you know that peacocks eat snakes?

    • You are so right about the world being a character. I wish people realized how difficult it is to develop that character. That’s why we need a few books to do so!

      I didn’t know that peacocks were that bold! So, there’s more to them than looks. A peacock would make an interesting character in a book. 🙂

      • I had peacocks in a garden, so I wondered what they would be eating while the characters talked. I was surprised about the snakes.

        Definitely needs more than a book to flesh out an entire world. Sometimes it takes a few series to get everything out there. 🙂

    • It is, Mishka. Just when I think I’ve found my way out of the House of Doubt, I discover another room or two. But a good way to battle it is to keep writing. I wish I would remember that more.

  3. Write the story you need to tell! I am beginning to dislike the concept of genre, because it limits us as writers. Sure, I understand that readers are selective, but I bet some of them would actually enjoy other books if they just gave them a chance. The manuscript I am working on now would fall under high fantasy, but I am calling it literary for the moment. Genre is just a label, the story is the important part.

    • True, Jill. But isn’t it sad how easy it is to slip into doubt? It’s such like a familiar, but ugly piece of clothing. I’m tired of donning it!

    • Yes, Andy. I hear you! I will return to writing. 🙂 Keep writing those poems and your posts about your family discoveries (like your great-grandfather).

    • I’m finding that to be the case, Phillip. It’s time I took my own advice and returned to writing. 🙂 I hope you’ll do the same as you mentioned.

  4. Love the post! I’ve felt the same way about historical fiction as you have about fantasy. It takes a lot of work to do right, and it isn’t always the most appreciated genre. But, yes, we have to believe in what we’re doing, even if it means we don’t have the largest readership. I remember hearing the literary novelist C.M. Mayo speak at a conference about her blog, and she said she wasn’t looking to “catch the largest number of fish but to catch the very special fish.”

  5. At the conclusion of every writing project (not just the writing of it but also the editing and figuring out what I want to do with it all the way through to declaring it a learning experience), I declare it to be the last thing I will ever write and make plans for destroying my laptop with a hammer.

    Then I write something else. Writers and sanity eye each other with suspicion on the best of days.

    • Ah. Somedays, even when I haven’t finished anything, I’m tempted to smash my laptop with a hammer, or at least kick it. But it would be just my luck to break a toe or something. So, I leave it unkicked.

    • True! . . . Well, I would say chocolate has replaced doubt. Someone gave me a huge bag of chocolate. That’s keeping me fueled. 🙂 Who needs hope when there’s chocolate nearby????

  6. I’m so glad you are writing again–and refusing to let Doubt win. Only you can write the books you want to write, and you nailed the best reason to write: “the fact that I enjoy the ride, regardless of who else does or whether or not I profit by it. I profit by the fact that I get to visit characters I love.” Well said! Keep writing, Linda–and give Jordie a pat on the head! 🙂

  7. Who told you they don’t like high fantasy? Pffft. They and like… well, okay. There are folks. But who cares what they like to read? (Besides, seven to one says they like to watch high fantasy.) I’m glad your friends hoisted you back into the saddle. Good for them. Give them hugs from me next time you see them (or virtual hugs when next you chat).

    I haven’t seen the new X-Men yet. Must get around to that…

    • I will!
      You owe it to yourself to the see the new X-Men. It’s pretty violent though. I don’t think I took a breath during the entire opener! When I saw it with a friend at the theater, we were both afraid to get up and go to the bathroom. There are no good scenes in which you can get up and leave.

  8. I’m glad you’ve got your mojo back. I don’t know how many people read high fantasy, but I suspect they are enthusiastic and loyal.

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