On Writing and Creativity: Worldbuilding Revisited, part II — How Much is Enough?

Today, I continue the series of posts on worldbuilding that I began last week. First, though, I am very pleased to announce that Tor and I have agreed to terms on a contract for two more Thieftaker books. Thieves’ Quarry, the second book in the Thieftaker sequence, will be coming out next July. And now I can say with confidence that it will be followed by City of Shades in 2014 and Dead Man’s Reach in 2015. So, yay!

Okay, so back to worldbuilding. And let me begin where I left off last week, with what may well be the most important point I made about the process I go through to create the settings for my fantasies. None of the discreet tasks I mentioned last week (map making, creating relationships, coming up with myths and religions, and building magic systems) is actually discreet; rather, it all happens together, in […]

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On Writing and Creativity: Worldbuilding Revisited, part I

I have a proposal in at Tor for two more Thieftaker books, and I am quite hopeful that I will have good news to share on that front before long. But I also have other projects in mind, because the reality of today’s writing business is that a full-time author probably can’t make enough with one series to sustain a career. (Unless, of course, that writer happens to be named something like Martin or Rowling, in which case all bets are off.)

I’m pursuing a couple of urban fantasy projects right now, and I’m hopeful that at least one of them will pan out in the next several months. Recently, though, I have also been thinking about a new epic fantasy idea. And that means that, for the first time in several years, I am neck-deep in worldbuilding.

I have covered worldbuilding in previous posts, but I thought it might […]

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Magic Systems: A Guest Post From Joshua Palmatier, AKA Benjamin Tate

Today we welcome back to MW Joshua Palmatier, who also writes as Benjamin Tate. Joshua/Benjamin is a fantasy writer with DAW Books, with two series on the shelf and a few short stories, and is co-editor with Patricia Bray of two anthologies. As Joshua, he has written the “Throne of Amenkor” trilogy—The Skewed Throne, The Cracked Throne, and The Vacant Throne. Now, as Benjamin Tate, he has written Well of Sorrows and has just released Leaves of Flame. He has short stories in several anthologies and has co-edited After Hours: Tales from the Ur-bar and (soon-to-be-released) The Modern Fae’s Guide to Surviving Humanity (March 2012). Find out more about his work at www.joshuapalmatier.com and www.benjamintate.com. Please join me in welcoming Joshua to MW. [Wild applause]


Magic. It’s the heart of every fantasy, in some way or another, and if it’s removed from a true fantasy novel, the novel should […]

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Writing — Magic Systems as Characters

Magic systems are essential to fantasy writing. Without some magic element — whether it is magic wielded by people or magical/supernatural beings or magical objects or what-have-you — you really aren’t writing fantasy. Magic is what sets the genre apart. Therefore, having a solid system of rules for how magic behaves is crucial to building a strong foundation for your tale. What many writers fail to grasp, however, (and something I’ve only just begun to understand) is that the best magic systems become a character themselves.


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A Few Common Writing Problems

Tomorrow, I’ll be heading out to Calgary, Alberta, for ConVersion, a sf/fantasy convention. The organizers have been kind enough to make me their literary guest of honor, and so I’ll be giving talks, perhaps reading from some of my work, and sitting on various panels. (I’ll also get to meet several actors from the Star Trek universe, including Marina Sirtis, John de Lancie, Ethan Phillips, Chase Masterson, and Robert Picardo.) Before the conference begins, I’ll be leading a two-day writers’ workshop. I’ve spent the last week reading manuscripts for the workshop, and that’s what I want to post about today.

As I’ve read, I’ve noticed some recurring issues. I suppose they’re things that all of us struggle with, whether we’re still trying to publish that first piece or completing our ump-teenth novel. And so, here is a brief primer on a few of the more common problems that crop up […]

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Finding Real Magic in Writing

The magic system in my first series — the LonTobyn Chronicle — had three elements: the mage, his or her familiar (usually a bird of prey), and a crystal or ceryll, as I called it, that focused the power sourced in the psychic connection between bird and mage. Each person’s crystal, and by extension, each person’s magic, had a different color. Blue, red, yellow, green, purple, silver, gold, orange; there was a ceremony each year in which all the mages of the land processed through the capital city, and I pictured it as this winding, glowing rainbow of light and birds and people in cloaks. As I wrote the three books and introduced new characters, I had to assign each one a magic color, and I have to admit that I did this pretty randomly. “Hmmmm. I’ve used shades of blue and red a lot. Better make this one pale […]

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Creating Magic

Today’s post comes to us thanks to my good friend Stuart Jaffe (of “The Eclectic Review” fame) who emailed me a few days ago to discuss the creation of magic systems. This is something I’ve done quite a bit, and it’s one of the things I enjoy most about writing fantasy. Magic is, in many ways, the defining characteristic of works in our genre. Yes, I know: We often say here at MW that character and plot and voice are the most important elements of good storytelling. But the fact is that fantasy wouldn’t be fantasy without magic. And besides, making up magic systems is really fun to do.

But contrary to what some people think, creating a magic system is not an anything-goes endeavor. It takes serious thought and careful planning, not to mention a good deal of imagination. There are, of course, a thousand different ways to use […]

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