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Hi, I've always wanted to be able to write books, especially fantasy, but I can never get any ideas. How do you start out in a situation like this? Does it get easier to think of good ideas the more you practice it? Also, how do you complete an idea once you have it? Thanks for your advice.

Hi, Liz!  Sorry for the delay in answering, but apparently I didn't get your question the first time. Anyway, I know just how you feel about getting ideas. I don't get them either! I know that sounds hard to believe with a dozen books on the shelf, but it's taken me a long, loooong time to learn how to create worlds. Here's how you do it.

1.  Read. Read LOTS of other fantasies by as many authors as you can.

2.  Find a kind of creature (whether dragon, or witch or vampire or werewolf or whatever) that you'd like to write about too.

3.  Start to ask "what if?" about them. How I mean that is---let's say, for example, that you want to write about dragons and sorcerers (pretty classic features of fantasy novels.) Spin the whole concept around. What if dragons COULDN'T FLY? What if they lived underground like gophers instead? What if sorcerers couldn't do magic, but were the ONLY ones that COULDN'T do magic in that world? What would happen?

4.  Start applying hard logic to your what ifs. Wouldn't non-magic sorcerers have to keep a really low profile to stay alive? How could people build houses (or castles) if dragons the size of semi-trailers kept digging burrows? Feel free to laugh. That's part of the process. Decide what sort of physics exist on your world. Like, in Star Trek, Spock's blood is green. Yet on Earth, that can't happen. The elements just don't work to make that combination. Don't try to force the world as we know it to change too much. Readers (like you and me) find it frustrating to constantly have to figure out a brand new world. Don't come up with tons of new names for things. You can make an apple a Xpwer, but the reader had better be able to THINK "this is an apple" or you'll lose them and they won't keep reading.

5.  Find a friend who likes to make stories too so you can brainstorm. I did, and she became my co-author! There are lots of co-authors out there, or even CPs (critique partners) who read what you write and beat the heck out of it when you aren't logical.

6.  Completing an idea takes time. The best way to think of a novel is "the crisis that interrupts a person's life." So, that means they have to HAVE lives before the book opens, and continue to have one after the book closes. Like having a flat tire on the way to school or work, real life keeps going---no matter how sucky a day you're having. :) When in doubt, make a character's life even suckier! LOL! Readers love non-stop action so long as it makes sense. They (and probably YOU) love to see someone have a bizarre, scary, exciting thrill ride for a few days and come out on top. Those are the best books.

These are the first steps to start to create a world. But mostly, spend lots of time reading, and feel free to buy books on writing. They've been a great help to me! Look for the one by Orson Scott Card on writing, and the one by Stephen King is awesome too!

Hope that helps a little, and good luck!


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Cathy Clamp


I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery.


I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011.

Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award winner, 2009, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

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