Why I Write Fantasy: Hamster Wheel Edition

It’s been a while since I’ve had the time to crank out a blog of an evening. I completed the line edit in double time, missing deadline by a day, but I’ll take it, and my editor is a forgiving soul, for which I am grateful.

The essential truth of why I write fantasy – to carve an escape for others like and yet different from the many wondrous portals I took as a child and young adult – does not rest easily alongside the work required to craft said portal. Reading and imagining came easily to me as a child, and I identified so strongly with the worlds created by writers that I could never imagine doing anything other than growing up to create my own worlds, to explore them with and for other folk who chose to journey into the pages I would write.

The powerful imagination that so completely transported me to Hobbiton, Caer Paravel, Amber and Erlenstar didn’t bother to capture the nitty gritty of the effort required to make a work magical. I think one of the many reasons my first novel written as an adult didn’t progress beyond the first much tinkered with draft was because I baulked at the work required. I wanted imagination to be sufficient. The ideas to be enough. I had perspicacity enough then to recognize, somewhat foggily I’ll admit, how much more was required, and I didn’t want to do it. Because it is hard. Not the hardest thing in the world, this isn’t a poor me moment, but the task of finishing a novel is not for faint of heart, or the glibly workshy, as once I was.

My editor is copy editing my manuscript as we speak. Once I would have considered that an ending. Now I know better. It will just give me a grammatical bedrock upon which to do my first last revisions, which will then be reviewed and changed some more. Another crop of errors will be spotted and altered, then the newest most final version will be proofed, in which more corrections are made. Then comes the formatting examination, which I now know leads to yet more fixes as the grimly inevitable last-minute flaws make their presence known to the author’s at times incredulous eye. If you let it, I think this could never end. These are the stages at which I think some writers can spend years in desperate search for an endless chain of perfect words and sentences. Unfortunately the seasons pass, and in the changing light and shifting contexts borne by previous alterations, the perfect chain keeps breaking.

I don’t feel I have the time to chase perfection that fervently. I still make it a goal, aim high, but I can’t let it become an obsession to block my progress.

Semi-Pro tip that I am sure you are all aware of: when proofing change the size and format of the pages of the manuscript. It is astonishing what seeing the words in different patterns will reveal. I have at least two read-it-out-loud run throughs to do. (Maybe I should record one, complete with my swearing as I trip over things, and release it as the Audible uncut version!) I will not read it backwards as some do. I’m afraid of what might happen to me if I try it!

So this certainly isn’t why I started writing fantasy, this hamster wheel of frenzied activity around a book that I would once have considered mostly written, but it is an essential part of what I do now, and why I do all of it, from first imaginings to last comma deletion. The work. Without the work, the dream stays flimsy, and who wants to read a flimsily constructed book? In the end, you pray your efforts are invisible to the reader’s eye, and that all they will see is a new world beckoning them to come and visit a while, complete with memorable people to meet and fantastic places to go.

And that, today, is why I write fantasy.

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