Strong Foundations

Lesson 2: Know Your Craft

Are you well prepared for the undertaking of fantasy writing? Are you behind the times or out of the loop?

Heed this one tip and automatically set yourself up at the front of the pack!

You’d be amazed at how many potential authors out there have very little info on their competition. Or, the history of their art for that matter.

Make sure you are not one of these writers. Get to know your genre well. Intimately even. Make sweet love to the genre and its readers. Find out where their G….ahem…

I think you get the point.

Look here. Do any of the next statements describe you?

  1. The last (or only) fantasy books you’ve read were Harry Potter, Game of Thrones (the only name you know it by), or Lord of the Rings.
  2. The most recent fantasy book you have read was one your mom gave you in the 80’s or 90’s.
  3. You actually haven’t “read” any fantasy, but you’re a fan of the SyFy channel, have seen EVERY Marvel movie, knew that R+L=J before the season 6 reveal, and still have an old poster of a pointed-eared Orlando Bloom hidden away in your closet.

If the answer to any of these was, “It’s as if she knows me… hell… even if it wasn’t, you need to read more work from your genre.

Staying current is the best way to ensure that your ideas are…

  1. Interesting
  2. Not Clichèd
  3. Written for a modern audience

Not to mention, reading fantasy is the best way to get inspired to write fantasy.

I’m going to help you out with this step and give you a list of books that you might want to read before (that’s a lot to ask…while instead, maybe) you set out to write any words. These lists are made up of the most famous or influential works and span a range of subgenres. Also included, are some newer works in the genre. More detailed lists of recommendations and descriptions within each subgenre will be given as I write the Subgenres series.


  1. Song of Ice and Fire, George R.R. Martin
  2. The Kingkiller Chronicles, Patrick Rothfuss
  3. The Belgariad, David Eddings
  4. The Lord of The Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
  5. The Fionavar Tapestry, Guy Gavriel Kay
  6. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clark
  7. Earthsea series, Ursula K. Le Guin
  8. Discworld series, Terry Pratchett
  9. The Stormlight Archive, Brandon Sanderson
  10. The Dark Tower, Stephen King
  11. Tigana, Guy Gavriel Kay
  12. Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis
  13. Gentleman Bastards series, Scott Lynch
  14. Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling
  15. The First Law universe books, Joe Abercrombie
  16. Axe and the Thorn, M.D. Ireman
  17. The Magicians Trilogy, Lev Grossman
  18. The Farseer series, Robin Hobb
  19. The Malazan Book of the Fallen series, Steven Erikson
  20. American Gods, Neil Gaiman
  21. Chronicles of the Black Company, Glen Cook
  22. Acts of Caine series, Matthew Stover
  23. The Broken Empire series, Mark Lawrence
  24. Under Heaven series, Guy Gavriel Kay
  25. The Divine Cities, Robert Jackson Bennett
  26. Night Watch series, Sergei Lukyaneneko
  27. The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
  28. The Dresden Files, Jim Butcher
  29. The Wheel of Time series, Robert Jordan

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Then, there are the non-fantasy must reads for learning good storytelling that will help you write your romance, suspense, and horror scenes.

Storytelling and structure…

  1. Count of Monte Cristo, Alexander Dumas (the huge-ass version. In my opinion one of
    the greatest stories over told in regards to structure, plotting, character development, and can’t-put-down-ness)
  2. Don Quixote, Miguel De Cervantes
  3. Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe
  4. Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift
  5. Dangerous Liaisons, Pierre Choderlos De Laclos
  6. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
  7. Moby Dick, Herman Melville
  8. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
  9. The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky
  10. 1984, George Orwell
  11. Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
  12. Shakespeare (anything)
  13. Nostromo, Joseph Conrad


  1. Outlander, Diana Gabaldon
  2. Knight in Shining Armor, Jude Devereaux
  3. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austin
  4. Lord of Scoundrels, Loretta Chase
  5. The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje

Science Fiction…

  1. Dune Chronicles, Frank Herbert (huuuge fan of dune!)
  2. The Book of the New Sun series, Gene Wolfe
  3. Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
  4. Hyperion Cantos, Dan Simmons
  5. Neuromancer, William Gibson
  6. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
  7. The Foundation trilogy, Isaac Asimov

Plus as much other science fiction, romance, horror, and suspense, adventure, and classic literature you can possibly absorb.

and you know what?

dinotopia_laft_coverDinotopia books, James Gurney…

That’s right. I went there.

These titles are all just to inspire you. Pick one and read it when you have the time. Even the stuff that you think you will hate (I can see you all rolling your eyes at the romance suggestions already).

If you want to be a professional writer, then that also means you must become a professional reader. Having a solid foundation in your genre as well as classic lit. and others gives you something very important: Authority.

Readers want their authors to have an authority over the language they are writing in and the history of their craft. You wouldn’t pay to attend a math class taught by a professor that never went to… math school….?…mathematician university…whatever. You get my point.

Make it a goal to read a book every month or a few every year even. Or, be hardcore like me and try to get through one a week (you need a real lack of life for this one).

Put on your Nikes and Just Do It! (I hate myself for just saying that).

Once you have your list of “going to reads,” move on to the next part. Lesson 3: Skill Building


2 thoughts on “Lesson 2: Know Your Craft”

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