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Overthinking Fantasy

After submitting a short story, I usually go through a couple days of an emotional slump. I’ve never figured out if this is because of the stress I don’t realize I’m putting on myself in submitting work, the weird sleep habits of peak writing time at 1:00 a.m., or just because I’m lonely for the characters I’ve declared “finished for a time.”

Probably the last one.

Whatever the cause, the best way out is usually to read. Not read anything, but read something really good. Something I can fall in love with. Get my head out of my personal writing clouds and into someone else’s.

So I read myself a bedtime story. Something not too long, but deep enough to grab my attention and cheer me up.

What book did I choose for this challenge? The L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume IX.

That’s right, the 1993 anthology. A book that had to go through two owners, a local bookstore, and then the Epic Library Sale before getting to me. A paperback with a life long and full enough that its pages are a light shade of brown.

I cracked it open. Read the first four lines of Elizabeth E. Wein’s story “Fire.” I knew I was in for a treat just from that. But the whole thing…

…was quite frankly gorgeous.

Try a story about the captive son of King Arthur with perfect detail and research. Emotionally charged.

And drop-dead simple.

No kidding–when I write, I feel as if I have five plot points buzzing around my head like demented sugar plum sprites all the time. Sometimes I barely remember all the threads.

Not her story. It was just beautiful.

And without a single drop of a real magic system.

This was perhaps the most shocking part. I spent enough time frankly stalking the coordinating judge’s website of writing tips, and one thing was made abundantly clear:

If there is no magic, it’s not fantasy. Go write somewhere else.

Except for Elizabeth E. Wein, apparently. To be fair, she really didn’t fall into the other category of “badly researched historical fiction.” Nobody reading it could say that.


Maybe I’ve been overthinking all this writing again. Maybe the only rule really is write. Write the best story, and let everything else work itself out.

Maybe it’s not as hard to make words fly as I would think.


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