How I Started Writing a Fantasy Series

One of the teachers from my writing residency pulled me aside during break.“Have you ever thought about marketing your book as young adult? You’ve read the Hunger Games, right? Adults read them too. And how do you feel about making it a series?”

“Well, I’ve never actually thought about that.” I sort of stuttered and nodded through the rest of our conversation but inside my mind was already racing with the new possibilities.


When I went to my writing residency I was already writing a book about a young woman who found herself transported into the past. This book was going to be a standalone and I hadn’t planned on it being for young adults. Note that both my main characters were teens. Ha!

On the drive home I started thinking through his suggestions. I liked the Hunger Games books. I liked them a lot. Maybe writing young adult books would be the way to go. Come to think of it, I owned quite a few young adult books. Was there a reason I hadn’t thought of this before?

At this point I started getting distracted by depressing thoughts about the residency being over and having to leave all my new writer friends. It was nice and pitiful but after filling up my travel mug with some more coffee, another question popped into my head. How could my book be made into a series? Believe it or not, a solution presented itself pretty fast. What if instead of being transported into the past, she found herself transported to another world? There was an epic adventure somewhere in there. Of course, I had months and (Cough) years of building on this “Simple” solution.

I took another swig of my gas station coffee and grabbed my conference notebook. Before long I had pages and pages of “What if” questions. During the course of the next year, those “What if” questions turned my book into four and created worlds and new characters and plot twists I never would have imagined before.

It’s been a long journey but it’s also been a pretty amazing one and it all started with those two suggestions. I guess I could have titled this post, “The Importance of Writer’s Conferences.” 🙂 I highly recommend Realm Makers. I went last year and it was amazing.

So, how did you start writing your book or series? Was there a “Wow” moment where things suddenly fell into place? Were you inspired by a conversation, a picture, or even a dream?

About Britta Valentine

saved by grace, writer of young adult fiction, and drinker of copious amounts of coffee

7 comments on “How I Started Writing a Fantasy Series

  1. My only series – like yours, a looooooooonnnng WIP (about 9 years now!) – came about as the result of an exercise I was doing.

    I wanted to see if I could give characters distinct voices in dialog, without leaning so heavily on speaker tags. It’s a worthwhile venture, to be sure, but also can be a distraction. (In those days, the actual words in the document were most important thing to me. Later I was shown story trumps all.)

    The exercise was going to be in three parts. First, develop a pair of characters with two distinct speaking styles. Next, inject a third character with yet another speaking style. And finally, bring all three characters together and see if any readers would be able to clearly identify who’s saying what without speaker tags. (Or minimal speaker tags.)

    My wife read the exercises and loved them. She encouraged me to keep going. And going. And going. Before long, that three part exercise grew into a full-blown novel of 94K words. After editing out my ridiculously high adverb count, I got it down to about 87K (shy of the standard Stephen King learned of 1st Draft – 10% = final draft).

    During that process, I got an idea for a second book. While the first book “settled” – you know, when you set it aside so you can go back to it later for editing, which simply “can’t be done immediately” (which is a myth, in my opinion) – I began the next story.

    That second installment found an audience somehow, on a web site called DeviantART. I got encouragement from some really talented people, and launched into it full-steam. During THAT process, somewhere along the line, I got the notion for yet another installment in the series, and I just wrote that novel last year.

    All that convolution from the simple encouragement to keep writing on a dialog exercise. Funny. I never did sit down and do a lot of “what if”-ing on the series, but maybe I will. Who knows? It could continue to grow into an ongoing thing, with a recurring character, like Alex Cross books or something. 🙂

    • Wow! That was a really neat process. It’s funny how every writer’s story is a little different. I love hearing about them, always encouraging. 🙂

      • Sorry, didn’t mean to prattle on.

        As an aside, I’m now stuck beyond belief because the second novel in that series, never got completed. It got derailed by me trying to write for its fans instead of its story, and I’ve simply never gone back to it. That one’s gotta be seven or eight years old too now.

        And the first one in that series hasn’t seen the light of day either. It has a lot of…um…new author problems, let’s say. I’ve tried no less than five times to rework it, and never get very far. I keep thinking, “Someday, I’ll sit down and just do it…” But someday never arrives. *Sigh*

        But I did finish the third one. And it’s languishing on my hard drive because I don’t feel it’s able to be published until I’ve finished the first book. And the way things worked out, the second book is now positioned to be the third book, which will mean I can take a running (re-)start at that one and remove the silly, pointless pieces and see if I can get it back on track writing into the dark.

        Oh, look at me. I’m still prattling. Sorry, Brittany. 😦

  2. My first series (Spacetime) was basically just a collection of adventures my husband and I dreamed up for his characters. I have at least one discarded novel that can’t work in the series (which is too bad, because it involved a pocket reality, blood mages, a dragon teaching magic, and a really big solar laser called the Sunbeam.) The first series is five books, which has been soooooo long to write. After this, I’m only writing trilogies. My paranormal romance trilogy has been way easier to plan and write.

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