2018 Writing Goals

Well… 2017 has been a bit of a rough one if I’m honest (which I try to be). It’s been a difficult year to create for me and many others if Twitter is to be believed. But when I sit down and push all the noise aside, I realize I did accomplish quite a bit in the last year, which I will now reflect on.

  • I hit (and surpassed) the elusive 100 book sales mark for my debut novel The Wheel Mages.
    • Note: 90% of self-published books will sell less than 100 copies, so this is a real accomplishment even if it doesn’t seem like much in terms of sales numbers.

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  • I published the second book in my Changing Tides series, The Blood Mage.

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  • Although I didn’t make into Pitch Wars this year, I did enter, which was quite a feat. Plus, it means I have a novel ready to query for (hopefully) a traditional publishing deal. The King’s Blade features a diverse cast of characters including a triumvirate of Deep Sea power by way of a competent assassin, a mermaid magician and scientist, a young king who has a knack for political maneuvers and on land, you’ll find a human prince who is softer than my average male character and a budding naturalist himself. I did more research for The King’s Blade than anything I’ve ever worked on, and I am immensely proud of it. Read more about it here.

With all that said, I do have some pretty serious writing goals for 2018. Let’s see if I can accomplish them!

  1. Create a real marketing strategy for my Changing Tides Series and execute, execute, execute!
  2. Pay off the editing fees for The Blood Mage.
  3. Finish the draft of the third book in my Changing Tides Series and get it out for developmental edits at the very least.
  4. Start querying The King’s Blade for a traditional deal.
  5. Finish my beta reads!
  6. Read, read, read (my TBR is out of this world and I can’t seem to stop buying more things to add to it!)

All you writers out there: What did you accomplish in 2017 and what are some of your goals for the New Year?

Happy Holidays everyone!

❤ Aimee

 

How a Trilogy Becomes More

Author’s Note: I’m sending out my very first newsletter this week and it has exciting NEWS in it, so if you’re interested, sign up here

At the end of last month (where is time going?), my second manuscript was sent to my editor. I wrote about it (briefly). When I sent it, it was 131,000 words, which is loooong. But I ran out of places to cut words and time to do it in so sent it with fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, I was in the middle of a serious argument with the third book in my trilogy. My characters did not want to cooperate with my plan. At all.

All of this, combined with a lot of other things going on in my life, including frustrating book sales, led me to overwhelm which led me to stasis. Something to know about me: When I get overwhelmed, I freeze. I didn’t want to abandon my series, because this is my dream, but I also felt the familiar sensation of losing my way creeping in.

Fortunately, I have a good editor who wasted no time in pulling me off the cliff. Although, I’ll be honest, I was a bit nervous when I received the email from her enclosing her critique. Katie and I have a great relationship, and I trust her, but something about seeing, “You’ll see that I do make a big recommendation that could change a few things” in an email from your editor can really make your heart rate spike.

Of course, my brain started to go into overdrive as I ran through worst case scenarios such as: she hates my new protagonist (who is a character I’ve been developing for approximately… forever); there’s a gaping plot hole I’m not going to know how to fix; the prose is terrible; the whole thing needs rewritten. All fixable, yes, but not pleasant. I should clarify, none of these were the case, either.

What I wasn’t expecting was a suggestion to expand the trilogy because well… the book is too long but parts need a bit more development and there’s nowhere to find 30,000 extra words. As Katie put it, “The story and characters have begged you to.”

My first thought was: Why didn’t I think of that? Why did that not ever seem like an option?

It’s funny how strict you can be with yourself, how solid an idea can be before it’s even formed. In my head, my series was always a trilogy. That’s just how it was. Period. As I’ve said before, I’m not a plotter, so how that one idea became so solid, I’m not 100% sure, but it was. Three books. No more, no less.

I called an emergency “meeting” with a couple of my most trusted beta readers. Frantically, I spelled out to them via Facebook messenger what my editor was proposing. Then I sat back, wincing as I waited.

Here’s something else you should know: My betas are the best people I know, but they can be a tough audience. That’s what makes them good (and my friends). I expected some kind of resistance from them especially because expanding a series is done frequently in fantasy and sometimes it’s not done all that well. They know that. I know that. I expected them to remind me of that.

Surprisingly, they didn’t. “I like it,” said one.

Hm… I thought, then winced again and decided to poke the sleeping bear. “This would help me fix the problems with book three that were making me want to throw the book out the window. I guess I was just dead set on a trilogy.”

The three dots on the message screen blinked, and my stomach flipped somersaults as I tried my best not to grind my teeth down to nothing. “Trilogies are so passe. Ten million books plus ten novellas are so hip right now.”

I burst out laughing. Just when you think you know what to expect, people throw you a curve ball. Which is, of course, exactly what my characters did to me too, sneaky bastards (and I mean that term literally in at least one case if you’ve read book one).

With my betas on board, I decided it was possible to discuss this thing with my editor. So after taking a night to sleep on her critique to digest what her suggestions would look like, I sent her a sprawling, long-winded email that concluded by addressing the elephant in the room: fantasy series that are expanded poorly.

Everyone who reads this blog knows my policy on not tearing down any specific works by any specific author, and I’m not about to break that now. Instead, I’ll say that sometimes authors expand series because they’re popular, and their readers want them to, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they should. This shows in the writing. The books start to drag or get redundant or the characters no longer seem to be on an arc but more of a flat line path. No one is developing. In short, the writing loses its spark.

This is sort of my biggest fear when it comes to a series. I want my series to reflect the arc in my own writing. Book two should be (and in my extremely biased opinion, is) better than book one. Book three should be better than book two, etc. You’re growing as a writer, and your characters should grow with you. That’s organic. That’s (dare I say it) art.

Don’t get me wrong, plenty of fantasy series have more than three books and are absolutely lovely. Obviously, the most famous fantasy series in the history of the world consists of seven books, and they’re all stellar.

That said, there are plenty of series that could have stopped at book two or even book one and been fine. And I couldn’t quite get my professors at UNC out of my head as I started to contemplate a possible expansion. The famous “six-word novel” hung heavy on my heart. For those who don’t know it, it is as follows:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

It’s often mistakenly attributed to Hemingway, but there were stories like this before Hemingway. It’s true author appears to be unknown.

The point remains the same, however. Less is more. This was always an extremely difficult concept for me to grasp, and though I believe I’ve gotten much better at it, I probably won’t be writing any six-word stories any time soon.

Still, those extra words nagged at me. I could see the possibility on the horizon. I wanted those words. The strength with which I wanted them made me shove through the fear and the self-doubt and dare to imagine what this series could look like if I had the room to really open up and let my characters do what they want instead of constantly fighting me.

Ultimately, the decision to expand was born through a combination of that desire and my editor’s sage advice: “Overall, listen to the characters and the story, and don’t worry about trying to fit it in a certain number of books.”

Now, I might not be able to write a six-word novel, but that is something I can do.

Here we go y’all.

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Writers as Researchers

If you’ve ever watched Jeopardy! for any period of time, you might have noticed writers tend to do very well (along with lawyers, but that’s a different post). I don’t think that’s accidental. Writers tend to have a little bit of knowledge about a lot of things. They’re fantastic generalists.

Writers, in addition to being readers, must also be excellent researchers. Even in fantasy writing, research is crucial to world building. At the end of the day, we live in this world, in this reality, so to create a new world people can engage with, the world needs to be somewhat grounded in the reality that exists for us all.

Recently, I had a fascinating and somewhat mind bending conversation with my dad about the concept of time in the fantasy novel. To be fair, what he was describing lent itself more to the realm of science fiction than fantasy, but it was interesting all the same. Basically, he was saying that an interesting idea would be to write a novel with an entirely different conception of time. Time, he argued, is a human convention based on astronomy. It could therefore be changed. At this point, my eyes got that kind of glazed over look as I tried to wrap my mind around something I couldn’t quite perceive.

It’s akin to the idea that birds have four cone cells in their retinas, whereas we humans only have three. Birds can therefore see UV light. The most complex color vision system in the animal kingdom is found in stomatopods (for example, the mantis shrimp). These animals have 12 spectral receptor types, which means they see different colors than we do. Colors we aren’t even aware exist. Mind. Blown.

That kind of concept, however fascinating, would be difficult to world build with. It’s hard to create a picture in the reader’s head of something human beings literally cannot fathom. Therefore, most of the fantasy world building I do is grounded in reality, though tweaked. This, of course, requires a lot of research. Research into things I wouldn’t generally be interested in. For example, in the second book of the Changing Tides series, there are two scenes requiring lock picking. When I wrote the draft, I had no idea how to pick a lock. Now, I do. I also know about sable brushes for artists (the third book of the installation features a couple different artists and their mediums). I also know more about Victorian fashion than I ever thought I would. Catalina’s hats required over an hour of research. I know the skin of frogs is water permeable. I know arsenic isn’t the right poison for dermal absorption. I know how glass is made. I know the various kinds of medieval hunt and the basic principles of falconry. I know enough about architecture to make my high school humanities teacher proud. The list goes on and on and though most of this research will never appear full out in my novels, its presence lingers in them.

Most of my research happens via Google search. I search for a general concept, find something inspiring, then make it my own. The masks for the ball in The Wheel Mages, for example, came from Mardi Gras masks and were then reinvented by me. I even sketched them, though I’m a pretty terrible artist. Seeing these ideas outside of my own head is really important to me, because if I can’t pull them out, I know readers probably can’t, either.

I research as needed. I’ll be in the middle of writing a scene and think, “I really can’t see this, I should look it up” or, “I don’t know how this would even work, I better Google it.” Researching while in the middle of writing helps me organize my thoughts better and keeps me out of the rabbit hole that is the internet. I still fall down it, on occasion but if I have writing to return to, I pull myself back up easier.

While researching for The Wheel Mages, if I found something particularly interesting, I’d save it on my hard drive to refer back to later. Recently, however, I realized this was a pretty shoddy way of conducting business, especially when my manuscripts go through extensive redrafting months later. That dress I liked but not enough to save and now it’s six months later and I want to put it in the book but don’t remember the exact hue of blue on it? Lost to the rabbit hole. Hours could disappear while I tried to re-find it.

Why I didn’t remember there’s an application developed for this exact situation, I’m not sure. But last week, I remembered Pinterest.

Pinterest has revolutionized my research process. Now, I can “pin” images and websites for easy access later. Added bonus, for anyone who is curious about what comes next in the series or who might be interested to see what I’m working on, Pinterest leaves little clues in the form of pins. Want to know where The Blood Mage takes Alena? Pinterest has some insight. Want to know what I might be working on next? I have a whole board devoted to the first book of my new series (working title: Fire’s Princess). I have no idea why it took me so long to get on “board” (see what I did there?), but I’m so happy I have!

So… for those of you who are writing and therefore researching, my tip is to grab a Pinterest and maybe try out for Jeopardy!

Anyone else have any researching tips he/she would like to share? Add ’em to the comments!

❤ Aimee

Rest, Read, Refresh, Reset

We don’t need a list of rights and wrongs, tables of dos and don’ts: we need books, time, and silence. Thou shalt not is soon forgotten, but Once upon a time lasts forever.”

~ Philip Pullman

I’ve been quiet on the blog for a little while, and there’s a reason for that. I’ve been working on resetting before I prepare my second book to head to the content editor in late January.

Resetting is something I take very seriously. I have to push myself away from my work and drag myself out of my characters’ heads. If I don’t, I start to lose track of reality, of who I am. I don’t mean that in a melodramatic way, either. I mean it in a very real, existential crisis sort of way. A, I don’t know if I’m stuck in the matrix, sort of way. A, I’ve driven to the same place for my day job for six years and can’t figure out if I just missed my exit because I’m stuck in a world that doesn’t exist, sort of way. It’s honestly a little bit scary.

I usually know it’s time for a reset when my anxiety levels start to tick up. One of the symptoms of my post traumatic stress disorder is chronic night terrors and nightmares. Night terrors are different from nightmares, but I’m cursed with both. They’re not pleasant, and they worsen when I’m anxious. When the nightmares start to become unbearable, when I wake up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat, throat raw and aching, with blood under my fingernails from where I’ve scratched my neck or chest to the point of ripping my own flesh, I know my anxiety is rising and it’s time for a break. That advice about writing every day? Nope. Not for me. Writing every day for me is dangerous.

So for the last week, despite my January 20th deadline with the content editor looming, I’ve taken a much needed break. During this break, I’ve given myself time to read and get into someone else’s characters’ heads, characters who are very unlike my own. For anyone interested, I’ve finally decided to dig in to Sarah Maas‘ Throne of Glass series. I’ve heard so much about it (word of mouth is still king in this industry, y’all), I decided it was time. As a side note, major props to Maas on her development of Ailen. Ailen is a total badass, but I don’t envy Maas having to be inside that woman’s head for six books.

Reading is arguably the most important training for a writer. I read almost constantly, but when I’m editing or resetting in preparation to edit, I have to be extremely careful about what I read. What I read affects what I write, and when I’m about to set off down the editing path, I have to be careful and tread lightly.

Something writers are seemingly afraid to admit is that we’re all thieves. Every last one of us. Not in a copyright infringement sort of way, but in a subtle, we don’t even realize it’s happening until it happens, sort of way. We don’t steal words or phrases, we still emotion. We steal inspiration. But we have to be clever thieves if we’re to create anything worthwhile.

Hemingway once said, “Don’t ever imitate anybody. All style is, is the awkwardness of a writer in stating a fact. If you have a way of your own, you are fortunate, but if you try to write like somebody else, you’ll have the awkwardness of the other writer as well as your own.” It’s true, imitation will never work. If you sit down to consciously imitate someone, to appropriate his or her particular style or turns of phrase, you will fail, because it’s not genuine and people aren’t stupid. If people are good at one thing it’s sniffing out a liar. What writers do steal, however, is the feeling of a thing.

It isn’t necessarily only writing, either. This theft can come from almost anywhere. It can be a song (try writing a romance scene with heavy metal blaring in the background). It can be a painting, or a photograph, or a ballet. It can be as common as watching a small, simple moment. Part of the refresh and reset is to open myself up to these moments, these works of art, to absorb them and renew my spirit. But during these times, I’m careful about what I will and will not read. I don’t want to misappropriate the wrong feeling. I don’t want to unintentionally feed off something that won’t make my work better.

During any other period of time, I will read basically anything you put in my hands, but when I’m pushed up against a deadline, and I know my heart is open to absorbing whatever goes into my head, I’m choosy about what goes in. Whatever goes in during these periods will come out, so it’s important that whatever goes in is good.

Normally, I spend this period of time between beta readers and content editing to reread things I know invoke the right emotions. During this same period while I was working on The Wheel Mages, I reread Tamora Pierce‘s Immortal Series This time, however, I took a gamble (not much of one, if I’m honest) on Maas, and I’m really glad I did. Aelin is not at all like Alena, which is excellent, because I needed a break from Alena. But the emotions Maas conveys are strong and powerful. They fill me up when I need to be filled with something different than what I’m lost in. They refresh me. They inspire me and help me press the all important reset button, so I don’t become too lost in the woods.

Especially during this time of year, we all need a little refresher. Don’t forget to take care of yourself: Rest, read, refresh, reset.

Happy Holidays everyone!

❤ Aimee

P.s. If anyone has any other recommendations for me for my next reset, plop them in the comments! I love to see what people are reading!

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Because who doesn’t need an adorable dog in a Santa hat? Am I right?

Querying for Reviews

Let me go ahead and reveal something to you right now: I never quite connected marketing and publishing. I know, it’s absolutely ridiculous, but it’s true. Before I launched The Wheel Mages, my thought process went something like this: 1. Write a good book 2. Make sure said book is technically sound 3. Publish book 4. Wait.

This thought process is not from lack of research. I read tons of books and articles and accounts from other indie authors. I listened to Joanna Penn’s podcasts and her Facebook live events. I did webinars. I knew marketing was a thing, and an important one, but for some reason, it wasn’t until recently that I somehow miraculously connected “good book” with “marketing”.

Here’s the deal—through this entire research process, I was continually frustrated by all the information out there about marketing. There is a wealth of information about Facebook ads and Twitter campaigns and cover art and promo material and mailing lists and Amazon reviews. In all this advice which is sometimes conflicting and sometimes a scam and is all kinds of confusing, the one thing I felt was lacking was this key piece of advice: Write a good book. Full stop.

Will everyone like The Wheel Mages? No. It’s not for everyone. That’s fine. What it is, though, is technically sound. I put a considerable amount of effort into making sure it was as good as it could be. I wanted the product to speak for itself. If the book is good, I shouldn’t have to put tons of money into marketing.

Right. Makes sense. But for whatever reason, what I didn’t connect was that I’d have to put the legwork into making sure people read it so it had the opportunity to speak for itself.

Over the weekend, as I despaired about book sales (I’m almost 2 weeks in post-launch and have sold 43 copies, for the record), I had an epiphany. I need people to talk about the book. I need people to “buzz” about it. Duh. People need to read the damn thing for it to speak for itself—which will take marketing.

Ding, ding, ding, Aimee, you win the prize you miserable idiot!

Reinvigorated by my newfound knowledge (I say this with a shake of my head), I jumped back into the whole marketing thing. I decided I’d start with reviews from bloggers and Bookstagrammers. (Sidenote: If you don’t know what a #bookstagram is like I didn’t until recently, check it out and start following these people. Not only is their work beautiful and interesting, a lot of them are reviewers too. You know, people with an audience who might want to read your book).

Which brings me to the point of this post: the query letter for reviews.

Now, there isn’t as much information about querying for reviews as there is for querying for an agent or publisher, but it’s out there. Here are a few articles to consider:

There are others as well, but these sum up how to query pretty well. I’m not going to talk about how to query, so if you’re interested, read those. What I’m going to talk about is how querying feels and how I’m working through it.

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed I’m more interested in the emotional journey of self-publishing than the technical aspects. Of course I share technicalities along the way and am happy to talk shop, but I think there’s plenty of information like that out there without me getting involved. My aim is to be open and honest about the emotional experience behind the industry because I sort of wish there had been a little bit more support out there for me in my moments of despair.

So… about querying for reviews.

It’s a lot like applying for a job, to be honest. Anyone who has had to search for a job knows it’s miserable. There are rules you have to follow about resumes and cover letters. You have to appear professional but also genuine. You have to research and cater each cover letter to the appropriate person. You have to tweak your resume to put different focus on different aspects of the position you’re applying for. Writing a cover letter or email to a potential employer is like being told to “smile” through your words. It’s frustrating and awkward.

Querying is exactly like that. What’s especially difficult for me is that I have a completely different “internet” voice than my actual voice which are both different than my writing. My book does not sound like these blogs (thank goodness, right?) and to hear me speak is different than both of them (there’s a lot more cursing, for one). I have a friend who is a Communications major at Cornell who once told me my internet voice is annoying and disingenuous. At the time, I told her she was a jerk and didn’t much care.

Now, I care.  I care because my internet voice is what I use to query for reviews. It’s what I use to market. It’s what I use to try to convince people to read the book so it can speak for itself. I have to speak for it first. And that’s a real problem for me for a lot of reasons, not the least of which being I’m terrible at self-promotion. I don’t like to talk about myself. I have an issue with arrogance, and I’m constantly second guessing whether or not what I said makes me sound arrogant. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this here or not, but full disclaimer, I have intense anxiety issues that coupled with post traumatic stress disorder make me worry about things I probably shouldn’t. This is the fourth time I’ve read this post, for example, and I’m still fretting about whether or not it’s appropriate to publish it.

Writing query emails sets every awkward bone in my body on fire. Be professional, they say. Okay, that’s actually something I’m pretty decent at doing. I’ve worked at a law firm for the past six years. I’ve learned how to be professional over the years. But being professional and genuine? Well, that’s a different dance, my friends.

Because to be genuine, my query email would like this:

Hey [book blogger],

I’m Aimee. I’m the author of the debut novel The Wheel Mages. I’m super self-conscious and talking about myself and my book really aren’t my strong suits, but I’m told I have to do it because… sales, so here we are. Please don’t think this query is representative of my work, because it’s not. I have a totally different voice in my writing than I do in this email, but I’m told writing in the voice of your character is gimmicky, so I guess I’m stuck with my own lame voice.

I am a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I studied creative writing and English. If you asked me who my favorite author was, I’d tell you either Tamora Pierce or John Milton, and you’d probably be pretty confused. According to my therapist, I’m a confusing person, but she thinks that’s part of my charm. I’m still learning to embrace it. My characters are a little bit confusing too, but not in a bad, plot-hole sort of way, in a deep, emotionally complex sort of way. I’m rambling, aren’t I? Sorry about that.

Back to the book. It’s a new adult fantasy set in the Trade Nations, a federation of countries not unlike the European Union. It’s written in first person and the protagonist is the first water mage to be inducted into the Sanctum, the magical world’s institution, in fifty years. There’s romance and mystery and a bit of dramatic flair… [insert more rambling, terrible summary here].

I really hope you’ll read it (and love it, and give me all the stars).

Genuinely,

Aimee

Okay, I might have over dramatized that a bit, but you get the point, right? Not very professional. Walking the tightrope between professional and genuine is hard for me. In my case, I tend to lean more professional and come across as rigid or disingenuous (hence my friend’s comment), or it sounds like I’ve created a form letter of some kind. It’s agonizing and completely draining, but it has to be done.

So how am I doing it? Well… slowly, for starters. I’m making sure to pace myself. I know I’ll receive rejections and probably a lot of radio silence (which is a rejection but for some reason seems better to me, I guess I don’t like clean wounds), and knowing that makes me want to rush. As my dad always says, “Every no you get is one no closer to a yes.” True. Meaning I should send requests out to all the reviewers as quickly as possible so I can bypass the nos and get to the yes’.

But every no I get also takes a toll on my spirit, so I want to make sure I’m not rushed into overwhelm. Also, I really do think it’s important to know your target audience in terms of reviewers, which means I have to dedicate time to researching them. The people I’ve asked to review my book are people I actually like. I like their photos or their blogs or their taste in books. They’re people I imagine myself connecting with and befriending, which is maybe another reason the review request takes a toll on me. It’s like the worst parts of applying for a job and asking someone out on a friend date. Do you want to be my employer/friend? No. Well, that’s cool, I guess. I’ll just… thanks for your time… *silently sobs in corner*. They don’t LIKE me.

I have to remind myself it’s not personal. It’s not actually a reflection on me (well, it sort of is, but only the part of me that can be shoved into a two paragraph email which isn’t much because I’m complicated, like everyone else). I have to take it slow but most importantly, I have to do things that reinvigorate my spirit and remind me I’m more than a query email. I have to read and write and spend time with friends and family and play with my dog who will love me unconditionally and my cats who will love me as long as I continue to feed them. I have to take care of myself because if I don’t—who will?

It’s all right, I say. You have time. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

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Why my cat? Because the internet loves cats, that’s why.

For anyone querying, best of luck to you and all the virtual hugs I can give. We’ll get through it, promise.

❤ Aimee

On HEAs (Happily Ever Afters)

Ah yes… the beloved trope. Trope, by the way, is one of those words you shall not speak of except in hushed whispers in serious creative writing programs. It is shoved in a box with other words like “cliches” and “allegory” and “fable”. If your work is ever tagged with one of these labels you have done something shameful and should pay penance to the muses immediately.

So, as you might imagine, after four years of being trained to write serious fiction, I was well out of the genre fiction loop by the time The Wheel Mages entered my head and was shocked to learn that a trope was considered by many authors as not only okay but necessary. Can you imagine? A TROPE.

I remember the exact moment I was listening to one of Joanna Penn’s interviews with romance writer J.A. Huss and Julie said, “In romance, you have to have an HEA, which is ‘happily ever after,’ and there is really no way around it.” I about fell out of my chair. I sputtered obscenities at the computer screen. “Real life does not work that way!” I screamed. Then I thought about it, and I realized the trope does make sense for romance. People read romance for… well… romance. And it’s not very romantic if the characters don’t end up together at the end. “Okay, fine.” I settled back in my chair and listened on. “Romance, you can have your HEAs.”

But I write fantasy. Fantasy is different. Good fantasy is a way to examine real world problems through a less intimidating lens. It’s a way to express frustrations with big picture ideas without screaming on YouTube. Also, there’s magic. I mean… who doesn’t love magic, right? Fantasy may be set in another world or some other plane of this world but it’s grounded in reality. Reality isn’t neat. Real issues can’t be tied up with a bow. Fantasy therefore doesn’t require an HEA.

Or does it?

As I pondered, I realized that a vast majority of the most popular fantasy I’ve read does in fact contain an HEA. Harry defeats the bad guy and marries his best friend’s sister. Alanna achieves her dream and settles down (as much as you can use that phrase with her character) with the man who’s been in love with her since book one. Katiniss survives the games and reunites the people. Clary saves the world and ends up with the love of her life. Bella… well you all know about Bella.

Even epic fantasy has its HEA. Bilbo defeats the dragon. Frodo destroys the ring. Rand… doesn’t die. Daenerys… oh wait. Well, if anyone is going to break the mold, George R.R. Martin will be the one to do it.

My point is, an HEA is not the exception in fantasy—it’s the rule. That got me to thinking… why? The best guess I have is that readers want HEAs. They’ve dedicated a lot of time and emotion to their favorite characters. They want them to beat the bad guy, and find themselves, and fall in love, and change the world. They want them to succeed. Because they want to succeed. They want all those things. want all those things. I think it’s a human response.

It’s not how real life works, though. It’s not precisely truth. And I know it might sound kind of odd to discuss truth when discussing fiction, even more so when discussing fantasy, but I believe it’s fundamental to creation. “Write what you know,” is the mantra of so many writers. But what we know often contains so much suffering. What we know also doesn’t hold an ending. Maybe that’s why the HEA has such a prevalent role in fiction, especially genre fiction which is written as a means of escape. We don’t know our own endings, so we can only hope, and we all hope for a happily ever after, too.

Does that take a work containing an HEA further from the truth writers strive to create? Does that make it somehow less? For that matter, does any kind of ending devalue the work in some way?

To be honest, I’m not sure. My ideas are still evolving, as they hopefully always will. What I do know, however, is that it’s something worth thinking about.

Sound off in the comments, I’m excited to hear what you think!

And as always, happy writing!

❤ Aimee