Writers Write shares writing tips and writing resources. In this post, we share Mary Hoffman’s top 10 rules for fantasy writers.
Hoffman has authored more than 100 books, including the Stravaganza series. She is an Honorary Fellow of the Library Association (CILIP).
She has also written a number of re-tellings of fairy tales, nursery tales, legends, myths, and biblical stories. These include Women of Camelot: Queens and Enchantresses at the Court of King Arthur, which tells the King Arthur stories from the viewpoints of the female characters, Shakespeare’s Ghost, and David: The Unauthorised Autobiography.
She publishes books for adults under a variety of pseudonyms, including Amy Lovell, Suzy Cavendish, and Mary Lassiter.
When she’s writing a book, she says ‘ Three-quarters of each story gets written in my head, so I could be at the bus stop or in the swimming pool or doing the washing up and still be writing a book.’
Mary Hoffman’s Top 10 Rules For Would-be Fantasy Writers
- Beautiful people can be very boring.
- Distinguish between an identifier and an annoying verbal or behavioural tic.
- People without flaws can be very boring.
- Don’t build in merchandising opportunities.
- Don’t use linguistic inversions or, if you must, use them VERY sparingly.
- You are not an estate agent or fashion retailer. Don’t describe houses and clothes as if you were.
- On no account ever let a plot hinge on a birthmark.
- Don’t get carried away by names.
- Remember – your readers will have read the same books as you.
- A series of exciting events is not a plot.
Mary Hoffman’s General Writing Advice
- Decide whether what you are writing is for teenagers or adults. If you are a teenager yourself, it’s likely that will be your readership too.
- Practise on your friends and on the Internet.
- Write fan fiction; it will get other writers’ voices out of your head.
- If you can count the number of books you have read, you haven’t read enough.
- Don’t ask me for ideas; if you haven’t any ideas, you are not a writer.
- Don’t ask me to read your MS. If I did, I wouldn’t have time to write my books.
- Imagine reading what you have written in ten years’ time; will you be embarrassed?
- Forget about being published until you are at least in your 20s (forget, in particular, Christopher Paolini and Flavia Bujor).
- Read the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2020 (or the children’s one, Children’s Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook 2020) till you know it inside out.
- Try to get an agent before approaching a publisher.
Read more of Mary Hoffman’s Writing Advice
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