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Know Your Genre Before You Write

Regardless of whether you feel confident in your writing abilities, it is always a good idea to expose yourself as much as possible to the genre you plan to write in. Not only can you test how unique your idea is, but you can also gain a lot of insight to what is popular in the genre and the best writing techniques. For example, you will undoubtedly discover the level of detail necessary to pull of an effective fantasy story, especially in terms of worldbuilding and characterization. There is much to be gained from reading. After all, it’s likely you’re planning on writing a fantasy story because you were inspired by something in that genre in your lifetime.

Now, there’s a lot of information out there about which fantasy books and series are “must-reads”. Some writers even go as far to say that you shouldn’t even attempt writing until you’ve read a certain selection. Personally, I don’t think you should chase after a book that you really don’t want to read or will not finish for whatever reason. And by no means is certain books the end-all, be-all of the fantasy genre. Depending on what you’re working on and your own personal fantasy interests, some popular books may not be for you. They may be so far away from what you want out of your own writing that it makes absolutely no sense to ever pick up the book.

And that’s okay! I’m exactly the same way. In fact, I’ll let you in on a little secret. *glances left, and then right before leaning in to whisper* I couldn’t finish the Game of Thrones series. And… *voice drops down lower* I still haven’t gotten around to reading the Lord of the Rings.

And yet, I reached the threshold where I felt comfortable moving forward with my novel. Every author reaches their comfort level at a different point. You just have to find yours. (And by the way, your threshold can’t be zero. You do need to put it in a little effort.)

Below, I am leaving a list of fantastic fantasy books to look into depending on which sub-genre you plan to write in. Anything I’ve read, I will highlight in bold so you know I practice what I’m preaching. Please remember that this is by no means an exhaustive list; I’m posting what I think I can confidently recommend based on my own reading and reviews online. Feel free to comment if I miss something major you believe should be added in or if I should add another sub-genre! Happy reading!

Epic Fantasy:

  1. The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R Tolkien

  2. The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien

  3. Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin

  4. Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson (I’m about to start this series!)

  5. Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas

  6. A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas

  7. The Inheritance Cycle series by Christopher Paolini

  8. The Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima

  9. Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis (made it through about half the series

Urban Fantasy:

  1. The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare

  2. The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

  3. The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne

  4. Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews

Dark Fantasy:

  1. Girls of Paper and Fire series by Natasha Ngan

Historical Fantasy:

  1. Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon

  2. The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare

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