Look at How Others Do It

And on that note, it can be really helpful to look at what others in your genre have done before! I’m not saying you should copy anyone or look at their homework…

But when you remember that story is all one big, collective consciousness built on millennia of first verbal stories, then written ones (and sung ones and danced ones and filmed ones and beyond!), then you can also remember that looking at how other people “make it work” is a great way to find solutions to your own problems.

If I know I want Screechers to be epic, sweeping fantasy then I can look at different epic, sweeping fantasy. Is there some genre convention I’m forgetting?

I’m not worried I’ll copy anyone. Screechers has such a strong, unique atmosphere in my brain, with its dense political landscape and gritty desert wind practically blowing off the pages. So if I go look at one of my favorite fantasy authors—let’s say Robin Hobb, for example—I’m not worried I will copy her at all. None of her series are like what I imagine Screechers as. But they do all qualify as door-stopper mass market paperbacks with epic fantasy inside.

I’m also a big gamer, so I will frequently look to my favorite games to see how I can use what made me love that game in my own stories. I often relay how I learned so much while playing the Dragon Age franchise shortly after Truthwitch went off to the printers, so I made sure to use all that learning—specifically about how to incorporate foreshadowing directly into the physicality of the world—in the rest of the Witchlands series.