I figure I’ve got the far ends of the literary spectrum covered: before diving face-first into the world of epic fantasy, I wrote poetry. At first blush, the two enterprises couldn’t look much more different. Although epic poetry has its share of gods and monsters, the work of lyric poets like Elizabeth Bishop, John Donne, and Anne Sexton tends to be short on orcs, fortresses, and magical glowing swords. Conversely, the verse contained in epic fantasy tends to fall into two categories: drinking songs and elvish; Dragonlance isn’t exactly replete with searing meditations in the tradition of George Herbert or Robert Lowell.
Given the disparity in modes and methods, the move from lyric poetry to epic fantasy seems to make about as much sense as heading into the Alaskan wilderness wearing Hawaiian leis and a grass skirt. I’ve found, however, much to my joy and surprise, that the hard won lessons of poetry are wonderfully useful; in the following series of posts, I’ll dig into the some of the most transferable lessons...
No one gets into writing for the spreadsheets.
When you sit down to write a book, you think it’s going to be all about character, and plot, and world building. These sorts of interesting artistic challenges are, of course, integral to the job. Alongside such challenges, however, comes another set of tasks that I can only describe as CRUCIAL BORING SHIT.