Getting published: finding your own path and going at your own pace

Hello gentle reader,

In 2010, I wrote a Sci-Fi novel and I sent it to my former English teacher with a question: “Is this good enough to be published?” Incredibly – given the poor quality of my Masterpiece – she didn’t say “NO WAY”. Instead she told me: “If you work hard and you really want this, I don’t see why not.”

So I embarked on my very own publishing journey, full of hopes and dreams. I chose the traditional route, because it was what felt like the best way for me and my stories. It still feels that way, actually.


Soon enough, I found other writers on the same path: people writing a manuscript, or people with a manuscript looking for an agent. I read their blog, followed them on Twitter, made a lot of writerly friends with whom I could share the aforementioned hopes and dreams.

I wrote another novel (a YA High Fantasy), found beta readers and Critique Partners, and after a year I queried it.

It turned out finding an agent who loved my manuscript was even harder than predicted.

At the end of 2012, I made the decision to shelve my YA High Fantasy and to start working on another story.

I began writing a YA Victorian Fantasy.

In the meantime, I started noticing the writing community around me had changed.

Some simply quit and disappeared, sometimes with one last blog post explaining their decision, sometimes without a whisper.

Some got an agent and later on a publishing deal, leaving the shore of unpublished writers for the land of authors.

Others got a publishing deal with a small press or an independent publisher, and saw their book come out within 9 months or a year.

And a staggering, STAGGERING number decided to self-publish.

Now, I’m not criticising the last two publishing paths in the slightest. I just know one thing: those publishing options aren’t for me. Self-publishing is way more work than I can handle, and dealing with a publisher (whatever its size) means I need an agent to tell me what (not) to do.

Three years on, and I now find myself rather lonely on my publishing road.

Out of all the writers I met online or in person in the past 3 years, many, many of them now have a book out or a soon-to-be-published book.

And I’m still walking on the path, with my manuscript in hand and my hopes and dreams with me, forever convinced I will find the right agent and traditional publisher in the end.

And it struck me the other day that maybe I’m not as alone as I think in this situation.

When you spend a lot of time around the writing community, it sometimes feels like EVERYONE you know now has an agent and/or a book out.

But it’s not true. We just hear more about those who have exciting news than about those who are STILL looking for an agent after three years.

So if you’re one of those lonely writers without news for the world, remember this:

–          Going at your own pace is fine. What matters is getting where you want.

–          Don’t give up on your traditional publishing dream because it’s slow to come true.

–          Don’t give up, period.

–          Write the best book you can, and do your best, always. Someone will notice in the end.

–          Enjoy the journey without worrying about what others accomplish. One day, you will accomplish those things too.

And never stop writing.

What is Gritty Epic Fantasy?

Hello gentle reader,

When people ask me what genre my WIP The Last Queen is, I usually reply “Fantasy”. But if I wanted to be precise, I would say “Gritty Epic Fantasy”. Usually I’m not that precise, because then I would have to explain what Gritty Epic Fantasy is and I would end up talking for 15 minutes…

So today I thought I would explain what Gritty Epic Fantasy is, just this once.

Let’s break it down, shall we?

According to Wikipedia,

Fantasy is a genre of fiction that commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary element of plot, theme, or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic is common.

Epic Fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy that is set in invented or parallel worlds.

NB: Because they share so many similarities, Epic Fantasy and High Fantasy are often used as synonyms. In this post, I will not differentiate the two subgenres, although I do think there are some differences that distinguish them.

J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis are seen as the founders of the Epic Fantasy subgenre. Both authors invented imaginary worlds where their characters go on a great adventure. Their books focus on a good-versus-evil story and they were published during the first half of the 20th Century.

These books are all about escapism and heroism. In The Hobbit, Bilbo is on a quest to find a treasure guarded by a dragon. In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf comes back from the dead. In The Chronicles of Narnia, children protect the fictional realm from evil and restore the throne to its rightful line. In these first Epic Fantasy books, there are talking animals, mythical beasts, sword fights, magic at every turn and people rarely die.

As many other readers out there, I love those stories. But Fantasy literature is about being a metaphor for the world we live in. And this is 2012. Since the 1950s, society has changed. Readers have changed. They’ve grown up watching people getting killed live on TV, hearing about horrific cases of child abuse and reading about human trafficking in the paper. When they read Fantasy books, they want to read about characters who face similar challenges to the ones they do.

And that’s what Gritty Epic Fantasy, also known as Realistic Fantasy, has to offer.

The trend was started by Glen Cook’s Black Company series in the mid 1980s. Then George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series followed in the mid 1990s. And in the last ten years, this subgenre has grown exponentially, with authors such as Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch, K. J. Parker, Mark Lawrence, Steven Erikson and Brent Weeks.

In these books, the setting is still imaginary worlds. But instead of relying on complicated magic systems and weird creatures, these stories show us a world in shades of grey, where the characters are as flawed as we are, with the same emotions and reactions. These books touch on concepts which echo in our real world. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire tackles politics and relationships, Week’s Night Angel trilogy mentions child abuse and moral ambiguity.

In Gritty Epic Fantasy, there is no old grey-bearded wizard in robes to save the day. No quest to find a hidden treasure. No talking lions and children more powerful than kings. No brave knights who defy death. No world in black and white.

“There’s no guarantee that justice will win out or that a noble sacrifice will make any difference. But when it does, there’s something that still swells my chest. There’s magic in that…. It tells me that’s the way things are supposed to be.”

Brent Weeks, Beyond the Shadows

So maybe Gritty Epic Fantasy is not for you. But I find that this Fantasy subgenre is the one that echoes the most in me and this is what I write.

Some reading recommendations:

Black Company series   (Glen Cook)
A Song of Ice and Fire series  (George R.R. Martin)
Malazan Book of the Fallen series  (Steven Erikson)
The Deed of Paksenarrion  (Elizabeth Moon)
Prince of Nothing series    (R. Scott Bakker)
Acacia  (David Anthony Durham)
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant  (Stephen R. Donaldson)
First Law series  (Joe Abercrombie)
The Lies of Locke Lamora  (Scott Lynch)

The Night Angel trilogy (Brent Weeks)

Prince of Thorns (Mark Lawrence)

 On the web:

Gritty fantasy

Painting With Grey: The Development and Popularity of “Gritty Fantasy”

Why the Turn Towards Gritty Realism In Epic Fantasy?

So what do you think? Do read or write Gritty Epic Fantasy? Why or why not? I’d love to hear your thoughts!