Last Thursday was the final session in the summer term for my continuing education class Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction at Bellevue College here in suburban Seattle (and now’s the time to register for the fall term!). I had a great time teaching this class and read some amazing work by a group of smart, creative authors. The whole process really energized me—much more that I’d hoped it would.

At the same time, I’ve been getting very busy with work. I’ve taken on some new clients and some big new projects with my consulting business, had a busy summer getting my daughter off to college and all the financial stuff that goes along with that, etc., etc. etc. . . . the busy life of a busy professional and father of two. Unfortunately, what’s had to take a backseat during the past few months has been my own writing. And that’s not okay, but then as I wrote about last week, it’s better to be too busy than not busy enough, and I’m doing work I really enjoy across a very broad spectrum of projects, but still. I need to get writing again.

I have a couple short story projects I’ve been putting off. I need to get on those, even if it seems as though one of them, for a planned new pulp anthology, seems to have sort of drifted away. I need to touch base with the editor and make sure that’s still a going concern.

But I need a bigger project, too, a new novel, and I had the Big Idea, which I’ve written about here—it was my unsuccessful NaNoWriMo project from last year—and I love that idea and will write it, but then . . .

There it came, from the Outer Darkness, from the Wellspring of Creativity, from the tortured musings of a brain slogging through a certain part of an otherwise fun project that required a certain amount of repetitious work . . .

The New Idea.

No idea feels better than the New Idea, and though I hope I’ve matured enough as a creative professional to recognize that new does not always equal better, in this case, the New Idea is something I want to get to work on. Right now.

It’s a swell idea.

But how do I get to work on it?

Well, I did just finish teaching a class on precisely that subject, based on a book I wrote on, yes, you guessed it: precisely that subject.

Secrets Revealed!

That being the case, I’m going to start by taking my own advice. The plan: Start at the beginning of my own book and work the process of creating compelling characters, building an interesting world, and so on.

But why stop there? After all, I’ve also advised aspiring authors to seek out advice and inspiration from multiple channels. I’ll go back through Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel, for instance. And I’ll start researching: reading up on certain subjects to lend the book an air of credibility.

I’m going back and forth on whether or not I should share that process here. It’s not paranoia, really. It’s not that I think the New Idea is so awesome y’all are going to set your own New Ideas aside and steal mine. But despite all my writing here and in the book, and speaking at conventions, and this class I’m teaching, there’s still a part of me that sees that side of it, at least, as private, special . . . secret. Right now the New Idea is mine and mine alone. But then what’s the point of all this if I can’t provide a real-life example of How I Do It?

I don’t know, what do you think I should do?


—Philip Athans


PS: Join me this weekend here in Seattle at PAX Prime—just in case you missed that link!


About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, (https://fantasyhandbook.wordpress.com/) is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
This entry was posted in Books, NaNoWriMo, Publishing Business, Science Fiction & Fantasy Novels, SF and Fantasy Authors, Writing, Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Nina says:

    I think you should write about it. PR, man!

  2. Pingback: THE NAME GAME | Fantasy Author's Handbook

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s