I don’t always make New Years resolutions—and I rarely actually follow up on them. If you’ve been following Fantasy Author’s Handbook for a while now you’ll likely see a few repeats—or, well, all of these are repeats—from previous years. But this year I feel a different sense of urgency—at least one is a bit more do or die this year. Most of all, though, in the past eighteen months I’ve proven to myself that I have some untapped reserves, that I can rise to the occasion in ways I don’t always have the self-confidence to imagine.

So let’s wipe the slate clean of previous resolutions, to do list schemes, and so on, and get to these three…


I’m not going to get into too much detail about the current state of my health but, please forgive me, I’m going to use this blog to say, publically and without reservation, that (almost) everything that’s wrong with me, including some stuff that has seriously intruded into both my personal and professional lives in 2017 (and before) comes down to me just being way, way too fat.

For the record, I don’t give a crap how much I weigh, or what I look like. There will be no “weigh ins” or before and after photos. I simply need to eat better and exercise more so I can sit, stand, lay down, or walk without agonizing pain in my ankles, feet, and upper back. And that pain is often too severe to allow me to continue to do any work—sometimes it’s difficult to breathe.

This is not just whining—this is me drawing a line in the sand with myself. I made the problem, and I’m the only one who can fix it. But from the standpoint of advice for genre authors?

Look, I’ve been going to SF, fantasy, and gaming conventions for something like forty years now and I know I’m not alone in the Doritos and Mountain Dew “diet plan.” I hope that if you’re reading this and thinking, Yeah… me, too, I guess that you’re younger than fifty-three and will have a longer period of healthy, pain-free living than I’ve allowed myself once you make a move in the direction of good general health.

No one can read our epic fantasy masterpieces if we die before we’ve finished them. Let’s get and stay healthy—all of us!

I tend to eat (almost continuously) when I watch TV and not at all while reading or writing, so one road to health is the road that leads away from the TV. To that end…


That’s an average of a book a week, which I know is not at all weird for a lot of you, but strangely enough it has been for me. And keep in mind that this is 52 books “for pleasure,” and though I take enormous pleasure in my work as an editor, I mean that these are recreational books—books that have already been published, books that I’m not editing (though I do pull quotes and ideas out of them for other stuff, but that’s me), and that I’m not being paid to read but just the opposite. I’m going to read 52 books in 2018 just for fun and personal interest and growth.

To put that number, 52, in perspective, though, I’ll only be counting books I actually read all the way through. I started reading 42 books this year, gave up on 17, am still working my way through 2, and finished 23—that’s my best year since 2011’s 33, and 2010 (the year I basically took six months off) is still in the lead with 40.

If you’re interested, the best books I read in 2017 were The Haunting of Hill House and The Bird’s Nest by Shirley Jackson, and The Dismal Science by Peter Mountford.

I’m still working on two huge books: Heretics of Dune by Frank Herbert, book five in my slow (partially re-) read of the entire extended Dune series; and The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker, a mammoth 800-page tome that I just can’t put down, and though I’m barely a third of the way in I’m already convinced this should be required reading in every school in the world—not just America, though it’s message is something every American needs to hear and understand before we do ourselves any more damage in the cause of “homeland defense,” both public and private.

But anyway…

I’ll keep working my way through those bigger books, but to get to my goal of a book a week I’m definitely going to be looking for some shorter books to keep my total up. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with a good short book. I’m still going to occasionally draw a book from my random sci-fi/fantasy grab bag box—I read a couple of good ones from that box this year. I’ll still keep mixing up genres. I’ll be adding some books for younger readers, too, including my growing collection of the classic Tom Swift, Jr. series, as well as books about writing, biographies of authors and other artists, and general non-fiction of all stripes. You can follow along with that, if you like, via GoodReads.

When I consider that I can accomplish this goal simply by choosing to read a book I’ve never read (or haven’t read since I was a kid) instead of watching all of The Sopranos again while mashing my face full of fat and sugar… well, no disrespect to The Sopranos, but that’s an easy trade-off.

Good for me! But what does this have to do with advice for authors of science fiction, fantasy, and horror?

Stephen King said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.

And he’s right!

Which brings me to…


So, 2016 sucked. It was a tough year for my little business for a few reasons—and none of it had anything to do with the election, etc. It took me the lion’s share of 2017 to dig out of that, but it came at the expense of my own writing. And just like I fell into the easy lazy thing with reading, I’ve filled my flagging-due-to-ill-health workday energy with work, leaving no time or energy or the mental will for writing.

Well, okay, not no time, per se, but definitely not nearly enough time.

So back to writing—and writing a lot.

A few changes to my business will help that along, but still, this is going to come down to a choice between TV I’m not really all that excited about and that causes me to get fatter or writing I’m really excited about and actually prevents me from eating. No contest.

Advice for writers?


It’s the first principle.

And I honestly find it perplexing that it’s so obvious I’d rather be writing, but haven’t been.

That ends now.

Again, sorry The Sopranos.


—Philip Athans



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, ( is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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5 Responses to RESOLUTIONS, 2018

  1. Craig says:

    In that same Stephen King article you link in your post, he also says, “TV—while working out or anywhere else—really is about the last thing an aspiring writer needs.”

    It sounds like the cursed box is a main issue in all of your resolutions. How about doing something bold? Tonight at 12:01AM, take the damn thing off your wall and shove it in your garage. I got rid of my TV just over a year ago and don’t miss it… anything you really need to see, you could probably stream online anyways.

    All the best in 2018! And keep up the great posts/blog.

  2. I absolutely watch way too much TV, but at the same time, I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. More on that here:

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