Exploring the Craft: Writing Speculative and Fantasy Fiction

A series on the craft of writing SFF, plus one action we can take right now to make ourselves better writers.

I write a lot of notes. I keep them with me at all times so I can jot things down as they occur and I don’t have to remember them. I also keep a journal for each of my writing projects. For example, in my current novel there is a document, entitled Journal, and I write a summary of what I did today in that project. I also record my thoughts on how it’s going, or not going. Thoughts on structure, characters, or plot. I do a lot of writing about my writing.

So I conceived of this series to share the questions and dilemmas of craft I face as I’m writing. If I’m going to write about it, I might as well share it with other writers.

I mean this series as an exploration of fiction writing craft in general, with specifics to Speculative and Fantasy. It will not be prescriptive but an investigation into the things stories need, that readers need. I’ll explore the ways writers can fulfill those needs.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash


The one need every reader has is immersion. A story truly only works when the reader is, at least for a few moments, immersed. All aspects of craft really come down to how you build immersion. I’ll be looking at tools and techniques we can use to create that experience.

I’ll share what I know and what I’m still learning. I’m no MFA-wielding literary guru. I’m simply a writer trying to tell the best SFF stories I can.


I don’t know all the places this adventure will take us, but I do know we’ll investigate:

  • Idea generation
  • Characterization
  • Plot
  • World building
  • Point of View
  • Dialogue
  • Structure
  • Prose
  • Showing and Telling

Some of them more than once because there are multiple ways to approach the topic. If there’s a specific area you’d like to see me explore, let me know in the comments below.

One action we can take to make ourselves better writers

I use the word craft intentionally. Like practitioners of any craft, writers study and practice their craft. Mastering craft is a never-ending process. But today I want to leave you with a single simple action you can take, which I found made me a better writer in just three months. I’m a slow reader, so for some, you might see results in a month or even a week.

The 3x3x3 plan.

For the next three months:

  • Read 3 books in the genre you write in. They don’t have to be in the precise sub-genre you write in, like Urban Fantasy, but they must be in the broader genre, like Fantasy, AND published within the last TWO years.
  • Also read 3 fiction books outside your genre. Literary, historical, thriller, etc. These don’t have to be recently published. The classics are good here. Though I would suggest at least one title published within the last decade.
  • Finally, read 3 non-fiction books on any subject that interests you.

If you don’t like a book, put it away and start another of the same type.

Do this in whatever order works for you. I like to have one of each going simultaneously, but that won’t work for everyone.

Photo by Seven Shooter on Unsplash

Through reading widely and deeply, I think you’ll be surprised at how much you absorb, and how much your writing will improve. I find more and better ideas. I learn how stories in the various genres are structured, and I learn techniques from all genres and forms that I can use in my work.

What do you have to lose? Even if you don’t feel like a better writer, I’m betting those first readers and beta readers will notice a difference. The worst that can happen is that you’ve read nine books.


In the next installment, I’ll share some of my favorite craft resources, many of which I’ll refer to throughout the series.

<a href="https://kevinjfellows.com">Kevin Fellows</a>
Kevin Fellows

I’m a poet and author of fantasy and speculative fiction. My debut novel At the End of the World is available now. You can find my poetry in the Star*Line Summer 2020 issue, and at Free Verse Revolution.

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