How to write a fantasy novel (Updated)

So I was going to write a sequel to my earlier post on how to write a novel specifically about how to write a fantasy novel. There was going to be lots of stuff on world building, on inventing your own languages, not to mention how to build a robust magic system. It would have had all that jazz, but it turns out that such a text already exists.

That’s right, to save me lots of time, effort and typing Diana Wynne Jones has helpfully written the one true guide to writing fantasy novels. That book is called The Tough Guide to Fantasyland and it is a work of unsurpassed genius.

It first came out in 1996, but the recently revised and updated edition published by Firebird books in the US of A is the one you want because it is thing of beauty and surpasses the usefulnesss of the first one a hundredfold.

If you love fantasy you need this book. Because it’s really really really funny. You will recognise every single thing she makes mock of.

If you hate fantasy you need this book. Because it makes mock of everything you’ve ever hated about the genre. You will laugh and laugh and laugh.

If you’ve ever contemplated writing a fantasy novel you need this book. It covers every possible cliche of the genre in long and mocking detail. Once read you will never use any of those cliches. Or if you do you will breathe new life into them. For if you do not Diana Wynne Jones’ mocking voice will leak into your dreams and you will never sleep well again. Trust me, you don’t want that.

And if you’ve never read any of Diana Wynne Jones’ novels then on your bike! I recommend Fire and Hemlock or Archer’s Goon or Howl’s Moving Castle or, you know, pretty much all of them.

She’s one of the best fantasy writers working today and in Tough Guide to Fantasyland she shares all the tricks of the trade. What more could you ask for?

Update: Sharyn November, who edited this edition, reminds me that the original was a Hugo finalist (which means I have something in commone with Diana Wynne Jones! We were both shortlisted in the same category of the Hugos! Woo hoo!) and a World Fantasy award finalist. Sharyn says that the Firebird edition is completely redesigned, has a new map, and Wynne Jones has written additional material.

I’d also add that the Firebird edition is not littered with typoes like the original was. I don’t often notice typoes, but, wow, were there a lot in the original edition.


  1. sdn on #

    thank you! i just sent you email with additional information …

    sdn, its editor

  2. Chris McLaren on #

    I heartily endorse this product!

  3. Maureen johnson on #

    I’m busy making my very first spreadsheet based on your last post.

  4. Maureen johnson on #

    And by last post, I mean the link back to writing. I think the actual last post was about toilets, which I am not making a spreadsheet about. But I CAN if you really need one.

  5. Justine on #

    Maureen: I think the actual last post was about toilets, which I am not making a spreadsheet about. But I CAN if you really need one.

    Yes, please. THere are not enough toilet spreadsheets.

  6. Maggie on #

    When my first book came out, a VOYA reviewer said ‘Recommend this book to readers of Tamora Pierce and Diana Wynne Jones.’ That’s still, to me, the biggest compliment my writing’s ever received! 😀

  7. little willow on #

    yes! i heard of this book and didn’t find it the first time ’round, so when i heard of the new printing, I added it to my “books to read” list.

Comments are closed.