Fantasy Book Editing Outline


There are many types of fantasy stories. For instance, high fantasy, or epic fantasy, is a subgenre of fantasy defined by the epic nature of its setting or by the epic stature of its characters, themes, or plot. High fantasy is set in an alternative, fictional ("secondary") world, rather than the "real" or "primary" world. This secondary world is usually internally consistent, but its rules differ from those of the primary world. By contrast, low fantasy is characterized by being set on Earth, the primary or real world, or a rational and familiar fictional world with the inclusion of magical elements. Many of the different types of fantasy will be addressed below under part 8 (VII), "Understand the Sub-Genres".

The following are notes that I took while working through an online course about editing fiction. I took the course several years ago, and I didn't make note of the person giving the course or where on the internet I took the course. Nevertheless, these are some fantastic editing notes so I decided to put them up here so I can access them in the future when needed.

Editing Fantasy Stories

I.) Familiarize Yourself With the Genre

  1. Magic: Spells, enchanted objects, mythical creatures. Understand how magic is used and works and ensure consistency and believability.
  2. World Building: Ensure world building is used consistently and believably.
  3. Mythical Creatures: Understand characteristics and behaviors. Ensure accuracy and consistency within the story.
  4. Epic Themes and Quests: Make sure themes and quests are engaging

II.) Understand the Tropes (Figurative or metaphorical use of a word or expression)

  1. Having a good understanding of the conventions and tropes is essential for editing a fantasy book or story. Examples: Use of magic, presence of mythical creatures, and setting of story, ie. Medieval world or modern urban environment.
  2. Common Tropes
    1. The hero's journey: the epic quest to save the day facing challenges and obstacles
    2. Good vs. Evil: battle between good and evil - hero = good, villain = evil
    3. Magical Powers
    4. Mythical Creatures: dragons, unicorns, etc...
    5. The chosen one: Hero being chosen by fate or prophecy
    6. Love conquers all
    7. Power of Friendship: strong bonds
    8. The Mentor: hero being guided by the wise one
    9. The Dark Lord: villain threatens hero
    10. Happily Ever After: Hero and allies' victory over the villain

III.) Attention to World-Building

  1. World-building is an essential element. Pay close attention to it while editing. This is the creation and development of the imaginary world where the story takes place.
    1. History of the world: Rich and detailed history relevant to the story. Should be consistent and believable.
    2. Geography of the world: Well-defined and believable. Locations and landscapes fit in the context of the story.
    3. Cultures of the world: Cultures need to be fully developed and believable
    4. Rules of the world: Rules need to be clearly defined and followed consistently. Magic needs to have clearly defined rules as well.

Attention to world-building creates a fully realized and believable world for the story. It helps draw the reader in and makes the story more immersive.

IV.) Pacing

If pacing is too slow, readers lose interest. If it's too fast, it can be confusing and overwhelming. Cut unnecessary scenes that slow the story. Add scenes for excitement or clarity.

  1. Length of story: could be long and complex. It's important to ensure the story isn't bogged down or overwhelming.
  2. Balance between action and exposition needs to be reached. Too much action makes the story frenetic and confusing. Too much exposition slows the story.
  3. Cliffhangers: Use sparingly. They can be useful but overusing them leans toward being manipulative or contrived.

Create a smooth and engaging reading experience by considering pacing.

V.) Character Development (Includes motivations, goals, personality, and arc*)

  1. Main Characters should be fully developed and multi-dimensional. They should have their own goals, motivations, and flaws. They should be well-rounded and believable.
  2. Supporting Characters should also be fully developed and believable. They should be integral to the plot.
  3. *Character Arc refers to the journey that a character takes throughout the story and includes their growth and development. It's important to ensure that the character arc is consistent and believable and that it ties in with the overall themes and message of the story.

VI.) Stay True to Genre

Avoid cliches and ensure the story fits within the established tropes and conventions of the genre.

  1. Use of Magic: Ensure that it's used consistently and believably within the context of the story.
  2. Depiction of Mythical Creatures: Dragons, elves, unicorns, Etc... Ensure they are depicted accurately and consistently.
  3. Settings and Tone: Fantasy stories often take place in medieval-like worlds or other fantastical places. Ensure that the setting and tone fit the conventions of the genre, (Find out what the conventions are.)
  4. Themes and Messages: Fantasies often explore epic themes like good vs. evil. Ensure these are explored in a meaningful and believable way.

VII.) Read Like a Writer: Read, read, read within the genre. The more you read, the more you expose yourself to different writing styles, techniques, and approaches.

VIII.) Understand the Sub-Genres: Following is a list of some current sub-genres:

  1. Epic Fantasy: Large-scale stories set in immersive, fantastical worlds. Complex plots and a large cast of characters. Examples are The Lord of the Rings and The Wheel of Time.
  2. High Fantasy: Use of magical elements and mythical creatures, often set in a medieval-like world. Examples are The Chronicles of Narnia and The Sword of Shannara.
  3. Low Fantasy: More realistic portrayal of magic and mythical creatures. Often set in a modern or contemporary setting. Examples are Harry Potter and  The Earthsea Series.
  4. Dark Fantasy: Darker themes and atmosphere. Often explores themes of evil, despair, and the supernatural. Examples are The Dark Tower Series and The Elric of Melnibone.
  5. Sword and Sorcery: Focus on action and adventure. Heroes battling against dark forces and monsters. Examples are Conan the Barbarian and The Belgariad Series.
  6. Romantic Fantasy: Focus on romance and relationships. Stories are set in fantastical worlds. Examples are The Kushiel's Legacy and The Fever Series.
  7. Paranormal Fantasy: Combines fantasy and horror. Often features supernatural beings like vampires, werewolves, and ghosts. Examples include Twilight and The Vampire Chronicles.
  8. Fairy Tale Fantasy: Uses traditional fairy tale elements like magic and mythical creatures in a modern or re-imagined setting. Examples include The Sisters Grimme and The Once and Future Witch.
  9. Mythic Fantasy: Characterized by use of traditional myths, legends, and folklore from a particular culture or region. Often reinterpreted in a modern or fantastical setting. Examples are American Gods and Percy Jackson and the Olympians.
  10. Steampunk Fantasy: Combines elements of fantasy and science fiction. Set in a world where steam-powered technology is prevalent. Examples are The Leviathan and The Glamourist Histories.
  11. Gaslamp Fantasy: Characterized by use of Victorian or Edwardian settings and technology. Often features elements of horror, mystery, and the supernatural. Examples are Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and The Infernal Devices.
  12. Modern Fantasy: Characterized by use of fantasy elements in a contemporary setting. Often has themes of magic, myth, and the supernatural in the real world. Examples are The Magicians and The Chronicles of Nick.
  13. Portal Fantasy: Stories where characters travel to a fantastical world through a portal or gateway. Often has themes of adventure and self-discovery. Examples are The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Chronicles of Amber.

IX.) Tpes of Editing

  1. Developmental editing: This type of editing involves working with the author to shape the overall direction and structure of the book, including plot, character development, and pacing.
  2. Line editing: This type of editing focuses on the individual sentences and paragraphs of the book, looking at issues such as clarity, flow, and style.
  3. Copy editing: This type of editing involves checking the book for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors, as well as ensuring that the book follows the appropriate style guide.
  4. Proofreading: This type of editing is the final step before publishing, and involves carefully reviewing the book for any remaining errors or typos.