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Making Myths and Magic: A Field Guide to Writing Sci-Fi and Fantasy

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So you want to write speculative fiction?

It’s time to get that fantastic world that’s been stuck inside your head for years, complete with dragons and androids, onto paper! Whether you’re starting your first or tenth novel, Making Myths and Magic was written for you.

Fantasy author Shelly Campbell and editor Allison Alexander have teamed up to provide a comprehensive resource, distilling the information they’ve learned from years in the publishing industry. To keep you inspired and engaged as you grow in your craft, they take a deep dive through science fiction and fantasy novels, movies, and TV shows.

Within these pages, you’ll learn how to tackle structure, dialogue, tropes, diversity, mythology, riddles, prophecies, fantastic creatures, weapons, technology, magic systems, languages, and more!


Published February 18, 2022

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About the author

Shelly Campbell

8 books61 followers
At a young age, Shelly Campbell wanted to be an air show pilot or a pirate, possibly a dragon and definitely a writer and artist. She’s piloted a Cessna 172 through spins and stalls, and sailed up the east coast on a tall ship barque—mostly without projectile vomiting. In the end, Shelly found writing stories and drawing dragons to be so much easier on the stomach.

Shelly's tales are speculative fiction, tending toward literary with dollops of oddity. She enjoys the challenge of exploring new techniques and subject matter, and strives to embed inspiring stories in her writing and art.

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5 stars
18 (60%)
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9 (30%)
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2 (6%)
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Displaying 1 - 19 of 19 reviews
Profile Image for Book Clubbed.
146 reviews151 followers
February 2, 2022
A basic, accessible text to writing science fiction and fantasy. They aren't reinventing the wheel here, but they do a good job of balancing information with examples. Hell, they even bring in video game or TV show examples, which speaks to the cross-pollination going on right now.
Profile Image for Sunyi Dean.
Author 10 books875 followers
October 11, 2021
This was actually genuinely useful to me as I was in the midst of finishing an outline for another wip while reading it. Comprehensive, concise, and sff focused with plenty of real world exMples from published books to pore over.
Profile Image for Antoine Bandele.
Author 16 books366 followers
November 19, 2021
"Comprehensive yet concise! Unlike other world-building books that merely present advice in a vacuum, Making Myths and Magic shows the practical way to take foggy ideas and turn them into concrete action. This is an easy pick up for all speculative fiction authors and writers out there."
Profile Image for lilah.
31 reviews2 followers
January 12, 2022
Thank you to Mythos and Ink for the ARC copy!
This is a really good, short but fairly comprehensive guide to writing sci-fi and fantasy novels/short stories. I really liked the section on world-building. It definitely falls on the more basic end of work of this type, both in its brevity and contents, but that's probably what makes it a good beginners guide. I've done a lot of reading on this topic and I still found parts of it really helpful, especially structuring (which I struggle with the most) and world-building. It's well-organised and very concise. I also liked the section on the link between science fiction and anthropology and exploring cultural bias.
Profile Image for Andrea.
283 reviews59 followers
April 8, 2022
This is great for newbie writers. I definitely found it useful. It has an easy to follow structure, has lots of examples and doesn't bore you to death like other guides that feel like text books.
Profile Image for Renee.
837 reviews13 followers
December 26, 2021
"If you have a damsel in distress, she should still be a three-dimensional character who is not just there to be saved. A good way to test this? If she can be replaced with an antimate object, the character needs more development."

3.5 stars

Uh, yes I would say so. This is a good basic short book about writing fantasy and sci-fi that has examples from literature, Tv, and movies as the main focus to explore key ideas. I did appreciate the large diversity of things they quoted from, there is certainly no lack of fantasy and sci-fi knowledge here, I felt big parts of the books where sort of wasted. Like pointing out pretty basic world building things, or when they listed and explained 40 fantasy and sci-fi tropes. I found the role of mythology and questions about creatures the most interesting.

Thank you the the authors, publisher, and NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Cathy Demming.
30 reviews2 followers
February 6, 2022
This reference guide was intended for authors wanting to write speculative fiction.

The authors did an excellent job of explaining every element of writing in the fantasy/sci-fi genres. They balanced the information given with real-life examples, like novels, movies, TV Series and more. The book also contained alot of external resources for further research if needed. All important aspects of writing Sci-Fi/Fantasy is very appropriately covered.

Some of the topics included were;
1: Brainstorming and outlining
2: How to hook readers with the first chapter
3: Conflict
5:Character creation
6:World-building... and a lot more. There's even great step by step advice about writing songs for your novel. Very cool!

The authors Shelly and Allison are qualified individuals, who did a great job of logically organizing this reference, with clear and effective points.

Shelly writes speculative fiction, and Allison is an editor and author, who writes extensively on the topics of world-building, diversity, disability and faith. They'd hoped, and I quote, "that this book would function as both an encouragement and a helpful resource, for bringing your imagination to the page".
So do I believe this book will successfully carry out their mission? Oh yes! I think they hit the nail on the head.

As a fantasy writer who's currently in the drafting stages of my first novel, I know for a fact that I am going to constantly be referencing this book throughout my writing process.

Writing fantasy and sci-fi is extremely difficult. This book is the staple needed to make the writing journey a little easier. Wether it's for new fantasy/sci-fi authors, or anyone who's interested in just learning about what goes into crafting such best-sellers. Therefore, I highly recommend.

A big thank you to the authors, publishers at Mythos and Ink, and NetGalley, for offering me an arc of this book, in exchange for an honest review. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Happy Reading!❤
781 reviews22 followers
December 26, 2021
My thanks to NetGalley and to the publisher Myths & Ink for an advanced copy of this writing reference book.

Many people have published books on writing and the writing life. Writing Zen, Writing your bones, writing to diet, writing what you know, what you don't know, and writing to make your life super great and full of wealth. Many have the best of intentions, but lack the practical matters of how to create a world for speculative fiction, maybe for fun, maybe for publishing. Making Myths and Magic :A Field Guide to Writing Sci-Fi and Fantasy Novels by Shelly Campbell and Allison Alexander is the exception, with practical world building strategies helpful hints, and real editing and publishing information that makes this a great reference book for writers of all types.

Immediately the book draws you in with helpful ideas on how to get those ideas that float in your brain down on paper or screen. In addition there are helpful ideas on how to build and develop a world your adventure might take place in. If starting small scares you, go big, get an idea of what the universe for your characters might be like. Starting big might be overkill to some, but the more comfort you have in your scenario, the more comfort you will have in sharing your characters with the real world. Again there are many exercises, fully explained and well worth trying.

Another chapter I found interesting was on dialogue and making your characters seem real. Again, the ideas are common sense, but everything is explained so well, and with plenty of examples, and real world publishing stories, that the reader finds their confidence build the more they read.

A wonderful book for writers, game designers, even for people who need stories for insomniac children who don't want the same old stories. Good practical ideas, to make those brainstorms that fill the mind real, and maybe give the impetus to share with others. A great gift for aspiring writers, however even if the reader never writes their own book, this is still a wonderful gift to inspire the creative imagination.
Profile Image for Annie.
3,376 reviews62 followers
February 14, 2022
Originally posted on my blog: Nonstop Reader.

Making Myths and Magic is a practical and well written guide to writing genre speculative fiction presented by Shelly Campbell & Allison Alexander. Due out 18th Feb 2022 from Mythos and Ink, it's 404 pages and will be available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of nonfiction ebooks with interactive formats lately. It makes finding information again so much easier without having to flip around in the book looking.

This reminds me in all the best ways of a good writing workshop with concrete, logically prepared, and well presented useful advice for the craft of writing, aimed at writers (or would-be writers) who wish to concentrate on speculative fiction. The authors tie-in numerous different media (film, printed fiction, popular culture, etc). There are relevant writing examples throughout the book which will hopefully help would-be SF/F writers to hone their craft. The authors have included chapter notes and attributions with external links and references which I found very helpful.

Four and a half stars. This was really information dense, fun to read, and very useful. It reminds me a lot of a well run writing workshop with a particularly effective teacher (or in this case, two). I would recommend it to beginning writers (there are good takeaways here for all genres, not just speculative fiction). It would also be useful for more structured group workshops or classroom use, writer's groups, and similar.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
Profile Image for Dakota Rayne.
Author 5 books25 followers
February 4, 2022
Making Myths and Magic really is a field guide! This book does an excellent job as a concise resource for storytelling with tons of resources. What I loved about this book is that it was non-judgemental about the writing process. It explained the ins and outs of all levels and types of storytelling — from plotting to pantsing, from the hero’s journey to the 7 act scene structure. And that’s the thing about writing—there is no “right” way and I loved how well this book embraced that and focused on the strengths of each perspective and allowed the reader to make their own judgements about which avenue may be best for them. The use of well-known works makes it easy and accessible, pulling examples from Harry Potter to Howl’s Moving Castle.

This book breaks down the complexities of storytelling into easily digestible informational bits. It doesn’t try to drown you with verbose language that leaves you yearning for the point, nor does it bury you in superfluous narrative. It gets right to the point, not wasting your time. AND it comes complete with examples! Many other books tell you how to improve your writing but this one has a great balance of both show and tell—heh, get it ;)

This is advertised as a book for Sci-Fi and Fantasy novel writing, but the advice contained could really be applied to any genre. Highly recommend if you want a no-bullshit guide to writing
Profile Image for Jenn.
818 reviews22 followers
February 7, 2022
I'm always fascinated by the art of writing, and I love reading about it, but I find a lot of books are very dry and hard to get through. Not so this one, which is chatty and fun all the way through, drawing on pop culture for illustrations. About the only part of fantasy writing not covered here was designing maps; everything else I could possibly think of is covered in one of the chapters or another.

I loved that they kept emphasising that their advice is only advice and that everyone should feel happy writing in the way that suits them. It was also really great fun looking out for fandoms I recognised! It makes the advice seem more relatable when I recognise the characters and situations (nothing from David Eddings, though?) My favourite was using the characters of Firefly to demonstrate how characters can move from one archetype to another depending on the situation and who's around them.

I really enjoyed this. I think I'll be coming back to it often for advice, for reassurance or just for fun! It's a great read no matter your level of experience with writing.
Profile Image for TheDigressiveApproach.
197 reviews13 followers
February 20, 2022
Huge thanks to NetGalley, the author and the publisher for providing an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All of the opinions expressed in this review are my own.
This was a wonderfully informative guide to writing speculative fiction!

One might expect the usual generic advice and writing tips but Alexander and Campbell have gone ahead and created a practical compendium of top-notch advice generously supported by examples from a huge variety of media.

Rather than just giving examples from written fantasy works, Magic Myths and Magic contains a plethora of media including games, movies and TV shows. The games examples were just as informative as the rest and everything is explained in a practical manner.

I would highly recommend this guide for all prospective and current speculative fiction authors or even anyone interested in world building for all media.

Overall rating: 5 stars
Profile Image for Alicia.
105 reviews4 followers
February 19, 2022
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review and I honestly think it's great.

This book is a great guide for building your idea for a sci-fi or fantasy story into a novel. It takes you from building a good skeleton for the story to fleshing it out with action, great characters and a detailed world. It covers a lot of territory such as outlining, world-building, character arcs, story structure and so much more. It's a comprehensive yet concise guide to writing a sci-fi or fantasy novel. I think this book would appeal not only to people who want to write a novel, but also to fans who want to understand what it takes to write a novel.

This book has given me a new appreciation for all the work that goes into writing a great sci-fi or fantasy novel. I give this book 5 stars.
Profile Image for Steve.
513 reviews22 followers
January 1, 2022
I enjoyed this book. Although I do not write science fiction or fantasy, I am a fan of the genre and I was very happy to see a genre-specific book on writing. The value of the book for me is that it has given me a new appreciation for all the great books I’ve read. I enjoyed the occasional humor in the book. I also liked the examples given, especially those from Discworld. I really only disagreed with one thing in the book, the use of eye dialect. Otherwise this is a very good book and I recommend it not only for people who want to write the genre, but also for people who read the genre. Thank you to Netgalley and Mythos & Ink for the advance reader copy.
Profile Image for Kristjan.
355 reviews16 followers
January 7, 2022
A short, basic writer’s helper for sci-fi/fantasy stories. It was well organized and concise advice on how to 1) Build a Novel Skeleton, 2) Hook your Readers, 3) Create compelling Characters and 4) Build an interesting World with complex depth. Most of this is probably available in pretty much every writers’ self-help book, but there was not a lot of wasted verbiage here, and that is a definite plus. Add to this several reviews of well known stories to illustrate the discussed concepts and you have a solid book (The examples earned +1 star).

I was given this free advance review copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
#MakingMythsandMagic #NetGalley.
Profile Image for Aaron Wempe.
25 reviews1 follower
January 10, 2022
Overall this book has some similarities to other novels of the same nature, however there are some really useful nuggets in this one. Obviously for Sci Fi, but I particularly enjoyed the chapter on world building.
Profile Image for André.
Author 4 books66 followers
February 28, 2022
I asked for the ebook ARC from Netgalley.
This was the first book I read on writing speculative fiction, having previously only watched videos on the subject and never actually having put to paper any of my "grand" novel ideas. This felt very accessible, with simple advice, straight to the point, and often paired with proper examples to illustrate where the ideas come from or where to find them well executed. Of note, the authors do look for sources and examples in multiple formats and media, from the classic fantasy novel to sci-fi videogames. Making Myths and Magic is a quick read and does feel like it could become a first resource - a field guide - when when planning a story.
Here's hoping it will one day be acknowledged on a book of my own.
Profile Image for Witch-at-Heart .
1,246 reviews11 followers
February 27, 2022
Really liked this handbook. It is well laid-out and designed and has all kinds of helpful information about what you need to know to write your own science-fiction/fantasy novel. I recommend this if you're interested in writing.
Profile Image for Annabel.
309 reviews70 followers
February 18, 2022
A super handy, all-in-one guide to writing fantasy/sci-fi fiction! I really appreciate the numerous (great) examples that are included in this book and its inclusion of external resources for further reading/discovery. Now I'm begging for its release date to drop so I can actually have my own copy to bookmark, annotate and highlight the hell out of!

Thanks to Netgalley and Mythos & Ink for providing me with the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Displaying 1 - 19 of 19 reviews

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