Today the Dragon Wins

"Today the Dragon Wins" offers information from Fantasy Author and Professional Editor Sandy Lender. You'll also find dragons, wizards, sorcerers, and other fantasy elements necessary for a fabulous story, if you know where to look...

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Sandy Lender is the editor of an international trade publication and the author of the fantasy novels Choices Meant for Gods and Choices Meant for Kings, available from ArcheBooks Publishing, and the series-supporting chapbook, What Choices We Made.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Writers Guide
The Style Book
Styles Change, Style Doesn't

Everyone's probably dealt with MLA or Chicago Manual of Style at one point or another in his or her writing career. Journalists typically follow Associated Press. But here's a writing tip novelists need, and you might as well adopt it early on in a project's production or editing cycle.

Make yourself a style book that is specific to your project.

For instance, if you're creating an alternate reality and you need Paris to be obliterated during WWII, make sure your style book has the new name of that area of France with its correct Germanic spelling and the year it came into existence so all your references to it are consistent and correct. Or let's say the people in your novel about Medieval Ireland never use contractions—make a note of that in your style sheet/style book so people helping you edit will know it's wrong if Scottie MacKeegan ends a jaunty jig with "She's the finest lass in any of the clans I've ever been to battle with."

As I started writing Choices Meant for Gods a few years back, I put together this little recipe-file box full of index cards for the Old English words I used for the various words and themes I used in the story. And I had some notebooks full of ideas and scenes and stray thoughts. These don't count as a style book. They're less than organized. Learn from my folly, Grasshoppers.

Now, I did get wise and got myself one of those desk calendars and a wall calendar that I started tracking the moons (there are two in my fantasy world) and various other events with. But, wow, wouldn't that have been a great set of tools to use with a style book that also kept me spelling Mahriket (the land the gods live in) the same way throughout the writing process? My phone has a yellow sticky note taped to it that reads "Lenors—on the continent to the north" because, no matter how many mnemonic devices I've tried, I cannot remember that the Lorens live on the South Island and the Lenors live on the continent of Onweald. Just now, I had to look at the note on the phone. And it's on the phone next to me here…I see it every day of my life. I'll have to take a cheat-sheet with me to conferences. (And did I just give away the fact that the Lenors and Lorens are important in my trilogy? Nevermore.)

But there's my point. A style book lists those kinds of references for the author and the editor and makes life so much easier. And, hey, once you're famous, you can publish the style book as a chapbook or something and sell it for big bucks on eBay or at a charity auction for a good cause. (Put that marketing cap on!)

(Sandy Lender has been an editor in the magazine publishing industry for fifteen years and is the author of the new fantasy novel Choices Meant for Gods, available from

"Some days, I just want the dragon to win."

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