Although I’m a panster writer and the thought of an outline scares me, I do believe in planning out my alternate realities before I start on a new fantasy series. I learned from my first novel not to be lazy about it, as I finished my first draft without planning out all the details. Then my beta reader told me it was more romance than fantasy. Of course, she was right. It was my first time writing a novel, and although it had a complicated plot, I had not put a lot of thought into how the world/magic worked.

I grumbled about her complaint, but I sat down with a pen and paper. I then asked myself the following questions: How does the magic work? How does this reality get its power/electricity?

Those two questions led to a massive amount of detail being added into my rough draft, and it was a slow and tedious process going back through and editing my first novel. However, those details are what makes my writing unique and enjoyable. The one thing I keep hearing from my readers when I meet them or read reviews is how they love the world I created. Some have said they wish they could live there.

People continuously ask me how I thought of such a place, and I know my books would be nothing without all those details I added in. People want to get a complete visualization when they read books with alternate realities. They need to be able to put themselves into the new world, and to do that, they need the details.

Now that I’m planning a new series, I again find myself putting a lot of thought into how the magic will work and where the power will come from. I have to completely answer those two questions before I can get an idea of how the world looks, the clothes the people wear–everything.

The great thing about fantasy is that there are no rules. I can make it all up–as long as it flows and doesn’t contradict itself. How do I get ideas? Some ideas just naturally come into my head, but I also look at art on Pinterest. I keep a private board with pictures I find that pull emotions from me, and those emotions can easily be turned into a story.

I have to completely visualize the surroundings, the characters, and their clothing. Even if I don’t plan to describe everything, I still need to have those things clear in my mind when I sit down to write. If it’s vague in my mind, it will be vague in my writing, and I don’t want vague writing. I want to take my readers on a magical adventure. I want them to see what I see and feel what I feel. To do that, I must have it clearly in my head. Writing is so much more than putting the plot out on paper. You have to make your readers fall in love with the characters, and you have to get them to relate to your characters. You need to pull emotions from your readers–take them on a roller coaster ride. To do that, you can’t be lazy. Plan it! Describe it! And that is how you create an alternate reality.