Days of High Adventure: How to Write a Tie-In Novel

Days of High Adventure: How to Write a Tie-In Novel

Matt Forbeck delves deeply into the process of writing a tie-in novel from concept to finished product.

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I remember back when I considered using gaming tie-in novels as a way to get into regular book publishing, because I assumed it would be easier.

A day of research later and I decided to stick with traditional methods. Mostly it's because I just don't have the time or ability to churn out 100,000 words in a few months (most of my novels take in the region of a year to complete, if not longer), but also because I didn't like the idea of not being able to write my own stories as I wanted to. My original original idea had been to see if getting into writing for the Star Wars canonw as possible (I was a lot younger, didn't quite understand how these things worked) and that is about the most difficult medium to get into ever. I just wanted to be allowed to play around in the universe I loved, but every single word of that series is dictated by editorial mandate. Which is probably why it suck so much lately.

Anywho, this was a fascinating article reminding me of the good old days when I was just starting to write seriously, so thank you for the nostalgia value, and it's always good that people remain informed about just how difficult the life of a writer is.

MelasZepheos:
I remember back when I considered using gaming tie-in novels as a way to get into regular book publishing, because I assumed it would be easier.

A day of research later and I decided to stick with traditional methods. Mostly it's because I just don't have the time or ability to churn out 100,000 words in a few months (most of my novels take in the region of a year to complete, if not longer), but also because I didn't like the idea of not being able to write my own stories as I wanted to. My original original idea had been to see if getting into writing for the Star Wars canonw as possible (I was a lot younger, didn't quite understand how these things worked) and that is about the most difficult medium to get into ever. I just wanted to be allowed to play around in the universe I loved, but every single word of that series is dictated by editorial mandate. Which is probably why it suck so much lately.

Anywho, this was a fascinating article reminding me of the good old days when I was just starting to write seriously, so thank you for the nostalgia value, and it's always good that people remain informed about just how difficult the life of a writer is.

You're a writer? What books have you writen? (Not being condescending, just curious)

Harkonnen64:

MelasZepheos:
snip.

You're a writer? What books have you writen? (Not being condescending, just curious)

I am unfortunately not a published novelist. Basically I've spent the last three-four years getting roundly rejected. I did get one fantasy novel returned with a note from the agent saying that they thought it had promise, but I needed to try a different agent. (I sent it to the one they suggested who sent it right back saying they had too many new fantasy authors on their books)

If you really want to read my work, my second draft for the novel I'm currently trying to get published is available here:

http://www.fictionpress.com/u/660278/MelasZepheos

Along with the sequel.

Also, I had a novel self-published three years ago. It sold fifteen copies overall without any marketing, and only one of those was bought by someone I know, so I consider it a rampant success.

Also also, I had a few reviews of books published in a periodical, a couple of poems which I got fifty quid for in a university magazine when I was fourteen, and two of my short stories got printed recently, one in the Lancaster Guardian and the other in a teacher's magazine which my mum suggested to me (she works in education)

Basically, I'm not a published novelist, but I have received money for my printed works, so the title stands, I hope.

MelasZepheos:

Harkonnen64:

MelasZepheos:
snip.

You're a writer? What books have you writen? (Not being condescending, just curious)

I am unfortunately not a published novelist. Basically I've spent the last three-four years getting roundly rejected. I did get one fantasy novel returned with a note from the agent saying that they thought it had promise, but I needed to try a different agent. (I sent it to the one they suggested who sent it right back saying they had too many new fantasy authors on their books)

If you really want to read my work, my second draft for the novel I'm currently trying to get published is available here:

http://www.fictionpress.com/u/660278/MelasZepheos

Along with the sequel.

Also, I had a novel self-published three years ago. It sold fifteen copies overall without any marketing, and only one of those was bought by someone I know, so I consider it a rampant success.

Also also, I had a few reviews of books published in a periodical, a couple of poems which I got fifty quid for in a university magazine when I was fourteen, and two of my short stories got printed recently, one in the Lancaster Guardian and the other in a teacher's magazine which my mum suggested to me (she works in education)

Basically, I'm not a published novelist, but I have received money for my printed works, so the title stands, I hope.

I'll have to look into those. I am going to college next month and am wanting to major in English to improve my writing skills so that I can become a writer myself. I don't plan on doing tie-in's; I have an original setting and plot, but was inspired by my weekly D&D games with friends.

Harkonnen64:

MelasZepheos:

Harkonnen64:

MelasZepheos:
snip.

snip

http://www.fictionpress.com/u/660278/MelasZepheos
.

I'll have to look into those. I am going to college next month and am wanting to major in English to improve my writing skills so that I can become a writer myself. I don't plan on doing tie-in's; I have an original setting and plot, but was inspired by my weekly D&D games with friends.

My recommendation, if you want it, find anyone you can who will read and review your books for you. Online, (fictionpress is alright), clubs at the university (there's usually some sort of Writer's Club at college or uni), friends, family, and any lessons or courses or night classes you can. Just as a for instance I'm doing a combined major with English and Creative Writing, I'm a member of the Escapist's writer's clubs, fictionpress, two writer's groups at uni, and on Saturday I'm going to a comic-book writing course hosted by a manga artist visiting the local uni.

Ah, Dragons of Autumn Twilight... I still consider the DragonLance Chronicles trilogy to not only be the best tie in series ever written but also one of the best fantasy trilogies I've ever read.

Very interesting article. I too had always thought that tie ins would somehow be an easier entry point than starting fresh with your own ideas but I'd never really looked into it. This article quite clearly explains why I was wrong.

I always felt tie-in books didn't quite meet my expectations to the literary genre. I mean, they're OK if you're a casual book reader, but if you're a bookworm who's read Marques and Nabokov like myself... well, it's like getting a hardcore gamer to play social games. Even if the game's concept is good, he'll squirm. And I've found myself to squirm at less and less on books. It's only a matter of time until I wear a beret.

That strict editorial control and time frame is probably part of the reason. How can you tell 'stories that are about more than what the blurb says', as Warren Spector so brilliantly put it, when you have to stick to such a strict frame? How can you tell something of worth when your publishers are pushing as your message 'Buy Ovalkwilk'?

This was a really illuminating look into what it's like to write tie-ins. I've had some friends try to break into this line of work: It's tough, for sure.

Fascinating and informative. Thanks!!

I had no idea the Dragon Lance books were based on D&D - I've only read them recently, long after I'd read Weis and Hickmans other series, the Death Gate. It certainly puts an interesting spin on things (and it'll freak my girlfriend out too, she loves the series but thought it was silly to read Erickson's Malazan Tales books because they were based on a tabletop game).

The Random One:
I always felt tie-in books didn't quite meet my expectations to the literary genre. I mean, they're OK if you're a casual book reader, but if you're a bookworm who's read Marques and Nabokov like myself... well, it's like getting a hardcore gamer to play social games. Even if the game's concept is good, he'll squirm. And I've found myself to squirm at less and less on books. It's only a matter of time until I wear a beret.

That strict editorial control and time frame is probably part of the reason. How can you tell 'stories that are about more than what the blurb says', as Warren Spector so brilliantly put it, when you have to stick to such a strict frame? How can you tell something of worth when your publishers are pushing as your message 'Buy Ovalkwilk'?

Well the answer is that sometimes authors toil away for decades on projects that many publishers will think unmarketable, they may be great even outstanding stories but it has to be something someone is already looking for since there are so many books submitted every day. The thing with Tie-in books is that there is a ready made interest from publishers and a pot of funds, it's bread and butter work for those who are in this feild and despite maybe not being a life-long labour of love this provide writers who can solidify a story and produce a book fast with empolyment oppotunities.

Writes are almost in the same boat as actors when it comes to being at the behest of the powers that be and the whim of what someone considers 'marketable'. There is a ready made audience for this stuff that needs to be tapped into as soon as possible. I know someone who has done work for the Dr. Who novels who is only at university, i think it's wrong for people to look down on what i myslef sometimes condsider "Pro Fanfic" but it affords writers work, exposier and breaks.

I do some creative writing on the side (only really just started in the last two years) but im only just at the point where i would even consider uploading my work to websites for user review. There are proabaly millions of people with the talent to write novels but it seems to me that the strict commitment to deadlines this approuch requires makes it really only suitable for a certain kind of author. It may not be high art but after reading this a have somewhat of a new respect for those write tie-in fiction.

To be completely honest, having good knowledge and love for the source material should be a requirement for writing these novels. I cannot help but feel annoyed at how IP owners tend to neglect enthusiastic and prospective writers in favour of so-called "professionals" who show no care or understanding for the universe the book is supposed to take place. As a result, a lot of tie-in novels end up being cheap and soulless stories, hastily written by an author who only cares about making a quick buck out of it all. Admittingly, that tends to be the main reason why an IP owner bothers having a book written in the first place. Still, you would think it would have crossed their minds by this point that "Hey, maybe these books would sell better if more people thought they were actually any good"...

Also, it would help if more tie-in novels were sold in hardcover. I know hardcover books are more costly to produce and generally not worth it for a series that isn't expected to sell a lot of copies. Still, as stupid as it sounds, I always felt that a certain work had a greater sense of legitimacy if it was ever released in hardcover.

coldfrog:
I had no idea the Dragon Lance books were based on D&D - I've only read them recently, long after I'd read Weis and Hickmans other series, the Death Gate. It certainly puts an interesting spin on things (and it'll freak my girlfriend out too, she loves the series but thought it was silly to read Erickson's Malazan Tales books because they were based on a tabletop game).

Tell your girlfriend that it's hard to find fantasy fiction that's not based on gaming in some way or another :D

R. Scott Bakker's "Prince of Nothing" series is also based on his D&D tabletop campaign; Kelhus is a Monk straight out of 1e D&D. Raymond Feist's series was based on his campaign. China Meiville's Perdido Station was D&D inspired and even mentions gold and experience. Elizabeth Moon's Deed of Paksennarion is completely inspired by D&D Paladins and the Village of Hommlet module. Joel Rosenberg's Guardians of the Flame is overtly D&D inspired. Steven Brust's world (Vlad Taltos series) is based on D&D; it has teleportation and raise dead spells. Katherine Kerr's Deverry novels were D&D-based. Terry Pratchett's early Discworld was strongly D&D influenced.GRR Martin, Terry Goodkind, Katherine Kurtz, Marrion Zimmer Bradley, Thomas Harlan, and Glen Cook are all confirmed RPG gamers.

Archon:

coldfrog:
I had no idea the Dragon Lance books were based on D&D - I've only read them recently, long after I'd read Weis and Hickmans other series, the Death Gate. It certainly puts an interesting spin on things (and it'll freak my girlfriend out too, she loves the series but thought it was silly to read Erickson's Malazan Tales books because they were based on a tabletop game).

Tell your girlfriend that it's hard to find fantasy fiction that's not based on gaming in some way or another :D

R. Scott Bakker's "Prince of Nothing" series is also based on his D&D tabletop campaign; Kelhus is a Monk straight out of 1e D&D. Raymond Feist's series was based on his campaign. China Meiville's Perdido Station was D&D inspired and even mentions gold and experience. Elizabeth Moon's Deed of Paksennarion is completely inspired by D&D Paladins and the Village of Hommlet module. Joel Rosenberg's Guardians of the Flame is overtly D&D inspired. Steven Brust's world (Vlad Taltos series) is based on D&D; it has teleportation and raise dead spells. Katherine Kerr's Deverry novels were D&D-based. Terry Pratchett's early Discworld was strongly D&D influenced.GRR Martin, Terry Goodkind, Katherine Kurtz, Marrion Zimmer Bradley, Thomas Harlan, and Glen Cook are all confirmed RPG gamers.

Early Discworld based on D&D? I know he pulled from a LOT of places, but aside from the occasional "Gods playing dice" comments I never caught on to that. I'm also kind of amused by the Perdido Street Station, because the scene with the hobo (yeah, you know the one) struck me strongly as if it could one of those potential game scenarios where you're thrown into this dangerous situation and you're left mostly to your own devices. Then again, I've played very little tabletops (just some GURPS and Paranoia) so I doubt I'd notice those kinds of nuances anyway.

 

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