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Tag Archives: world building

Pieces to the puzzle


I have had in mind a slightly different time keeping system based off the sun for my largest project. For some reason I couldn’t see the solution, so I reached out for help from a facebook group I’m in, and the help I got was exactly the piece of the puzzle I had been looking for. Although after I began to play around with using it, something seemed off to me, though I couldn’t place it. My brother in law came over one day to pick up my nieces which were visiting, and I talked to him about it, as I do due to him being interested in this type of stuff and the genre as a whole. He came up with an idea for writing the system I already had, and that’s when the last piece I needed clicked for me.

What that last piece did, was amazing to me. Suddenly things I had been struggling over for months clicked into place, old and new ideas began flowing like crazy, my drive was instantly back. All because of one little idea about a time keeping system. What i realized then, was as my story grew, I had built ideas onto ideas. The time keeping system was one of the first, and my own mental organization set priorities for things to figure out based off chronological fabrication.

I haven’t known this long enough to figure out if I can bypass this priority system that’s been automatically established, but if I figure something out, I’ll make another post about it. Although, it may just possibly be my way of working through such things and I have to adapt my system to it. Time will tell.

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World Building vs. Writing


Being new to writing, I’m still learning how to write a full complete structured story, versus snippets of awesome ideas that pop into my head. Trying to find the balance of world building, outlining, creative writing, can be hard. I don’t want to paint myself into a mental corner world building so much so that I can’t creative write when I need to. I thought I had done a lot of world building, so I made myself stop and focus on writing to make sure I didn’t paint myself into that corner.

After trying to write for about a month, with no success, I sat back and went over my recent experiences. What I saw blocking my creative flow was a lack of substance. This confused me at first, so I began looking much more closely at why there was this lack of substance in my minds eye when I had done all the previous world building. That’s when the scope of my story really struck me.

It is going to be an expansive scifi. Epic isn’t really the right word I don’t think, as it doesn’t match the markers which constitute an epic. At least it might not, and there it hit me. I don’t know…all I know is it’s really big, with numerous rich cultures which play off each other in a massive balance.

I couldn’t write the story because I still didn’t know enough about where it takes place. Even though I had what I thought was a lot, there were far too many holes which let the creative mist escape my minds eye. Basically it wasn’t a lot of world building for the scope of the story. So now I’m back at it, making timelines, maps, filling out my wiki, figuring out how the different tech levels effect the cultures the various characters grow up in. How some types of jobs move characters from one culture to the next and how that effects those individuals and the friends they’ve made over the years.

So my lack of knowledge of my world kept my imagination from coalescing into the story I wanted to write. I will still keep an eye on myself to prevent world builders disease, but I’m going to be much less likely to force myself to stop building. I think once I get enough world built I will have so much story that I have to write it. As I am adding more things to my wiki, filling out histories of key organizations, my imagination is going “Oh cool!” and making tiny stories of snippets of time. It’s not enough for me to write, what it is doing is filling those holes where my creative mists were leaking. Once they stop leaking, I’ll start writing.

 

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Pricing your work


I have been listening to a lot of podcasts about the detriment of pricing your books too low. While that makes a huge amount of sense, and I can’t argue with any of it, in fact I agree with all the reasons they give, I have one that trumps it. At least it does for me. The reason is, I grew up poor, with a ravenous appetite for books. So basically I starved my mind. In fact, I got so used to starving it, when I grew up and made plenty of money, I still didn’t buy books because I had already trained myself to not want them. When you want to read as badly as I did, yet can’t, it creates a “keep away from me” attitude. Much like I have now for cigarettes. That’s right, I felt the same way for books as a child as I do for cigarettes now. Doesn’t that sound right to anyone? If it does…you have issues.

Now, the way I feel about books is a mixture of joy and resentment. I will find a great book, and realize the rest of the series is $9.99 per book. Or I will read a great story and realize the rest of the series is $5.99 for the entire series. Writers can now make a good living off of cheaper priced books. I for one will never price my books $9.99 for an e-book. I want the cash strapped people to be able to enjoy my work too. But most importantly, I want young readers to be able to read as much as they want, to not be limited to a book every birthday or christmas.

The E-book market is a change, something that will uproot the known practices and alter the thought processes of consumers. But that will never happen if prices stay the same. E-books are a wonderful new tool, why not use it? Instead what I’m seeing quite often is the publishers from before e-books are trying to maintain the status quo. They are trying to price the e-books the same as the print books even though an e-book is much much cheaper.

I have seen Baen books putting up free e-books from some of their high selling authors, so they are learning and good for them. But the subsequent books are still the same as the print books. Many self publishers have free sales, or even perma-free books to get people reading their stuff. It’s called a funnel.

So for all you new authors out there, let’s change something for the better. Take a lesson from those high selling self publishers and price your books between the status quo and cheap. Remember those what-if kids out there who want nothing more than to get lost in your stories.

 

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Prologues & Epilogues


So, what people normally do with prologues and epilogues is add depth to a story that just doesn’t seem to fit in the main story. It could be a brief excerpt of thousands of years of history to explain why things are the way they are. It could be a “they lived happily ever after” like they did in the harry potter movies. Recently I was listening to a podcast where an author was talking about putting chapter excerpts from the next book at the end of his books. That got my mind to thinking, what if.

What if, instead of sprinkling explanations throughout a new book of things that happened in a previous book or books, you just had excerpts as a prologue? What if, instead of a cliff hanger (which I hate, usually) you make the reader want more by giving them a taste of what’s to come?

So basically, the prologue catches the reader up. This can be good for new readers who are just coming into the universe, or for loyal readers who might have had to wait a long time for a sequel, and instead of needed to read the previous book all over again, they can just read the prologue and all the memories of the previous book(s) come flooding back, along with the drive to learn “what happens next!” which is built in momentum ready to go.

Sometimes I really enjoy reading the previous books in a series, like Ender’s Game. Then again, after about 7 books, you start to just read the new book and struggle to recall everything relevant. That’s why I can see the reasons for shout-outs sprinkled throughout the new books in a series, even though they bug me. A second benefit that just occurred to me is that a reader might not know about a certain book that leads up to the one they are reading. A good for instance is the books in the Liaden Universe. Often times there are short stories, or whole other series that tie in and a new reader will not know what order to read them in. As a matter of fact, the writers have made a Correct Reading Order list just so readers know to go find these other books before they dive into a series that will leave them confused in a few spots.

Now Sharon Lee and Steve Miller don’t do the shout-outs, or if they do they are so clever or talented that I haven’t noticed them. In fact reading their books has made me think about my own universe and how I can remedy issues in my own universe that  I come across as a reader of theirs. I also hope I can make stories half as interesting as theirs are.

What if, I made these book ends not only explanatory and enticing, but hyperlinked? In the prologue, you’d have “Excerpts from ____” with the name of the book hyperlinked to a buy page. That way a new reader could stop there and go pick up the previous book if they wanted, or read the excerpt and hope it explained enough, and read on. The epilogue being a chapter excerpt also having a hyperlink would allow the reader to go then and get the new book, if they were so inclined, or a link to my web site (when I get one) so they can watch for a release date.

I’m really excited about this idea, and think it could solve many issues I have come across while reading series or universes. What are your thoughts?

 

 

 

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The sequel shout-out


Over the years I’ve read quite a few sequels. Mostly in series but sometimes just in the same “universe”. One thing that bugs be and has gotten bad enough that I had to put the book aside and take a break so I wouldn’t tear it in half, is the “shout-out” to events that happened in a previous book. 99% of the time I have seen this done, is the “explaining to a third-party” type. Everyone has done this, you will be telling someone a story and realize that they weren’t privy to certain information that may make what you are saying cogent. So you stop your description or story, and back fill. When should this be done and when shouldn’t it?

I’ve talked with many people about this and most don’t have the problem I have, but then they weren’t closet writers either đŸ˜‰ The ones it did bother, basically considered it “the way it is” like the sun being the center of the system, and let it go. I can’t do that. Something being “the way it is, and wrong, I try to find a way to change it. Now my major issue in advocating change in this case, is many people don’t have a problem with it, they never noticed it until I said something. Some people will later call me everything but human for pointing it out cause now it annoys them too. Another convert MWAhahahaha!

Anyhoo. My idea, and feel free to use this, is to use prologues and epilogues as a catch-up and sneak peek. Basically, I want the books I will be writing in my “Mongers Universe” to be semi stand-alones. There will be character arcs over multiple books, main character back stories, side stories that eventually tie into the main thread. Secondary characters that will have spinoffs, and that’s just the ideas I have now. No telling what else I’ll get when I write all those stories, or what stories others will want to write in the universe.

I’ll let your brain stew on that for a bit. Look for the sequel to this post titled, “Prologues & Epilogues”, see what I did there?

 

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Just do it!


Getting the hang of writing is a process. You basically have to teach yourself to sideline mistakes, and trust yourself to catch them later. This has been an extremely difficult thing to teach myself. I am finally getting the hang of it though, the training wheels at least.

A couple of good saying for writers of any stage, but especially new writers are, “Give yourself permission to fail”, and “Perfect is the enemy of done”. This post is talking about those two things in particular. Do you want to write a bad and/or incomplete book? Neither do I, nor does any writer worth their fingers. But part of learning to become a writer is tempering your work ethic in specific ways so that you can actually get the work done instead of hamstringing yourself with continual revision.

My current exercise is “Make a note, move on, keep going”. Here’s what happens. I sit down to write, start building the scene in my head, and words start flowing. As I write these scenes down, the story starts to flow. From time to time, the flow gets caught by a huge boulder of confusion. This boulder can be any number of things, a name I haven’t thought of, a side character or main character that I hadn’t considered needed to know a certain thing, an environment that wasn’t built as detailed as I need, a character decided to take a turn down an alley, corridor, etc. that I had not expected, a new character is suddenly needed and I never developed them.

When I first began writing, I would sit and think and brain storm on the spot, until I had figured out what I needed at that particular spot I got stuck at, often times ending up mentally writing the book and going off into tangents which weren’t needed. But what I soon realized was, I was trying to move the boulder out of the river, instead of following the current around it. Anyone who’s ever been canoeing or white water rafting knows what a fool hardy venture fighting the current can become.

This current exercise of making a note and moving on, is the equivalent of dodging a rock, submerged tree, heavy rapid, etc. It’s an obstacle which hampers the flow of the writing. When that flow is broken, the reader’s flow is also broken. But more importantly, it can stop the momentum you’ve built up. That momentum can be essential to finishing what you started. So to keep that story pouring out, recognize, and dodge those obstacles that come your way.

 

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Knowing when a side quest needs it’s own book.


A side quest is usually a smaller but still important quest that the protagonist needs to accomplish before they can face their greatest challenge. A great example of this is Luke Skywalker going to Dagobah to seek out Yoda. Luke had no idea why he was going, or what he would find, but he was driven to go. While the training Luke received was crucial to his character progression, it wasn’t the main goal of the series, to stop the Empire. Another side quest is rescuing Han from Jabba’s Palace. Without Han they may have never destroyed the shield generator, and the Empire would still dominate the galaxy. Those side quests are essential to achieving the overall goal of the series.

Side quests are essential to storytelling, even if they are very small. But sometimes a side quest is so important, or so interesting, that it demands its own storyline. Lately this has become much more acceptable and even welcomed. Origin stories for favorite characters, spinoffs for beloved side characters, just consider a Yoda origin story. Sometimes a side quest happens outside the storytelling. Past events that lead up to the action the reader is suddenly thrown into. What if we never knew what Gandolf did when he left the dwarven party? Sometimes these need to be told, and sometimes the sudden appearance of the result is best, like the sudden appearance of the dwarven kin to aid in the fight against the dark horde. Could the gathering of that reinforcement army be its own book? Absolutely. Would it have made the Hobbit better? Absolutely not. That sudden appearance brought sudden hope, which was essential in the emotional roller coaster of that part of the book.

While doing my experiment of short stories for character backgrounds, I realized that their pasts were so interesting they were begging for their own books. At first I dismissed the idea thinking that my imagination was just wanting to play and I shouldn’t allow it to run away with itself. But the more i thought about it, the more I saw these character driven quests from vastly different perspectives which lead into the books I was wanting to write. Basically my imagination made its argument and it found validation.

These stories erupted from a natural fleshing out of the idea I find so engaging for the story. Why did this happen, how did these characters get here and why, etc. What I discovered when I began outlining these stories, is that filling in these gaps in the story has explained and filled in parts of the original. Also, once I allowed myself to let go of a specific structure or trilogy, quartet, series, etc. and just tell the stories, I found the ideas started to flow once again as if I had burst a dam. I was stifling my creativity in attempting to contain it in some preconceived structure to which it didn’t belong.

So in closing, find that balance between a flowing imagination, and a structured story. Don’t assume a story has to be any certain way, let it find itself. This can be done in the outlining, world building, character development, or writing itself for those pure pantsers out there.

 

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