Chapter 11: Questions to Ask When World-Building

To say it’s harder than it looks would be an understatement.  Your story is more dependent on it than you think, especially in both fantasy and science fiction.  You have world that are so complex like in Game of Thrones, more simple and based on this world like Harry Potter, and then complete universes like in Star Wars or Star Trek.  It’s always so beautiful to watch how the setting influences the characters.  But, how do you build it from the beginning?

Ironically, much the same as you do a book.

Outline the big stuff.  Is it all in one country?  Several?  Know where they are in relation to one another as far as north, west, east, south.  Simple enough, right?  Next step is to put that into Microsoft Excel.  Set each country to a different color, and put a key to the right accordingly.  (I’ve put a picture as reference from my latest book for what I mean as far as using Excel, minus the key.  I don’t mean to have it so detailed and laid out in the beginning.)  This outline should be completed while you are outline your main plot.

Once you have your basic outline of the main plot points (Again, I’m going to have to suggest Structuring Your Novel by K.M. Weiland if you’re having problems.), then it’s time to delve into the culture.  If you already have a clear image of your characters in mind, this part should’ve technically been at least part way done.   Now it’s time to go more into detail.  Make sure to put sub-races within the same culture.  Look at America, Germany, France.  There’s people of every skin tone.  If your culture is ‘pure’ like the Japanese, why?

Do they celebrate religious holidays?  What different classes does it compromise of?  How is violence looked at?  Gender equality?  Religion?  Liberal or conservative?  Monarchy, democracy, anarchy?  Animal life?  What’s their main source of food?  What’s the weather like there?  How does that affect your plot?  What’s their take on honor?  What do the buildings look like?  How do they view art?  Do they have their own language?  What type of job does a ‘commoner’ have?  What sports do they play?  All of this might not make it to your book, but nonetheless it works in your favor to show a well-rounded nation.

Now that you have your outline, time to go into the subplots.  If you already have some in mind, how’s your map effected?  Do you need to put in mountains?  A lake?  River?  Sea?  If you’re struggling with creating subplots, refer to the last paragraph.  If it’s all within one or two nations, delve more into it.  How could the answers you come up with affect your protagonist?  If you’re going across many countries, create a whole new one.  Make it drastically different than your protagonist.  What’s the worst type of culture they could stumble upon?  Now, create it and add it into your map.

Look at your excel sheet.  Think about natural geography.  What’s missing?  Add it.

Once that’s complete, look at the new countries you’ve created.  How do they affect your general plot?  If there’s a war, why aren’t they helping?  Could they help?  How would that change things?  What’s their relationship like with the surrounding countries?


Chapter 7: 5 Myths about Keeping a Deadline

There’s something strangely intimidating about the word “deadline.”  I mean, after all, the first four letters spell out “dead.”  Then, there’s the fact that most indie authors are such (rather than choosing the traditional publishing route) because of the independence that comes along with the choice.

This is all well and good, except for the fact that it can lead to laziness.  With no agent/editor/publisher demanding you finish so much by a certain day, it’s easy to decide writing a certain amount each day isn’t that important.  The inspiration will hit when it hits, so to speak.  Here are ten myths about keeping a deadline as an indie author:


Myth #1: There’s no consequence to missing a self-imposed deadline.  To put this into perspective, simply because your parents can no longer ground you for a poor report card in college doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have adverse effects.  Companies still look at your GPA and base you on such; you just see this fact much later.  In writing terms, I’d like to bring up a fact I did in an earlier post: certain websites have algorithms set to do free marketing on your eBooks based on the dates published.  You waiting too long to publish a sequel in a series could hurt what I like to call the Mountain Effect (your first book sales will increase again upon the publication of a second book and so on).

Myth #2: Editors will drop what they’re doing to work on your novel upon demand.  Believe it or not, editors are just as busy as authors.  They have a client list, and your book will be put into a waiting list upon contact.  You should be prepared for the wait.  Email them early on, requesting a spot in November (for example).  This will give you your own timeline to meet, and will force you to write more accordingly.

Myth #3: Sales aren’t affected by publication date, so you can simply publish the book whenever it’s complete.  As said in my last Tuesday’s post, the best time to publish is very dependent on the genre.  Why would people want to read your romance book in August, as opposed to the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day?  What about your adventure book in February, as opposed to the summer months when they’re most likely on vacation in their own sort of adventure?  Timing is everything.

Myth #4: It’s better to write no words at all than write when you’re not feeling inspired.  In truth, an author spends more time re-writing than writing.  With that being said, the initial draft is obviously the hardest, as it requires the most creative juices.  What’s easier?  Piecing together an already complete puzzle, or designing the puzzle itself?  It’s true that you might rework the plot later based on a burst of inspiration, but at the end of the day it’s easier to do so when there’s more of the story already written down.

Myth #5: Schedules are always changing, so it’s pointless to set a deadline when you know you won’t be able to keep it.  This is best explained to be false with a common cliché:  Shoot for the moon; even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.  It’s important to note here that your deadline should be reasonable.  That’s actually one of the pros to it being self-imposed.  With that said, even if life gets in the way and you honestly can’t complete it in time, still work like you’re trying to.  Don’t just give up simply because you’re a few weeks off schedule.  No matter what, you’ll be in a better position if you work to keep up with the deadline.


These myths seem obvious, and we often believe them when we’re going through a spout of depression (ironically usually about missing a deadline).  People often forget that being an author is really like being an entrepreneur.  That means treating your work like a business.  Enjoy the creativity of the job, and don’t rush the art.  (Again, deadlines aren’t meant to be stressful.  Set it to be reasonable.)  In short: eat, sleep, write, repeat.

Chapter 5: Clutter and Craziness

Today I took a look at my “writing” folder.  In that folder, is another set of folders, each labelled as a different book title (or if I didn’t get that far, maybe “genie book” or “empire one”).  Each one of those folders has a number of different scenes or drafts of unfinished novels.  To call it clutter would be an understatement.

I have eleven folders dedicated to individual story plots, and have completed one novel.  What does that tell you?

Here’s the thing, though: I’ve lost inspiration for most of them.  It makes me sad, to say the least.  I have characters stuck in a waiting room that they’ll never be called out of.  Each is so beautiful and dear to me in his/her own way, but I just can’t find it in me to make their stories go anywhere.  Nothing comes to me past a scene or two.

So, what am I going to do?  First things first, if it’s the character that came to me crystal clear, I might try to put them in another story.  They’re not dependent on the original plot, so why not?  But, what if it’s just a scene?  One single scene that I can see clear as day, but nothing more.  It’s quite simple, really.

Write a short story.  They’re actually quite underrated.  I originally grew into the habit of short stories while waiting to hear back from agents last year – to pass the time without yet being ready to delve into another novel.  In short (haha), it was a past time.  However, they quickly became worth more to me.

My abilities when it comes to descriptions have greatly strengthened thanks to them.  I’ve also learned the beauty in simplicity – don’t put words on the page for the sake of count.  I don’t mean during the original draft where you’re jotting down your ideas.  I mean in the editing stages.  It becomes tempting to try to make your story sound eloquent by using too-large words and over-description.  The story becomes lost in it.

A lot of magazines that I submit to have a word count just under my story’s draft once I’m done with it.  That means I have to re-look at it, and decide what the story absolutely can’t live without.  Honestly, that should always be our point of view.  If it’s not relative to the story, and doesn’t propel the plot forward, why waste your readers’ time with it?  If I’m attached to a scene, the question becomes “how can I make this scene more relevant to the plot?” and then bam, my plot becomes just as complicated as I like it, but in a well compacted box.  Once carefully unwrapped, you have a beautifully woven story.

Here’s the off-putting fact about magazines, though: not only does your story have to be right for the brand of the magazine, but it has to fit in with the particular issue, as well.  It means you have to kill two birds with one stone, or none at all.

The rejection bites, but it helps your outlook on what that means.  Rejection doesn’t mean your book should be thrown out; it means there’s still room for improvement.  Take your book, mold it.  Listen to what people are saying, but stand by what you’re set on.  Sometimes stubbornness can be a good thing, but just know where to draw the line.

This post is going to end here, so I know it’s rather shorter than the others.  My final thought I want to leave you with is to take the time to get to know your characters as thoroughly as you would someone you care about in this tricked-up world we like to call reality.  It can make the difference between a forgotten story, and one that widens your reader’s scope for life.