The ‘how to’s’ of world-building

Great world building advice 🙂

Richie Billing

If you’d like more writing tips you can get my eBook, This Craft We Call Writing: Volume One, for free by completing the form below. Inside you’ll find over 150 pages covering everything from dialogue, characterisation, prose and plotting, to writing fight scenes, viewpoint, and much more!


“I propose to speak about fairy-stories, though I am aware that this is a rash adventure. Faërie is a perilous land, and in it are pitfalls for the unwary and dungeons for the overbold.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

We read stories to become lost in new and unexplored worlds, ones filled with possibilities, mysteries, and oddities.  The world in which a story is set is important to any tale, particularly so when it comes to science fiction and fantasy.

This post will first explore the how to’s of world-building, and then the how to’s of revealing your crafted world through the story.

How do…

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If you really want to know yourself, start by writing a book #writing #amwriting

How does writing help you to know yourself? And what does it say about you that you love to write?

Perhaps we reveal ourselves in our character choice, our writing style or genre, or even in the quality of our work.

Is there a depth of compassion in the words that we write?

Or do we demonstrate prowess in a particular topic or skill?

I thought I would take a more generic approach, and look at what we learn about ourselves when we write a book that is unconnected to genre, style or writing capability.

We have stamina

It takes a long time.

We write as often as we can, chipping away a word at a time at a goal that we might not see realised for years.

We have determination

We use our determination to sustain us through the journey.

We pick ourselves up from distractions by our unwavering belief that the story within us must come out.

We are eternal students

We learn all we can about writing, we keep learning, and then we learn some more. 

We are resilient

Set-backs, delays, and real-life can hold up our writerly dreams, but we pick ourselves up, and keep moving forward.

We treat feedback as a gift.

We have a vision

We have a vision for our work and for ourselves as a writer.

Imagination

When we begin there is a blank piece of paper.

We use our imagination and words to create worlds, characters and story.

“If you really want to know yourself, start by writing a book.”

~ Shereen E Feki

Binge writing, Fast drafting & NaNoWriMo #amwriting #NaNoWriMo #writer

So it’s that time of year again where writers all over the world enrol for the National Novel Writing Month.

If you haven’t given it a go, it’s simply a month were you challenge yourself to write 50K of words. Whether it is a 50K novel or 50k towards a novel, doesn’t really matter. You sign up, you commit, and all you need to do at the end of the month is paste your 50k into the site to receive your certificate.

If you’re interested in learning more you can check out their site here.

https://nanowrimo.org


If you are looking for a little help preparing, here is a great article I came across a few days ago. Some great tips on getting your draft out whether you are taking part in NaNoWriMo or not.

What I Learned From Binge-Writing Nine Bad Novels


And if you are looking for a few tips on fast drafting…

Six Secrets to Drafting a Novel – Fast!

If you want to get your novel DRAFT out FAST, here are my top six tips to help you on your way.

  1. Planning. I am the original anti-planner. I hate the constrictive, creativity stifling, and passion killing thought of planning…but…a little planning goes a long way. You don’t need to go crazy and have every single scene detailed before you start, but you do need a skeleton.

Deviating from said skeleton is all part of drafting; so don’t let yourself feel in anyway constrained just because you have a plan. There is no doubt about it though; planning works, and the upfront investment will make writers block and endless story syndrome a thing of the past.

2. Don’t Edit. And when I say don’t edit, I mean DON’T EDIT AT ALL. Sorry shouting and all that, and I am really shouting at myself because I am the world’s worst edit-as-I-go-er. It’s the perfectionist in me peeking out again, better get a whip and a chair to that little monster!

It’s soooo hard not to edit, because the moment you read it, it looks like crap, and you immediately think you are a terrible writer, and that chapter will never work. STOP. It will work just fine…when you edit, which is LATER. So, no peeking, not even a little peek, let it go and move on to the next chapter.

3. Don’t think just write. What? Ok, it’s maybe more…don’t think too much.

Even with a plan, and knowing what the chapter is going to be about, and having a house completely free of interruptions, and your favorite music on, and a coffee at your side…you sit there and your head is blank. The endless procrastination kicks in, you check Facebook, Twitter, you read the news, make a cup of coffee…again. You write a few words and then delete them, and then a few more…and delete them. Sound familiar?

That’s because you’re actually thinking too hard. Yep I know, that sounds like reverse logic because how can you think too hard. It’s not a myth; I do it all the time. It’s not writers block either; so don’t panic. It’s more like…temporary amnesia about what that keyboard thing is for. Either you can’t start writing at all or when you do write you have an overwhelming urge to hit delete.

This is where the stop-thinking bit is really important. Just start the scene, even if you know it’s crap, even if you know you are going to delete the whole first paragraph, because something amazing happens once you get past a few sentences without hitting delete…it all starts pouring out and you remember that there is a connection between the brain and the keyboard, its calling fingers, and wow, they work!

4. Killing the people who interrupt you. Yes, I know it’s not practical, and hiding a body is so hard, but hey sometimes it’s got to be done. Just kidding, you can’t really kill the people who interrupt you, but you can think about it in glorious detail!

Interruptions are a fact of life, and they only interrupt you because they love you so much…or they want to be fed, or they can’t find that . I find meditation, and practicing breathing techniques really works…yes I’m just kidding about that too…nothing works, either get a lock for your door and fit soundproofing so you can’t hear them screaming at you, or just build a bridge and move on.

5. You are going to chop out some the work you write. Gasp! No! Yep, it’s going to happen. Remember in point 2 where I said don’t worry if it looks like crap it will all work out fine in the end? I lied. Some sentences, paragraphs, and yes, even whole scenes will meet a fate worse than death, discarded for ever to your clipping folder where you retain them in the misguided hope they will be reused or reinserted later. They won’t be, but it’s Okay to keep them, I do.

Now, you may be wondering how knowing that a scene may later be chopped is going to help you write quickly because now you are feeling pretty depressed and not at all motivated to write quickly, but here’s the catch, would you rather spend ages over-editing a scene, or procrastinating writing it, and then delete it? Nope, I certainly wouldn’t.

I have lost count of the number of beautifully written sentences or scenes that simply had to go. Sometimes you just need to get the whole story done before you can be truly objective enough to see what needs to stay and what needs to go, and the less time you spend getting to this stage, the better.

6. Use word count targets. Love ’em or loath ’em, word count targets work, especially when you are drafting. Goal setting is written about, talked about, and well established as the single most important part of achieving ‘stuff’. If your goal is to write a book, you need to give yourself targets on the way to keep motivated.

Didn’t hit your target today? So what, there are plenty of days where you don’t make as much progress as you wanted too, and some days you make no progress at all. Celebrate the good days, and move on past the bad days, and remember that any words written at all is a step closer to completion! (Unless you end up deleting it as I mentioned in point 4…but we are not going to think about that during the draft)

I have been writing long enough to know roughly what I can write in a day, or an evening if it’s a work day, so I build my daily count around that. I LOVE seeing how I am progressing. Scrivener has this little happy ‘bong’ and a popup telling you well done when you hit your daily target. I LOVE that. I also love hitting book milestones like the quarter point, the half way, the three quarter, the finish, the editing…I break absolutely everything up into little micro targets, and this provides an amazing sense of movement and progress.

Writing a book takes FOREVER, so keeping the motivation up and sense of achievement high will get that draft finished in super fast time.

How to Sharpen the First Sentence in Every Chapter

Great writing tips 🙂

A Writer's Path

 

by Carolyn Dennis-Willingham

 

We all know that the first sentence or two in a novel needs to, not only grab a reader’s attention, but flip them out of bed, melt them into their recliners, or make them forget the lasagna in the oven.

Like you, I’ve written so many first lines for my novels, I could add them up and the page count would be the same as the novel itself.

They, editors, agents, writing experts say:

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Why writers should ‘think’ a little evil #amwriting #writerslife #writing

I thought I would take a little time out from my WIP to talk about writers, and more specifically their evil nature.

Now, I realise that being a writer doesn’t make you any more disposed toward a life of crime, or even being unkind because it certainly doesn’t. Although please never check a writer’s search history because you will soon be convinced we are plotting an assassination attempt and looking for ways to hide the body!

What I am talking about is conflict…because every good book needs conflict…and the only way to think up conflict is…you guessed it…to think a little evil.

Planning evil

Right in the very earliest stages of your novel’s development, when it is no more than a twinkling in the dark pit of your mind…there is conflict bubbling up to the surface.

Without conflict or challenge there is only a…millpond.

I’m going to let you in on a secret…nobody wants to read about a millpond because it’s BORING!

What we need is stormy seas and howling winds, and a few pure evil key plot points to screw our character’s lives up!

Spontaneous evil

So, you kick off your story and you feel you have a goodly smattering of conflict going on when. …WHAM! It just pops in there, another totally evil thing you could do to your characters that will stir things up even more!

You rub your hands together in glee and immediately get down to the nefarious deed.

Barely have your characters got over that little challenge when…BAM! Oh yes, you guessed it, another nasty plot point has hatched in your very evil mind.

Evil Conclusion

Are writers quintessentially evil? Do we take to writing as a way of nurturing evil thoughts that are already there? Or do we develop and hone our evil plot point radar as we write and write some more?

I guess we may never know, but one fact is very well established, a little evil thinking will go a long way to help your writing!

14 Highly-Anticipated Sequels Coming Out This Fall

Another great reading list!

Capital Nerd

We know the anticipation of waiting for the latest installment in a new book series we love, and we’re happy to report that there’s a slew of much-anticipated sequels arriving this fall. I’ve rounded up the must-read new releases, complete with publishers’ descriptions. Time to find out what happens next to our favorite characters!

A Column of Fire by Ken Follett

The saga that has enthralled the millions of readers of The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End now continues with Ken Follett’s magnificent, gripping A Column of Fire.

Christmas 1558, and young Ned Willard returns home to Kingsbridge to find his world has changed.

The ancient stones of Kingsbridge Cathedral look down on a city torn by religious hatred. Europe is in turmoil as high principles clash bloodily with friendship, loyalty, and love, and Ned soon finds himself on the opposite side from the girl he…

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Author Interview – Greg Levin #authors @Greg_Levin #books

Today I have the pleasure of introducing author Greg Levin who will be sharing his thoughts on reading and writing, and details of his new book, In Wolves’ Clothing.

Greg on Writing

What motivates you to write?

The desire to remain sane. Kafka was spot on when he famously said, “A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.” I can sometimes make it two or three days without working on a novel, blog post or grocery list, but after that I absolutely MUST write. Even when I’m on vacation in paradise with my beautiful wife, I need to scratch out a page here and there to keep the crazy away. Too much sun and surf and relaxation terrifies me.

Your biggest writing distractions?

My wife’s desire to go on vacations in paradise. That, and any kind of noise other than the clicks of my own keyboard and synapses. I wear silicone earplugs whenever writing to avoid being pulled out of my fictional world by such annoying sounds as my wife saying good morning, my teenage daughter sneaking back into the house, or my forgotten cats begging me to feed them. I know this makes me seem a little selfish and mean, but in my defense, I’m not a very good person.

What are your favorite books or sites you go to for writing tips/advice?

It’s been a while since I’ve referenced the following books (and maybe it’s time I revisit), but I’d have to say Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life and Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel. As for sites on the Interweb, I regularly click to Writer Unboxed, Lit Reactor and Writer’s Digest. Joanna Penn’s site—The Creative Penn—is another excellent online resource for writers, newbies and veterans alike.

Least favorite thing about writing?

That’s easy—the fact that I can’t quit it. It’s got me by the goodies and will never let go. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing, but there are times when the relationship turns abusive and I just want out. I’ve tried to leave in the past, but she always finds me and lures me back with her irresistible guile and powerful verbs.

What do your friends and family think about you being a writer?

My friends all think it’s fantastic … until I come out with a new novel and camp outside their homes until they buy multiple copies and write a rave review on Amazon. It’s tiresome for everyone involved.

As for my family, they’re extremely supportive—even when I’m losing my mind and being belligerent and/or neglectful while trying to finish a book. When I do finally finish, my parents always read it in one sitting, then call me afterward to tell me it’s brilliant. I should point out my parents are drinkers. My wife, she’s a bit too supportive. Whenever I even joke about quitting the writing game, she slaps me around—much the way writing does, albeit with better intentions. Still, having someone believe so strongly in you is dangerous.

Most important things a writer should spend money on?

If you’re an indie author like me, you can’t skimp on cover design, editing, proofreading, formatting and marketing. It’s also a good idea to fork over some cash for a course on how to be a drug kingpin or a jewel thief—that way you’ll always have plenty of money to pay for all those other items I mentioned. Finally, bourbon and vodka. (But never mix the two. That’s unhealthy.)

How do you measure your success as a writer?

By the word. It’s a lot more gratifying than measuring success by the royalties. Delusional is my middle name.

What advice would you give to yourself if you were starting the writing journey again?

I’d tell myself debut novels very rarely do well, so it’s better to start off with your third or fourth. I’d also tell myself that trying to make it as a writer is a grind, and that the grind is often painful and miserable, and that it’s important to use that pain and misery to write something worth a damn.

And to never quit. Because you can’t. And if you can, then you were never a writer to begin with. (Insert image of me dropping a mic and confidently strutting away … then blushing upon the realization I still have several interview questions left to answer.)

As a reader

What is your favorite book quote?

Oh my, I have to choose just one? That’s like asking me to choose a favorite snowflake or Rocky film. Hmmm, I think I’ll have to go with the following staggeringly good one from Denis Johnson—an amazing writer we lost earlier this year:

“Talk into my bullet hole. Tell me I’m fine.” (From Jesus’ Son.)

Favorite book hero and/or villain, and why?

I have two favorites, but (spoiler alert) they are really the same person. The first is the unnamed protagonist of Fight Club, and the second is Tyler Durden of Fight Club. I could go on for days explaining why they/he are/is my favorite hero/villain, but I must respect the first rule of Fight Club and not talk about Fight Club. I’ve already said too much.

Your most influential book?

This may shock you, but it’s Fight Club. It’s the book that really got me into contemporary transgressive fiction. And it’s not even my favorite book by Chuck Palahniuk. But it’s the one that awoke in me a fresh new way of writing­—dangerous prose with a minimalist bent. Prose that is dark and startling, but also peppered with pathos, humor and humanity.

Warning: Humble-brag ahead. … You can imagine my elation—and my terror—when, after having been a huge fan of Palahniuk’s for years, I got selected by him to participate in his inaugural “Writing Wrong” workshop in Portland this past spring (along with a dozen other writers). Every Monday for ten weeks I got to sit in a room with Chuck, read sections of In Wolves’ Clothing (a work in progress at the time), and have him tell me everything I had to fix to make the book as good as I had deluded myself into thinking it already was. The whole experience was extremely rewarding, and humbling. Most importantly, it gave me the ability to name-drop Chuck Palahniuk during interviews for the rest of my life.

Tell us what you are currently reading and your verdict so far?

I’m reading Kiss Me, Judas by Will Christopher Baer. It’s dark, sardonic and absurd. You know, the perfect book to bring to the beach. A fellow writer recommended it to me after shaming me for having never read it. I don’t know why it took me so long to discover Mr. Baer’s writing talent. I guess I’ve just been too busy trying to discover mine.

If you could have a signed copy of a book by an author (dead or living) what book would it be and why?

The Bible. Because I want to know who wrote it, and because I’d make millions charging people admission to see my signed copy. But I don’t want to end this interview on such a snarky note, so I’m going to provide another answer: Fight Club. You know, in case I ever lose my current copy that Chuck Palahniuk signed for me. Did I mention I know Chuck?

Before I go, thank you very much, Georgina (or is it Gee? Or G. L.?) for giving me such valuable real estate on your most excellent blog. Also, a huge thank you to your readers, who hopefully stuck around here till the end so I can remind them to check out my brand new novel, In Wolves’ Clothing..

Gee: You’re welcome 🙂

About the book

You are living in the your latest novel. Where are you living, and what is it like?

As the protagonist of In Wolves’ Clothing, I’m based in present-day LA, which is nice if you can stand the brutal traffic, brutal sunshine and all the brutally beautiful people. I, personally, cannot. So it’s a good thing I travel the globe for my job. I might be in Phnom Penh one week, Mumbai the next, and Rio de Janeiro the week after that. It’s not as glamorous as it sounds. Not even close. After all, there’s nothing glamorous about pretending to be a pedophile. Yup, that’s what I do for work. If you know of a better way to rescue victims of child sex trafficking, feel free to share it with me. Until then, my team and I will keep hopping on planes, drinking with pimps, and pulling off the most heartbreaking sting operations you can imagine.

About Greg Levin

Greg Levin is an award-winning author of contemporary fiction with a dark comedic tinge. He resides with his wife, daughter and two cats in Austin, Texas, where he’s currently wanted by local authorities for refusing to say “y’all” or do the two-step.

In Wolves’ Clothing  by Greg Levin

Zero Slade is not a bad guy—he merely plays one when saving children’s lives.

During his seven years on a team fighting child sex trafficking around the globe, Zero’s become quite good at schmoozing with pimps, getting handcuffed by cops and pretending not to care about the Lost Girls he liberates. But the dangerous sting operations—along with Zero’s affinity for prescription painkillers—are starting to take their toll on his marriage. And sanity.

You can also follow Greg on his social media sites!

If you have recently published a book and would like to feature in an author interview,  please email me at TheWritingChimp@gmail.com

How Not to Write: The Anti-Writing Writing Method — Drew Chial

So your writing is flowing too fast. The spark of inspiration has set your mind ablaze and your fingers hurt from typing. Stephen King says you should write 3,000 words a day and you’re lapping him: 6,000 words a day, 9,000 words a day. You’re so prolific your beta readers feel like you’re swamping them […]

via How Not to Write: The Anti-Writing Writing Method — Drew Chial

Finding your writer’s voice #amwriting #writing #writerslife

“To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.”
—Allen Ginsberg, WD

A writer’s voice can be an elusive thing. It is hard to know you have found it unless you are an experienced writer with enough books under your belt.

Often, you instinctively know when you are allowing your fears to get in the way of what you really want to say, but it can be difficult to do something about it. Whether it is word choice, style choice, character choice, or some other choice you are smothering, it can be difficult to quash your inner critic and just let the inner writer out.

What is the definition of a writer’s voice?

The writer’s voice is the individual writing style of an author, a combination of their common usage of syntax, diction, punctuation, character development, dialogue, etc., within a given body of text (or across several works) Source Wiki.

One of the things I grapple with is my use of unorthodox words. There were a couple of places in my book where my editor pointed out ‘better’ words, but I decided not to use them. Of course, there were plenty of other places that I did take her advice. I guess there are certain words that interest me, and although there may be a simpler word I prefer the alternative ones.

I talk in the same way, it’s part of me, and I think there is nothing wrong with leaving a little me in place.

I’m glad I did, and for no reason other than it allows personality into my book.

What is the right amount of voice?

Many bestselling writers use very little ‘voice’ to make their books as appealing as possible. There is no doubt that this tactic works and to elaborate I will use an example. I am one of those odd people who tends to read book reviews after I finish a book, and I was reading a review of a book that I had thoroughly enjoyed, and was surprised by a large number of negative reviews. All the writer’s other works had received glowing 4/ 5 star reviews, but this particular book (which I personally felt was the best in the series) had received a significant number of 1 star reviews.

Why was everyone upset? Well, she had done something a little out of the ordinary in this one. Personally I felt it gave the book an edge that was lacking in the others. For me, this book had something that pulled it out of the ‘mundane’ pack. I read a lot of books and I have been reading for many years, and I have found over time that I actively seek and enjoy uniqueness in a book or writer.

Many of the readers wanted the nice flat line…personally I enjoyed the blip. Certainly not everyone was upset by the book, and it did get a lot of five star reviews too, but I couldn’t help but wonder if the writer’s decision to ‘stick to the safe script’ for future work was a result of these negative reviews.

I hope not.

Can you have too much voice?

There are also writers who have a very unique and extreme voice for a variety of reasons. I once decided, in my infinite wisdom, to read the complete works of Jane Austin while working through classic works. Jane Austin definitely has a voice! And the thing about reading a writer with a strong voice is that it rubs off, and you find yourself writing like…Jane Austin! Given that I mostly write scifi or fantasy, even when I am just ‘play’ writing, it was a rather bizarre mix! And funny! But definitely not a good style!

It is good to recognise the importance of what we read, and to be aware of how it ultimately impacts what becomes our voice. There’s nothing wrong with reading Jane Austin, but perhaps with hindsight six books back-to-back was a bit of a style overdose.  🙂

Whether you are an advocate of the neutral voice, or prefer reading books that have a distinctive voice, we all have one ourselves, and we can choose whether to let it out.