Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Um, it's *all* world-building?

This week, we're talking about time management in general and specifically how much time world-building gets in the schedule versus actual word-making time. And to that I say... uh, I have no idea.

My process is very organic. I write a ton of scenes, read a ton of researchy things, make notes, write dialogue in Sharpie on my arms, listen to a ton of mood music, and eventually the story inhabits my brain and I can't not tell it. I fall in love with the characters. They start talking to me. I do mean things to them. It's a party!

World-building happens somewhere in there. Or maybe everywhere in there. There is no boundary, for me, between world-building and writing. The story is the world is the story is the characters. If I start separating those out as discrete items, I lose the big picture brain denizen Sharpie-written fugue of awesomeness. This is the same reason I can't do those character interview doodads before I write the story.

Because for the story, it doesn't matter that my protagonist has brown eyes or that her society uses a barter system instead of currency or that the planet she lives on is old and has lost its atmosphere... until the story happens. When the story happens, all of those details matter, and cooking them in with the rest takes all of the time.

Sure I stew ideas in my brain before I start typing. I mean, of course I do that. But write it all down, draw a map, and make index cards in advance? Nope. I can't.

And I know this utter truth -- that world-building and story-telling are the same thing at the same time -- because I've tried it the other way. You have no idea how many character interviews and world-map sketches I have lying around. But they never cooked themselves into something tastier. They're all just bland. And nobody wants to read dry, bland author notes when there's no story to go along with them. I mean, ugh, right?

So, my answer: I make the story and the world and the characters at the same time, all the time. Writing? For me?* Is all world-building.

* You know, just because the writing process works this way for me does not in any way mean it has to work the same way for you. We are all different. Doing all that pre-planning might really stoke your creative engine, and good for you! But I don't want you to feel bad if you don't have a detailed outline and map of your fantasy realm drawn out and labelled before you write Chapter One. You're okay. And you aren't alone.


  1. Well said! You have such a great writing style, whether its a book or a blog.

  2. I love this explanation. I feel the same. Though I'm not creating worlds on planets so it might not be as intricate to world build in West Hollywood. Lol. Your creativity is always so fun to read.