Sunday, January 13, 2019
Worldbuilding - Foundation Process or Procrastination?
I've included a map here that first appeared in THE MARK OF THE TALA, the first book in the original Twelve Kingdoms trilogy. (For those who don't know - I didn't before I drew the map - the split down the middle is to accommodate the book binding.) Quite notably, I didn't draw this map until after the book had been written, the next books sketched out (very sketchily), and a couple of levels of editing completed with my publisher. At that point my editor asked me for a map of the world in the story. He thought it might make it easier for readers to follow the travels of the heroine, Andromeda, the middle princess.
So, I drew a map. Before that, the world had existed only in my head. But I'd envisioned it in vivid detail, so the task of drawing it out ended up being fairly straightforward. I spent most of my time figuring out how fantasy world maps should be drawn, and fixing logistical details like putting the split down the middle.
Later, however, I discover that most people thought I was crazy to do it this way. In fact, many SFF authors spend considerable time, even years, detailing their world maps and building out the details of the society, before they start writing.
Some of this approach, I think, comes from storytellers emerging from role-playing game experiences. In those, a great deal of effort goes into creating the world and rules before the game can be played. This is not me.
I also think that worldbuilding can be a form of pre-plotting. By creating the world and the details, the writer creates a kind of framework or outline for the story to evolve in. This is also not me.
So, it could be that I worldbuild the way I do - which is discovering what it's like by riding around in my characters' heads and observing it - because I write for discovery. That's how my process works on all levels, and faithful readers know I always say the most important thing is to own your process.
There's another reason, however, that I don't do worldbuilding before I write. I decided long ago that the only way I'd get a book written was to put down words. That sounds self-evident, but the decision is a profound one. I made a choice that NOTHING mattered more than putting down words - which includes things like drawing maps and other worldbuilding exercises.
When aspiring writers ask me about worldbuilding, when they tell me what they're doing to create their worlds, I'll say those things are great but they don't count as writing.
Only writing counts as writing.
Posted by Jeffe Kennedy at 12:28:00 PM
Labels: maps, own your process, Pantser, Plotting, process, procrastination, The Mark of the Tala, The Twelve Kingdoms, world building, worldbuilding
Jeffe Kennedy is a multi-award-winning and best-selling author of romantic fantasy. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) and is a member of Novelists, Inc. (NINC). She is best known for her RITA® Award-winning novel, The Pages of the Mind, the recent trilogy, The Forgotten Empires, and the wildly popular, Dark Wizard. Jeffe lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is represented by Sarah Younger of Nancy Yost Literary Agency.
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I stared at your map for a moment wondering why there was a split. Now it makes perfect sense, make room for the book binding! Sort of like making room for the writing...and then the map will come together in one piece ;)ReplyDelete
Yes! And it's pretty cool to see it. They gave me the dimensions (a one-inch space for trade paperback) and I folded the paper to draw it, then opened it up again and voila!Delete
Maps in books are actually a turn-off for me. I fee like if the author thinks I need a map to follow the story, that it's not the type of story I'm likely to enjoy. Same with lists of word meanings and things like that. I think a lot of it is the legacy of Tolkien. I did draw a map for the first novel I wrote, but it's an *extremely* simple one and not remotely to scale or anything. My characters were doing a lot of traveling and I wanted to keep track of where I'd said things were in relation to other things, so I wouldn't contradict myself.ReplyDelete
Those aren't a turn-off for me - but your comment makes me realize that I never look at either!Delete