As most of us know, world building is an important part of creating our stories. Without a world of their own, where do our characters act out their journeys? For those of us who write fantasy and science fiction, this is particularly important, but it’s also important to writers who work in historical or realistic fiction.
So how do you, as the world builder, go about doing it? I write fantasy fiction. My first novel is called Lift, and it’s about a carousel of magical horses. It’s set in the here and now, in Michigan. But there is still plenty to do in regards to setting scenes. Michigan’s weather is tempestuous, and I use that throughout my novel. There is a magical house, that may or may not be pleasant to live in. Each piece of your world needs to work together to create the overall sense of belonging.
The world for Lift has been easier to create than that of Pentallia, the world my fantasy series is set in. But in some ways, Pentallia has been more fun, because it’s not part of our world. I am an avid Pinterest user; each story has its own board. Because Pentallia needed to be built from scratch, I currently have four boards devoted to it, and I’m not sure that’s even enough. Its helpful to have pictures that represent my characters, wardrobes, and places. I also maintain a board solely for quotes that remind me of my characters.
Is all that necessary? For me, yes. You might find using Pinterest tedious, or worse, a nasty time suck of your limited writing time. Every writer has to learn what works for them, and do it. Our main goal is to create new worlds, portals, for our readers to get lost in.
Find what works, and exploit it. Your readers, your fans, will thank you.
Every single person on the Earth is unique. This applies to every writer, too. Each one of us has a story, or three or ten, to tell, and only we can do it. Even if given the same basic plot and characters, each of us would twist it until it was different from everyone else’s.
I grew up reading primarily horse stories. I showed horses, did 4-H rodeo, and rode trails. But trying to write a horse story? It didn’t go as well as one would think with so much real horse experience in my life. Instead, I’ve been blessed with a definite bent toward fantasy, so that’s what I’m writing. Once you’ve come to terms with what kind of stories you’ve been given to curate, your writing path, while not easy, should be clearer.
And we know that writers sometimes lead interesting, if not weird, lives. That’s okay. Give yourself permission to be strange, to dabble with different stories and elements, or do wacky things. I probably wouldn’t recommend going to the local cafe in your undies, but hey – once you do it, people will just roll their eyes and whisper from the corner of their mouths, “Well, you know she/he’s a writer.”
So it’s okay to be a little strange. Don’t be afraid to try something new. You never know what you can accomplish until you do it.
I just finished watching Moana for probably the fifth time. Her journey was the catalyst for me choosing the path of an indie writer. The music is beautiful, the scenery captivating, and she is inspiring. Choosing to go the indie route was not a decision I made lightly. It’s not for everyone. But after watching this movie, I realized that I wanted to be an indie writer and author, and I’d been holding back because I feared failure.
I am working with a writer/publisher, K. R. Conway at Wicked Whale Publishing, so I’m not really on my own. But much of the work still falls to me. It’s exciting, though. Ms. Conway answers all my questions, and she’s very encouraging. I enjoy working with her.
What has inspired you as a writer? Is there a movie, song, or book that speaks to you? We all need encouragement, because this writing thing can be arduous at times. We might feel like we’ve chosen the wrong path. Hang in there. Let yourself be adventurous. Be willing to try something new.
And above all else, ask yourself: who are you?
I think it’s finally spring here in west Michigan. The birds have been returning, led by the robins and geese. A random snow shower might still pop up uninvited; Michigan can be, after all, quite tempestuous. But the grass is greening up, the horses are finally shedding their heavy winter coats, and the ORV park out at Silver Lake opened this month.
Which means it’s difficult to concentrate on not only my work at the library, but also on my book, Lift. First in the Flying Ponies series, it’s sitting on my old desk in my office at home, waiting for me to complete its editing. I know I need to buckle down and get to it, but the warm weather keeps calling me outside. Our kids are taking lambs to the county fair this year, and last night we worked on building their pen. No editing was accomplished.
I don’t actually mind editing. I know whatever I do now will only strengthen the story. My first reader gave it a good review, and also pointed out some things that need fixing, which is what a first reader should do. I have a plan of action to fix what’s broken. Now it’s just a matter of getting down to it.
The first story in the Pentallian Chronicles is coming along. The rewrite is much better than my first attempt at telling the story. And I’ve started making notes and finding character pictures for a future story (more on that in a future post). Unfortunately, none of that is helping get Lift edited. So it sits on my desk, half of it highlighted, the other half waiting. The highlighting is to help me make sure all of the various plot threads make it all the way through the book, and don’t suddenly drop off or stop. So far, everything looks good.
But the sun still calls, and the dunes are beckoning, as are the trails. My horse needs brushing to get all his winter fuzz off. There are so many other things I’d really rather be doing than sitting at good old Wellington (my desk) and pouring over a manuscript. Still, it has to be done. I have to find the motivation. The Flying Ponies deserve a chance to shine. Their story should be told.
So in the end, the dunes and trails will have to wait. My XJ and my horse can chill in the sun a little longer. And once Lift is done and sent off to my publisher, then I too can go play in the sunshine.
The time has finally arrived: the time to edit. I’ve let Lift sit for five weeks, and now it’s time to get out the yellow legal pads and different color highlighters, and get down to brass tacks.
Editing may not be as much fun as the actual writing, but this is when your story will really start to come together. You’ll be able to trace all your subplots and see what is working and what really needs to be scrubbed. I am looking forward to the read-through of Lift because it will be new again. Will my characters be as fun and crazy and whimsical as I thought they were? Will the carousel horses be as magical as I remembered? It will be interesting.
So onward to the editing, and may the book not be in as terrible of shape as it could be.
I am proud to announce that the short novel Whirl is available on Wattpad. Whirl is the prequel to my upcoming novel Lift, which is the first book in The Flying Ponies series. The first chapter of Whirl is on Wattpad, and as I finish chapters, they will be uploaded.
Choosing to become an indie author has been both exhilarating and scary. I’m not sure how this is all going to turn out, but it’s exciting. I hope to garner interest in Lift by offering Whirl on Wattpad. I would love for you to check it out and let me know what you think.
Have a wonderful week!
As many of you writers know, November is National Novel Writing Month, or for those who like acronyms: NANOWRIMO. I’ve been a semi-active participant for the last few years, as have been a few of my coworkers. It’s fun, and sometimes I do get fairly far with whatever project I’m currently working on. This year, since I’m already 176 pages deep into The Flying Ponies, I decided to write a diary from the viewpoint of my main character’s great, great grandmother. The diary is really just meant for me so I know the backstory on the Flying Ponies Grand Carousel, but who knows – if the book takes off, perhaps the diary will someday be published.
The diary is being written in a pretty cool leather journal I scored at Barnes and Noble a few years ago. I have a gel ink pen that looks like a giant white feather to write with, and that’s fun, too. It’s been quite a while since I’ve handwritten anything other than notes for a story. But the real fun, for me, has been the research. Adara, the writer of the journal, lives in Brooklyn during the Roaring Twenties, and she frequents the infamous Coney Island. I’ve been a fan of the place for quite a while now, because I love amusement parks and carousels, and the Island has quite the storied past.
I’d heard of the Dreamland fire, in 1911, that completely wiped out that beautiful park. It was never rebuilt, leaving only Steeplechase (which burned but was rebuilt) and Luna Park to dominate the Island, along with the infamous Boardwalk and Bowery, but I’m learning a lot more. Coney Island still operates, and a few of the historic rides are still there, including the newly-refurbished B & B Carousell (that’s actually how it’s spelled), and the Cyclone coaster. But I doubt it’s anything like it was back in the twenties, when a million people would come to the Island to lay on the beaches and take spins on all the rides.
I also doubt that a lot of people like to do research; I feel that a lot of writers think it takes time away from the writing. And it does, certainly. But to get that authenticity for your story, to really get inside a character’s head who’s in that time period, it’s absolutely essential. I have pages and pages of research on Coney Island, and have books coming that talk about the park during the different decades of operation. I need to know what roller coasters and carousels and dark houses were on the streets of the Island so that Adara and her boyfriend can move through them and have it be real.
Without doing your research, your story will fall flat, because guaranteed, someone out there reading it will know something about the subject you’re writing about, or the time period your characters are in, and if it’s not right, you’ll hear about it. If I’ve learned anything at all from writing fan fiction, it’s that the fans LOVE to tell you when you’re wrong. And with fan fiction, because there are so many stories out there, if you get it wrong once, you’re likely to lose that reader forever. And though I’m not yet published, I’m guessing it’s the same with published books.
So whether you hate it or love it, do your research. Do it because your story, and your characters, are worth the time and effort. And you’ll learn a lot, and thus, so will your readers.
Each writer has a different process by which they make their stories. Some eek out a few words or sentences a day. Some are capable of great paragraphs and chapters per day. I am, most days, somewhere in-between. While working on my fantasy series, I’ve suffered from the neurosis known by all writers as “writer’s block.” I’ve also had joyous days when I can’t write fast enough to keep up with my characters and all their words. Those are the best of days, when I wish I had no other responsibilities but writing.
Working on my new WIP, The Flying Ponies, has been nothing but pleasure. I realize I may be cursing myself for admitting this out loud (I did just knock on the wood of my desk), but it truly has been. I think for every writer, there is that one book or story or poem that is just right, that seems to come knowing who it is and what it is meant to do. I don’t mean it won’t need editing – everything needs that. But you can feel it deep within yourself. It resonates throughout your whole being, and you can’t imagine why you never wrote of it before.
I wrote an earlier blog post about the magic of the carousel, and I think because I’ve always been a horse person, loving the old wooden horses is ingrained in me. They feel right to me. Writing a fantasy story about them feels right. And I think that’s why so far, the writing has been easier than with my other fantasy series. I love my Pentallia characters, of course, and hope to get them out in book form soon. But the Flying Ponies keep calling and talking to me, and I can’t ignore their voices. They’re overwhelming.
And so the words have been flying too, and there’s just not enough time in the day to get it all down. Maybe some day I’ll be wealthy enough to make writing my full-time job, but for now, it has to share with my librarian job, which I love. I work at a great place, with great people who are more family than coworker. Still, old Wellington, my beautiful desk my husband bought for me at a second-hand store, beckons all the time, and I wish I could just park in front of him and write. Don’t we all wish we had nothing holding us back from writing?
My weekend will be busy with my son marching at the home football game tonight, and then watching him play with the high school jazz band at two different concerts tomorrow. Tomorrow night is dinner at the in-laws (who are fabulous people), and then on Sunday is church and taking my dad to see Sully. So when do I get any writing done? Maybe Sunday night, after the rest of the family is in bed.
But the best part? When I do finally get to sit down at Wellington, the words are going to fly, just like those magical, fantastic Flying Ponies who have nestled deep into my soul.