World-Building – Process

What goes into creating a world and sharing it with the reader?

Aside from blood and sweat?

Research
Research everything. You may not use everything you’ve learned, but your increased subject matter expertise will come through in your writing and (probably) you’ll have more confidence in what you’re writing. One of my greatest joys is having veterans and specifically helicopter gunship captains contact me after reading The Augmented Man to ask where I served and/or where I learned to fly. Anthropologists and other social scientists constantly read my work and ask if I worked with one culture or another. Such questions let me know my research paid off; when experts talk with you as if you’re an expert, you’ve done your job convincing the reader they’re in good hands reading your work.

On the other side of this, I’ve heard authors say that when they get to a point in their writing where something occurs they don’t understand or know or aren’t sure how something happens, they write “[XXX]” (or something similar) and move on, looking things up later.

Such writing shows (in my opinion).

I’m told that my work is so tightly written that it’s tough to remove stuff without throwing everything else out of whack. It’s like Story-DNA. Sure, you can switch a genome here or there, but that one genome and its placement affect the entire story. You may change hair color from chestnut to dark brown but now you’ve got three fingers that look like toes and a penis growing out of the middle of your forehead.

I stop writing when there’s a piece of something – tech, location, language, culture, anything! – in which I feel my knowledge is lacking.

And I always feel my knowledge is lacking.

Revealing the Story’s World
Reveal as the story requires. That’s the author’s job. Don’t front load, don’t back load, definitely don’t waste the reader’s time or stretch their patience, and always keep them moving forward through the story. This is something I wrote about in World-Building – Getting Readers Interested in Your World.


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Susan Bell’s “The artful edit”

Susan Bell’s The artful edit should be required reading for anyone who writes and/or calls themselves an editor.

First, it is a how-to of the mind, not of the pen (or keyboard). You won’t find rules on punctuation or grammar (or if they’re in there, I didn’t notice).

What you will find is page after page of stunning insight into how editing and editorial minds work. Most authors I know read through their manuscripts at least once before submitting them for publication. I know what I look for during such reads and realize now I’m skimming the surface.

Bell explains different editing methodologies in wonderful detail. More than that, she shares how a variety of editors work, what’s in their heads while they edit, what they look for, their goals for manuscripts, and much more.

The artful edit is rife with examples (another major plus for me). Each example comes from the exchange between an author and their editor (of which she is one) and is detailed by the exchange itself. How did The Great Gatsby become great? What became of the editor who wanted to hem in Hemingway?

Bell’s bibliography is a prize in itself, a must reading list.


Greetings! I’m your friendly, neighborhood Threshold Guardian. This is a protected post and requires either General Membership (free) or a Subscription (various levels). Members and Subscribers can LogIn. Non members can join. All posts are free to all members save certain posts in the My Work category. Enjoy!