Tag Archives: world-building

Keeping watching for the good stuff

This week’s learning point, readers, was to stick to my high standards. Just in case you were wondering, I’ve never had a problem with putting books down if I’m not enjoying them. I’m actually amazed that there are people who will persist with a book they actively dislike on the basis that if they start they have to finish. Life’s too short for that, imo.

So, I’ve started a lot of books recently and then trailed off because they didn’t grip me. They weren’t actively awful which would have enabled me to make the definite decision to stop reading, they were just a bit ‘meh’. I had a couple of hours to spend reading in the week and I spent ten minutes bouncing across four books feeling that I didn’t want to spend my reading time on any of them. Disconsolately, I scanned through my kindle to see if there was anything better. I didn’t have high hopes.

Cover of Shannon Mayer's Witch's ReignWell, I should have kept the faith. I found Witch’s Reign by Shannon Mayer, which had been lurking on my kindle for several weeks. I couldn’t quite remember why I’d picked it up (she’s a new author to me), but it seemed reasonably my thing – fantasy with a kickass female protagonist.

I opened it in the hopes that it would be better than the four stories I’d already discarded – and I was gripped from the very first sentence. I want to write first lines like that: world, and stakes and character and sass all in a dozen words, brilliant stuff. The rest of the book kept up the high standard of the opening scene and I swooped through it in a day.

Now, I need to find something equally good – but at least now I have faith that if I keep looking I’m going to find it!

A whole new world

I love writing fantasy because in that genre you get to make it all up as you go along – don’t you?

You absolutely do make up a new world, but “as you go along” might be problematic – whatever you create has to be internally consistent and make logical sense to the reader. I properly understood this when my second novel came back from its editor.

When I’d sent it, I made a comment something along the lines of, “It doesn’t have the sparkle of Gatekeeper, but I hope that’s just because it hasn’t had a proper edit yet.” Maybe that word “hope” should have cued me in that I had my own misgivings about the state of the world I’d created in those pages. My editor came back after a couple of days asking how deeply I wanted the edit to go – they thought there were major issues but they didn’t want to take over. That was easy – a sub-standard book isn’t leaving my house with my name on it, so I asked for all the faults to be exposed, no matter how deeply they went.

Back came a LOT of notes, but the focus was mainly on the same area – the world I’d created wasn’t internally consistent. It wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny and required too big a suspension of disbelief for the reader.

As a result I’ve been doing a lot of research into the reuse and recycling of plastic and metal and it’s utterly fascinating. I usually hate research because it eats up the time needed to write the book, but this time it’s fired up my imagination with fabulous ideas to create a stonking new draft.

I've got the stationery, now I just need some words...
I’ve got the stationery, now I just need some words…

This has been a real eye-opener. Research isn’t a tedious necesity, nor a cramp on my imagination. It can┬ábe a springboard for ideas.

Now, I just need to find the time to write the thing…