I’d be straight lying if I said I knew how to construct a fictional world. Mine was born from daydreaming rather than learning algebra… and chemistry… and, uh, well that’s not important. What is important is I’d like to try and share some ideas on how to make the universe that I write in based on how mine’s come together.
So, first, I started really young. In fact, my universe is based on pretty much everything day dream I had as a child. I built, sketched, played in, lived in, and constantly thought about a fantasy world that I could escape to as a child. In high school, I wrote a throw away the short story for a writing assignment. After it was done I went back and wrote some more on it. Then I just never stopped.
I mean, I don’t have anything solid to show off for it. There is something like 300,000 words of rough drafts, chapter ones, and short stories that aren’t ready for people to see. There is a literal filing cabinet I have stuffed with every napkin and scrap of paper I’ve ever scribbled on. Each one featuring a star and the word ‘Cloudsea’.
In college, it struck me. Everything that I like doing and want to do involve story telling. The story I want to tell is in this pulpy-space-opera-high-fantasy-dystopian-adventure world.
So, I sat down one day in the summer of 2008 and wrote ‘chapter one’ in a blank text file on a laptop so old that I couldn’t unplug it. The next summer I wrote maybe six chapters and posted them online. Nothing really happened. Then, I joined a writing forum and started over from scratch. I finished the first draft over the course of a NaNoWriMo (maybe 2013?). I reread it and it needed such a full edit that it was actually quicker to just rewrite the whole thing a third time.
At this point, I was so tired of this novel that I actually put it to the side. I believe in it. I think it’s a great novel. I think if I look at it again in the next six months I’ll lose my mind. It’s just that in my head, I feel like I did finish it. It has been an all-consuming project for nearly a decade now. I needed to take a break.
The entire time I was working on Cloudsea, I was making notes about the world. The places, people, culture, icons, religions, and magic systems. I’ve been working through these ideas in my head every time I listen to music or sit still for any length of time. That’s been key to making my world more fleshed out–mulling over details about the world all the time.
To make everything feel cohesive, I started writing prehistory for the world for what the world was like before the start of the novel I was working on. This was inspired by watching Game of Thrones. Even if GRRM doesn’t have a fully written out history for every single house and kingdom (and really I’m starting to doubt he doesn’t actually do that) it certainly feels like he does. Hell, House Cerwyn has its own Wiki page. I forgot they existed till I read it. I may not every country, house, kingdom, or personal dating history of each character yet, but I’ve started writing out some short notes anytime I list a new location or kingdom. This makes me feel more confident as I write and discuss plot because I can point to the history of a place and say a little about each destination.
One thing I did to just get started was to create a single place and really flesh it out. I started in Kydonia. It’s a desert with no central governing authority. Just pirates, tribes of native inhabitants, and a few external bodies attempting to stake a claim to their resources. That way I could speak broadly about “the Empire” or “the Republic” but not get bogged down in where or who they were. As I wrote about them, I formed more ideas about what they were like and how they operated.
- Daydream about your universe constantly
- Make endless notes about your universe (may want to invest in a notebook)
- Keep lists of places you mention and become familiar with them
- Write out small bite-sized chunks about your different destinations
- Write about the history of those destinations
- Start small and work your way out
That’s all I have right now. I’ll be posting more details about my series as I write more on the new Cloudsea book. It’s a prequel to my previous work so I’m hoping when I finish it I’ll be ready to write on the original. Fingers crossed.
Also–I’m thinking about using Wattpad to serialize my novel. Does anyone use it? I’ve only heard positives so I’m looking for some counter arguments for using it. I know there is the whole “but what if someone steals ma ideas?!?!?!?!” argument but at this point, I need freaking words on a page. So, anything to put those there is a plus.
see Exhibit A, above
Also, in addition–I’ll be talking more about Cloudsea and putting up some behind the story information as I work on it. Come back soon to see what I’ve added.