When I wake up, I like to get a cup of coffee and catch up on news and emails and social media. This morning, I saw an email from Goodreads telling me that I had gotten a question, which doesn’t happen very often, so it caught my attention immediately.
What is the biggest mistake an author can make when it comes to world building?
Lyndell Williams asked me it. I actually just finished reading an ARC of her book, My Way to You. (It’s available as a pre-order!) I haven’t reviewed it yet (I will today), but it’s an excellent book. Lyndell is a fantastic writer. She’s clear, she’s provides a good balance of detail, and she provides much needed diversity in her romance books. So needles to say, I was like, um, um…Me Not Good Writer, Lyndell. Please look away. I even sang it with that voice from A Series of Unfortunate Events.
Yeah, I immediately froze and hoped that I hadn’t committed some huge blunder while writing my books. Because I’m totally, amazingly confident as a person. #characterflaw
But then I got to thinking. It’s a great question, and I’d like to address two components of it today. First of all, here’s my response, because I want to be honest about my path as a writer. It wasn’t a sit down and magically I became a masterful writer kind of deal. Darn the luck.
When I write my first draft, it’s bad and awkward and lame and really flat. During my second round of revisions (and bits of my first), I go in and really do a better job of anchoring my readers. Then, in one of my last drafts of revision, I go in and add bits of detailed anchor to give it that last bit of decorative hip shake. Writing jazz hands, baby.
But aside from my answer (and the freaking out I did when she added my book to her to read list. Someone hold me. It’s scary when actual good writers read your book, ya’ll), I wanted to talk about another overall blunder that writers make while world building: Not Making Mistakes.
Ya’ll heard me correctly. Yes, there’s a huge list of blunders you can make while world building/writing. I committed a deadly sin in my first book. In chapter uno/one/un, I had Charlotte go look in a mirror to describe her outfit. I know, I know. Totes a deadly sin in writing these days. Bad me. Don’t look in the mirror, Char, don’t do it!!!!!!!
But I hadn’t come across that writing tip, and so I goofed. *sobs*
Look, as a writer, you’re going to make mistakes. Freaking out over what mistakes you will make is not cool, man. So if you, like me, are facing a blank piece of paper and running in circles and screaming (inside where it belongs, bless my introvert ways), just stop. Breathe. And repeat after me:
I am human. I will make mistakes. It’s cool, dude. It’s how I grow as a person.
The thing is, writing is one of those professions that you will never really be a master at. I know. My inner perfectionist is throwing a tantrum right now, too.
So my not so secret weapon is this: I move forward. I keep learning as a person. Then I apply what I’ve learned. And I keep moving.
If you focus on not making mistakes, you are going to end up blocking your creativity. So go make those mistakes! Get out there and do, and then just use the magic of the eraser/backspace key and fix your mistakes.
You are going to have a first book. Everybody does. Everybody, even the ones who write amazing, excellent first books, are going to improve their writing as they go. So go out there and make those world building mistakes. Then go read about other authors’ experiences, and steal from them.
Yes, steal! Do you like my Unitaur? Then go put on in your books! Hate my Unitaur? Then go write a book about an annoying writer who puts Unitaurs in her books. It’s all good. I actually do have enough confidence nowadays to send you packing to my haters group. Tuesdays at 7. It’s enchiladas next week. I may disguise myself and join. I can dis myself and fit right in and then sob into my enchiladas afterwards.
There are tons of great graphics out there to help you world build. I love Pinterest for that reason. I can snag pics to inspire me, and I can find a good chart to remind me to think about professions and religions and buildings and how to integrate that into your world. It can seem overwhelming, but baby steps. I didn’t do all the things in book one. I’ve slowly worked on world building as I went and it’s a good thing. That way I don’t tell all the things in book one, loading my readers down with way to much. It gives them secrets to uncover as they read my books.
Do you have a world building question? What about a tip as a reader or writer? Join in on the discussion and share your magic! (And don’t forget to check out Lyndell’s book if you like to read romance books! Here’s her blog, if you want to check that out, too!)
Build Those Worlds!