So, I want to talk more about writing on my blog. I share a lot of personal writing updates and it usually is in the form of long rambling messes talking about how much my writing sucks or how amazing my writing is (heh), an update on completing a story or starting a new one or just some random thoughts about my process. I didn’t want to continue to bore people with just those updates, especially since there isn’t always a lot to update about on a consistent basis (who knows, maybe people would like that?
I kinda wouldn’t mind writing a once-the-month where I’m at writing update, personally, but I’m kinda terrified it would flop and you’d all hate it? Let me know in the comments!).
Still wanting to write about writing, but at a loss of what to focus exactly on, I went to Twitter and asked what people would like to know and I actually got some responses (personally, I wasn’t expecting any, so I’m pretty excited)!!
Below is a post that answers their questions! Well, some of them. I originally was going to answer all six questions, but in drafting my answers, I wrote enough for an entire post after only two of them. (Brevity, I do not know her.) So, stay tuned for a second part of this later this month! And I think I might try to make this a monthly thing, if you’d all be interested in that? 🥺
M. A. Crosbie asks:
When plotting, how do you figure out what happens next? How to devise an interesting/intriguing/original plot!
Gosh, Meredith, way to come out the gate and start asking the hard questions. 😂
No, but in all seriousness, I feel bad, because I think my answer is completely unhelpful. I’ll save coming up with brand new story ideas for a similar question that was asked in my next post, but when it comes to already having an inkling of an idea, I think the biggest thing I’ve come to learn is letting the idea breathe, because eventually, it’s going to take a life of it’s own and save you a lot of headache (while also creating massive ones!).
You see, I used to be a major plotter. I needed to know everything that that was going to happen, often creating outlines and backstory documents and worldbuilding pieces that were easily 30+ pages in length (single-spaced!) before I could even sit down and write the words “Chapter One,” let alone the contents of that chapter. A lot of the times, it will help get me started, but it would stall me towards the middle, because I was so determined to follow the outline that I’d painstakingly worked on for months
in order to procrastinate actually putting down words, instead of listening to my characters and what the story actually needed.
In terms of BLOOD PRICE, the story idea came around because I wanted to write a story about a culture where periods weren’t considered taboo, but revered. I did some basic outlining, but I didn’t truly find the heart of the story (and a lot of scenes) until revisions–and once I was willing to part ways with what I’ve outlined.
In the sequel, WAR’S PROMISE, I’m about 30% done with the first draft and it’s the first novel where I’ve done hardly any outlining at all, which is a really weird experience for me. I’m not even sure how the story is going to end, exactly. Instead, I’m kinda taking it scene by scene, thinking about how it will not only complement book one, but also complicate it? How Natanni can grow and be challenged?
Some days, I’m stuck and can’t write a thing. Others, I come up with answers to plotholes and missing scenes seemingly out of the blue. But it’s always after I’ve given myself space to process and listen to the story: whether it’s by pushing through and writing on a day that I’m not feeling it, not writing for a week, going for a walk, creating a playlist, talking with others about ideas; this looks so different and can evolve and change just like your story can and some days will look different than others. How do you know which works for you? Trial and error, on repeat, forever. Meaning: what works for one story might not work for another. Hell, what works for one scene or one day or mood might not work next week. Be flexible. Be open to new ideas and adaptable to change.
I also try to remind myself that a draft should be the place where you’re not afraid to take risks and enjoy the writing process. There is always time to worry about marketability later. First, fall in love with your story and the process of writing it. Later, we can worry about everything else, with the help of trusted beta readers and/or industry professionals.
Tl;dr: Don’t be afraid to love your story and give it room to breathe. It can be as simple as a theme, a character or a phrase to spark an entire novel, but you gotta allow it the room and space to grow to tell you it’s secrets.
Caitlin G asks:
How do writers deal with worldbuilding: do you have it figured out in exact detail before you start plotting or do you have an rough idea of the world and let the story flesh out the details?
I love this question and will talk about it all day long if you let me, so thank you so much for asking, Caitlin! It’s one of my favorite aspects about writing and about reading. I love seeing what authors create and how they come up with these amazing, intricate worlds that can feel as real as the one we’re currently living and breathing in (and oftentimes, one I’d rather live in!).
Personally, I do a mix of the two methods posed above. When I first start a novel (and especially a new series), I really like to have as much backstory fleshed out as I can. For BLOOD PRICE, that became a 10+ page Google Doc where I fleshed out the world and it’s various locations, the clans and what made each unique, the magic system, power dynamics, history, religion and relationships. Then, as I’m writing, I try to keep some of that in mind, but it definitely also comes organically within the story, especially since my characters always have their own ideas of how they want things to be.
I also have to be flexible with relaxing that sometimes, I have to change things or I realize I got something incorrect, when my characters inform me of something entirely different form what I envisioned originally. Sometimes, it means going back and updating my notes, sometimes it means taking a break from writing new words to flesh that that new aspects of the world my fully, sometimes I just power through. I definitely think, like with editing, the worldbuilding is never truly done. There is always more to discover, explore, explain, expand and tweak.
In working on WAR’S PROMISE, I made another document that went even further in-depth, detailing jobs, trading, day-to-day clan life, some bits of language, clothing, so many other things I hadn’t thought to include in BLOOD PRICE (and will be working on including within both novels), as I received feedback that the worldbuildling could be fleshed out a bit more. I even hand-drew two different maps that are terrible, but so helpful! So, even when I think I have this really intricately planned thing, the story finds new ways to surprise me as I write it. *shrugs*
I think my favorite thing about worldbuilding (and writing fantasy and sci-fi in general) is how limitless it truly is. You are the creator of the world, so the only limit you have is what falls in the parameters you create. I dunno if other writers experience this, but I definitely will catch myself sometimes being bummed that I cannot do something because it doesn’t exist in our world, only to realize that, as long as I can explain how it is impossible within the worlds I create, then fuck it, I can do it.
An example: a beta reader mistook a description I included in BLOOD PRICE to think it was a raptor and my gut was like, “That’s silly, there can’t be raptors in this novel, they don’t exist anymore on our planet.” And then my brain was like, “But wait, why can’t their raptors, because Antica isn’t on our planet and this totally fits with the lore you have about the Creators, because they could live in SPOILER and return thanks to ANOTHER SPOILER and then MASSIVE SPOILER, which would be amazing.”
Anyway, there are raptors in my world now, thanks for asking.
Tl;dr: While every writer has a different method, I’m sure, I think it’s a safe guess that, even if you plot it all at the beginning, you’ll find yourself updating your world and surprised by it as you continue to write and learn more about it.
Is anyone surprised that I was able to take two questions and turn it into a 1500+ word blog post? Nope, not I. Thank you so much for reading and thank you so much to Meredith and Caitlin for asking these awesome questions and listening to my rambling answers!
I definitely would like to do more posts like this, so if you enjoyed it and have any other writing related questions, let me know in the comments! I’ll try to do this at least once a month, if not maybe more frequently, depending on interest. Thanks for reading and may your writing always be bountiful and surprise you!