W.I.B.B.O.W….And Worldbuilding

WIBBOW = Would I Be Better Off Writing?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: more yes.

Been down with a nasty cold all week, sleeping, coughing, hacking, and yuck. The worst part was that I just wasn’t able to think. Sitting in the middle of a novel (okay, right at the end of Act I, but still…) and there were no words. None. Emptiness.

Ended up surfing the interwebs, walking all the way through FB, grinding pinterest, catching up on reading. The artist side of my head worked fine. I even sat down and designed a new character for some future Pathfinder campaign (hero or NPC encounter TBD), because that was about the limit of my brain.

It was late yesterday before I had words again. Today before I could commit them.

It’s a hard feeling, not being able to write. Once I made the decision to be a writer, that was what filled up all my spare time. Thinking about writing. Thinking about how to be a better storyteller. How to be a better writer (different thing). How to reach a wider fan base so that I can inch closer to my dream of being able to support myself purely on my words.

Fabulous Publisher Babe(tm) has her various income streams. She has Knotted Road Press (I’m just an employee and talent). She also is a member of Book View Cafe. She does publishing work for other folks, as well as covers and interiors. She had other businesses she runs, unrelated to her writing. She has a supportive spouse.

(Don’t mind me, I’m feeling down on myself a little, but it’s nothing serious.)

I am slowly building my bakery. Publishing short stories, novellas, and novels. Participating in anthologies like the CampCon stuff. Editing anthologies. Doing bundles.

I had a story come out in an anthology this week. I’ll have a novella in the Jessica Keller stories come out as part of a bundlerabbit bundle in two weeks. I’ve got a whole new novel getting ready to come out sometime soon. I’ve just sent off a new Doyle Iwakuma novella to first readers. I’m actually getting things done.

But the brain just has not been there. And it frustrates me to not be farther along than I am. But I’m getting there. (Thank you for listening to me rant. I always wonder if anyone but my mother actually reads my blog.)

But I’m feeling better. Got 1800 words done this morning, for the first words in four days. The future looks bright again.

The other topic I want to talk about today is world-building.

Unlike most writers, I didn’t come at genre-fiction through any of the normal channels. I wrote poetry for a while (you can see some of it here and even buy some of it as well). I’ve been into role-playing games for how long? Wow. Yeah. Longer than some of you have been alive.  I even did plays and screenplays for a while. (You know where I can get $5M to make a movie with? Heh.)

One of the reasons I don’t do short fiction is that I tend to create whole worlds before I start writing. History, philosophy, technology, culture. Depth and detail.

That takes a while to do. And I end up with way more stuff than is appropriate for 4,000 words and then never come back again. I get invested.

As a result, I write lots of little stories in the same worlds, with the same characters, following them over time, rather than wrapping it all up in one big novel. Not that I don’t do novels, but I really do enjoy writing the novella better. I can concentrate on one event, one task, one turning point in someone’s life, rather than wander through the shire and then to Mordor and back again in order to have some meaning.

This is on my mind because soon I’ll be publishing a whole new novel, book one in a new trilogy that is straight up super-hero/spandex. I already have Two and Three plotted out, and will get around to them as time permits. More Jessica Keller first.

With superheroes on my mind, I wanted to put together a whole other superhero story, but set it in a different time and place. Different characters. Different problems.

But because I had already had all the rules and physics for “how and why superpowers?” worked out, I could just pick up Kai Di Peng’s world and create other heroes and villains, put them in a different era and on a different coast, and go forward.

(That was the pain in the ass about being sick all week. I have heroes and villains largely worked out, and wanted to start exploring story ideas. You have to be able to brain to do that.)

Kris always says to throw out the first four ideas you have when it comes time to write. Partly, your first instincts will end up being low-hanging fruit, or writing on rails, and not turn out to be memorable or distinct. There are only a few stories out there. What makes your better than everyone else’s? (Trick question, luck and voice.)

So you take the first ideas and write them down, and then let yourself edit them, adding notes, ripping chunks out, adding new ideas, ripping those out. Eventually, you (hopefully) end up with something novel and cool for folks. You have to be able to brain to do this.

So I’ve been world-building in my spare time. Superheroes. Supervillains. Super problems. Strange implications. Dirty secrets. Believable resolutions. Happily-ever-afters. (And let me tell you how much it sucks to be standing on the back porch, in the rain metaphorically, watching your ideas sit down to dinner while you can’t brain.)

Even thinking about blogging was hard. Nearly skipped the whole concept all together, except I use this time to organize my thoughts. To think about how I think about things. To make myself a better writer by working out concepts here, and getting feedback from interested folks (Thank you, those folks who respond. I read them all, delete the trolls and bots, and post them up in a day or so. And I’m happy to have offline conversations. I learn from folks when that happens. Serendipity).

So, for those of you who have made it this far without hurting yourself rolling your eyes, how do you feel about superhero stories? I don’t mean comic books, because I can’t draw better than stick figures, and you would have to deal with something like XKCD or OOTS. I mean superhero stories as (genre) fiction. Real characters, with real problems, overlain with physics-defying crap happening in the background? (J.D., I already know your answer.)

Most of you are here because I write SF. (Nobody reads the fantasy stuff, from what I can tell.) Would you read a story about a young woman whose best friend is killed, where she swears vengeance and sets out to achieve it? What if the killer was a superhero, so she had to make herself into a supervillain to do it? That is book one of Modern Gods: The White Crane. Kai Di Peng. Villainess.

Hopefully, you’ll come along for the ride. I have a LOT of world built. It would be a shame not to share.

shade and sweet water,


West Of The Mountains, WA


2 thoughts on “W.I.B.B.O.W….And Worldbuilding

  1. Barry Melius

    Tried reading superhero stuff,occasionally it was well enough written to pull me in for a while,but with the exception of a short by Daniel Abraham none of them were worth finishing. For what its worth my theory was that something about having characters with super powers kept the writer from treating them like real,full fledged human beings,warts and all. Two dimensions seems to be the curse there.

  2. J. D. Brink

    You do know my answer, but I’ll comment anyway (and thanks for the name drop, BTW).
    Actually, just some rambling comments here quickly as I’m off to my own cursed day job that keeps me from writing all the stories in my head.
    I obviously don’t think there’s anything wrong with expanding to new genres, though you’ve done much better than I have in that you’ve gone forward with several books in a series before starting another. I’m on kind of a scattergun cycle where I’m firing off ideas that turn out to be firsts of their own series without yet getting to the seconds. I’m fixing that right now, actually, trying to get my own realistic superhero sequel to Hungry Gods done. But it’s slow going and distractions and side projects keep popping up. Thus far this year my meager goal has been 10,000 words a month, and I’ve barely been able to pull that off. I’m hoping to boost to 15K over the next few months so I get it done and out this summer, but that’s not easy in my current life set-up. So I feel your pain about not being able to write. I feel it every damn day as I walk to work dreaming of the next 12 books I want to write and barely being able to get one out a year.
    But I’m greatly looking forward to contributing a novelette to your spandex anthology (though the characters in my story won’t wear any). It may actually be the only “this is how they got their powers” story in my universe. For me, I’ve taken the approach that, if you’re willing to read about and accept superheroes, then we’re good, let’s move forward and not worry about the “how” part. I’m taking advantage of that suspension of disbelief and moving onto the story. (Especially since, traditionally, all the methods for gaining powers would more likely give you cancer or chemical burns.)
    Feel better, sir! It’s off to the Navy grind for me.

Comments are closed.