Anonymous: I'm trying to create a world built as complex as harry potter, maybe even more. My issues is that I really fail to want to hash it down. I have it in my head (but that changes so it needs to be compiled all together) but I can't seem to have motivation to. I sit down, look at the page, think another day. Do you have any ideas to help me?
Tumblbud, I am here to assist you as best I can. Do not forget this. I promise that you can get through this, and I am going to help you. So let’s break it down, shall we?
Suck it up and write.
You have to start writing somewhere. It doesn’t matter WHAT you write: dive headfirst into the draft, write a plot skeleton, write character sheets, write miscellaneous pieces of dialogue, write descriptions of places, DRAW places, fill out character development memes, describe your characters, it doesn’t matter yet. Just write something.
All stories start as blank pages. You must get past the first one. It is a monster that wants to beat you down. Defeat it by any means necessary (besides plagiarism).
Are you familiar with the snowflake method? This might be a good place for you to start developing your story. I myself use a kind of snowflake method type thing, perhaps I’ll do up a post about that in the next day or so.
But before we get too far, let’s talk about what worldbuilding is.
Worldbuilding is not just figuring out the setting. It’s working out (and possibly creating) magic systems, currency, fashion, food, social norms, possibly a language or two, maybe some animals or races, technology…
Worldbuilding is hard work.
If you’re going to have an immensely detailed, complex, layered world, you are probably going to want to spend some time figuring these things out. If you are overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, I will humbly direct you to our tags page as well as to the myriad of other writing blogs out in the Tumblsphere. All of us have fantastic resources for you; if we don’t have what you want, someone will.
It can be hard to get inspired about the massive, daunting task that is worldbuilding, and you may not want to do it all at once. Something that may help you with that is to simply not do it all at once. Get a little bit down first; maybe design the setting or nail down the names of the cities. Write a little bit and see if inspiration for something else strikes you. As you get further into your research, into your story, you can add to it.
And remember, you’re not writing in stone tablets. Nothing is stopping you from going back and changing things.
Be patient. Hogwarts wasn’t built in a day.
(Except maybe it was because magic, but that’s not what I’m getting at.) Worldbuilding is not simply a step in the writing process, it is a process unto itself. There are so many facets of the world to explore and create. Be patient, and don’t hate yourself for not covering everything at once.
Take it in bits and pieces. Hang in there. You can do it.
Try utilizing something called a procrastination sheet. A procrastination sheet is a piece of paper or a document that serves two purposes. Firstly, the procrastination sheet is for when you’re on a roll with writing your story and suddenly you think, “I should research coal mining” or “wait, I need to figure out how money works” or “man, I really need to develop this magic system.” Write all those things down in your procrastination sheet, and then keep going with your story. Secondly, the procrastination sheet is for when you absolutely cannot force another word out of your pen/pencil/keyboard. Pull out your procrastination sheet, and start doing things you’ve written down. This way, even when you’re not directly working on your story, you’re still working on the story by building the world, organizing the timelines, doing your research, etc.
The procrastination sheet is a way to stay productive when you no longer feel productive, and can be a way to keep yourself inspired. It will be your best friend if you are the type of person who enjoys crossing things off to-do lists.
When you want to write, your choices should be writing and something else productive, like chores or your procrastination sheet. If your choices are writing and video games, the writing will never get done.
At the end of the day, you really have to buckle down and write, is what I’m saying.
If you are like me, you will have a lot of notes. Notes on characters, your plot skeleton, your miscellaneous ideas, a procrastination sheet, notes on things you want to look up later, whatever kind of notes it is that you make. Keep them organized. If you handwrite your stories, get a folder or a Trapper Keeper or a massive amount of paperclips. If you’re a typer, consider a program like Storyist (Mac only, my personal weapon of choice) or Scrivener. If you’d rather not spend any money, try My Writing Spot (if memory serves, My Writing Spot has a [possibly free] companion app for mobile, but it had ABYSMAL scrolling and substandard syncing, and was not at all ideal for long documents).
Use colors and highlighting, cut and paste things into place, but do not ever for the love of all the words in the universe delete things. Use Change Tracking if your word processor allows it. Storyist lets you to create multiple manuscripts, allowing you to keep drafts separate from each other. Write next drafts in different notebooks or separate documents. Trust me when I say that you do not want to permanently delete ANYTHING. You may find yourself wondering one day “where’s that bit I had about the durability of my magic ores,” only to realize you deleted it a few weeks ago. Do not let that happen.
Give yourself permission to suck.
This is my mantra (aside from “do your research”). No first draft is perfect. Not one. Yours will not be any different. You may hate it, you may think it is the worst piece of literature every to be vomited into existence, you may think it’s an abomination against red pens, hard drives, and bookshelves everywhere.
(Alternatively, you may think it’s flawless. If you think this about your draft, this advice is not for you and I encourage you to reevaluate your draft.)
It’s OK. Get through it. If you ever find yourself thinking “oh man this is SO BAD” about what you’re currently writing, punch that thought in the throat and keep going. Scribble something into your procrastination sheet and keep moving forward. You can always fix it later. And then when later comes, fix it. Mark these passages with sticky notes or highlighting if you feel you have to, and then move on.
Refuse to adhere yourself to absolute perfection, because no one spits out absolute perfection on the first try. Writing is a skill, and you will get better with time. Let yourself make mistakes. You can always fix it later, when you have the research or the inspiration or the fix for the plot hole.
On that note…
Do your research.
See above about the procrastination sheet, because I’m bringing it back. Procrastination sheets can be your saving grace if you don’t enjoy research or worldbuilding. If it’s on your procrastination sheet, you put it there and had a reason to do so. Procrastination sheets can help you streamline your research and pare it down to what you need to know in the context of your story. You don’t need to know the entire history of the radio, just how it was used in 1930s homes. You don’t need to find every single resource on Googleabout ye olden sailing ships, just what a sailor’s life was like and what they ate out at sea. If you find relevant resources in your researching journey, all the better. But if not, you’ve at least found what you need.
The only way to get more done is to do more. That is the harsh reality of writing: you have to get it out of your head and onto paper. It is the easiest and hardest thing in the world to do, and there’s really not a lot that can magically make it any easier. Trust that it is easier to edit a bad page than a blank one. You can change it if you hate it, and you can always change it back if it sucks.
You will get stuck. Do not give up.
And that’s OK too. It’s not the end of the world, just part of the process. Do not lose hope. Figure out what can get you unstuck.
Try this: Write down things you like in fictional worlds like Harry Potter. Do you like how the currency works? The naming conventions? Maybe the concepts of the Ministry of Magic and the Statute of Secrecy strike you as an interesting.
Do not plagiarize, the point of this exercise is to help you figure out what you like to see in literature. Do some research into how other authors came up with the things they included in their worlds that you like. Pottermore, as well as being entertaining, is a particularly useful resource for this. Look for interviews with authors where they talk about developing characters, plots, magic, whatever you like. See if their methods inspire you, or even work for you.
But again, do not plagiarize. Plagiarism is illegal and it ought to be a deadly sin punishable by the deepest circle of hell.
Look at how other authors work. Ask your writing buddies what works for them. See if you can grab someone to bounce ideas off of. Anything to get your creative juices flowing again.
So, in summary, repeat after me:
Worldbuilding is a process, not a step. It is OK to suck. I can fix it later. It will be OK.
(And Characterandwritinghelp is always here if I need to ask them something.)
Some great writing tips.