marthawells: (Miko)
This has been a week of extreme highs and lows. The high points were awesome but the low points are...low.

I've got news I can't share yet so this is kind of a boring post. I need to get back to my book rec posts but Fridays are kind of a bad day for them.

We were supposed to have a hurricane but it turned and is now torturing a different part of the country.

Oh, I did a Reddit r/Fantasy AMA yesterday, and got a great question on Worldbuilding:

Question: One of my favorite things about your books is the incredible detail and authenticity to the cultures and societies you create. I've read City Of Bones and your Raksura books and I am always immediately engaged when the characters travel to a new city. The residents, architecture, customs, languages, and overall presentation feel well rooted and historical. It really adds an incredible flavor to your writing and inspires me to improve my own.

Are you willing to describe the process in which you develop a new city? When you sit down to create a new location, how you start the vision and do you have a system in how you begin to add layers of detail until the city/town/society feels authentic?

Me: Thank you so much!

I use different methods for different types of book. For the Ile-Rien books, where the locations are based more on real-world places, I did a lot of research into cities in similar cultures, climates, environments as my imaginary city. For the Raksura books, I tried to think of a neat setting for a city, then tried to make it as weird and extreme as possible. Like the Turning City, Keres-gedon, which started out as just a camp in the mountains.

Basically it's a process of coming up with an element you want in your city, like canals. You look at cities with canals, like Venice, and maybe Angkor Wat. What are the canals used for? Transportation, a reservoir, entertainment, defense, etc. You think about how the environment and climate of your city is going to affect your canals. Can they freeze over? Are they affected by drought? Sewage? Plant growth? Underwater monster issues? Etc. Why or why not are they affected by these things? Once you make all those decisions, you decide how they affect the inhabitants of the city, their culture, their everyday life. It can be simple or complicated, and ideally, it leads to ideas that can further characterization and plot. And the big thing to remember is that the reader doesn't need to know everything you know about your canal system. They'll be able to infer a lot from the bits and pieces they see as your characters move through the story, and the sense that the city is operating by a logical system is more important than knowing the exact details.

I also don't usually figure out too many of the details of my settings in advance, since I'm going to concentrate mainly on the parts my characters are interacting with. Like most of the city may be sketched in, but the characters are going to need this little train system and this temple hospital, so those bits are going to get more attention and development. Also keep in mind that cities change over time, with new buildings, new roads, and what stays in place and what gets built over or torn down all say things about the people who live there.

It also helps not to set too many boundaries. You never want to tell readers that there's nothing over the mountains, because it's going to make the world feel closed in, like a puddle instead of a huge mysterious ocean. And if you keep writing in this setting, you may eventually need those empty places to put things in.

I hope that helps!


***

Also:

I have a signed copy of The Murderbot Diaries: All Systems Red in the Authors for Grenfell Tower Auction: https://authorsforgrenfelltower.com/2017/06/23/signed-copy-of-the-murderbot-diaries-all-systems-red-by-martha-wells/

There are tons of other great items up for auction to benefit the tower fire victims. Please check it out or pass it on.
marthawells: (Default)
(repost of something I wrote earlier this year)

I wanted to do a blog post about getting through writing slumps, because of something someone said on Twitter. (I can't remember what it was now, but that's how my brain rolls lately.)

A lot of people talk about the mid-book slump. Writing the beginning of a book is exciting, everything is new, you're creating the world, meeting the characters for the first time. The end is also exciting, because all the plot threads are tying up and you should be done soon.

The middle is the hard part, where you have to make the magic happen and start pulling things together, increasing the complication but starting to find answers to mysteries. You have to make all the cool stuff you came up with in the beginning make sense.

Sometimes it feels like a slog, and that's when you want to quit and go write something else. You want that really, really bad sometimes. If you do that with every book you write, it's going to be a problem and end up getting you zero finished books. (This, by the way, is why agents, and publishers who take unagented submissions, only want to see finished books from new authors. It's a lot easier to start a book than to finish it, and they want to make sure you can finish.)

So if your book middle feels like a horrible slog and you'd rather go out and shovel snow or haul rocks or dig holes in the back yard, it isn't necessarily a problem.

One thing I've noticed about myself is that if the writing doesn't come easily (and it's not just because I'm tired or unwell or stressed etc.) then the chances are good that there's a problem that part of my brain is aware of even though the rest of me is willfully trying to ignore it. Figuring out what that problem is can be tricky, but first you have to figure out whether it's actually a problem.

*I think you do need to ask yourself if it's just that you're tired and need to apply more hard work?

* Or is there an actual problem? Is it a pacing issue, are things moving too slowly?

* Are the characters still in character, are you making them act in ways you kind of know they wouldn't just to make your plot work?

* Is there something you're trying to do now that needs more setup earlier in the book? Did you forget to put in something you know you really needed?

* Or are you actually getting bored with your plot? Because if you're bored with your plot, readers may be bored with it too.

If you're saying: "I have to write this part and I don't want to." Ask yourself: Do you really have to? Is it necessary for the plot, characterization, the story? Why don't you want to? Is it not right for the pacing, slowing things down when it should be speeding things up? Maybe it doesn't need to be there.

If you don't like it anymore, it's okay to make something else happen instead.

You can always take a step back and re-imagine your plot. You should know the characters better at this point; maybe your plot needs to change to accommodate that. (It's often hard for some writers to create a character in a vacuum. It's only when I write characters interacting with other characters that I start to get a real sense of who they are and how they behave under stress.)

What is the coolest, most exciting thing that could happen here that will still fit the story you want to tell? Maybe you should be writing that instead.

Your plot is not carved in stone, even if you did an outline. One thing I've found out over and over again is that plot points can sound great in the outline and it's only when you start actually writing those scenes that you see the flaws.

This is where experience and understanding how your own writing brain works is important. The only way to get experience is of course to keep writing through those middles, no matter what you have to do to conquer them.

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