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Month: October 2017

Kayla Goes to Fall Lit Events Part 3: The Future!

Kayla Goes to Fall Lit Events Part 3: The Future!

Welcome to the third and final installment of Kayla goes to fall lit events. Instead of telling you about cool events that I’ve already been to, I’m going to tell you about the ones that are coming up and why you should get your butt off the couch this fall and get out to the literary community of the great and glorious Twin Cities, long may they prosper.

October 27: Spontaneous s Combustion Vol2. Authors were given story prompts on Oct 19th and had 24 hours to write. The top 15 stories earned a spot in this story showcase. The authors will read their stories and the audience will vote. 6:30 PM @ Magers & Quinn

October 27 – 31: Victorian Ghost StoriesA spooky night out for literary lovers. Costumed actors present dramatic readings of 19th-century ghost stories in the dimly light parlor of the James J. Hill House. Hear from Edgar Allan Poe, Edith Wharton and the Brothers Grimm, as well as lesser-known authors of the period, plus some “true” ghost stories.

October 29: Caffeine and Correspondence. Host Jessica Lindgren provides stationary, writing implements, and postage for correspondence. A fun and social way to revive the dying art of letter writing. 1 PM @ The Coffee Shop NorthEast

October 29 and November 26: Barbaric Yawp – Literary Open Mic Night. Christopher Title hosts this monthly Literary Open Mic event. Bring your poetry or prose and share the company of your fellow writers. 6:30-8:30 PM @ Underground Music Cafe

October 30: Cocktails and Correspondence. A happy hour version of Caffeine and Correspondence. Jessica encourages the cocktail sippers to think of someone who deserves a handwritten note. Two hours dedicated to the fine art of putting pen to paper on the last Monday of every month. Stationary and postage provided. 4 PM-6 PM @ Hewing Hotel Library Lounge

October 31: Countdown to Midnight PartyStart the month with a bang and get a headstart on your word count before most people have even gotten out of bed.  A classic Twin Cities Nano event.  Come before midnight to eat and socialize, but once the clock strikes twelve, Cinderella’s got to write herself into a novel! 11PM-Wed 12 AM @ IHOP near MOA.

Oct 31 and November 16: Talking VolumesMPR’s famous Talking Volumes series has two events left in the season. Ron Chernow and “Grant” on Oct 31st; Dan Brown and “Origin” on Nov 16th. @ The Fitzgerald in St. Paul

November 1: Birchbark Books Reading Series. Heid E. Erdrich, David Lawrence Grant, Linda LeGarde Grover, and Thomas Dillon Redshaw will talk about their books and engage the audience in a workshop. Curated by Michael Kiesow Moore and Ardie Medina, the reading series features new, emerging, and established writers quarterly September through May. 7 PM @ Birchbark Books

November 1-8: Brain Science to Keep You Writing. As we get into NaNoWriMo, get tips on building and sustaining momentum in your writing project. Discover why you procrastinate, distract yourself and find it so hard to write at times. Harness the power of brain science to show up, sit down and write, no matter what. Taught by writing and creativity instructor and author Rosanne Bane. Great way to share ideas and connect with fellow Wrimos. Various times and locations.

November 1-30: NaNoWriMo Twin Cities Write In’s. Various times and locations across Minneapolis and St. Paul. Meet fellow wrimos and slam out a few words at a cafe or resto. I’m a frequent flyer at the Blue Moon write in (Wednesdays during November and year round).

November 1, 17, & 28: The Beautiful Beginning, The Murky Middle, and The Exhausting Ending Write In’s.  Had to highlight these special write-in’s at one of my favorite bookshops. Snacks, wi-fi, writing prompts, and plenty of places to sit. Plus, all month long, there will be a special sale on journals and craft books. Starting the month 30% off, and then the discount will decrease 1% each day to help youcountdownn to the end of the month. Various times @ The Red Balloon 

November 2: Gentrification, Artists, and the “Rediscovery” of American Cities: A Conversation With David Goodwin and Artspace’s Tio Aiken. This will be a great opportunity for activists and citizens to engage the author in conversation about how gentrification works and how residents can become proactive and retain their power within the community. Books can change the world and spaces like this to discuss important books and critical issues are invaluable. 7 PM @ Magers & Quinn

November 5: Autumn Leaves: An Afternoon of Poetry and Music. Featuring Thomas R. Smith, Ardie Medina and the Asiginaak Singers, Michael Kiesow Moore, and Lars Krogstad Ortiz. 2 PM- 4 PM @ Quinn Violins

November 7: Let’s Talk YA with Livia Blackburne, E.K. Johnston & Sara Shepard.  It’s time for the talk– the Young Adult talk.  The St. Paul edition of Let’s Talk YA.  We’ll be chatting with YA authors about their new books, writing, life as an author, and more. Enjoy a panel discussion, Q&A about why we love YA, themed activities, and great company. 6:30 PM @Red Balloon

November 11: MN Publishing Tweet-up. Another awesome tweet-up is happening at a rad bookstore. Common Good Books is one of my favorite places to peruse;  come for the fellow writers and publishing types, stay for the books and coffee! This will be the last gathering of 2017 for the MN Publishing Tweet Up. It won’t be back until Feb. 2018! 10 Am-12 PM @ Common Good Books

November 19: Maggie Stiefvater, ALL THE CROOKED SAINTS. Bestselling author of the Raven Cycle will give a talk, read from her new book, take questions, and sign books. 7 PM @ The Red Balloon

November 25: Indies First: Author Booksellers on Small Business Saturday. The holidays are here and it’s time to shop local and small! A whole crew of local authors for one spectacular Saturday of shopping known as Indies First. This program is held every year on Small Business Saturday and highlights what makes independent bookstores so great by giving authors a way to support their local bookstores. Various locations.

December 2: NaNoWriMo TGIO. Party location and time TBA, but get this on your calendar! Hang out with the Twin Cities wrimos and celebrate everything you’ve accomplished this fall.

Wow, this turned into the longest thing. This is a lot of events…I may not make it to all of them but I’m going to try my darndest! I’d love to hear from you in the comments about events you’re interested in. Please let me know if I’ve missed something.

Peace & Love,

Kayla

 

Kayla Goes to Fall Lit Events Part 2: Twin Cities Book Festival

Kayla Goes to Fall Lit Events Part 2: Twin Cities Book Festival

Welcome to part two of three! If you missed part 1 you can find it HERE and if you want to review last year’s post about why fall is an amazing time of year in the TC book community you can click HERE.

I am thrilled, delighted, elated, positively jubilant to tell you all about this year’s Twin Cities Book Fest. It was rad.

Ok, deep breath, dial down the excitement. It was just that cool, though, I’m telling ya.

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Put on annually by Rain Taxi Review, the self-proclaimed ‘champions of aesthetically adventurous literature supported by readers like you,’ the Twin Cities Book Fest is the largest literary gathering in the Upper Midwest.

The book fest is always awesome but this year it was exceptionally so. I haven’t laughed so hard nor felt such temptation to max out my credit card on books in all of my life. From the rock star authors, to the local lit heroes, to the publishers/magazines/booksellers/vendors I was quite literally dazzled. There were panel discussions, workshops, author signings, and discounted books galore. If you’ve never been to the book fest I recommend prior to the event reviewing the authors and subjects, highlighting choices for each time slot, and making sure you’ll be able to get to the presentations you can’t bear to miss.

Early in the day Al Franken made a big splash promoting his new memoir. Some of my favorite local book vendors had festival deals and specials that were overwhelmingly seductive. And best of all iconic cartoonist Roz Chast, of whom I am a long time fan, was there to talk about her life as a cartoonist for the New Yorker and her new books: Going into Town and Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? If you’re unfamiliar with her work, here’s one of my favorites:i-cant-believe-i-ate-all-that-kale-for-nothing-roz-chas

Roz flashed her comics on the big screen and narrated them for the audience, with a fair amount of surprisingly brilliant acting. It was hilarious. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long long time. My sides were aching and my seat neighbor, who I did not know prior to this event, was literally slapping my knee and guffawing as I giggled like a drunk baby. We were not alone, the entire audience was in stitches.  

I also sat in on the speculative fiction geniuses Charlie Jane Anders and Cory Doctrow as they took on a discussion that ranged from gamification to Confucian Capitalism to meritocracy to maker culture. It was intellectual, philosophical, and riotously funny. They spoke in depth about diversity of voice in literature. Both authors challenged world-builders to create diverse communities rich with different people and perspectives. This is something I’ve been struggling with as I flesh out characters for NaNoWriMo with competing worldviews. Does diversity of perspective necessitate conflict or can my characters get along? Hmmm….still wrestling with that one but I left the author talk with fresh enthusiasm.  I can’t wait to read their newest books: All the Birds in the Sky and For the Walkaway.

I ran between buildings to catch as many authors as possible but it was raining so my thrifted-forest-green-wide-brimmed-wool-hat became a droopy mess of beaded raindrops. Strangely, the hat garnered me many compliments, but only after it became wet and pulpy…perhaps half-drowned Odin is a look I should wear more often?

There were author signings throughout the day (including Roz Chast and good ol’ Al Franken author of Al Franken: Giant of the Senate by Al Franken…), a raffle of shiny, glamorous prizes that I did not win, and a nifty Poetry Bus with rotating workshops and activities. Upon entry the bus attendant proudly proclaimed: “Whatever you need, poetry has it!” Please look upon the magic of the poetry bus as it glistens in the setting sun upon the hallowed grounds of the MN State Fair and feel a happiness within you that such a thing exists.

kayla j west nortrup twin cities book fest lit events minneapolis saint paul silver sky press

We have a phenomenal lit scene in the Twin Cities. Journals, publishers, writers, and readers. Our community is bustling and booming and profusely incredible. The Twin Cities Book Fest is a great way to get a little taste of all our local community has to offer. Hopefully someday soon Silver Sky Press will have a booth! 

 Stay tuned for the next installment of Kayla Goes to Fall Lit Events!

Here are links to most (but not all) of the amazing people and organizations that showed up to TC Book Fest and made it awesome: insert links

Kayla Goes to Fall Lit Events Part 1: Comic-Con

Kayla Goes to Fall Lit Events Part 1: Comic-Con

Last year I blogged about how fall is the best time of year for book events in the Twin Cities (for a blast from the past click HERE). This year is no exception! Welcome to the three-part series I will be devoting to this beautiful season and our marvelous lit community. Part 1: Comic-Con

Thank you, Midwest Comic Book Association, for bringing us the awesomeness of a Twin Cities comic-con every year without fail. MCBA is an all-volunteer organization. Without those comic book geeks, we wouldn’t have a con. Take a second to contemplate what a tragedy that would be. I love you TC comic book geeks! Never change.

The con is held at the State Fair grounds and is 100,000+ feet of comic book mayhem and goodness, over 200 guest creators, huge variety of comics/collectibles dealers, and free kid activities! Can I get a…

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MCBA will be celebrating 30 years of cons this upcoming spring, so mark your calendars for the sure to spectacular weekend of May 19th and 20th. I haven’t been attending the MCBAcon for thirty years or anything but I happen to be coming up on a decade since my first visit. I know this is going to make me sound old, but the con was a much different scene back then. My first time I brought the then 8- and 6-year-old little sisters. They loved it, one got a flash comic and the other got in trouble. Which is typical.

When I brought my sisters all those years ago they were anomalies. In fact, I was a bit of an anomaly. There were zero children and only a very small handful of young women.

It’s a much more tiny human-friendly event these days with designated kid areas and kid activities: coloring, photo ops, free stickers, all the things kiddies love.  And this year there were just as many women as men. The high rate of costuming made for an ocean of exposed breasts and thighs. Which is why the only pic that is safe for work is my little Batman with the poster-version Spiderman. Every other hero we posed with was nearly nude.

kayla j west silver sky press comic con lit event saint paul minneapolis twin cities

The costumes really were out of this world. I’m talking all out cosplayers, handmade cloaks/weapons/armor, and a legion of storm troopers. I cannot begin to contemplate the level of sewing skills required for the marvels on display. There was a man who looked so much like Hagrid and was dressed so much like Hagrid that for a moment I truly believed that he was there to give me my letter and all these years in the muggle realm truly were a mistake. Sigh. He wasn’t there to give me my letter. But he may well have been the real Hagrid. We may never know.

Because I was a slacker and didn’t prepare until the day of, my kiddo wore batman pjs and I wore a TMNT t-shirt with a red bandanna because Raphael is the best. A Naruto scolded me for dressing the family in contradictory universes. Next year I’ll try to be more on top of it, Naruto, jeez.  

Little bats had the time of her short life. She was toddling around screeching with delight and waving at the fellow con-goers. She made lots of friends. I never made random friends at events the way I do with kiddo in tow. She’s like a magnet for happy, personable passersby. I highly recommended a baby as an accessory to all social misfits. It’s a sure way to make more friends than you can handle.

One woman I chatted with had an itsy-bitsy human tethered to her chest with one of those natural baby carriers. She told me that a few months ago she went to a con out of state and dressed up as pregnant Amy Pond. That lady was one cool mom. I’ll probably never be that cool, but the number one reason I love comic-con is because I get to rub elbows with the coolest, most magical, creative, awesome humans this side of Hogwarts.

As I wandered between the booths – ogling the art, admiring the new graphic novels, making friends, and taking in the novelty of professional drawings of dogs as superheroes – I realized how incredibly important, albeit downright wacky, this festival of comic and graphic books really is. Writers, artists, and fans come together for a day of fun and leave inspired to create new stories, new art, and new cosplays.

I walked away from comic-con inspired and dreaming of the year I’ll have a booth of my own, showing off my art and rubbing elbows with the local creators I’ve long admired.

There was a bit of poignant symmetry this year at comic con. My first year I was living at home, dreaming of college, and taking my little sibs out for a day of adventure. This year I’ve got my own kick ass adult life and the cutest baby in the universe.  Nearly a decade of con-going framed by two vastly different, but similarly inspiring, outings with tiny humans. Happy memories, happy present, and – if the force is with me – many more happy cons in my future.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Kayla Goes to Fall Lit Events!

Peace & Love,

Kayla

 

Here are a few links to some of the awesomeness I experienced at comic-con: insert hyperlinks

Writing Rules with guest writer Katie Zezulka

Writing Rules with guest writer Katie Zezulka

Big news guys!  Silversky Press in debuting our first ever guest post!  Introducing Katie Zezulka, here to shed some truth on the “writing rules” you think you need to follow, but really don’t.  Katie has been writing for 15 years (wowza that is a long time) and spends most of her time in the romance genre, though she also loves a good fanfic piece.  You can find some of her fanfiction here and you can check her out on facebook here.  Bonus, she’s also got a short story in the works that she will be sharing soon.

Now without further preamble, check out what Katie has to say about the Writing Rules!

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You can find rules about writing everywhere. Numerous authors and writing sites have lists of their top ten. They proclaim right and wrong, black and white as if writing isn’t a deeply personal experience. My list of writing rules is a little different because when it comes to writing there aren’t any rules! I am going to give you a list of common (and mythical!) rules and tell you why I don’t think they work.


  • False rule: If you want to improve your writing, write every day
  • Actual rule: Write when you can, and you will get better

You don’t need to write every day to be successful. I attended a conference a few years back and the speaking author, Anne Ursu, was asked if she writes every day. She responded no. She said some days, if she didn’t feel like writing, she would do other needed things, such as cleaning or laundry. That way, when she had inspiration, there was nothing stopping her.

That spoke to me. I completed NaNoWriMo and I did write every day that month, but I remember one day when I wrote maybe 60 words in half an hour. That is two words a minute people.

I can’t tell you how many times I have sat staring at a blank screen because I had nothing to say. It would have been more helpful to do the chores that needed to be done. That way, when the words were flowing from my fingertips I wouldn’t have to stop to wash the dishes or throw in a load of laundry.

This isn’t to say you should never sit there and make yourself write. That will happen more than you want to admit, but occasionally real life rears its head, so don’t beat yourself up. You can always write tomorrow when you might not have the urge to toss your computer out the window. Also, maybe life and kids make it so you are lucky to write once a week. Then simply write once a week. Don’t feel bad, you are already writing so much more than most people do.

You are a better writer every day you write, not only when you write every day.


  • False rule: Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialog and never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”
  • Actual rule: Don’t let your dialogue tags do all the work

Okay, this one has some logic behind it, but it is a simple, lazy way of preventing you from being lazy. Here’s what I mean.

“Don’t you dare walk away from me!” she screamed angrily.

“And don’t think you can tell me what to do,” he laughed back.

Now read this one.

She stomped her foot angrily. “Don’t you dare walk away from me,” she said.

Turning around he smiled at the sight of her standing there with a scowl and her hands planted on her hips.

“And don’t think you can tell me what to do,” he said.

The humor in his tone made her glare.

The idea is that when you use “said” you have to use actions as well. You have to show that she is angry, rather than just saying it. That leads to better writing. Show not tell and all that good stuff.

This is one of those rules that, once you understand it, can be broken. Of course, there are conditions to breaking this rule. The main one being keep your characters busy. Keep them moving and gesturing while they talk.

She stomped her foot angrily. “Don’t you dare walk away from me!” she raged.

Turning around he smiled at the sight of her standing there with a scowl and her hands planted on her hips.

“And don’t you think you can tell me what to do,” he retorted, the humor in his tone making her glare.

The second and third versions are basically the same except for the dialog tags. Keep characters moving and your writing can be great without using said a dozen times each page.


  • False rule: You need an outline before you start writing
  • Actual rule: Do whatever it takes to write the first draft

Here it is, the pantser vs planner debate. As a pantser I can guarantee whoever made this rule must have been a planner. I’m sure of it.

When I go into a piece, I do it with an idea, a few characters, and perhaps a setting. Nothing drawn out and nothing written down. Just bits in my head. A lot of the time I start with a scene somewhere in the middle and work from there. That works for me. I tried planning one year for NaNoWriMo and by the time I got to writing the story it wasn’t long enough and I got bored. I simply didn’t care about it anymore. As a result, I never finished it.

If you pants your work you should be prepared to do massive revisions not needed by planners. Your timeline might not add up and you might realize who your character is halfway through. You might even decide to chuck half the novel and rewrite it.

In the end, if having an outline works for you do that. If you want to go in with a single line of speech that is fine too.


  • False rule: The first draft of a book – even a long one – should take no more than 3 months, the length of a season
  • Actual rule: The first draft of a book should take as much time as needed – as long as you FINISH

The fact of the matter is a book is going to take however long it takes. Not everyone has the time to devote to writing an 80k word manuscript in 90 days. Also, not everyone writes in the same way.

The point of this rule is to not get hung up on things, but I would rather spend more time on something and have it be something I am proud of.

Still, always remember if you never finish a first draft you will never have a story you can do anything with. Spend the time you need shoveling sand in for the first draft, but you do need to finish shoveling if you’re ever going to build the castle. Make that the goal rather than giving yourself a timeline.


  • False rule: Work on one thing at a time until it is finished. Start no more new books
  • Actual rule: Be careful that voice, character, setting, etc. are unique to each story. Make sure nothing blends from one story to another

Like all rules, this one has a method to the madness. First off, it encourages you to finish what you start so you won’t have 3 dozen stories saved on your computer like some people do, cough me, cough cough.

Another thing it does is help prevent your characters and settings from bleeding together. If you have three stories going on at once that means at least three main characters and three different settings. You want each of your characters from different stories to stand out and be individuals. With so many main characters things can start to get fuzzy. It can be hard to keep straight which story has a woman seeking her dream job and which has a woman doing everything she can to hide from a traumatic past.

But sometimes I need a break from a story so I move on. Other times I am stuck and want to actually accomplish something, so I go to a story I do have ideas for. Or maybe I just wrote a really hard, heartbreaking scene and I need something light-hearted to distract me.  Find the right balance for you, Work on as many things as you feel you can, trying your best to actually finish what you start.

Final words of caution. It can be dangerous to follow every little plot bunny that hops by. Make note of plot bunnies for other stories somewhere, and only go deeper if you really have to. Also, you should avoid jumping around too much. Don’t work on more than one story in a day, and certainly don’t hop around during a single writing session. My advice is to take a break with something new when you need it, but never forget where you were. Always go back to your work in progress because nothing is more heartbreaking than writing for years and having nothing finished to show for it.


  • False rule: Write in the 3rd person unless a really distinctive 1st person voice offers itself irresistibly
  • Actual Rule: Tell the story how you think it needs to be told. No one knows it better than you do

It is easier to tell a story in 3rd person. You never have to worry about the reader not knowing things because the main character doesn’t know them. Still, sometimes, to find the right way to tell a story you have to try different angles. I have one piece I have rewritten twice, or maybe it was three times. I tried it in 3rd person and then in 1st person from two different characters.

My issue with this rule is that sometimes it isn’t clear how best to tell the story. Unless you play around with it you could miss something amazing.


  • False rule: If it is boring to you it is boring to your reader
  • Actual rule: You might need a beta reader to determine if your story needs some extra spice

You will reach a point where you wonder if your story is boring, or if the emotional scenes fall flat. You wrote it. You have read it countless times. Don’t even try to guess how many times it has played in your mind, because it is probably a million. You know who is going to die and that the shy kid in the back is going to save the day. You know the villain shows his heart of gold by the end, and you know who gets the girl. You are too close to guess how someone else is going to view your story. Good news! Beta readers are here to help with just that. Find a beta who reads your genre and let them take a look. Only by handing your story to a few pairs of fresh eyes will you know if it needs a little more zing.

Here are the “rules” you need to follow. Do what it takes to get yourself to write. If you want the TV on playing a movie on repeat for 3 days (me) great. If you want to write while listening to opera wearing some headphones to block out the real world, go for it. Face a blank white wall or stare out a window. Use a typewriter or a pen and paper. Write love stories or horror stories or children’s board books. Write every lunch break or maybe just Saturday morning while the kids watch cartoons. Wear a Santa hat or just your underwear. Use the word said or the word shouted. Write from any point of view. Write from EVERY point of view. Take a week to write a story or a decade. What matters is that it works for you. Nothing more and nothing less.

Thanks for reading our first guest post!  And a huge thank you to Katie for writing it!  Keep writing friends, we believe in you!

 

Kayla is Back with Thoughts on World Building

Kayla is Back with Thoughts on World Building

Hi everybody, Kayla here, anyone remember me? It’s been ages since I’ve been on the blog, sorry about that. But not really that sorry since you lucky ducks have had extra awesome Brooke posts in the meanwhile, and it doesn’t get much better than that, am I right?

This summer I put a hold on structured writing projects and took a break from blog deadlines so that my creative energy could focus on the launch of Mama Terra Gardens. That’s right people, I’m successfully self employed now!

Fortunately I am in a seasonal business and now that fall temps are moving in to kill the plants I get to scale back the garden design/install business and scale up the writing.

That means jumping back into revisions of Witch Girl right where I left off; world-building and the pursuit of making it feel real.

I know what you’re thinking – world-building is for writers of elf-dwarf fantasy and alien universes populated with space unicorns.

But guess what? It doesn’t matter if your protagonist is surviving high school or surviving a quest to Mordor – your story needs a well built, diverse world to be believable.

If you are writing a story then you are building a world.

And if you’re building a world, THEN BUILD A WORLD and make it a good one. A world is diverse, fascinating, real. A world is not a few towns, it is not one accent, it is not one race. That is what makes world building so downright overwhelming and why most writers shy away from fantastical worlds and beasts and socio-economic-political discords.

But world-building is also a lot of fun. As readers we love being transported to impossible, incredible places filled with characters we want to meet or be or strangle. And as writers there is nothing better than making a world come alive in your head and in your heart and then finally upon the page.

So yes, world-building can feel overwhelming, afterall a world is overwhelmingly diverse, but it doesn’t have to drive you crazy. You don’t have to pin down every far flung detail all at once (that’s a good way to drive yourself bonkers). Here’s a simply two part formula that works for me.

One: Start by identifying the core element in your story

The core element might be the main theme, the main character, or the BIG IDEA/AHA moment. The core element is the central beating heart of your story. It is the reason you wanted to tell this story in the first place and it is the reason you stick to this story when the going gets tough and the world building gets tricky.

Two: Spiral out

Once you have that core element, spiral out. Build upon the central idea with relevant details. Then build upon those details. Spiral outward until you have the bones of a world. Spiral out still further until you have the flesh. Your central idea is the pulse and your job is to give it a body.

I started Witch Girl with my main character powerfully alive and ready to live. It wasn’t difficult for me to build a world for my sassy protagonist Skara – teenage orphan/refugee turned runaway/tree-house-building/freedom-fighter. Her character was dynamic, her plot demanded setting and props and side-kicks. First I had my character and then I built  a world for her to inhabit.

Not every writer begins with character but the best worlds begin with a core idea/theme/character and spiral out from there. Building upon the big ideas with colorful, vibrant, sensual details that make the world real.

As you spiral out here are some things to consider:

RESEARCH:

Trust me, as you spiral out from your core idea the key is research. Research, research, research, research. Ok, once more so you know I’m serious, RESEARCH! You have to know everything you can know about a few things before you can even begin to layer in all the complexities of a world. Of course making things up is the goal, but you need to build the meat of your world on a skeleton of true info so people will understand and believe. Most writers of fantasy love non-fiction. They love military history, linguistics, obscure texts on petticoats… They love this stuff because it helps them write believable make-believe.

RELEVANCE:

Don’t get overly hung up on research. I mean…a petticoat is a petticoat and I’m not very interested in them. A big part of world building is choosing what details to focus on and when. Trust your readers, they can extrapolate quite a bit from a small tid-bit. That’s why I recommend keeping your core element in mind at all times and spiraling out from there. If the details are relevant to the core element they will push the narrative forward. Don’t slow your readers down with the irrelevantMost of the time we don’t need to know (or care to know) the weather patterns and pollen counts in the village two rivers over.

DIRECTION:

Even with your core element in sharp focus world-building can still feel daunting. Afterall, you could spiral out from any given element in hundreds, thousands, nay, infinite directions! The choices I made at this point of infinite possibility were mostly just about what I wanted personally, and that is a legitimate way to make a choice as a writer, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you want to write about petticoats then knock yourself out and don’t let the likes of me get in your way. So what do you want to talk about? Loss, love, birth, death, kissing? Or maybe the practical details of your world get you excited – family groups, funerary rites, currency, technology, recreation, food… I love writing about food. Do you have any idea how many speculative fiction books I’ve read where nobody ever eats anything? Too many. I personally would love to know what people eat in space or if werewolves are gluten intolerant. Also, why does everyone eat ‘stew’ in questing novels and what is in the stew?!?

Spiral out in the directions you find most interesting (and relevant). Then Research, refine, expand. Steal from the real world. Steal from Napoleon’s battle tactics. Steal from your parent’s year book. When it comes to world building, inspiration is literally all around you.

In summary, there’s a pretty simple formula that makes world-building less overwhelming. Start by asking yourself: What is the beating heart of this world I am making? What is the why? And then spiral out from there.

Best of luck on your world-building quests! I’d love to hear from you in the comments about your literary journeys into worlds beyond.

Peace & Love,

Kayla