Monday, August 26, 2013

Zero Count, Worldbuilder's Disease and Flagging Morale

Dear God in Heaven this ain't good.

It also ain't accurate - my last blog post went up on the 14th, and I've jotted down some bad attempts since - but in terms of "words of like, fiction I've put down on paper" it's pretty much spot on.

Now, in my (pitiful, shameful, insufficient) defense, my wife and I did have a baby at the end of July and our schedules have been a teensy bit thrown off by, um, getting up at all hours of the night to feed the boy. And I've recently gone back to work, which means when I get home I get to take the baby for most of the evening to give my wife a break and then go to bed for not enough sleep before I get up to do it all over again.

So it's not all me being lazy. But I don't get to use that as an excuse to not write anything.

Let me introduce you to A Boy and His Demon. (Working title. I don't use nifty code names like Sarah Cawkwell.)

I started this book last year for NaNoWriMo and finished the first draft in... February? That sounds right. The idea is an epic fantasy series, ultimately, but starting with a fairly self-contained first book where an adventurous young boy tries to overthrow the undead king of his island home. The basic plot is in place

(just got stopped by a dog walk and a crying baby, feeding and diaper change)

and I've got a killer ending and I think the story's interesting, the villains are cool and the heroes have potential.

But nothing fucking works.

The island's geography is a mess, and that's screwing up all my timelines because Boy Hero has to go from one end to the other at least once. The villages operate under a system of law and government that amounts to "don't piss off the Lich". I'm not sure if the population is sustainable, especially with people getting killed and raised as zombie slave labor all the time. There are sentient animals that probably should have been hunted to extinction by now. Trade and travel are highly limited but every village has boats capable of reaching the mainland and I'm not sure how that works.

(now my wife's going to bed, so I'm on baby duty until his next feeding. at midnight)

(and now I'm back, after about four, maybe four and a half hours of sleep)

It gets even worse when I consider that I mean for this book to set up a trilogy. What's the back story on the Lord High Butcher and his horrific master, the Burning King? How much of the southern continent does the Empire of the Dead rule? Are there still independent kingdoms? Were there ever independent kingdoms? Either way, how did they interact with my island before and after all the shit hit the fan? What happened on the island during the worldwide demonic invasion? The War of the Three Sorceresses? The Godwar? Where are the gods and the demigods anyway?

There's a term for all this worrying and nitpicking, and it's Worldbuilder's Disease.

(transcribing notes jotted down at my day job while waiting for a meeting to start)

My real problem is that I'm not writing, but also that I started reading epic fantasies when I was beginning my second draft. J.R.R. Tolkien, Brandon Sanderson, Brent Weeks. These are guys who have mastered the epic form and demonstrated just how much work I have to do. But how do I know when it's too much? And how do I start revising when I have so many gaping holes - honking big plot-relevant holes - in my world?

(and back home after work, haircut, dinner, changing a poopy diaper)

The answer, of course, is that I don't, I have to fill in the damn holes or there's not much point to revising. But the sad truth is that worldbuilding feels like treading water to me. I know it's necessary, but it doesn't improve my word count and it doesn't help me fix my bland main character, and the longer I do it the more I think that I'm losing my ability to actually finish the draft.

Where was I? What is this?

(God help me Miley Cyrus)

And I am going to finish the draft no matter what, because I do not need another set of lunatic ghosts dancing around in my head. (Hi Constance, hi Shosanna, I'll get to you, shut up.)

(two loads of laundry hung and folded)

I am going to finish the draft. I am going to fill in that chart with words every day. I am going to build the world I need to build.

But, ah, if anyone has any tips on the worldbuilding thing? Post them in the comments. Thanks.

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