Monday, March 4, 2013


As a writer of fantasy and science fiction, worldbuilding is a necessary part of the writing process.  It's not enough to come up with some characters and a plot.  You have to craft an entire world around them.  In secondary world fantasy, this can be a long, time consuming process.  The same goes for galaxy-spanning space operas.  There's a little less in urban fantasy and near-future science fiction.

Some of my favorite books are the ones with the most interesting worlds.  Take Brandon Sanderson, for example.  At times, his books can drag a bit, but he's still one of my favorite authors because his worlds are fascinating.  His magic systems are creative and unique.  The setting comes alive as a character.  I look at these aspects of Sanderson's writing and wish I could do the same.

However, I struggle with worldbuilding.  I often find it boring.  When a story pops into my head, I just want to start writing it.  I'm too impatient to sit down and worry about the details of the world.  At the same time, though, I know those little details will really bring the world, and the story, to life.  These are the feelings that make me doubt my choice of genres.  Fantasy and science fiction are my favorite genres to read, and I love writing them, but worldbuilding can really prove a stumbling block.

To all the other speculative fiction authors out there, how do you worldbuild?  Do you write a detailed description of your world beforehand?  Or do you build elements of the world as they become relevant to the story? 

I lean toward the latter, but I often find I don't have enough set in place to get any feeling for the world myself.  In my Armoth Cycle, I didn't do much worldbuilding, and it was obvious the first time around.  By the time I finished the series, I had gotten a feel for the world, and I've applied that feel to my current rewrite of the series.

Does anyone else wish there were a quicker way to worldbuild?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Giving series a second chance

I like most of the books I read, but there are occasionally those books that don't work for me for whatever reason.  In many cases, if I find the first book of a series underwhelming, I am not very likely to read any more from that series.  However, there are series that get good reviews and ratings, and they leave me wondering if I'm missing something.  So, naturally, I'll feel the compulsion to pick up another book in the series.  Maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind when I read the first book.

This has happened recently with a few series.  Back in probably June, I read The Black Company by Glen Cook, and I didn't really like it.  At the time, I was close to the beginning of my year-long reading binge, and though I was a fantasy writer, I hadn't read much in the genre.  I went into the novel with high expectations after reading good reviews of it, but it just didn't work for me.

Since then, however, I wonder if my tastes in fantasy have changed.  I recently read Shadows Linger, the second book in Cook's series, and while I won't say it was my favorite, I liked it a whole lot more than I did the first.  Now I'm actually interested to see where the series goes.  It leaves me wondering if my tastes have changed that much in the last nine months or if it's simply a better book.

I had a similar experience with A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham.  I read it back in the spring when I really hadn't read much apart from quest fantasy like LOTR, Terry Brooks, and The Eye of the World.  Back then, it was strange to me.  It was a more character-driven fantasy, and while I liked it in parts, I thought it was a little boring.

Recently, though, I decided to pick up the second book, A Betrayal in Winter.  Once again, it wasn't my favorite, but I liked it a whole lot more than I did the first.  It was a similar book, but I found myself able to relate better to the characters and world, and I enjoyed it.  I read most of it in one sitting, breaking only to eat and do other basic life necessities.

It's not just from one book to another that I've noticed this phenomenon.  A while back, I tried to read Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson and gave up around page 150.  Then I picked it up again months later, finished it, and enjoyed it for the most part.  I've now read Deadhouse Gates and will be continuing on with the series.

This leads me to wonder if there are other books I should give chances again.  Most obviously, I should probably try to read A Game of Thrones again.  I made it about 100 pages but didn't find it all that much to my liking.  Another book I might revisit is The Darkness That Comes Before by R. Scott Bakker.  Maybe my tastes (and perhaps level of patience) have changed enough that I can enjoy these books.

Has anyone else noticed this?  Or do most people forget about a series if they don't find it immediately to their liking?