Guest Post: World Building with Jeffe Kennedy

It’s always a pleasure to “visit” Brenda here. If only we lived closer in real life!

But, since we can’t meet for coffee to chat, she’s asked me to talk a bit about how I do my world building. I can tell, because she referenced how I am the queen of spread sheets, that she’s imagining elaborate world building spreadsheets tucked away on my computer.

Really, it’s not so.

I mean, I *am* the queen of spreadsheets, so what I do keep track of is partly on spreadsheets, yes. The scary truth, however, is that I don’t do much detailed tracking of my worlds at all.

Most of it is in my head.

There’s a few reasons for this. The first and most relevant is that I believe time spent on world building tracking is time better spent writing. I know some writers, especially fantasy writers for some reason, spend HUGE amounts of time on building their worlds. They do tons of research and write thousands—sometimes hundreds of thousands—of words in world bibles. It’s fun for them, so great! But I know people who’ve spent YEARS working on their worlds. And don’t yet have a novel they’re happy with, if a completed one at all.

So, I begrudge that time, and I spend as little of it as possible on recording world-building details. That said, I know I’m lucky because I am able to keep a lot of it in my head. I’ve always had a vivid imagination, and an active daydreaming life, so my worlds are very real places to me, ones that I can mentally enter and wander around in.

A few things that I do when I need an answer to a world question.

Write

I write for discovery, which means that by the act of writing, I can enter the world and look around. If I need to know something I write about it.

Daydream

I’m a huge fan of “when you’re not writing you’re still writing.” I’m going to caveat that as when I’m not doing something like research, which occupies brain space. I mean while washing dishes, or cleaning house, or driving, or gardening, or even sleeping. I daydream about my worlds and that fills in fun details.

Ask My Assistant

This is my big cheat. I don’t want to spend my time recording details, but I’m perfectly happy to pay my assistant to do it! She keeps track of stuff. And if she doesn’t have it written down, she goes and looks it up in the books and comes back with an answer.

Ask My Readers

Sometimes I throw a question out to my readers via the private Facebook group we have (https://www.facebook.com/groups/JeffesCloset/), or sometimes on my public pages. I’ll do this when I’m looking for a nuance that’s not easy to look up, like if I ever gave the impression one character was another’s aunt or their cousin. I also ask my readers to name stuff if ideas aren’t coming to me. Their suggestions are always a kick.

Record Timelines

The one thing I *do* resort to spreadsheets for is calculating ages and timelines. Especially with The Twelve Kingdoms and The Uncharted realms books, I’m looking at about three generations now, and characters acting simultaneously in different parts of the world. I have to extract from what I’ve written and do the math from there. This feels very much like the conversations I have with my mother when we try to remember where we spent a family birthday celebration in 1996, and who was there. Only I can’t go back to the novels to piece that together!

But that last detail is revealing in that my imaginary worlds are as vivid—sometimes more so—than my memories of real life.

Sometimes I think they’re very much the same.

About Jeffe KennedyJ

effe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include novels, non-fiction, poetry, and short fiction. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her award-winning fantasy romance trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms hit the shelves starting in May 2014. Book 1, The Mark of the Tala, received a starred Library Journal review and was nominated for the RT Book of the Year while the sequel, The Tears of the Rose received a Top Pick Gold and was nominated for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2014. The third book, The Talon of the Hawk, won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2015. Two more books followed in this world, beginning the spin-off series The Uncharted Realms. Book one in that series, The Pages of the Mind, has also been nominated for the RT Reviewer’s Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2016 and won RWA’s 2017 RITA® Award. The second book, The Edge of the Blade, released December 27, 2016, and is a PRISM finalist, along with The Pages of the Mind. The next in the series, The Shift of the Tide, will be out in August, 2017. A high fantasy trilogy taking place in The Twelve Kingdoms world is forthcoming from Rebel Base books in 2018.

She also introduced a new fantasy romance series, Sorcerous Moons, which includes Lonen’s War, Oria’s Gambit, The Tides of Bàra, and The Forests of Dru. She’s begun releasing a new contemporary erotic romance series, Missed Connections, which started with Last Dance and continues in With a Prince.

In 2019, St. Martins Press will release the first book, The Orchid Throne, in a new fantasy romance series, The Forgotten Empires. Her other works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns; the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion; an erotic contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera; and the erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, which includes Going Under, Under His Touch and Under Contract.

She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular SFF Seven blog, on Facebook, on Goodreads and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Sarah Younger of Nancy Yost Literary Agency.

http://jeffekennedy.com

https://www.facebook.com/Author.Jeffe.Kennedy

https://twitter.com/jeffekennedy

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1014374.Jeffe_Kennedy

 

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Block Scheduling, Pomodoro, and Word Counts, Oh my!

What do these things have to do with each other? As a someone who struggles with focus and attention issues, the first two things have resulted in consistent word counts. I know some folks are not as worried about word counts, fearing it stifles them, or leads to writer’s block and if that’s you, just look away. But if you are one of those people who need firm guidelines with wiggle room in place this is the post for you.

What is block scheduling? Blocking out a period of time to do whatever it is you need to do. It might an hour or two hours, or fifteen minutes. The important part of block scheduling is to make it consistent, this doesn’t mean every day, it could be every Saturday or Sunday, but when you block off the time, the time is ONLY to be spent writing. No social media, no marketing, no other distractions.

The second technique is Pomodoro, named after the tomato shaped kitchen timer. In Pomodoro, you set the timer for a period of time, usually 25 minutes and then for that time period you focus on just that project, in this case writing. The goal being to write as much as you can during the time period. No editing, no going back, just pushing forward to get words on paper. Why? Because you can’t edit a blank page and getting a load of word salad down that you can fix later is better than a blank page. Build the house, you can go back later and hang the curtains and decorate. You can use your phone timer but the temptation to check into social media or email can be strong. Use a cheap kitchen timer, or get a fancy one if you want. I use the timer on my watch, ‘cause I’m old school that way.

Word Counts, or as like to call them, the secret to getting projects done, are the number of words you need to get on paper to finish your project on time. I use Scrivener and it has a delightful feature that lets you put in your deadline for the first draft and days you will be writing and it will figure out how many words you need to write each session to meet your goal. I like many things about the program but this feature alone makes me love it. Before I used Scrivener, I did this on paper, and it worked, but I love that Scrivener lets me know when I meet my goal. Notice I said “First draft”, editing is a different animal, and I will address that in another post. This is about getting raw material down, so you have something to edit.

How do they work together?

  1. Block out your time to write. Treat it like an appointment. Honor your commitment to write.
  2. Use a timer. Set it for 25 minutes or more, no more than one hour.
  3. Start writing. Don’t look back, don’t do anything else, just write.
  4. When the time is up, get up, stretch, get a beverage or snack. Take 5-10 minutes. And then set the timer and get back to work. DO NOT CHECK EMAIL OR SOCIAL MEDIA. Keep your head in the game. Repeat until word count is achieved or your blocked time is up. If you are not meeting your word goals you may need to adjust them. Find a word count that YOU can meet consistently and will let you meet your deadline.

Keys to success: Remember you don’t have to block schedule all at once. Maybe you only have thirty minutes in the morning, and thirty minutes in the afternoon to write. My point is when it is time to write, write. Don’t do anything else.

  1. You can set the timer for less than twenty-five minutes, do what works for you.
  2. When you set your word count goals and deadlines make sure you are realistic. If you are someone who averages 250 words a day on a good day, don’t think you will suddenly be generating 1000 words a day or more. Use a calendar or planner or if you have Scrivener set up your project target dates. I use Scrivener and am also a big fan of spreadsheets (thank you Jeffe Kennedy) and use my planner every day, but you do you.

This works for me, it might not work for you. If you have been struggling to get a book/shorts story/screen play/ written give this a chance. Don’t quit.

 

 

 

Slow But Steady: Any Progress is Progress

I love this turtle because he helps me to remember that no matter how slow you are moving, if you keep moving you will get there. Through kids being sick, through family illness, through birth, death, and all of life’s messy bits, and most of all through your own inability to focus, if you keep moving you will reach your destination. Remember this when you are frustrated with your creative output: keep going.

I had a short fiction piece accepted this week for publication in an upcoming anthology. My kids think it is pretty awesome that I’m going to have a story in “a chapter book”, and so do I.   I’m not going to go into how long it has been since I had a piece published, or how many rejections proceeded this acceptance, or how many times I have submitted manuscripts, because none of it matters. The point of this post is this: all those days that I squeezed in fifteen minutes of writing made a difference. Not giving up is what matters. If you quit writing, it is impossible to get anything published.

I will confess to struggling mightily in the warm months to stick to my writing schedule. The lure of outside kicks my ADHD into high gear. After a winter of being inside all I want to do is play. My kids are home in the summer time, and that cuts into my writing time as well. I have some ways of dealing with kids at home and last year I posted some tips for sticking to your writing schedule when your kids are out of school, and you can read them here .

Even if you take some writing breaks over the summer, make it productive, read that To Be Read Pile, collect photographs, experiences, and memories to feed your writing later.

Most of all don’t give up, if you keep writing you will finish. Just keep moving. If you can only write one sentence, write a sentence. Like snowflakes it will add up. It may take years for you to accomplish what others accomplish in a month, it is okay, just keep writing.

Stick with it. Keep going, don’t quit, enjoy the journey as much as the destination.