05 December 2011

Bouncing Back Better

It took a rejection to teach me about worldbuilding. Well, that wasn’t the only thing this particular rejection taught me, but it was one major thing. I thought that because my books take place in present day and in my home state, what did I need to build? Um, I learned the hard way I was wrong. Yeah, I said it. The good news is that I learned an important lesson: Every story requires worldbuilding. Yes, I said EVERY story. Even a little short about present day. Why? Because the world of characters is different from your world or mine. 

The Rejection took place several years ago, and involved a different twist on vampires. The problem I ran into was that there are certain expectations about vampires that have to be met, no matter how unusual or cool my new twist was. I didn’t fulfill those expectations. No, vampires don’t have to turn to dust in the sun, but they do need a creep factor that I neglected to show my readers. I’d done a lot of research on vampires, then went my own way. I thought I’d nailed the story, but I missed the tangible bits and pieces that grab the reader and make her (or him) feel part of the story. This, my friends, is worldbuilding. It isn’t just making up a new government system, or devising a new set of rules for vampires. It’s figuring out the home where your characters live, the area where they work, the deep areas of their emotions they would never show the world. How creepy—or sweet—your characters are. These are in every work of fiction, and they are important building blocks.

For instance, I am horrible about descriptions. I can write them just fine, I just don’t. Why? I don’t like reading a lot of description. And there’s the make-or-break phrase: “A lot of “. My readers don’t need pages and pages of description either, but they do need enough to ground them in the story. My mistake was not giving them that grounding. I learned the hard way that a writer has to give her readers strong details to allow them to picture of the characters, the surroundings, and even the emotions the characters feel—and not the few crumbs I threw out. Ack! What an eye-opener! 

I went on to learn about advanced writing craft. I found some great teachers and great books and spent a couple of years learning and practicing writing. Has it been worth the effort? I think so. A friend says I write 1,000 times better than I used to. I don’t see how that’s possible. The most anything can improve is 100%, after all. But yeah, sometimes we just have to take the time to learn and grow—and then, hopefully, take the world by storm.

Have you ever taken time out to learn and grow? Is there a time when you should have? Would you like to take time out, but it isn’t feasible? 

Have a great week!

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