Reader Mail: World Building

A reader writes:
I recently [read] Cole's article you linked to and I was wondering if you could help me with something. I mean I've been working on a world for awhile now, and I'm uncertain about the first steps I should take about it. Basically, I keep going between deciding if I should do short stories first, or putting together a novel instead. And I believe the world can do both. Frankly, I'm sure I could list off several of the obstacles from that article to blame for my issues, but I'd like to know your experience in how you direct where a world takes you, and how you go about finding a concrete path once you have a grasp of where it is you want to go?
First, a caveat. My writing processes differs from this reader's in terms of our respective starting points. I don't start with world building. I start with a story I want to tell. Then I ask myself what a setting where such events take place would have to be like in order for the story to make sense.

That said, my reader is not alone. A lot of aspiring authors get caught up in endless world building spirals. The way out is to realize that world building and storytelling are two different processes. If you're asking whether your world is developed enough to write a story set in it, then it's time to write the story.

Regarding the "how do you find a concrete path?" question, I'm an outliner. Once I have a general idea for a story, I draw up a fairly detailed outline listing all of the major turns, pinches, plot twists, character goals, etc. That's my road map for writing the story.

You might not be an outliner. Discovery/organic writers just sit down and write whatever comes to mind. The only way to tell which type of writer you are is to experiment with both methods.

As for the short story vs. novel question, the two most important factors are:
1) Are you more interested in writing a short story or a novel?
2) Novels sell better.

Although it should be said that there are those who are working to resurrect the moribund short fiction market.

Personally, I'm more of a novelist than a short story writer. Three of my novels are currently on sale for less than $9 altogether.

One of those three is a finalist for this year's Best Science Fiction Novel Dragon Award. It's also available for free through Kindle Unlimited.

The Secret Kings - Brian Niemeier

Voting closes soon. Don't forget to request your free Dragon Award ballot!



Get out of Your Way

Best selling author Nick Cole shares some highly profitable productivity tips for authors.
This is how you're getting in the way of You the Writer and preventing your success:
  • attempting too much at once
  • unrealistic time estimates
  • procrastinating
  • lack of specific priorities
  • failure to listen well
  • doing it myself--failure to delegate
  • unable to say no
  • perfectionism--focusing on needless details
  • lack of organization
  • failure to write it down
  • reluctance to get started
  • absence of self-appointed deadlines
  • not doing first things first 
 Nick is on to something. Let those who have ears hear.

I advise all writers to take the time to grab a pencil and paper, sit down, and ruthlessly examine your own habits against this list. Even if you consider yourself highly productive, there's always room for improvement. Everyone should be able to write down at least one way in which he could follow these steps more closely. I did, and that's one reason I'm cutting back on my editing work to focus on my single most profitable activity: writing.

Get Kill Team, Nick's latest Galaxy's Edge book here.

Nick Cole - Kill Team: Galaxy's Edge Book III

And don't forget, my own award-winning Soul Cycle, including 2017 Dragon nominee The Secret Kings is now on sale for less than 9 bucks!

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier

Reminder: the Dragon Awards are right around the corner. If you loved The Secret Kings, you can vote it Best Science Fiction Novel. Request your free ballot here!


Death of the Short Story

Short stories built science fiction into a cultural force to be reckoned with and launched the careers of countless stellar authors. Yet the short fiction market has seen a steep decline in the past few decades.

Is the short story dead? Your humble Geek Gab hosts recently spoke with Castalia House blogger Vlad James about the state of sci-fi short fiction. Why was it significant, and who are some of the brave souls striving to bring it back?

Bonus: we also chat about E.T.

Have a listen!

And don't forget to vote in the Dragon Awards. My nominated SF novel The Secret Kings is free on KU, and the whole series is less than 9 bucks right now.



Orwell Was 4 Years off

Iron Curtain

Over at the Castalia House blog, a reader poses this pivotal question:
Follow-up question. Several articles said the Hugo Awards have been a SocJus Safe Space for three decades and a little. So did the Hugo Awards go down hill in 1980?
CH blog editor and Appendix N author Jeffro Johnson answers with an expertise that few others can rival:
There are many posts on this, but here’s the short version.
1) Campbellian “Hard” SF was itself a modernist post-Christian movement that reset sff history by unpersoning the grandmasters of the pulp era.
2) The Hugos were a part of this revisionist wave and are thus… suspect to begin with.
3) Add to this that (and I’m not kidding) actual communists made a concerted effort to take over science fiction about the time that the Hugos began.
4) And seriously. Does anybody actually read seventies sff…? How stupid the “award-worthy” stuff was then?
5) And if the Hugos were such a gold standard, then why did the hard core sff fans that created the first wave of rpgs seem largely oblivious to the critically acclaimed award winning stuff of the sixties and seventies?
6) See also Marrion Zimmer Bradley and the story behind stuff like “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”.
1980 is where the current iron curtain of the mind has been set. But the real cultural damage was done by 1940.
For more in-depth documentation, see this eye-opening video by The Qu Qu and Dan Wolfgang:

Print science fiction--once a dominant form of mass entertainment--was hijacked after WWII by screwdriver-wielding Modernists and outright Communists who wanted to make SF more literary in the former case and a propaganda tool in the latter.

Arising during this takeover of the genre, the Hugos were compromised from the beginning. Their current sorry state: a participation award given to authors from the most victimized groups by a small clique of dwindling fossils, was their inevitable intended end.

Happily for lovers of imaginative, exciting sci-fi, a new generation of storytellers has emerged to take back the genre from its treacherous erstwhile stewards. The Superversive and Pulp Revolution movements, as well as countless independent authors who simply strive to tell entertaining tales, are moving science fiction out of the literary ghetto where it's languished these many years.

The Dragon Awards have been hailed as a pro-fan replacement for the corrupt Hugos. But recent events cast doubt on Dragon Con's ability to stand firm against allowing a small but vocal segment of fandom to exert undue influence over the award process. The only solution is for the greater legions of honest fans to make their voices heard via ballot.

Request your free Dragon Award ballot.

Get the fan favorite Soul Cycle, including 2017 Dragon finalist The Secret Kings, for less than $9.

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier