my passions, my loves, my interests, my thoughts, my ramblings - come inside and warm yourself on the heat of my muses!
Julie L. Hayes
Monday, March 11, 2013
Guest Blogger Andrew Q. Gordon
Please welcome today my new friend and fellow Dreamspinner author, Andrew Q. Gordon, who's going to talk about worldbuilding, and his new release, The Last Grand Master. As a surprise, Andy's brought someone special with him, please give her a warm welcome too!
A Brand New Wor(l)d Count
Recently I tackled the job of world
building when I set out to write the Champion
of the Gods series. As with any
fantasy book, the new world is something of a blank slate. That's great in some ways, as you can create
anything you want. But creating a new world means creating everything in 'your'
world. Of course all of this needs to be
done while you engage in character development, create tension, work on the
plot, move toward a resolution. Oh yeah, just for kicks, you have to do it with
a word limit. For me it was this last part that proved the most difficult.
To start, the publishing world will
basically give you about 100K words to work with for a book. You can probably get another 20K—maybe. That's
not peanuts—I mean NaNoMo is a minimum of 50K words and most people can't do
that much in a month. So 100-120k is a
lot of writing. But in a fantasy novel,
where you have so much to cram into it, those words disappear fast.
Consider. If you write a book set
in New York, you don't have to tell folks that New York is part of the United
States, that it's in North America, That Pennsylvania and New Jersey are south
of it, etc. No need to explain the
political structure, the major religions, the economic system in place. You can
skip talking about airplanes and cars, or how rooms are heated or cooled. There
are no magic lessons to give and no reason to talk about the various animals
and creatures that walk the earth.
There's a ton more, but you get the idea.
One way—a bad way—to world build is
to write a short treatise as a prologue where you take eight to ten pages or so
and give a condensed version of the history, geography, religions, culture,
politics etc. of your world. It will read like a history book, folks will probably
either not read it, skim, be grumpy because they'll refer back to your 'all
inclusive' encyclopedia of the world looking for an answer you didn't think to
include or just maybe they'll pass out from boredom.
Another way is for a character to
profess ignorance—for whatever silly reason you can find—and have another
character recite said eight to ten page essay on the world. Bets on how well that will be received? In that vein, you could have the 'narrator'
just pause every now and then and give 'explanations' of things. Equally
In The Last Grand Master I tried none of the above. At various places along the way, I tried to
work in bits and pieces of the world, so that over time a fuller, more complete
picture would emerge. I tried to do this
while I developed the characters and advanced the plot. Depending on whose reviews you read, I failed
and succeeded at all of these things. Sounds about right, yeah?
So what happened? Originally the Champions series was going to
be four books. Each was—yes I know I'm
going to make the editorial staff at Dreamspinner Press faint—about 500-600K
words long. Now, mind you, that was the
first draft, so there was a lot of
editing still to do. By my estimate, I
lose about 30-40% of the word count when I edit. Reason being, some scenes are redundant,
others don't fit, some don't belong anymore because one thread got cut, so the
tie-ups make no sense anymore. But still, each book would be about three times too
long to fit into the word count limit.
I see three solutions: 1) Get more
words from the publisher; 2) Cut more words; or 3) make them into more
books. I went with number 3 and therein
lies many—though by no means all—of the complaints from various reviewers.
By writing books in the way I originally
did, in the size I did, certain aspects of the tension, conflict, world
building, conflict resolution, etc, were resolved later in the book. Dividing the story into more books meant
changing more than just the last chapter of each book. For example; in the original book two—the one
I'm working on revising now—the major conflict is very much toward the middle
to the end. None of which will make it into book two. Either I re-write things quite a bit or there
are going to be a number of open threads and no resolutions. That of course
requires new conflicts for the
characters to deal with and solve. Otherwise book 2 would be boorrrinnggg!
Perhaps the biggest struggle with
the word limit is I planned to bring the characters to each of the major
continents on Nendor—one in each of the first three books, then in book four touch
them all before returning home for the final conflict. That clearly can't happen anymore. So the 'world' building pertaining to the
first continent, Ardus, in book one that I expected I had 500K words to work
with had to be shortened to 115K in the end.
Some things got condensed, others got cut, and some just went begging.
Now, this isn't to say word count
is the only reason for any shortcomings in the book, that's not the point of
this post, but it is an issue. Being fair, it's an issue of my own making. I
wrote the series without a flipping thought to what a publisher might require,
so my bad on that.
The point is that world building is
hard, and world building on a word count is even tougher. Time to go back and make the two mesh a bit
For those who've read the book or
those thinking about it, I did a series of posts on Nendor for a world building
blog tour that might help add context to what you've read or will read. They are still posted on my site. You can find them here:
Andrew Q. Gordon is the author of, The Last Grand Master, a fantasy novel whose world he 'build' inside his head.
His first novel, (Un)Masked he co-authored with Anyta Sunday. His third
novel, Purpose is due out in late
In a war that shook the earth, the Six gods of
Nendor defeated their brother Neldin, god of evil. For the three thousand years
since, Nendor and the Seven Kingdoms have known peace and prosperity. But then
a new wizard unleashes the power of Neldin. Meglar, wizard king of Zargon, uses
dark magic to create an army of creatures to carry out his master's will.
One by one, the sovereign realms fall. Soon the
only wizard who can stop Meglar is Grand Master Farrell, the Prince of Haven,
the hidden home of refugees. An untried wizard, Farrell carries a secret that
could hold the key to defeating Meglar—or it could destroy the world.
While helping Nerti, queen of the unicorns,
Farrell saves Miceral, an immortal muchari warrior the Six have chosen to be
Farrell's mate. But Farrell approaches love with caution, and before he can decide
how to proceed, Meglar invades a neighboring kingdom. Farrell and Miceral find
themselves in the middle of the battle. Farrell pushes himself to the limit as
he and Miceral fight not only to stop Meglar but for their very survival.
Klissmor stopped without warning.
Nerti too. Everyone behind them swerved to keep their distance. Farrell gave no
explanation. He leapt down, turning back the way they’d come.
He raised both hands, and an
enormous energy bowl formed over his head. A sudden blast of sickly black and
red energy ripped through Northhelm’s shield, striking the protective dome and
forcing him to his knees. A grunt slipped out of his mouth at the same time
Miceral jumped off Klissmor.
Raising a hand, Farrell pointed
at Miceral. “No! Stay back.” He needed to complete this. He’d been fortunate
that the hastily wrought shield held the last attack.
When Miceral continued to close
in, Farrell muttered under his breath and threw a barrier between them. He’d
apologize later. Right now he needed to focus on defending everyone from the
Another attack ripped through the
sky. He struggled to keep on his feet as he hurried to close the circle of
energy. Once the ends merged, he launched it back the way it came. Forming a
second shield, he anxiously peered skyward. A flash of light on the far horizon
brought the hint of a smile to his face. It didn’t answer their problems, but
it helped. Without releasing his shield, he engaged his wizard’s sight, looking
in the direction where the attacks originated. Seeing nothing, he relaxed.
The barrier dissolved between
Miceral and him.
“What was that?”
“What did you do?”
Questions darted at him from all
sides. He waved a hand, dismissing them. He didn’t have time for an
inquisition. Then his eyes landed on Miceral, a small frown cutting between the
man’s brows, and the urge to explain made Farrell open his mouth. But a slight
rumbling beneath them had him shutting it again and searching the ground.
His hand went to his endless
pocket. After checking the distance to the entrance, the position of the rocks,
and the contour of the ground, he settled on a suitable spot. He removed an
oddly grooved stick with a large mushroomlike head, half the length of his staff.
It looked to be made from a live tree branch, with sprigs of green along the
Using both hands and all his
weight, he firmly embedded the stick into the rocky ground.
He stepped back, checking his
distance. In one fluid motion, he grabbed his staff in both hands and swung it
directly at the head of the stick. When the staff’s metal head struck the
wooden top, sparks flew, and the stick sank further into the ground, leaving
only its head visible. A sudden burst of energy pulsed outward from the stick. When
the flash subsided, a new shield replaced the one Meglar destroyed. Much
better. He turned and walked back to the others.
“That ought to give us enough
time to get everyone to safety.”
Miceral fell in beside him. A
small grin replaced the frown. Farrell liked the way the man’s cheek quirked
with the smile.
“Next time”—Miceral’s deep voice
sent a shiver through him—“you could warn us we’re under attack.”
“There really wasn’t time for an
explanation.” Reaching back, he returned his staff to its place.
Then, catching Miceral’s eye,
Farrell gave him a shy wink before placing a hand on Nerti. Almost immediately
he snatched his hand back. “Honorus help us!”
Moving so he could look her in
the eye, he shook his head. “You’re exhausted beyond your limits.”
Nerti trembled slightly and tried
to pull away. Despite his lack of familiarity with unicorns, he grasped her
head with both hands and pressed his forehead to hers, just below her horn. He
said nothing, and Nerti ceased her effort to pull away. For a brief moment a
light blue aura engulfed the pair. When it vanished, he released her and
Nerti no longer trembled. He
smiled and turned toward the distant gate. “Come, we should get inside. When
Meglar recovers from the shock of having his attack shoved down his throat,
he’ll probe this area to find out what happened.”
Before he advanced three steps,
Grohl barred his way.
“What do you
think you are doing, silly wizard?”
“Trying to get inside.” Checking
around him, he found everyone staring at their exchange. “What are you doing?”
Grohl didn’t move. “And
you expect us to let you walk?”
“Nerti can barely make it back
herself, let alone carry me, and though magically weary, I am not—”
A low, deep growl forced him to
step back. A hand grabbed the back of his shirt, yanking him upward. What
the…? He landed in front of
Miceral. The man’s arms snaked around his waist, pulling him closer. Torn
between annoyed, embarrassed, and thrilled at the closeness, he opted for
“You could have warned me you
were going to do that.” He picked at a loose thread on the side of his shirt.
“You almost ripped my shirt off!”
A laugh rumbled from behind him,
causing another shiver. Miceral leaned forward, his lips so close Farrell could
feel the warmth of his breath. “When I want to take off your shirt, believe me,
I’ll do it somewhere more private than this.”
Thank you both for being here today! Please come back again soon!