The website is back up! I had some hosting issues; sorry about the downtime. This post dates to June 1st.


I hate first drafts. Writing them feels like trying to bridge a canyon with telekinetics; you lay a plank down on thin air and step on it, willing it not to drop you into the river. Even if you make it to the other side, the whole non-structure might collapse when you look back.

The thing is — unlike with bridge-building — you can trample over a finished draft and fill in the missing structures. I finished the provisional draft for my Malice Years[1] novel about two and a half months ago, and last month I went back to start a major restructure.

I am having a wonderful time with it.

I take structure work in two parts: in-frame, or the events in the novel, their causes and effects, and how they shape into a coherent story arc (e.g. plot logistics and character arcs); and out-frame, or facts about the world that influence the shape and feel of the novel but don’t figure directly into the story (worldbuilding stuff like maps, economics, and demographics; character backstories; and cultural set dressing like language, clothes, and food). In-frame work drives the story and makes it stronger, but the out-frame stuff is necessary for verismilitude and to make sure the story has a sensible context.

I get bored with the minutia of worldbuilding, so I try to stick as close to the in-frame work as possible. But it’s fascinating how these things intersect. For example, a chain of questions I’ve been working to answer:

What causes the random rebellion in the later third of the novel? -> Well, first I need to know what government is being rebelled against.
What sort of government exists in the city? -> I know a few facts about it, most notably that it’s the remnant of a much-larger collapsed authoritarian empire. But,
What sort of government did the empire have, and how much territory did it encompass? I know it encompassed the entirety of the main character’s known world, which amounts to a single continent; but travel in this universe would allow for knowledge of other continents, which suggests Pangaea. Which led me to,
Is it feasible to have a stable pan-Pangaea nation? How big would it be? What would it look like? How would it have come about?

This resulted in a month-long sojourn in the geography, religion, ideology, and political history of the world. I got to learn a lot of things about how the Earth builds and breaks itself and about how authoritarian regimes function. Now that I’ve found my way back from the winding road, though, I’m happy to return to elaborating the missing bits of plot.

[1] Lookee, it has a title now! Sadly, it is a series/universe title for what is supposed to be a more-or-less standalone novel.

2 thoughts on “Bridge-building”

  1. I’m so glad that you’re enjoying reinforcing your bridge!
    I have a similar approach to world building. It’s a lot of fun to watch those interactions spin out, and figure out how to integrate them (and whether to integrate them) to enrich the story.
    I hope you’ll let me read your story at some point!

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