NaNoWriMo and Worldbuilding Don’t Mix

It’s like oil and water. It’s what tripped me up, smashed my face on the concrete, and left me bleeding.

I have the good fortune of nearly twenty unpublished novels under my belt, and worldbuilding for each at my disposal. Is this cheating? I sure hope not.

The Acorn King is my first finished novel. I finished it four years ago, sent it out to a couple of agents/publishers, got stock responses, and it went back to the shelf. It’s a great work, I guess, but now that I re-read it, pretty unpublishable. Why? Who cares. I don’t like it, and that’s enough for me. Passive voice, weak storytelling, all wrapped in a dual first-person narration that trips over itself and re-hashes interactions at random. I loved the theory behind it–it came from a series of violent dreams I had–coupled with a strong dose of Beksinski, violin music, and a need to create a religion.

The last part is what I’m using in my “modern” steampunk scifantasy: a character with knowledge of an entire dead religion, where no surviving followers exist, pulled from the scattered references to Hecate. I wrote Acorn King as a way to understand the deity, and in doing so, created a series of characters that defy all modern religion, but play off it.

So the “worldbuilding” is mostly managed: I have a whole series of archaic texts I wrote for AK, a series of characters/gods/demons/etc to draw from in the construction of this faux magical study, and even get to create a little alternate history while I do so.

Now all I need to do is explain the reality of working between an 1850’s locksmith and a 2000’s survivalist, and I’ll be set. I’m thinking a retelling of AK is in order; three characters being the two brothers from the novel plus Barr’cuda (renamed Lotus).

Regardless, worldbuilding while working NaNoWriMo sucks. It’s a direct counterpoint to “sit down and write,” and it was a mistake that cost me nearly fifteen days of writing: every time I sat to write I stopped because I didn’t know where to go. “A mystic, a realist, and an anarchist sit down at a bar…” Where do I go from there? How do I flesh these guys out while pushing the story forward? I DON’T EVEN HAVE A “BAD GUY!”

Worldbuilding continues. I need a bad guy (aka, antagonist). I’m thinking some slimy someone bent on collecting arcane novella that, at the realization of the MCs hunting the book, starts to dabble and eventually obsess over the thing.

Fun. I’m really excited now. Revitalization of one of my favorite novels? And all these extra files (I wrote nearly twenty back-stories, a veritable Bible of allegorical reference material) are just what the doctor ordered. AK won’t change any. The worldbuilding will just hop over to another story.

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2 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo and Worldbuilding Don’t Mix

  1. Obviously, I have missed quite a lot since I last checked in here. Now, I feel like I’m sneaking in on an invitation only discussion on writing. Odd…

    It sounds just from this one piece that I have completely read, that you are back at the keys with a churning desire and methodical look back, maybe? I am looking forward to seeing what the final outcome will be with the antagonist. IF it were actually the 3 sitting at the bar – I’d vote for the realist. 🙂

    • I’ve come to the conclusion that the antagonist will have to be created and not injected, meaning due to events unfolding in the story “now,” the antagonist will be born later. So it’s… dun dun dunnn… personal.

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