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Writing Books/Creating the big picture & the actual writing.



I saw your profile, I see that you are quite successful in your career! That is great. Writing fiction is something that I've been wanting to work more and more with. This is set to private; I'd like to keep it that way until I have a finished work, I hope that's okay.

I'm looking for advice on writing as it pertains to creating a universe (the big picture of all that exists over the course of time) and getting down to actually writing the stories within that universe.

I have created and compiled ideas for a series of novels within a universe that consist of different genres based on the point in time within that universe's existence. One or two main characters and an ensemble of supporting characters all serve as a type of recurring-through-the-ages roles in that universe. The genres includes scifi, fantasy, the "real world" (like we live in), pseudo-"super-hero", and various others. The recurring aspect of those characters is that they're essentially immortal spirits that take the form of people. They've been around since basically the beginning of time, and their involvement in the stories changes based on the genre of the particular period of time in that universe, perhaps going by different names/personas or such but ultimately the same beings. There are omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and other omni- aspects to some of those characters (particularly the original/primary one), though those god features are stripped of them at various points in time and to varying degrees. There are definitely many more characters. And the "humanity" of the people, human or alien, is an idea I'd like to include too (not just go all out on fancy powers all the time, that might get very boring very fast).

As an example, one character in one of the earliest eras in that universe (in a fantasy genre) is a magical person. In another era, far in the future (another life), which is more like a real-life genre (no powers or anything, just, "normal" people), the main character is just that... simply human... though various elements of past and future occasionally slip in and, as the person is unaware of their full abilities while in human form, it rightfully freaks them out, thinking they're a nut job. Then, fast forward to another time in that universe, far in the future, another life again, and it's more scifi or "super hero" like in some ways, and the person has special abilities along with various advancements not previously available in past eras.

This idea applies to the supporting characters as well, and there are variations of the other races of life (various aliens) that exist as well. Some don't recur through the ages (aren't immortal, that they know at least). Some do recur.

This is primarily getting to the big picture of the characters. I have more big-pictures in mind, a part of my "universe creation" process, involving various settings/places, motivations, cultures, entire planets, galaxies, just scratching the surface of the physics of that universe, and various other things in general.

It's pretty overwhelming. And I want to write several interlinked trilogies out of this. I'm trying to figure out how to take such a massive project and structure it so that I can write at any point in its time line and it fit appropriately with that universe.

In other words, the trick seems to be that I don't currently know how to apply creating the big-picture ideas and creating/writing the page-by-page actual story content such that even the smallest detail within a page truly fits within that particular universe.

I'd like to be able to provide stories that people will enjoy reading. I'd like the stories to be something that readers can perceive on the macro and micro levels - that they can see the big picture (the link to that universe) with the various page-by-page details, and that they can associate any given point within that universe with another point.

I have already created some content. Some of it is actual reading material while some of it is universe-oriented (setting everything up to open up the possibilities of what story content is written).

The problem with what I have is I'm biting off more than I can chew. It's just a weeeee bit overwhelming.

I was hoping I'd be able to establish the basic structure of the "universe" for the stories, create some basic material to put some meat on the bone, and then dig into the actual story content. I was hoping to go from macro to micro. Give the stories a "container", of sorts, that can help shape the "reality" of the story content that is written. Though is that not a good way to go about it?

Thank you for your time!


Hi, Gabriel!

I think what you've got here is a world similar to Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar reality. What she did to manage the world (which likewise incorporates stories in the current time, far past and far future) was to break it into trilogies and small series so it didn't overwhelm the reader. For example, the "Herald-Mage" trilogy was set in the far past of the world, and is considered a history lesson for her later "Heralds" series, because Herald-Mages no longer existed after the events of the Herald-Mage trilogy. If you do some reading in each of her trilogies and series, you'll see how she set up the world, including maps at the front and glossaries and historical timelines at the back to give points of reference for the reader.

It was also a massive undertaking, but was a very famous and bestselling series for many years. I think it'll help you to pick up a few, whether at the library or bookstore to study. Hope that helps! Good luck.


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Cathy Clamp


I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery.


I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011.

Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award winner, 2009, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

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