All authors deal with world-building to some extent. It’s the process of creating the universe that is unique to your book/series/world. That wonderful feeling that sets that book apart, that makes you feel as though you’re living within the book.
World-building in a contemporary novel is a lot different in that the readership understands about the world within which we live in, thus the author is building up the ‘world’ specifically around which the characters interact. World-building in a historical novel involves creating the flavor of language and description so that the reader feels like they are in a historical place setting/world. (It’s why some historicals crash when the characters come off speaking with common verbiage.)
In a sci-fi book, you are creating a new world – even if that world is Earth of 2256. New inventions, new language, new actions, new swear words, etc. While that is fun, it’s also a lot of work, and… has its share of pitfalls.
The Sci-Fi/New Adult novel I have coming out in November – Fan the Embers – has been in the works for years. I originally wrote it in a month’s time, three or four years ago. But it wasn’t right, and I ended up re-writing it eight times before I got it right. I ended up with 2 major pitfalls in the end; one which I knew about, and one I didn’t.
Since the Figorians are genderless, I had to use a 3rd person pronoun for them that did not denote gender (and while I use ‘they’ in small amounts for a 3rd person singular pronoun at times, I don’t like it as a rule). I researched different non-gendered pronouns, didn’t like what I found and ended up tweaking one set to fit my needs. Xe, xys, xem, xemself. This is the pitfall I knew about from the beginning. When I would be writing in an Earthen’s POV, they used the Earthen He/She pronouns when referring to Earthens and the Xe pronoun set when referring to Figorians. When writing in a Figorian’s POV, I used the Xe pronoun exclusively.
Where were the pitfalls? First off, finding where all the he/she’s were that were supposed to be xe’s. But also, I got so into using the Xe pronoun set that the next book I wrote in, I had to keep correcting the pronouns back to gendered ones.
So what pitfall did I not know about? This goes back to the very beginning. When I started Fan the Embers, I knew a few things right off about the planet Figor. One of the things was their calendar. While they have a 7 day week, they have a strict 28-day month and 13 months in a year. As such, I found a Earth 2096 calendar online and used it to create the Figorian calendar as there were a couple places in the book where the crossover would be mentioned. That’s all great and good, but… I fugged up.
I used the Earth calendar as the fixed one and then created a Figorian calendar to the side of it. HUGE problem that I did not notice until this last weekend. Can you spot the problem?
I spotted it after not having looked at the calendar in months. I tried to redo it several times, but kept fugging up. Then it occurred to me that using Earth as the fixed calendar was the problem. So I created Figor as the fixed calendar and then fitted Earth’s calendar into it. Now, it looks better… and fits a few issues that had been bugging me – suddenly there are as many months as I had marked it out to be 😀 (though if you notice something PLEASE tell me. I need to ensure two dates are correct.
Since I am finalizing the novel to go into print as well as ebook formats, I’m crossing my fingers it is as good as it can get. The pronouns have been edited, re-edited, re-edited, and re-edited millions of times. I wouldn’t doubt there are a few that are wrong – but I hope I fixed 99.9% of them. And now, with having redone the calendar, I fixed the two date issues (Hugh’s birthday & First Day) where the equivalencies would have been off otherwise.
I hope all the work I’ve put into making Figor a unique and amazing world pays off. I figure since each of my betas and my editors complained that they had to change the way they edited because they kept getting caught up in the story, (same thing happened to me each time) that I’m on track. *crosses fingers*
To all of you who work tirelessly in creating wonderful, unique worlds, that make it look easy so the reader doesn’t notice so much as experience, I solute you.