World Clinic Beta Tester Live Updates

I want folks interested in the course to be able to get an objective idea of what Create A World Clinic will let them do, and how they’ll be able to use it for THEIR needs before they lay out money for it.

So beta tester comments as they’re working through this course will be public.

Beta Testers: Create a new reply when you complete each section test, and include:

  • One sentence about what you thought you’d get from the section
  • One sentence about what you actually got
  • And one sentence on how you’ll be able to use what you learned in your work
  • You can add more if you want, but three sentences will be enough if you’re pressed for time.
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136 responses to “World Clinic Beta Tester Live Updates”

  1. JeanS Avatar

    For the record: Coral Underpants would HURT.

    1. Holly Avatar

      Having every third thing within a hundred miles named Coral X, (and every other third thing names Palm X), is the daily wearing of the Coral Underpants.

      Believe me.

      1. JeanS Avatar

        The “Ouch!” was supposed to go here.

  2. JeanS Avatar

    The Geek Deep Worksheets

    What I thought I’d get: Worksheets tied to the videos.

    What I really got: Worksheets separate from the videos but oh, so essential. Even better? Holly provides all. She doesn’t tell you to go dig up a sheet of graph paper. She includes it in the worksheet pack. These worksheets are stand-alone from the videos, but the worksheets and the videos are complementary as in they each provide support for the material taught in the course.

    And she illustrates cutting edge technology. You’ve been hearing about curved screens? You saw them first in the genie’s bottle! (Seriously contemplating joining that genie’s harem…)

    Each set of Geek Deep worksheets focuses on and reinforces points covered in the course and in the videos — set, white space, core point, pass-through, secondary point, point name, and the question generator. She provides a blank worksheet set with instructions for you and an example she’s created for the illustration.

    The timeline exercise is excellent. I vividly remember joyously finishing my first novel, then realizing my timeline was completely messed up as I read through it. Out came my spreadsheet and I made the various timeline fixes. Since then, for Mac users, Aeon Timeline software has become available, and I have it. Software is a bonus (and for fantasy writers, it is customizable, which must be a blast to play with — keep it SANE). The old fashioned way definitely works, and everyone needs to know how to do this for themselves.

    You thought your point names didn’t matter? Holly coaches how they do. If you’re doing your fiction “right,” you leave nothing to chance. For me, this is exhausting and overwhelming to contemplate. I’m gaining more and more insight into why “Why?” is the most useful work in a writer’s worldbuilding and writing lexicon.

    How I can use this: Like everything else in this course, it will help me do tighter, more focused world building, which will lead to tighter, more focused fiction. This should be a win for my readers.

  3. JeanS Avatar

    The videos!

    What I thought I was going to get: I wasn’t sure. I don’t like videos, but I’ve gotten more accustomed to them over the last six months or so. My “high speed” internet connection allows two words to be said before it pauses for long minutes downloading the next two words, so that may be why I detest videos? Probably. I changed my tune to downloading the videos (really, these are five minute videos, why do they take so long to download? I got fed up and have ordered a higher speed connection, which will cost me less money per month even after the introductory offer ends — thank you for providing the inspiration to look into that, Holly.)

    What I got (after I downloaded and listened from my hard drive): A walk-through of a couple of Holly’s worlds she’s developed on Minecraft with distinct discussion geared to illustrate the various points made in the lessons — set, white space, core point, pass-through, secondary point, point name, and the question generator.

    NOTE: I decided to spring for Minecraft (totally unconnected with the course and totally not required for success), but as a non-gamer, I can see I have steep learning curve to use this program as Holly has. Your mileage may vary, but I can see a huge advantage to being able to build out my worlds in this venue.

    Even if you decide not to use Minecraft, it was a wonderful way for Holly to demonstrate the main points of the course. Once they weren’t paused more than they were running when I tried to stream them, they were much more rewarding to watch. If you don’t have a zippy internet connection, DEFINITELY download to a local storage device before trying to view.

  4. PegFisher Avatar

    Appendix 1 and 2 and Conclusion

    What, you thought we were done?

    But wait! There’s More! Holly’s Appendices give really useful added details about Ecosystems, Magic Systems, And Other Complex Story Systems.

    Appendix 1 – What Lives Here

    Ecosystems – she takes them apart, shows what makes them up, for instance “Life feeds on waste.” And then shows how to use each element. “What happens when this thing I’ve designed breaks, erodes, explodes, burns down, rots, melts, or dies?” And many more examples. This is a very well thought out and thorough demonstration of what makes living systems function.

    How to Worldbuild Magic – Has a wealth of useful points. Here’s my favorite:

    “Never give your hero a cheap win.” I need to make this my new motto. In the past, I’ve been too too fond of my characters, and so, too easy on my protagonists. My stories have lacked spark. But I don’t want to write pleasant, I want to write *riveting!* So tough luck, leading folk of mine, your life is going to be hella interesting from now on!

    Appendix 2 – This Deep-Geek Worldbuilding Demo covers The 10 Normal Human Genders, plus Seven Variables. You need to read this one for yourself. It’s an extensive discussion of how and why people interact, or don’t. (And I appreciate that she includes those who don’t.)

    From the Conclusion – “Nothing you learn is wasted.” In the depths of the night, when I regret my many partial stories scattered along the way, this view that they are part of my learning comforts me. And there’s more here, too. I bet you’ll find your own favorite parts, as well.

    And now, we have been once through this clinic. So in that sense, done. But I’ve now got my five top story ideas to write, and thanks to this, I’ll do a much better job with them. So this is the beginning of a whole new level of writing for me.

    Done? No way! Gleefully onward!

  5. PegFisher Avatar

    Chapter 16 – Designing Story-Filled Maps

    As expected, from the mention in Chapter 15, if you yearn for maps, this is the place to build them! But if you have pre-conceived notions about what a map is, you may be in for a “Say what?” reaction. Prepare to see them in a whole new light. And don’t worry about drawing. It’s Dots and Lines. You can do it!

    Holly, about maps – “I loved them because they told me what was true in a language I could speak.”

    And also – “Maps in geek-deep worldbuilding exist to ask the writer questions.”

    “A map is a collection of Dots and Lines that demonstrate relationships.”

    Some of us may not speak Map, going into this chapter. Yet we’re offered many instructive examples, and chances to learn, in the course of this discussion. Odds are good that this chapter will increase most students’ Map fluency. It may even set you falling in love with maps in a whole new way.

    (And I really want her to write the story with the Barking Line in it! I want to know what happens, dangit!)

    We get step by step instructions for drawing a starter map, and also the questions generated by naming our dots and lines, and how they relate to each other. Answering the questions starts us generating a scene. This is followed by detailed examples of the Geographical Map, the Timeline Map and the Genealogy Map, and gives us a chance to try out building each one. (This is a very time-intensive chapter, in my experience.)

    True confessions, I ran out of time at the Timeline map. I’ll be returning to the other exercises, in future.

    Videos #9-11 help illustrate Live-in Maps, and it fascinates me to get to see the 3D walkthrough of parts of the many worlds that Holly has built. I understand the value of spacial building, even though I’ll need faster internet speed before I can try it, myself.

    This chapter concludes with a bonus link to Holly’s short course, How to Write Flash Fiction That doesn’t Suck. Which I have also benefited from working with, and highly recommend.

  6. PegFisher Avatar

    Chapter 15 – the Dotty Triangle, and the Necessary Questions

    Here we go! Now we get the Geek Deeps how-to, from the largest questions to the smallest (the opposite way around from SANE building.) Holly has a very intriguing viewpoint about maps, that their purpose is to generate questions for the author, that will enrich the stories being created. That’s an unexpected twist on the usual use of maps being for denoting geography. Video 8 connects here, with Question Generators.

    Holly advocates hand drawn maps, because they generate “lovely mistakes” that lead to great questions. (Mistakes aren’t bad, but rather, can be useful? Cool! Add this to my growing list of insightful reminders.)

    Holly demos how to use the Dotty Triangle technique, as expected from the chapter title.

    Each dot represents a Necessary Question. My favorite question is: What are unknown/unexpected resources? It’s a chance to drop in some unusual thing, to be discovered later in the story. And as I’ve come to expect by now, Holly illustrates the questions with intriguing example answers. This is another chapter I will revisit often, because it gets me thinking in thorough ways.

  7. PegFisher Avatar

    Chapter 14 – The Geek Deeps

    Say it again, and let it resonate. The Geek Deeps. (Standing at the jump-in point, I’m thinking, “Wow, look at the elbow room in here! Space for all kinds of massively cool stuff to happen!”) I yearn to be ready for this place, and I have to be honest with myself – I’m not, yet. So I feel overwhelmed by it, on first exposure. But the videos and worksheets help me divide it into manageable segments.

    I expected this chapter to be the place to begin super in-depth worldbuilding, and that’s what I find.

    And also, the much needed warning that this process is addicting, and if “You discover yourself saying, ‘I might use this…’ STOP BUILDING!”

    Holly shows her own process and how it expanded into overbuilding, with the Longview series.

    Next, she discusses the why of deep worldbuilding, so I anticipate that the following chapters will cover the how.

    War cry of the Geek Deeps: “We build for knowledge, for joy, and for love!”

    I think that Holly’s assertion, earlier on, that someone could work this course in a week, depends on having a faster typing speed than my own. I am going to want to spend more than a week on this section, in and of itself. I expect I will do that, as opportunity arrives.

  8. PegFisher Avatar

    Chapter 13 – Infinite Universes (As expected, given the Chapter 10 intro.)

    First, don’t panic over the physics part. Story physics simply establishes what your characters cannot do. Build this type of universe carefully and skillfully, and you can cross genres and still keep all your readers. Holly cites Terry Pratchett’s Discworld as a well known example of a successful infinite Universe. More examples: Shakespeare – notice his genre crossing; and Isaac Asimov.

    Holly describes how her own series were negatively impacted by bookstore distribution patterns. The good news for us, though, is, the internet makes indie self-publishing not only possible, but the most effective current option for marketing out work.

    Vital point – “If anything can happen, nothing matters.” We as authors must impose workable limitations on our universe. Holly demos Rules of Limitation, with examples from her own series.

    These rules must be kept unbreakable for all stories in set in that universe. Holly gives extensive illustrative examples.

    I see the attraction of this type of universe. I don’t feel quite sure of myself, working in it yet, although Holly’s examples give me the means to go about it, when I reach that stage.

    This concludes Section 2.

  9. PegFisher Avatar

    As introduced in Chapter 10, and so, expected, Chapter 12 is the Knowable Universe.

    Now we’re cookin’! This size of universe is one I’m much more interested in, personally.

    We gain the passthrough, that lets us move characters and conflicts in and out of the story inn a controlled way.

    Holly shows us the TV series The Love Boat as a well known example of a bad Knowable Universe. She explains how this type of universe is where you can build ongoing series for any genre you choose. (My own father and I avidly read two long-running series, the Hornblower seafaring sagas, and the western Sackett Family adventures.)

    As someone who has long wished to explore writing my own series, the chance to discover effective ways of writing this universe excites me! So I was eager to try out how the limited passthrough creates conflict, in the practice exercise.

    Meanwhile, Holly discusses knitting as urban camouflage for women, and an example of a subtle pass-through. She states that she doesn’t know what the guy equivalent is. I suggest it’s the delivery guy. Put someone in a service uniform and people expect he has a reason to be there, whether he really does or not. (This is used effectively in the Spenser mystery series.)

    She shows how the series needs a home place that you and your readers need to love to come back to. (The town of Shrewsbury in the Brother Cadfael medieval mysteries is one I remember fondly.) Then carefully define and add the pass-through. Next, choose the tone of your series.
    Could range from quirky and offbeat, to cozy, or whatever best fits your work.

    Holly points out how the story home must seem normal to its residents, and that the pass-through must contain elements that shock the residents. She cites Harry Potter as a prime example of a Knowable Universe series, then provides extensive demos of how to build KUs.

    This is my favorite chapter, so far. I’ll be returning here for in-depth exploration, in future. But Infinite Universes lie ahead, so onward.

    1. PegFisher Avatar

      A combination of this type of universe, plus an idea sparked by a comment in Appendix 1, (remember, I work non-linearly,) has sparked a potential series for me. I had to pause beta-ing this weekend and write the first story, a 1000 word flash. So already, I’m getting usable content, completed more quickly and effectively, by using what I’m learning in this course. This is so cool!

  10. PegFisher Avatar

    As expected, from the intro, Chapter 11 covers Container Universes. This demonstrates the carefully planned and deliberately limited smallest universe. Holly then dissects it, showing how to make each element count. This is another quite long, concept-intensive chapter.

    Key rules – #1 – The container universe is spacial, and affects all characters within it spacially.

    #2 – Nothing unplanned goes in or out.

    #3 – Everything in the container is part of the story, and
    every bit of it matters.

    #4 – At some point, you must make the reader aware of the nature of your universe.

    Personal reaction – The first example universe contains horror. Holly does horror skillfully. I myself am particularly averse to horror. So the example of what could happen to the guard sends me hurtling *away* from this demo, as fast as I can skim. Can’t stomach squick, never could. This example is not somewhere I can stand to linger, so I didn’t. The later apple pie in space example proved much more workable for me. I moved on to the examples of broken container universes, shown in Gilligan’s Island, and Lost, and the opposite, an extremely well constructed container universe, Wool.

    #5 – Figure out why your story exists inside a container, and then use the container to make the story stronger.

    And in a container universe, all the characters are connected to each other. Unlike in the infinite universe, where people can be born live long lives, and die and yet never meet, even in the same city. Consider NYC as an example of the latter.

    The chapter winds up with step by step instructions that lead us through building a container universe of our own.

    1. PegFisher Avatar

      I’m glad to know how to work the Container Universe, and at the same time, I think having a bit more elbow room is what I’m after, for my personal writing. Onward.

  11. PegFisher Avatar

    Here begins Section 2. At the start of a new section, I’d expect an introduction to the next stage, and here it is. Chapter 10 introduces the 3 types of universes – Container Universe, Knowable Universe, and Infinite Universe. Key concept: “Your fiction universe is everything that _can_ appear in your story.”

    So there’s more spaces to build, ahead. Let’s move on to Chapter 11.

  12. PegFisher Avatar

    Chapter 9 was introduced as a rant in Chapter 8, so I expected it to be. It also covers how Different to Be Different will send you to the hyenas, both in real world salad making, and fictional worldbuilding. (Dang. Now I want a salad. But not with wonton!)

    This completes the first section of the book. Next up, Building Universes.

  13. PegFisher Avatar

    Chapter 8 covers the Tube of Toothpaste world, so I expected help with setting limits, and I got it. And as Holly points out, limits create meaning.
    So how do we choose meaningful limits? “That which is ordinary need not be mentioned.” Here’s another Aha! moment, and I need to post this where I’ll see it while writing! I definitely need the practice exercise that shows how to be the Old Geezer in my fictional world, and decide what’s ordinary and skippable, vs. what’s extraordinary, and needs focused on.

    She also shows how to create the illusion of an immense world, while allowing the reader to “do the heavy lifting” and mentally fill in the details.

    (Also, I admit, while I’m discussing these chapters in linear order on this page, I am not a linear thinker. So past chapter 5, I did not work them in sequence. However, I did read all of them, just in varying order.)

    Next, Rant ahead, for Chapter 9.

  14. PegFisher Avatar

    In Chapter 7, I expected to keep going with world development. And indeed, it’s here we get into building conflict, writing active descriptions, and avoiding infodumping. We gain the additional tools of Wallpaper, Blinkies, and Shinbangers. That last provides conflict by obstacle, another technique I’d used unconsciously in the past, but will now be able to include more effectively in future. I find myself mentally pouncing on these bits, with a gleeful cry of, “Aha! So _that’s_ how it works!” Any one of these “Aha!’ moments would make the course worth taking, for me. And Holly gives us lots of them!

    I admit, I did skim over the Criticals Dot concept somewhat. I read it, but did not practice it in depth. This is another aspect I wish to revisit, in future.

    I do find that Holly’s detailed examples, drawn from her doing the exercises herself as the clinic progresses, are extremely helpful. They often set my mind to discovering additional worlds of my own. And then I have to pause for a moment and decide. Does this make the Top 5? No? Then set it aside. Yes? Then get writing!

  15. PegFisher Avatar

    In Chapter 6, I’m expecting to develop the world I began in the end of Chapter 5. Bur somehow, I just didn’t get into my my own initial example, so I did a second one that I liked better. I then followed instructions, and began building conflict between this world and an additional one I’d built previously, using the Strange Connectors technique. While I discovered that I’m able to use this process, I realized that I did not want these two particular worlds of mine to connect. So I set them aside. This is another chapter that I intend to revisit in detail, when I have more time.

    In light of that, the part about How to Change Direction came along at a useful place in the discussion for me. Holly takes us through that step by step, as well. I wound up with two worlds, which, while different from each other, could be strangely connected in a way I wanted to develop.

    Next up, If Walls Could Talk is a fun exercise for people who are visually oriented, like me. It may be more challenging for people who have trouble imagining that Sets or Props could talk. However, Holly supplies some entertaining examples, and that helps us students get into the spirit of it.
    And she shows how it can reveal hidden aspects that enrich the story, and further the plot.

    This is another learning-intensive chapter.

  16. PegFisher Avatar

    My overall expectation is, I’m going to get more about how things work, and in Chapter 5, Holly delivers that. This part is vital for everyone who’s wrestled with that story killer, the Expository Lump. She shows an example of what one is, and how needless details create disappointing expectations for readers. Next, she demonstrates how to take the same scene and tighten it, including details that enrich the scene, rather than detract.

    We get to dissect the revised sample scene for its elements of Set, Props, and Gimmicks, while answering the questions Where am I? What’s going on? and How does it work? After we try this, Holly shares her own answers.

    Holly shows how a Prop can be used to bring about the core change in the story. At this point, I was excited to think back to one of my own flash fictions, and notice that I’d successfully included a Prop, that I’d later used. At the time I wrote it, I was not consciously aware of the technique. Now that I am, I’ll be able to use Props much more effectively in my future work.

    Next, we practice dissecting another story sample from Holly’s writing. After that, we practice again, this time on a novel of our own choosing. Here’s a place where people writing in genres other than fantasy and science fiction can include their own niches. I chose to practice on a historical romance, and found that the dissection technique works well on that also. We can also choose to revise a broken story that we’ve begun ourselves, and gotten stuck on. Allow extra time for this chapter, if you want to explore it in detail.

    We conclude this chapter by building a new world of our own, using visualization techniques provided. We’ll develop this world more in chapter 6.

  17. PegFisher Avatar

    Chapter 4 – I expected more details about how worldbuilding works, and I got them. Here’s where Holly explains the SANE acronym – Simple Active Necessary Elements. “Build today what you’ll use today.” Me? I could tattoo that on my forearm, I need it so much! How many times has my brain wanted to tangent off into the complexities of a future segment of the story, when _right now_ I need to move my protagonist from point A to B, much nearer by? A lot. This reminds me to focus on the task at hand, and not get sidetracked.

    Holly next expands on the 3 types of worlds. The Dot connects, the Line divides, and the Toothpaste limits. She gives examples of how they work, and emphasizes that, as an author “You can’t create everything.” The Toothpaste World sets the limit of being “all the worldbuilding you need for one scene.” That is a big time and sanity saving factor, right there!

  18. PegFisher Avatar

    Chapter 3 is How to Use This Book, so I expected instructions. Which I got, including how to prioritize the many story ideas I’m generating. Do I love it? Do that first! Also, Holly advises limiting the priority list, to no more than 5 titles. Here’s another step in setting manageable limits.

    I have ADD, which means I can be easily distracted. In the past, the idea- generating phase of worldbuilding has drowned me in too many choices. So choosing the top 5 ideas, and not letting myself go over that, is a seemingly simple change, that makes a big difference for me. It imposes a workable limit. I needed that!

    I also appreciate that each of these clinics can stand alone, and that a writer can benefit equally from all three, but does not have to purchase Create a Language or Create a Culture first, for Worldbuilding to work.

  19. Maureen Avatar

    To conclude – I write fantasy of various types, and some of the information and exercises in this course are incredible. I personally won’t be using some of the methods because my brain tends to run away with ideas before I can assemble them according to the instructions, and I’m not a geek-deep worldbuilder by any means – I also had to tweak some of the exercises/rules because I start with characters, not setting, when I come up with stories.
    But on the whole this course is very useful and will help me with not only constructing worlds, but generating new story ideas in the future.

  20. PegFisher Avatar

    Chapter 1 redefined and clarified my view of worldbuilding, so this gave me a feeling that Chapter 2 might also hold some beneficial and mindset-altering surprises. And it certainly does! Holly discusses what the point of worldbuilding is, and introduces the idea of approaching it SANEly. She gives a wry and understanding look at the enticements of being a worldbuilding junkie, and what not to do. (Excessive detail can be a nemesis.) She discusses how she shifted from developing masses of details in advance, to worldbuilding as she goes, and shows why that’s a more effective way to write. She speaks of how to let go of overbuilding, and begin with the basic element of a Dot World, asking questions and finding answers to what the story is about, as you go. Then she introduces the Line world, and the surprising Tube of Toothpaste world. Those are her Building Blocks of Worldbuilding. She follows this with the three Universe types, Container Universe, Knowable Universe, and Infinite Universe. (I admit, I felt a bit intimidated by the Infinite Universe concept, and yet, excited by it as well. So I decided that for myself, I’ll begin small, and work my way up.)

    I have floundered a number of times with my writing. Found myself drowning in details that, at the time, I thought were necessary, but that diffused the focus of my stories. So the idea of a SANE way to simplify, and write only what’s really needed is very exciting to me! One of the things I find truly helpful about Holly’s clinics – she is that rare writer who not only writes effectively, but who can also walk us through step by step how she does it, so others can learn to do it too. She is a skillful teacher.

    Next, on to Chapter 3! We have more worlds to build!

  21. Maureen Avatar

    Appendix 1&2 – I wasn’t even expecting the appendixes so I had no expectations for them, but I thought I’d make a note of them. They have a lot of valuable-looking intensive worldbuilding talk and a demo of the same – I’ll admit I skimmed. I’ll have to read them over again when I have more time.

  22. Maureen Avatar

    Chapter 16: I expected ‘how to draw a map that generates questions’.
    What I got: that. And other maps. And how to draw a timeline. And – yeah, I wound up skimming some parts of this chapter with my mouth hanging open because there’s no way I can do all of it right now.
    But as to how I can use it – I now have a sketchy map with notes all over it that promises a lot of series potential. It helped conquer my fear of drawing maps, which I never did before because I can’t draw the more detailed kind well.

  23. Maureen Avatar

    Chapter 15:
    I expected something involving Dot Worlds. Instead I got stuff about Necessary Questions, how to start building a huge geek-deep world with them, so on.
    How I’ll use it – I plan on going to the next chapter and making a map before trying out any necessary questions, but this should be interesting to do. I feel like this kind of worldbuilding would go over better with my sister, who loves High Fantasy and History – she’s the kind of person who’s way more into worldbuilding than I am. Still, this should give me some useful techniques for a world I’m building right now.

  24. Maureen Avatar

    Chapter 14, Geek Deeps.
    What I expected: The start of demonstration of how to do BIG in-depth worldbuilding.
    What I got: An explanation of what it is and why you would want to do it – I’m glad I got it, actually, because I was feeling rather nervous about continuing and this helped.

  25. Maureen Avatar

    And now, Chapter 13: Infinite Universes.
    What I expected – I must admit that the sight of the word ‘physics’ made me quail briefly (I’m one of those math-haters), and I wasn’t sure what Story Physics would turn out to be.
    What I got – it didn’t involve math, and it kind of made me have a ‘oh my god’ moment where I sat and thought about Discworld and similar series and realized ‘wow, they really do work along those lines’. Basically, I got insight into how to make a huge universe and not let it get away from me – how to make it work.
    How I’ll use this: I have a number of Infinite Universes that I’m sure will benefit from me using the exercises in the chapter. Also, it will help me articulate exactly why I felt a number of long-running stories fell apart – betraying their limitations.

  26. Maureen Avatar

    Okay! Chapter 12, Knowable Universes. I liked this chapter quite a bit; I didn’t really know what to expect but what I got was a great concept for universes somewhere between Container and Infinite and exercises that generated several story ideas. I had a hard time thinking of Tones initially, but the Homes and Passthroughs I matched together gave ideas for tone easily.
    I’ve already used the exercises to generate several interesting ideas, and I’m sure if I’m ever running dry in the future I’ll use it again. Plus, the limitations the Known Universe model suggests might keep me from letting my characters wander too far afield – a problem of mine.

  27. Maureen Avatar

    Sorry for the silence – I had a couple really low days where I also wasn’t sure what was going on. Glad of the extra time!
    So! Chapter 10.
    I wasn’t sure what to expect, or how it would be useful, honestly.
    What I got – I was pretty amazed at how it was illustrated that you could have a story taking place within such a small place.
    How I used/will use it – I came up with a couple container universes using the exercise – the exercises where you just go with your first thoughts are some of my favorite things – but I don’t think I’ll be using them as such, at least not the ones I came up with. I’m more of characters-going-places gal, so whatever container universe I came up with, my mind immediately got on the job coming up with reasons to leave it.
    Made me think back to some books I’ve read that have taken place in one small place, though. It’s pretty cool.

    1. Maureen Avatar

      *chapter 11, sorry

  28. Tom Vetter Avatar
    Tom Vetter

    I learned a lot reading through the CAWC book, but had no real time to work the exercises. I concluded that proofing the whole book was more beneficial to you at this point, especially as others were already providing content feedback. At some point, I’ll go back and work through the course again.

    Since I like writing historical fiction, my world-building is both similar and different. I don’t need to figure out physics and magic, ecosystems and alternative histories; medieval physics is the same we all know; magic exists only in undiscovered science or technology, and evolution has not moved us much.

    I do need maps, which I must discover or build from Google Earth, because the world now is not as it was. And I build extensive timelines, often day-by-day, which usually have never been assembled as such. I do a LOT of research online reading history writings of others, to puzzle out the truth of what happened, when, and WHY. Some of the time I have to go with ‘best guess’.

    I also spend a lot of time researching to avoid “EVERYONE shops at the Mall” mistakes.

    Most significantly, I have to figure out plots that thread my fictional characters through actual events in ways that don’t break or violate history (though my characters may take credit for acts whose real actor is unknown), in order to explore and flesh out those events in ways my readers will find interesting and compelling.

    So I will figure out how to harness all you teach here in CAWC and apply it accordingly. Thank you for it.

  29. Jean Avatar

    Appendix 2
    1) What I thought I was going to get: Something in-depth from Holly.
    2) What I got: Something in-depth from Holly — a detailed, thoughtful discussion on the development of gender in humans, based upon rules for her Settled Space universe. She posted this on her blog, and you can read extensive discussion there. Some people forgot it was a world building exercise and took it personally, but readers need to remember this is world building for a fictional world. Fascinating stuff.
    3) How I can use this: I’m not sure I will want or need to use this other than as an example of what may be necessary in some cases to ensure credibility to my readers.

    The conclusion is most useful — You never fail if you learned something in the process, and you’re never ready. This is true. I put off writing for twenty years because at some point I picked up the idea that I “wasn’t ready” yet. Dumb. Don’t make that same mistake if you’re reading this and have been thinking that. Get to it.

  30. Jean Avatar

    A note for writers who need adaptive technologies: Holly provides mapping techniques for writers not able to rely on sight for their world building. They aren’t extensive, but they are in the book.

  31. Jean Avatar

    Appendix 1

    1) What I thought I would get: Specialized information that may not apply to everyone.
    2) What I got: Why world building applies to ALL writers:

    “Tech, by the way, includes things like candles made of beeswax, pencils, whalebone corsets, high heels, chalkboards and chalk, a water closet instead of a hole in the dirt, and so on. It isn’t just spaceships and gravdrops and nano-tech.
    Every story that isn’t about people living in fireless caves eating raw roaches that they hunt and kill with their bare hands includes tech. You need to know the history of yours—but again, only when you use it.”

    How I can use this: While there is value for the SFF crowd in this appendix, I would argue it is valuable for every fiction writer. This will help me with conflict for my stories.

  32. Kelly Guerra Avatar
    Kelly Guerra

    Section 2 – Chapters 10, 11, 12, 13 (Sorry, I’m having to type as quickly as I can before the wee boyo wakes from his slumber!)
    This part of the course goes into Universe building at this point. I felt very at home in this section, as a lot of what I’ve done in the past is similar to Holly’s method. However, Holly’s method is refined and tempered by years of experience. As they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I thoroughly enjoyed this section and while I haven’t done the exercises here in depth, I look forward to playing around with it in the coming days and seeing what my Muse comes up! In a nutshell, Holly explains the three different types of universes and how to build them. I can see myself using these exercises as ways of warming up before I sit down to write, or as practice on a regular basis.

  33. Kelly Guerra Avatar
    Kelly Guerra

    Chapter 8 and 9
    Going into this chapter, I expected to learn more about what Holly calls the “tube of toothpaste”. And I did! But I also learned about making the extraordinary ordinary in your stories. I think this chapter will be especially helpful to people who write elements of the magical and science-y into their books, but all writers need to have rules for their worlds to help their audience suspend their disbelief.

    Chapter 9
    I’m going to include Ch. 9 in here as well. This one is more of a personal aside from Holly, but it highlights an extremely important lesson that all writers need to learn. (And I agree with Holly, as good as the show was, the whole paper thing on BSG was ridiculous 🙂

  34. Kelly Guerra Avatar
    Kelly Guerra

    Chapter 7
    Admittedly, I was expecting more tools and definitions. What I did not expect, was a correlation to things I’ve learned from playwriting/screenwriting. Being a theatre major and actress, I’ve read a ton on those topics, and there are formulas and very specific ways to set up your scripts so that they flow well and most importantly, sell. This chapter hits on conflict, the all important driver of any good story, play, or movie. Holly also introduces you to her methods on setting up that all important conflict. And again, she walks through her examples and has you try it as well for good measure.

  35. Kelly Guerra Avatar
    Kelly Guerra

    Chapter 6, Cont’d
    I think I hit ‘post’ too soon…I got confused about where 6 ended and 7 started and realized I didn’t hit on a few things. Chapter 6 is huge, y’all! There are quite a few exercises in this chapter that are going to really get your creative juices going no matter what you’re writing. Even though I struggled with the “If walls could talk” exercise, it’s really good at gathering some perspective on the world in which your characters live in.

    One of the biggest surprises in this chapter though, is when Holly explains that no matter what your Muse comes up with, you’re not a slave to it. She walks you through how to change things up when your subconscious wants to go to a dark, uncomfortable place. I can, and definitely will, use that!

  36. Kelly Guerra Avatar
    Kelly Guerra

    Chapter 6
    Given that I was a bit muddled after Ch. 5, I was a little anxious about Ch. 6 and what it was going to hold. The content in this chapter is fun though; she talks about connecting the worlds you’ve created thus far (two!) and runs you through hands on exercises with it. I got a lot of great questions in this section that I can use in my writing when I get stuck. If anything, that excites me the most about this so far: having an arsenal of things to pepper my Muse with to get the juices flowing. I’ve got more than one story stalled out in my brain that I’m itching to tackle now!

  37. Kelly Guerra Avatar
    Kelly Guerra

    Ok, Chapter 5! This will be a bit of a doozy, because Ch. 5 is pretty big. I would go as far as to say that this is the keystone on which everything else hinges, to be honest.

    We start getting hands on with Ch. 5 and examples of what Holly is teaching about. She runs you through a couple of examples and an exercise in dissection to explain the theory, and then turns it over to you. She’s also “doing” this with you and it’s really fun to see how her brain works. I struggle a lot in my writing with “how do other (published) writers do this?” Seeing things from Holly’s perspective makes me feel a lot better about myself as a writer! I will say here that Chapter 5 by far has been the most challenging for me; it’s a VERY different way of thinking about worldbuilding than I’m used to.

    I can definitely use the information here, but it’s going to require a few rereads on my part to really internalize it and wrap my brain around.

  38. Kelly Guerra Avatar
    Kelly Guerra

    I’m a little late to responding with my comments as I test through…sh*t happens when you have a three month old baby on the hip! I read just about everything out there, but I like to write fantasy, paranormal, historical, and straight fiction. I tend to write and read a lot of YA too. I’m about 3/4ths of the way through the course (I’ve only worked on about a fourth of the exercises in depth though, but will be completing all of it). Initially, I thought this course was going to be specifically for fantasy/sci-fi, but there is a LOT of potential for writers in other genres from what I have seen so far. I’ll start with the first few chapters here and continue onwards…

    Chapter 1
    I did not expect to immediately be immersed in an exercise on worldbuilding! It got the wheels turning and made me laugh. I like that Holly “does” the course with you as you read.

    Chapters 2-4
    Given that I thought this course was primarily for fantasy/sci-fi writers, I have no idea what to expect after Chapter 1, but you get more in depth explanation about how Holly defines worldbuilding. I found the info in this chapter to be incredibly helpful in introducing you to what’s to come, and the tools that you’ll be using. This is stuff that will be very handy in helping writers to organize their brains and toolboxes! I could easily see a checklist spawning from this. Chapter 3 is the basic instructions on how to use the course and Chapter 4
    goes into further detail on the elements of worldbuilding.

    Ok, I’ll do the next couple of chapters in another post!

  39. Jean Avatar

    Chapter 16

    1) What I thought I was going to get: We were going to learn about map drawing.
    2) What I got: A definition and an illustration of what maps are for writers (very different from cartographers maps) as well as a brief discussion about the uses of the computer game Minecraft for world building.
    3) How I’ll use what I got: I did a small Dot and Line map for Granite Hill, a draft novel, and it’s been very useful. This will allow me to expand my skills in this area.

  40. Jean Avatar

    Chapter 15

    1) What I thought I was going to get: Intro to Geek Deep — which implies a pretty in depth approach to world building.
    2) What I got: The Necessary Questions to do the deeper world building, again, not limited to the science fiction and fantasy worlds typically expected of such things.
    3) How I can use this: I’m not sure yet, but I hope it will help spark some creativity in my deserted brain.

  41. Naomi Avatar

    Expected: A directed line of action, aimed at fantasy.
    Got: A much freer approach with more application possibilities.
    How I can use this: To kick-start entirely new pieces of work.Not sure how it will help me to bypass a block in a long piece – but willing to try !

  42. Terry O'Carroll Avatar
    Terry O’Carroll

    Chapter 5 (second part) after the intense analytical part of the dissection, we have more right-brain work with the Three Pedestals. (Seems like a variation on the Shadow Room exercise to me…) Still, another Muse-trap is always handy.

  43. Terry O'Carroll Avatar
    Terry O’Carroll

    Chapter 5, first bit (unpacking Dots): Shows me how to suggest stuff without over-exposition. Some writers I love do this a lot – Jack Vance, in particular – and create a richly detailed and strange world that the characters live in. (If you like SF/F and have not read any Vance, you are really missing out, BTW.) H.P. Lovecraft does it too, by mentioning things like the Necronomicon or the “nuclear horror at the centre of the universe, Azathoth” without ever giving more than the vaguest description of these props. (He sometimes flat out states that they are “undescribable”… and then describes them.)

    With this technique, I expect to learn how to do two things: pack a lot of exposition into a few words, letting the reader’s imagination and intelligence do the heavy lifting; and to deftly place my Chekhov’s Gun* on the mantelpiece without calling too much attention to it.

    *Or Chekov’s Phaser for you Trekkers.

  44. Jean Avatar

    Chapter 14

    1) What I thought I was going to get: More in-dept world building — geeky stuff I’m just reading to see if there’s something cool I might be able to use.
    2) What I got: An explanation for why someone might want Geek Deeps.
    3) How I can use this: Onward!

  45. Jean Avatar

    Chapter 13

    1) What I thought I was going to get: The stuff you warned us this course would help prevent.
    2) What I got: Interesting, thought-provoking stuff about building rules to limit Unlimited Universes. And the warning that the REST of the book was what I thought this chapter would be about, accompanied by the recommendation that I at least READ the rest for possible useful techniques that might be helpful even if I didn’t want to apply the rest lock, stock, and barrel to my writing.
    3) How I’ll use what I got: I think I may be able to expand the worlds I write in to unanticipated levels.

  46. Doug Glassford Avatar
    Doug Glassford

    The first exercise to use worksheets involved dissecting a short story. After reading through the lesson text prior to the exercise I expected not to spend so much time on the exercise. It is not that it was particularly difficult for me. It was that seeing Holly’s three point concept for worldbuilding on the fly for the first time opened up new concepts for me and it was hard for me to resist using the dissection process for just about every story I’ve written or read. As such, it is taking me longer to finish the course because Holly’s teaching is rewiring my neurons right now. As an ADD/ADHD/OCD/Dyslexic battler, changing old habits is difficult.

    Thus far, I am thoroughly enjoying this clinic.

  47. Jean Avatar

    Chapter 12

    1) What I thought I’d get: A much broader but still contained universe (Note, my container universe snuck in a stream, so it was really a knowable universe. To make it contained, it was recycled water than never left the container.)
    2) Sure, I got that, but the exercise is great. I was far too mundane. I really need to find the tie downs on my brain and release them, so it can soar.
    3) I hope using these tools will help me get my Muse loosened up. It’s become much, much too uptight.

  48. Autumn Kalquist Avatar

    Oh- And I plan on using this course in the future to help me flesh out a world that integrates both physics and a magic system. I haven’t tackled magic systems yet, but I really want to. I have a problem setting up my limitations in advance (can you tell?). Like I don’t want to limit where my plot can go because of pre-set limitations, but I know I need to, or I risk facing horrid revisions.

  49. Autumn Kalquist Avatar

    I read most of the comments, but I’m knee deep in outlining book 2 of my sci-fi series, so I know what I’m struggling with.

    1.) How to prevent massive consistency issues.

    I learned a lot of cool things about my world as I wrote book 1 (well, novella 1.) Revisions were a horrible nightmare. I used HTRYN, so that went well, but it was horrible going through and fixing the way I referred to different parts of the world.

    Even something as stupid as knowing that “this” kind of light is used in this kind of room, and another type of light source is only used in these rooms… (I never used the word “room” in my book, which is probably evidence of me doing that stupid thing where you change things just for the sake of changing them, ugh.)

    Anyway- I had the same consistency issues when it came to where places were on my spaceship. I invented places as I wrote… I didn’t even know they’d exist when I started, so my map changed as I wrote.

    I had the same issues with timeline. I didn’t realize how important it was to make sure I knew how the days were set up… I shied away from committing. I ended up with timeline issues, because I hadn’t worked out ahead of time how many “shifts” were in a day, or when messages were sent in my fleet.

    2.) Tracking – This is series-related, and I do have HTWAS, but tracking is making me nervous. I made up a glossary / canon doc to work from, but there is so very much to know and remember, down to the fact that my galley has benches and not chairs (ask me how many times my characters interacted with chairs when there were none. Sigh. Perhaps I should have just made them into chairs…)

    3.) How much to Worldbuild ahead of time, so you leave your options open, yet make the world feel real.

    In each of my novellas, I explore different settings and classes in my society. So for the first one, I figured out everything I needed to know, and hinted at the stuff I’d figure out in future books. But there’s a chance I didn’t put down a strong enough foundation for the things I’m going to figure out / reveal in future episodes of this story. So it’s been a struggle to know how much worldbuilding I must do in advance.

    I’m not someone who wants to write a book full of what each ship in my fleet does, etc., so I know, vaguely, what some of them do, and I understand, on a basic level, what the leaders in my world do, but this second book is where I really flesh out how they operate. I’m wondering if I did enough set-up.

    4.) Another thing I struggled with was specialized knowledge. I’m constantly researching, obviously, but it really stresses me out to think I might have a plot point or something that an expert would say can’t happen.

    I’m writing science fiction, so I’m knee deep in genetics, software code, theoretical generation spaceships, space travel, planets / suns / solar systems, etc. I love learning about it, but how far do you take it? I know you (Holly) do your research, but sometimes it shocks me that fiction writers ever get any books done, with the amount of fact checking that probably should go into each book. I wonder if I’m overdoing the research. It makes me want to write fantasy, but then I’d just be researching middle ages farming techniques and such.

    Anyway, I think that’s about it. I’m going to get the clinic no matter what… From the comments, it sounds like I’ll learn some new ways to worldbuild and think about the process.

  50. Terry O'Carroll Avatar
    Terry O’Carroll

    What I’ll be using the course as a whole for: I’m not sure as yet. Writing projects I have in the back of my mind at the moment include a paranormal detective story set in an alternate present day in which astrology actually works, and works well enough to determine the time and manner of death of murder victims. Also, I want to do some short SF fiction in a licensed universe (I have a very specific market in mind for this), and they have very stringent requirements as far as continuity goes. I need to add to the universe I am given but cannot contradict established “history” or “facts”.

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