Me? I take a little longer.
Building a world can be a real beast. There’s a lot that goes into creating a full, believable setting, even for short stories. Your readers know when you’ve fudged, I guarantee it. Even if they never see a spot that you didn’t bother to define, they know when you don’t know.
I usually start with my infamous notebook. I always have a notebook. I have, in fact, two notebooks. One stays on my desk, the other stays by my bed. I should buy a smaller, leatherbound notebook to keep in my purse. When the first ideas for a new world show their faces, they go right into whatever notebook is handy so that I don’t forget them.
And like weeds, those notes grow. I scribble while I sit in front of the school in my car, waiting for my kids at the end of their day. I scribble during the day. One idea becomes several. One question leads to fifteen other questions. Everything gets an answer.
Diagrams. Doodles. Those are in there, too. Character essays, snippets of writing, failed attempts at first paragraphs. Ideas for first lines and opening hooks. More character work. More world notes. Plot notes. Plot threads. Redone plot threads. Plot threads with arrows pointing every which way, rearranging sequence. Entire pages crossed out.
At least two dead pens. If I haven’t killed two pens, I know I’m not done yet.
Once the notes reach critical mass, I have to do something about them. I know I’ve hit this point when I’ve started answering questions twice (because I’ve lost track of everything in there). Plots have started to come together, but I’m not getting all the points in there that I want because again, I’m losing information. I have to get organized.
This, by the way, is where the first bout of doubts gets staged. Do I have too much information? Not enough? Is it all stupid? I’ve started to see the story; what if I can’t tell it right? How am I ever going to turn two dozen handwritten pages of notes, which are in no particular order, into something coherent?
A wiki, of course. I start up a wiki on the series, or the story. I go through and make notes on my notes, distilling the ideas into the main categories, and I get those categories put up. Then I turn to the first page of my notes and start to fill in pages. As I get to a category, I go to that wiki page and put in the information.
Before I know it, the information has organized itself. I can find everything I need. I’m usually amazed that I’ve got so much, and that hey, look, I did account for that thing, and oh look, I’d forgotten I had this idea, it’s pretty neat.
And suddenly…there’s a world there. It has some people who probably still need names. (Her ex, that cop, the chief, that bad dude…they don’t cut it. Readers demand names, for some reason.) The story may or may not still need a title. The plot threads need clarifying, the series arc probably needs work, and I need to find the fuzzy places where the details are thin. But there’s a planet spinning out there in fiction space.
And Cass looks down upon it, and sees that it is good. But it took somewhere between two weeks and a month. And by now, Cass has started to go insane because she hasn’t written any stories, just notes, and the words are starting to build up inside…