BENCH WARS: Week One - Worldbuilding by Kate Meadows

Hello hello! Welcome to Week One of Bench Wars!

Just a quick reminder, BENCH WARS is my attempt to retain what I learned by doing Pitch Wars, because as one of those smart kids who read too fast, I have trouble holding onto details. I skim to get what I need, and frankly, I miss things. So Bench Wars is the remedial class for myself, a refresher so I don’t forget everything my amazing mentor taught me. So, let’s get into it!


When I started working on SPACE RACES, I did the bare minimum of homework (hello, high school). I realized last minute that I wanted to draft something new for Camp Nano, and essentially had two days to outline a new project based on a very simple idea. With the stubborn determination that is my brand, I pushed forward and wrote 50,000 words in 30 days with very little planning. Before I started, I had two or three barely filled in pages of history, biography, culture/worldbuilding. I had a plot, a general idea, and an aesthetic. This is as close to pantsing as I get. 

Which means my draft zero is full of holes and questions and broad strokes at worldbuilding. Yikes.gif

So, this first week, I'm going to focus on really filling in the worldbuilding. SPACE RACES takes place across multiple planets and multiple race tracks, with people from across the galaxy coming together. I don't need to get Star Wars EU levels of depth for this next draft – some of that can definitely come later – but I do need to know a bit more about the systems in place, the company that ruined my MC's life, the world she lives in and the universe that she touches. Naturally, I turned to my favorite and probably your favorite place for ideas about this world – or rather, worlds – my MC lives in: Pinterest.

Oh yes, I lost hours of time creating these little mood boards. You’re welcome.

While poking around on Pinterest can spark a ton of great ideas, it’s not the most conducive to actually nailing down the specifics. Since I know rough ideas, I have names and some vague locations, what I really need is to start building out systems. How do people live and breathe and work in these environments? How do they get food and water, how do they get mail?

No, seriously, I’m asking. I have no idea.

My first instinct is to go through the questions my mentor sent me to worldbuild for MONSTER RIOT!, but those are so specific to what we were doing for that story, they don’t apply here. My second instinct? My rogues gallery. I have a few authors I turn to when I need a little guidance, the first being Delilah S. Dawson. While she has taught classes on LitReactor about worldbuilding in the past, she also did one of her fantastic #TenThings daily tweet threads about it. But what I think I need is something more in-depth than ten tweets.

Turning to Delilah’s weird half-brother of the literary world, Chuck Wendig, I found a blog post he did about worldbuilding a few years ago: 25 Things You Should Know About Worldbuilding. Yes! Great! Wait. This is all really great information about why you want to worldbuild, which is important! But right now that’s not what I’m looking for. I need some advice on how to worldbuild, especially for a second draft.

Okay, one last favorite: K.M. Weiland. Her blog is a fantastic resource for character-driven plot and making sure you’re hitting all your very important beats. Doing a little googling, I found two great articles about worldbuilding that poses the specific questions I need to ask myself.

While the story I’m telling isn’t fantasy, I think the same amount of care and context needs to be given to a pseudo-space opera and the worlds inhabited within it. And to Chuck’s point, how the worldbuilding serves the story. I’ll be thinking about all the whys and hows and whats as I start to fill in the gaps I left while doing my mad-dash through draft zero.

Lastly, I want one more element to my work this week: a form to fill out. Personally, I love checklists. Having something I can make specific progress on is like cake to me. With that in mind, I’ll be dropping into a blank gdoc this awesome list of Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions by Patricia C. Wrede to fill in as I think about everything Delilah, Chuck and K.M. told me to wrap my noodle around.

Google is going to be my best friend as I work through all these questions this week, between how cities function and race tracks and aerial tramways (I just googled to figure out what those are called), and I highly recommend doing a search for “worldbuilding + [topic]” to see how others have answered these questions before you.

Let me know if you’ve found any really helpful tips, tricks or articles about worldbuilding, as I am always looking to add more resources to my brain box! I’m hoping by the end of the week, I’ll have a much better idea of all the nitty gritty fun details, and haven’t spent too much time on Pinterest…

xx, Kate

ALSO! Special shout-out to my one and only CP for SPACE RACES, Maria Dong. A fellow 2018 Pitch Wars mentee, she was kind enough to give me feedback and kindly tell me, hey girl, you gotta fix this, this and this, in a truly helpful way. Do yourself a favor and follow her on twitter!