I’m Morgan Biscup, long-time World Anvil user and creator of the science fantasy universe of Vazdimet. I’ve recently published my debut novel, In Spite of the Inevitable. In this post I’d like to share with you my tips for writing what you know, writing what you love and nurturing your tribe, and show how I leveraged these methods on my path from worldbuilder to self-published author.
I’d always wanted to be an author, since as long as I can remember. When it came time to choose careers, though, I was strongly advised to choose something else, and set aside my dreams to instead pursue an engineering career in the aerospace industry. I loved the work, and the knowledge that came with it, but I always felt something was missing.
And then I discovered World Anvil, and was immediately hooked.
I named my first world Fillimet – an Albanian word meaning “beginnings” or “infancy” – and set to work crafting what I thought would be a fairly standard fantasy setting. Over time I found myself leaning into a detailed magic system, including an exploration of how magic would impact the technology and professions of the world, because I am too much of an engineer to not explore all the practical corners of everything. I think I had the most fun with Necromancy, as the way it works leads to all sorts of fun professions such as ghost hunters or Afterlife planners or even a chilling band of assassins who are highly skilled at getting into places they shouldn’t be able to reach.
I was finally writing again, and making a great many friends within the World Anvil community, and I likely would have kept to that vector if it hadn’t been for a casual comment from my friend Stormbril musing on what would happen once a fantasy society’s technology advanced enough to enter the space age. Once I started thinking about how Fillimet’s people would apply magic in their quest to reach the stars, I couldn’t stop. The concept was just too much fun.
But it was Necromancy that ensured I had to do it. When setting its rules in Fillimet, I’d decided that rather than a magic of raising the dead I wanted a rendition closer to its original roots, of communing with the dead. Necromancy was therefore the magic of the soul and the Afterlife, whose rules I based upon quantum mechanics, string theory, and the higher dimensions, because I am me and how could I not.
Which meant necromancers owned the tesseract, making hyperjumps – an advanced form of the plane phasing already present in Fillimet – a shortcut through the Afterlife.
Tip 1: Write What you Know
Just as our own personal history helps shape our lives and future experiences, it also shapes that of our characters and our worlds, sneaking its details and flourishes into every corner of our writing if we let it.
Your experiences are part of your voice, part of what makes your writing you, and part of what will help your readers fall in love with your writing. Your education (both formal and informal), your work history, your childhood experiences, the places you’ve been, all of this converges to add authenticity to your writing.
For example, my experiences with engineering and interest in physics have translated into detailed scientific applications of magic across my worldbuilding. An author working through emotions of loss can more easily convey those emotions to their readers. And you’ve likely read at least one book that left you drooling over descriptions of foods the author clearly enjoyed.
Name three interests that would work well in your worldbuilding. Have you already been writing about them? If not, where could you add them?
The name Vazdimet is also from Albanian, a corruption of “vazhdimet,” meaning “continuations”. It felt right. The continuation of my writing journey, and the merger of all my worldbuilding from before as I mix Fillimet with the characters and situations from the partially-completed novels I wrote in high school.
My series, Mordena Dawn, follows the founding of the Mordena mercenaries, long before most of my former characters join the timeline. Book one, In Spite of the Inevitable, shows the moment when single father necromancer-in-hiding Shane Lawrence decides to take on an entire attacking armada by himself, simply because his son doesn’t want to switch schools.
He does get help. I love all the found family tropes too much to have allowed him to go up there alone, even though he wanted to. And would have! But also it’s hard to throw out hints about how he’s hiding important details of his past if there’s no one around him to hide them from.
I can’t wait until I reveal those secrets. I’ve actually written the first draft of most of the series, which means I’ve been able to have a lot of fun with foreshadowing because I know exactly where it’s all going. I’m quite proud of how it’s turning out!
Tip 2: Write What You Love
Our passions are the other important component to our authorial voices. Readers know when an author is enthusiastic about their subject, it shines through in the energy of each sentence we write, which means they’ll be more likely to share your enthusiasm when reading.
Don’t be afraid to let it show. Find ways to sneak your interests into your writing. Every piece of the world affects the pieces around it, and honestly the more you fold your interests into your worldbuilding and prose, the more fun it’ll be not only to write, but for others to read. Enthusiasm is contagious, and it’s much easier to share things you’re proud of writing!
- I love character interactions, and exploring the different ways past experiences and circumstances shape the choices and cultures of individuals and groups in the present. My favorite example of this is the Kin, a culture of traders who spend their entire lives traveling the stars, with no planet to call their own.
- If you have a love of fashion, you can show what the fabrics and clothing designs of your ethnicities reveal about their local culture, geography, and trading partners.
- If you prefer species, you can focus on how the creatures of your world help shape their local environments and are shaped by them in turn, while domestication of animals and cultivation of plants have vast impacts on the people who rely upon them.
- If natural disasters are more your style, there’s a lot of fun to be had with history, geography, and even vehicles or military conflicts.
Let your passions bleed into the rest of your world.
Think about your three favorite topics to write about in your worldbuilding. How do they shape your world? How do they interact with each other? Are there any avenues of influence you haven’t yet explored?
Janet always talks in the Sage Seminars about the importance of “Finding your Tribe,” and she’s right. And honestly, World Anvil has gifted me with a running leap in that regard.
When I first started, I remember being envious of the larger projects like Ethnis, with a small, passionate team helping them bring their dreams to life. Fast forward several years, and I have that, too. And the lovely people at Ethnis are among them! Because we really are stronger when we stand together and lift each other up, learning from each other’s successes and mistakes to find our own paths and voices.
The World Anvil community is supportive, talented, and wholesome, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.
In addition to all the help and motivation to keep writing, I’ve been able to draw upon the community for everything from sensitivity reading to beta reading to worldbuilding advice, and the books are all the better for all the things I’ve picked up along the way from all of you.
The rise of self-publishing means it’s easier than ever to publish a book, but the support and knowledge sharing from World Anvil’s community has made it easier to do it well. I’ve had so many questions answered, and even in cases where I had to hire a professional, I could find exactly who I needed in the World Anvil Community.
Tip 3: Nurture Your Tribe
For many of us, one of the greatest joys in writing comes from sharing that writing with others. There’s nothing quite so motivating as the avid reader who wants to interact and read more. And this is easier with a community to share them with, particularly if your goal includes taking the leap from worldbuilder to published author.
Publishing is a lot of work! Particularly when self-publishing, because you’re not only writing your book, then you have to edit it and choose a cover and write a blurb and decide how you’re going to market it and and and…
There’s about ten different jobs all rolled up into one, and without a community you’re all on your own to figure out how to navigate it. And that’s not counting the effort of building your reader base and finding your fans.
World Anvil not only has a thriving community of talented, creative individuals, but also a lot of tools to help you build your own thriving community! The World Anvil Discord, article and profile comments, discussion boards… There’s so many options to reach out and find authors you enjoy, and readers who enjoy you – even for the less socially inclined. For example, check out the Chapters in the World Anvil Discord, for small, friendly groups with their own private channels for discussing particular genres or topics.
True communities are mutually advantageous, where all parties enjoy and benefit from the interactions. This can range from open lines of communication with your readers, to critique swaps or even joint projects with fellow writers, to commissioning your favorite creators to add art to your world. Writing novels can also feel like a solitary activity, particularly in self-publishing, and belonging to World Anvil’s community has helped so much with my motivation and morale whenever the tasks ahead began to feel intimidating. We’re not alone!
There’s also a lot of moving parts to writing and publishing, and it’s not feasible to expect yourself to be an expert at them all – especially in the beginning! Fortunately, we have many talented people within the World Anvil community who may just have the skills needed to compliment your own.
I’ve gathered my own team from some of the amazing people I’ve met on World Anvil whose skills and talents perfectly compliment those I lack myself.
- I’ve found editing much easier with a second set of eyes. There’s so many different types of editing, ranging from top level reviews of the book’s plots and characters to the final edits to verify spelling and punctuation, and I need them all. DaniAdventures’ expertise has elevated my books far beyond what I could have done alone.
- Potential readers judge books by their covers, because cover art and typography communicate at a glance what a reader can expect from your book. This makes your book cover the most important investment you’ll make when self-publishing, as it needs to not only blend into the expectations of books in your genre, but also stand out enough to catch the eye of your potential readers. I’m quite grateful to TJ Trewin for the gorgeous work he’s done with mine.
- Writing is more fun with friends, and writing with a coauthor can help not only with motivation but also learning to become a better writer yourself. I’m quite fortunate that Serukis enjoyed reading Vazdimet enough that we’re now writing novels together. Serukis has even been writing a solo novel set in Vazdimet which I can’t wait until you can read, because it’s absolutely phenomenal.
- Of course when hosting a site on World Anvil, good CSS can really set you apart. With my first world I did the CSS myself, but for Vazdimet I realized I wanted to spend more time writing instead, so I hired Oneriwien. He literally figured out how to bring to life the emotions I wanted my world to convey, and code them in graphic form. A real life wizard.
- There’s a lot of additional teamwork that helps with self-publishing that can’t be done solo. I’ve found beta readers here, to read through my draft and tell me their thoughts so I could improve it in editing. ARC readers, who have volunteered to read an advanced reader copy and potentially leave an honest review on their thoughts of the book. And even a street team, to help me get the word out. All of these teams play a huge role in an author’s success, and World Anvil’s community provides a giant advantage.
Who do you interact with the most in the community with your writing? What do you
most admire about them and their creative outlets? What do they most appreciate about you and your projects? How could you help further your favorite things about each other?
The world is changing every day, and part of that change makes it easier than ever to share our writing with the world. Publishing a book is infinitely more accessible now than it was when I originally began my dream of becoming a writer. Self-publishing today allows writers to retain their full creative vision and find their own team to make it a reality. World Anvil opened a lot of doors for me in that regard, and helped me discover just how much is possible.
And here I am. Published!!
If writing and publishing a novel is a dream that we share, I’m here as proof that you can do it, too. If your writing dreams lie in different directions, that’s achievable, too. Write what you know, write what you love, find your people, and go worldbuild! And someday, I hope to be able to put your next book on my wishlist.
You’ve got this.