The Journal: Writing in a Shared World

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* Topic: Writing in a Shared World
* Yesterday
* Today
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quote of the Day

“No, it’s not a very good story – its author was too busy listening to other voices to listen as closely as he should have to the one coming from inside.” Stephen King

Topic: Writing in a Shared World

One writer asked about the limitations of writing in a shared world. Specifically, the writer wondered how a proponent of writing into the dark could write in a shared world.

So I thought I’d share here how ANYONE can write in a shared world regardless of the process they use. If you’re fortunate enough to practice WITD, you just write, as you would when writing anything else. If you use some other process, that’s fine too. I really don’t care.

Note: For purposes of this topic, anytime the word “story” appears below, that means any story of any length: flash fiction, short story, novelette, novella, novel or series. Okay? So let’s get started.

First, just by way of an example, if you’ve ever written a holiday story, you’ve written in a shared world. (Likewise if you’ve ever written fan fiction, but you can actually sell these.)

Have you written a story that centers around Christmas? Did it include Santa or a Christmas tree?

Have you written a story that centers around Thanksgiving? Did it include a big meal (probably of turkey or ham) and maybe football?

Have you written a story that centers around Easter? Did it include either references to children coloring eggs and/or partaking in an Easter egg hunt? Or if the focus was religion, did it include references to the risen Christ?

If you’ve done any of the above, you wrote in a shared world.

When you were writing those, did you feel terribly limited because you couldn’t significantly change the Santa character or the big meal or watching football or boiling eggs and coloring them?

Probably not. When you write in a shared world, you must adhere to the traits or characteristics of certain characters and events.

But by the same token, your story itself will be different.

You will almost certainly introduce new characters: a dad and or mom, different children and other characters and their antics. You might alter Santa, have him appear thin and disheveled or drunk. (It’s been done.)

And not all holiday stories are goodness and light and butterflies. If it’s a horror story, you might have the children find something unexpected in their Easter eggs. If it’s a fantasy, you might have them find a Golden Ticket to something. You’re still writing a “Christmas story” or an “Easter story” because the basic conventions are there.

In a Thanksgiving story, you might introduce a different, futuristic game on TV (something other than football) the family gathers around to watch. Or maybe it’s a virtual reality (VR) game in which the family actually participates. Again, this could go to different genres, yet it will also remain a “Thanksgiving story” because you stick to certain conventions.

Writing in any other shared world is the same. The only real consideration is whether writing a Christmas or Thanksgiving or Easter story appeals to you.

Now let’s focus down.

If you choose to write in the Good of the Galaxy shared world, you’ll do so because writing in an SF environment on a future Earth that’s been invaded by aliens from another planet in the Milky Way galaxy appeals to you.

Say you choose to write about one of the established characters. You can’t change his basic traits and characteristics without reason and without explanation. That’s one of the parameters. Like putting Santa in a red suit trimmed with white fir and a black belt is a parameter.

Say the character who interests you is 42 years old, 6’2″, has blue eyes and a thick mane of medium-brown hair. Before the alien invasion, he was a reporter at a local modern (online-only) newspaper, and in the past he’s been imbedded with American combat forces. (So he picked up certain knowledge from that experience.) He’s also very recently widowed. (Say the aliens took his wife and she was killed later by friendly fire in a human attack on the aliens’ encampment.)

If you choose to write in the POV of that particular character, you need to know who he is. You get that by reading the bible: the origin or genesis novel and the reverse outline. And again, you can’t significantly change him without reason and explanation. For example, he’ll still have all his physical attributes (unless in your story he gets brown contact lenses for some reason or shaves his head or whatever else).

If you choose to write a story from the POV of an alien, you also can’t change his physical characteristics. The aliens in the story look and smell a particular way and have a particular skin coloring and texture, so you can’t change any of that.

But different aliens have different attitudes. Some are extremely hostile to humans; others, not so much. The average aliens couldn’t care less; they’re just doing their job.

But you can have one of those “average” aliens become something he isn’t. He can rise to a position of authority, for example. Or he can choose to side with the humans.

You can also introduce new human or alien characters to the series, meaning whole new story lines.

And the situation—if you want to write in this shared world, you can’t change the basic events that have already taken place. For example, you can’t go back to the aliens’ home world and have them decide not to invade and colonize Earth. But you can write other stories about things that go on before they leave the planet. Lots of room there.

You can’t change the speech the alien king delivers to the United Nations. But you can write how humans who have yet to appear in the original story are affected by the speech. Again, lots of room there.

You can’t change the fact that most of the gun stores have been looted only a day after the invasion. But you can write the stories of some of those stores being looted and who the looters were and what they did with what they took. And where the hell they are. (The current main human character wonders about this a lot.)

So there are literally hundreds of stories to be written in this world, and in literally all genres (though the primary genre, because of the overall setting, will remain SF). In other words, you could write stories that are

*SF romance
*SF action-adventure
*SF mystery
*SF political intrigue
*SF horror
*SF thriller
*and any that I omitted, except maybe historical western, but all of those will be SF stories at their core because of the setting

As an aside, only three genres are DEFINED by setting, meaning Setting is the dominant story component: SF, Western, and War. All others are defined variously by Character or Problem.

And in genres, SF trumps everything else. By that I mean if you write a book in ANY genre and it has even one SF element (a space ship or a ray gun or whatever), it’s automatically an SF story.

A Few Facts—Please read these carefully:

*I won’t fully open up this world to other writers until I publish the genesis novel.

*I won’t charge a fee (to at least the first several writers) to allow other writers to write in this shared world. However, I WILL require in the front matter of your story that you note “Based on the novel For the Good of the Galaxy by Harvey Stanbrough” with a link to the original work at StoneThread Publishing.

*I will ASK that the resulting work is published wide (at least through D2D and Amazon).

*You own the copyright to your story in perpetuity. You can license and distruibute it as you wish, including magazines, anthologies, etc.

*I do not own the copyright to your story, but only to the genesis novel (For the Good of the Galaxy) and any other works I personally write in that world.

*Any new characters or situations or physical locations you come up with in your story(ies) will become part of and expand the bible for the overall shared world.

*I WILL REQUIRE that you send me, free of charge, any story (again, of any length) and any revers outline or notes you write within this shared world. This is strictly so I can add your new components to the overall bible of the shared world.

*Others can write other stories based on characters or other components you introduce to the shared world as long as they follow the basic presepts and parameters outlined in the shared world bible.

*I do NOT anticipate publishing an anthology or omnibus of stories that are based on this shared world. That said, should I decide to do so in the future, I’ll email you to ask whether I can include your story. But I’ll include it ONLY with your permission and only after I’ve paid you pro rates for that permission.

*Should I do any promotion of this shared world (for example, a Kickstarter), you DO grant me permission to use the title of any works you write for the shared world and, of course, your author name.

* All of the above will be in an agreed-upon and signed contract between us before you write in this shared world.

Folks, this is a prime opportunity to leap into a shared world with zero risk to yourself. At worst, you’ll have more stories (again, any length) to put on the market in your name and build discoverability.

So there it is. If you are interested and have any other questions, email me at

Yesterday, I lied a little in a comment I left on John Williams’ PWW post.

I wrote “in my novels and stories, the first word is usually from me. Everything else is from the POV character(s)….”

That’s a falsehood, though not a major one. In actuality, the first word in my novels and stories is usually from the POV character too.

I finished the novel yesterday with a little over 500 words. It’s already out to my first readers.

Today, I started the day with catching up on a few workshops in which I was behind. Then I wrote the topic above.

More than likely, I’ll spend some time today with the reverse outline I just created for my last novel. That, along with the novel itself, will serve as the “bible” for the Good of the Galaxy shared world in case anyone wants to jump into it.

And if not, that’s fine too. It will still serve as my series bible for one or both of the series that will come from this novel. (grin)

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Creating Characters for Unruly Writers” at

See “The Art of Condensing an Entire Book into a Brief Sales Pitch” at

See “Word Porn” at

The Numbers

Fiction words yesterday…………………… 582
Nonfiction words today…………… 1860 (Journal)

Writing of For the Good of the Galaxy (novel)
Words brought forward………………………………… 72304

Day 1…… 2437 words. Total words to date…… 74741
Day 2…… 3948 words. Total words to date…… 78689
Day 3…… 3275 words. Total words to date…… 81964
Day 4…… 1807 words. Total words to date…… 83771
Day 5…… 0630 words. Total words to date…… 84401
Day 6…… 3394 words. Total words to date…… 87795
Day 7…… 0582 words. Total words to date…… 88377 (done)

Total fiction words for the month……… 36778
Total fiction words for the year………… 244750
Total nonfiction words for the month… 15930
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 97080
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 341832

Calendar Year 2020 Novels to Date…………………… 4
Calendar Year 2020 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2020 Short Stories to Date… 12
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 49
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 208
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31