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How are Open Universes typically handled?

Crumbly Writer

One of my editors just offered me a crack at his story, which I'm considering, but he strongly hinted he'd prefer seeing it developed as a distinct open universe.

How does one go about that? Create the universe when one first story starts posting, while outlining the premise and the rules of the universe so others can participate, or release the initial story which outlines the story universe's rules, only opening the universe when the initial story is done posting? Or, should I sent out invites to a select group of authors, asking if they're interested and then asking for their input in the universe?

I've created a LOT of series, and know my way about constructing them, but I've never actually started a universe. I know the general procedure, but not the daily nuts and bolts of managing one with a variety of authors.

Replies:   John Demille  Not_a_ID
John Demille

@Crumbly Writer

I guess from the lack of suggestion, one can extrapolate that there isn't enough experience with that kind of thing among authors here.

I suggest you create the universe as a private universe, then start posting the first story while keeping it private at least as long as it takes for the progress of the story to cover all the rules of this universe. Once the rules have been established, then you can open the universe to other authors. This way nobody starts writing while something that is crucial isn't clear yet.

As for inviting other authors directly, advertising seems to always work and maybe an invitation is needed to drum up enough interest in the universe. Remember, qualified authors may not be aware of the universe without an invitation.

Ernest Bywater

I've created a number of universes, both open and private. The person who creates the universe can change between the type at any time. There's also a third option where the universe is private and you can approve individual authors to write in it.

In some cases I created the universe and then wrote the stories, in others I wrote the stories, then created the universe and added the stories.

Be aware that a series or universe will not display in the general series or universe list until there are two stories in it. But I think an author can select them when posting a story despite it not showing in the general list.

It's best to keep the general rules of a universe simple and short. If you wish to expand on them do so within the story, the way Damsels in distress have been expanded since the first story.

Take the Winds of Change Universe - at the moment there's only the 1 story so it doesn't show in the Universe List, but when you go to the story it's listed as part of the universe and you can bring up the universe details by clicking on the link in the story description.

StarFleet Carl

@Ernest Bywater

at the moment there's only the 1 story


I know, I know. I'm still working on that final little bit because real life interfered before I can post it. It's fun trying to make something as historically accurate as I can while also dealing with events that happen 70 years after Grant showed up in America. (And yes, I'm referring to a time which would have been during the ACW ... if there'd been an ACW in the Winds universe, which there wasn't, if I'm reading things correctly.)

Replies:   Crumbly Writer  REP
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

It's best to keep the general rules of a universe simple and short. If you wish to expand on them do so within the story, the way Damsels in distress have been expanded since the first story.

I'm not planning on creating anything until I finish the initial story, which I haven't even started yet. Right now, I'm just trying to figure out how to approach it for when I am ready. But in either case, I'm only planning on the one story, as I tend to change all the rules as I progress, meaning I can't write once I've created a universe for others to join. I'm more of a big picture guy than a 'story within a bigger story' kinda guy. :(

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Crumbly Writer

@StarFleet Carl

And yes, I'm referring to a time which would have been during the ACW ... if there'd been an ACW in the Winds universe, which there wasn't, if I'm reading things correctly.

Looking forward to reading it, as I always loved the original Winds books.

REP

@StarFleet Carl

Enjoyed the first story and looking forward to the next.

Replies:   StarFleet Carl
Not_a_ID
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


How does one go about that? Create the universe when one first story starts posting, while outlining the premise and the rules of the universe so others can participate, or release the initial story which outlines the story universe's rules, only opening the universe when the initial story is done posting? Or, should I sent out invites to a select group of authors, asking if they're interested and then asking for their input in the universe?


I am guessing there are two parts to this, one part(the Storiesonline side) has been addressed.

The other side appears to be oversight/management/handling of the universe itself. THAT gets complicated, and it can also get messy.

Yes there are examples where it works for the most part(see: The Swarm Cycle) and then there are examples where it can go off the rails in various and sundry ways. Naked in School (Karen Wagner variants) would actually be somewhat of an example. But then, NiS also has the thing where there is no requirement for "external consistency" (between already existing stories) for more than a very small number of bullet points. ....Which is why it can also exemplify how different authors can go different directions even with the same premise and same general set of rules.

Once you start dealing with "a consistent universe" between authors and stories, some kind of gatekeeping starts to become required. Be that a single person, or a group, just also remember that groups can "become political" in some way even if the group politics have nothing to do with the other kind of politics. (Bob always agrees with Sue, Jake almost never agrees with suggestions or ideas from Bob, etc)

The gatekeeping side of things can also get annoying when dealing with variable author productivity and significant events. As it creates scenarios where one author can inadvertently(or deliberately) hold up the work of several others because they're waiting for that author to release a particular story/book first.

And of course, as a universe becomes increasingly large, it becomes increasingly difficult for people to do things without stepping on something. For that matter, many authors have that problem with their own setting. Now try doing that for one with several million written words across multiple authors and a half-dozen or more different story lines.

Ernest Bywater

@Crumbly Writer

I'm only planning on the one story,


That was the situation with Winds of Change and neither Mike or I wanted to do another story in that universe, despite the universe being open to several. That's why Mike asked me to create the universe and make it open to other authors to do stories in. The universe was created after the story was completed and people asked for more.

If the single story closes out the universe with no room for other stories then you don't need a universe to place it in. But if there's room for others to write in it, then you need to create the universe after you finish the story and let people know about it.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

@Not_a_ID

Once you start dealing with "a consistent universe" between authors and stories, some kind of gatekeeping starts to become required.


On Sol there are 3 universe levels.

1. Only the universe creator can write stories for it and add them in.

2. The universe creator allows other authors to write and add stories, but they approve the individual authors.

3. Anyone can write and add a story to the universe once it's made publicly open.

In the first two the universe creator can exercise some control over the stories and authors, if they wish to. In the last it's left up to the authors to abide by the rules set out by the universe creator and there is no checking or control.

StarFleet Carl

@REP

Enjoyed the first story and looking forward to the next.


Keep in mind I didn't write the first one. But when it was made into an open universe, I had this silly idea for a story based in that world.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

If the single story closes out the universe with no room for other stories then you don't need a universe to place it in. But if there's room for others to write in it, then you need to create the universe after you finish the story and let people know about it.

With the ideas we're playing with, it's another Post-Apocalyptic world, where the survivors are congregated in very specific geographical areas, and the conflicts arise between the different areas after they've each managed to stabilize their own local situation. Thus my book, the first in this universe, only deals with one particular 'zone'. Other authors would be free to take the premise and extend it to other zones, across the globe, which were similarly affected, but which responded differently than the initial groups did.

Thus there shouldn't be an issue with one author 'spoiling' the story of anyone else, as long as they stick to their particular areas (i.e. there's likely not much sharing of specific characters, other than one of two moving from one 'zone' to another one further away.

helmut_meukel

@Not_a_ID

And of course, as a universe becomes increasingly large, it becomes increasingly difficult for people to do things without stepping on something. For that matter, many authors have that problem with their own setting. Now try doing that for one with several million written words across multiple authors and a half-dozen or more different story lines.


Eric Flint's 1632 universe is open for all authors, but IIRC you've to follow quite some rules. If you want to use historical persons, or resources and/or people brought back in time, you need approval. If you want to work with modern technology you have to show how this can be done using resources available in 1632 and be realistic about the time frame.

Your final story needs to be accepted for publishing in the bi-monthly "Grantville Gazette", but you get paid for it.


HM.

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