Building Worlds

When I first started writing, I enjoyed coming up with story ideas, and I loved creating characters. But ultimately, worldbuilding was my passion.

The fact that I could create new cultures, creatures, histories, plants, and technologies fascinated me. 

I’d spend hours and hours researching online articles or flipping through books to find information to help me with my worldbuilding.

I’d travel to zoos and historical sites, or visit museums and botanical gardens to get inspiration for my story worlds.

Looking back, I think that I only started writing in the first place because I loved the worldbuilding and researching aspect of it.

Forgetting the World

Worldbuilding is an important part of writing any genre—not just sci-fi or fantasy.

One of the reasons I usually dislike reading stories set in the “real world” is because oftentimes times those stories feel hollow and disembodied to me. It’s like the authors assume that because it’s set in “our world” they don’t need to explain how anything works. 

Instead of showing us what’s “normal” or “abnormal” in their story’s world as far as morals, relationships, and other aspects go, they simply describe the inside of the coffee shop, or the main character’s apartment, office, etc. and call it a day.

Unless there’s another aspect to the story (like it’s a mystery, or features a certain industry or different culture), we don’t get any depth to the world. Just shallow descriptions of the scenery and characters.

So, if worldbuilding is such an important part of storytelling, how could it possibly ruin my stories?

#1 Worldbuilding Instead of Writing

Yes, worldbuilding is important and all, but if you spend 90% of your time building your world, and 10% of your time actually writing, you probably won’t get very far.

That was the first problem I encountered with worldbuilding.

Because I enjoyed researching and creating new things, I let writing take the backseat until I had over 100,000 words of worldbuilding in my story-planning document, and only a few thousand in my actual story.

Which led me to my second problem…

#2 Getting Overwhelmed by Worldbuilding

When you have around two novels’ worth of worldbuilding, it’s difficult to keep track of it all—especially if you keep changing or adding things.

I had a ton of interesting and detailed information about my story world, but most of it didn’t really improve or add anything to the story itself. And because there was so much information, chances were that 70% of the worldbuilding I spent so much time and effort on wouldn’t even make it into my book.

So of course, I decided right then and there that I would make a series of books set in the same world so that I could fit more worldbuilding in.

Have I already mentioned that I really loved worldbuilding?

#3 Being Overly Expository

Just like not having enough worldbuilding can make a story feel shallow and disembodied, too much worldbuilding can weigh a story down so much that it never has a chance to take off.

And as a new writer with over 100,000 words of super-cool worldbuilding material, I wanted to put as much of it into my books as possible. I included a lot of unnecessary information in my stories—lots of long paragraphs full of nothing but exposition.

Many of the stories I wrote during this part of my writing journey were light on plot and characterization, but heavy on the worldbuilding, and it made it nearly impossible for me to write without referencing my worldbuilding document, or changing details about my world every few minutes.

The End

After over a year of abandoning half-finished manuscripts, and trying not to tear my hair out in frustration, I finally realized that I had to stop worldbuilding so much if I ever wanted to finish a book.

And sure enough, it worked.

A few months after I changed my worldbuilding/writing habits, I finished my first fantasy novel. And just last year, I published my first book, The Librarian’s Ruse.

But even though I spent so much time worldbuilding and failing to write a series of fantasy books, I don’t see any of the time or energy as a waste. 

After all, it was a great experience and it taught me a lot about writing and storytelling.

And now that I do know how to world-build without becoming overwhelmed, or including unnecessary information, I’m able able to write stories that are far better than the ones I used to create.

And who knows…maybe one day I’ll go back and actually finish that fantasy series I started writing.

Before You Go…

Do you find it difficult to world-build?

Check out this article I wrote on the 3 types of worldbuilders!

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