Worldbuilding can be a complicated subject of conversation, especially for sci-fi and fantasy writers. Even the shortest of stories can demand a deep understanding of the world your story takes place in.
Last week I finished my series on The 3 Types Of Worldbuilders, and in that blog, I talked about Creators and some of the problems they face when worldbuilding. One of the main problems is chaos and confusion:
Organization is something that all writers struggle with now and then. Whether you have page after page of information about your story world and characters, or you can sum up everything you know in one paragraph, if you have no assigned method or place to record your information then you may find yourself frantically flipping through notebooks or searching through your documents just for one small detail.
But why bother worrying about organizing your worldbuilding when you don’t even have any? Maybe you prefer to make up your world-building and character information as you write, instead of wasting a bunch of time filling out character sheets or listing the names of different cities and their histories.
It’s definitely possible to go overboard when worldbuilding, and making stuff up while you write is perfectly fine until you realize that one of your characters starts off having brown hair in chapter one, but suddenly has blond hair in chapter twelve. Or the large port town that was attacked by pirates just a few pages ago is busy preparing for a lavish festival when the protagonist arrives a day later.
Worldbuilding: Lost & Forgotten
And then there’s the worldbuilding that doesn’t even make it into a document because it’s so memorable that there’s no way that you could possibly forget it… but then you do. And no amount of brooding or begging your brain to remember will bring that specific piece of information back to you.
Even if you’d rather write than world-build, it’s still a good idea to write down the information you discover/create while you write. That way you can reference that information as you continue drafting, and you’ll be saved a lot of time and trouble when it’s time to edit.
8 Ways To Keep Track Of Your Worldbuilding
If you’re looking to keep all your information in one place, there are plenty of programs and methods of storing your worldbuilding that are both paid and free.
Back when I did most of my writing offline, I’d grab an empty notebook and use that to record all my world-building information.
Unfortunately, making a bunch of edits to handwritten information can be difficult, and to make matters more complicated, I also had some information stored away in a few documents on my computer.
Not only would I have to flip through my notebook while searching for the information I needed, but I’d also have to open those documents to make sure the information wasn’t there either.
#2 Labeling Documents
Eventually, I decided to give up notebooks as my main method of storing information, and started making separate documents on my computer for characters, settings, backstories, etc. Then I’d put them in folders and label them so I would know where to find what.
When I got tired of having to open up fourteen different documents while I wrote just so I could reference my worldbuilding, I switched to a program my mom recommended, called oStorybook.
This free program allows you to organize your characters, settings, ideas, and whatever else you have, in one place. The interface isn’t the prettiest, and it’s not very practical if you like to write while you’re on the go, but if you’re looking for something you can use offline that’s functional and free, it could be worth checking out!
#4 Writing On The Go: Google Documents
As I found myself leaving the house more often, I switched from oStorybook to Google Docs. I love the outline feature and clean interface. Plus, you can edit your documents even when you’re offline. But if you’re willing to invest some money, I’d definitely recommend Scrivener.
I’ve been using Scrivener for less than a year now, but I love its features.
Not only can you organize all your world-building information, but you can organize your chapters and scenes simply by dragging and dropping them.
You may have to play around with Scrivener’s features for a bit to familiarize yourself with how it works, but once you get the hang of it, it’ll make organizing your information and writing long-form stories far easier.
#6-7 WorldAnvil & Campfire
I haven’t used either of these programs myself, so I can’t tell you exactly how they work or fully recommend them, but I do know a few people who have tried using both programs and really liked them.
Either way, do some research!
Find out what programs and methods work best for you by trying things out. What worked for me might not work for you, and vice-versa. Maybe you actually find writing in notebooks to be easier than keeping all your information on the computer, or maybe Scrivener just doesn’t interest you, and you’d rather stick to a regular word document.
But in all your searching and trying things out, just be careful not to overwhelm yourself!
Remember To Write
If you’re not careful, you may spend more time searching for a program you like, worldbuilding, or inserting your worldbuilding information into one of these programs—than actually writing.
The whole point of organizing your worldbuilding is so that you can spend more time writing your stories, and less time looking through your notes.
Before You Go…
How do you organize your worldbuilding? Have you ever used any of the programs or methods I listed?
Let me know in the comments below!
Have any questions about worldbuilding? I’d love to answer them! Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org