How much world building do you do before writing?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Consultant_Timelord, Jun 9, 2018.

  1. Consultant_Timelord

    Consultant_Timelord Apprentice

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    Hi, just wondering how much world building you all do before you start writing the story.
     
  2. Yora

    Yora Mystagogue

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    Well, that's a difficult question to answer unless you have written a couple of books set in different worlds.

    I have been working on fantasy settings for games for probably 10 years before I really started with preparations to write stories. This left me with a huge collections of ideas that I worked out at different levels of detail for various different worlds. When I know sit down to start a new setting, I am not starting with nothing. I already have a huge box of elements in different versions that I find interesting and compelling and that fit into the types of settings I find the most enjoyable.
    Saying that I started from scratch last winter would be just as wrong as saying that I have been working on the setting 10 years now. But those experiences gave me skills and knowledge that now enable me to whip up a new setting very quickly.

    That being said, even though I have this huge collection of setting elements that I can immediately put into a setting, my actual notes for places, people, creatures, magic, and phenomenons are pretty short. My mental map of the world only consists of big blury blobs with no borders, rivers, or marked settlements. There are six general environments and I have a rough idea of their scale and arrangement. From the mediterranean forest to the temperate forest one has to cross the mountains or take a ship around them over the sea to the west. That's as detailed as I have it, becuase I think that's as much detail as I will ever need in the stories.

    I have established that there is no afterlife and that supernatural creatures simply live in the remote wilderness instead of another world. And where they live the environment is much more magical than in the places where people have settled. I know that magic can only be used for divination, telepathy, and summoning spirits, but there's also plenty of alchemical brews that are somewhat bordering to magical. There are six main cultural groups for which I have a good idea how they look and their settlements and culture look like, but no specific details. A few ideas for cities and their rulers and general character, and general concepts for six magical traditions, and that's basically it.
    However, even though I have very few fixed details on the world and the things in it, my past work for games has made me become very familiar with how I want the elements to tick and feel like. Were I to type out a world bible, it would have very few entries with only short general notes for them. But I also think that I know the world as a whole aready very well
     
  3. Laurence

    Laurence Mystagogue

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    For my current WIP I wrote a general history covering how each of my 3 main kingdoms were formed. I also outlined each of their cultures, quirks in their language (while still essentially being English) and created a handful of creatures and objects that may come up.

    I also created a map. This and all of the above required at least a hundred hours of research (things you wouldn’t necessarily think of until you come to it such as where deserts typically form).

    I actually burnt out after doing just about what I felt necessary and have just finished plotting out the story again after dropping writing for a year. So perhaps don’t go in as hard as I did!
     
  4. Orc Knight

    Orc Knight Mystagogue

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    My world's change and evolve along with the stories, so the writing and world building seems to by a symbiotic building version for me. As one thing goes, so goes another. Things change, so that's how it goes. Which can mean a lot changes at times.
     
  5. Yora

    Yora Mystagogue

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    What I try is to set down the ground rules by which the world works. The specific details then will be created as I go, according to those rules.
     
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  6. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Staff Article Team

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    We've been working on the world building for The Books of Binding for about fifteen years, and the first book, Faerie Rising, was published last April, so I'd say a fair bit. But it was worth it. It took seven years to write Faerie Rising, but the Second Book of Binding, Ties of Blood and Bone, is writing much faster because of the groundwork that's been laid. That being said, world building continues all the time as we fill in the corners, as it were. Would I take this sort of time for another project? Probably not. Fifteen years is a bit excessive. But on the other hand, we got a great urban fantasy world out of it.
     
  7. Laurence

    Laurence Mystagogue

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    Im curious, how did this come about? Did you ever actually plan on writing the books? Was this 10 minutes of worldbuilding a week for most of this duratiom or solid hours?
     
  8. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Valar Lord

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    My remaining principle worlds began as AD&D game settings. I spent years creating maps, generating characters, and composing histories. I probably created ten or twelve 'worlds' before realizing that planets are *big.' So, bit by bit, I condensed those settings down to two, bound by geography. All this had a huge negative effect on my stories: not only did they depend heavily on AD&D game mechanics, but I rarely finished any of them (though there are two or three on the current rewrite list).

    After doing all that, though, my interest in gaming faded, and with it my interest in writing. I wrote very short tales on rare occasions. Then, seven years ago, I sat down to write what was supposed to be a short ten or twenty page story set in a massive labyrinth. I dug up a bunch of my old notes and maps. Assigned locations, names, and cultures. The tale grew. Two months after beginning it, it finished out at 44,000 words. A year or two after that, I came here.

    At this site, I focused on writing, not worldbuilding. I participated in multiple Challenges, writing stories that both fulfilled the prompts and developed my principle world a bit more. Instead of drab histories and descriptions, I wrote a story that incorporated an overview of much of the main world, with historical anecdotes by the participating characters. Along the way I learned that no matter how much worldbuilding you did at the start, it's never enough - there are always details that need developing. I still have the old notes and maps - even added to them - but large sections sit unused.

    Over the past couple of years, in what passes for spare time, I have been tinkering with a new setting: earth after a 'soft intermediate future Lovecraftian apocalypse.' What I have here are a few pages of notes and five or six short stories written to explore various concepts. I attempted a longer (novella length) tale in this setting during the November NaNo, but inadequate worldbuilding and real world issues crashed that project. I rethought key elements and finally finished it during the April NaNo.
     
  9. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Staff Article Team

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    It was solid hours and a lot of writing (like, binders full of drafts), and the vision of the series changed a lot over time. We went from just a few books to about 20, with a second series to follow. The thing with writing a series is you have to keep your metaplot - your overarching plot - in mind as you write each book, so series writing can get a bit more involved than with stand alones.
     
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  10. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Valar Lord

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    Yeah, the rule with series - and the main reason I have yet to put my tales on the net - is that the further you get into the series, the more the vision of how things work (plot, character, and worldbuilding wise) change. Hence, not publishing book 1 until you have either a rough draft or a solid outline for the last book - or failing that, a lot of top notch worldbuilding.

    Currently, I'm working on the rewrite for Book 3 in my 'Empire' series - and I still go back to books 1 and 2 to make trivial corrections and additions. And currently, the Empire saga stands at six volumes, all with at least a passable rough draft, with a seventh likely - though that one takes place on an altogether different planet, so I might escape the brunt of past errors.
     
  11. Tom

    Tom Istari

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    I start writing and worldbuild later. Most of the time, I sit down to write a new project with a "spark" in mind--the basic premise of the story, sometimes not even that, maybe just the flash of a character or a snippet of dialogue. As the story moves along I expand its world, creating its rules and features as I go. Once I have that basis, I can start worldbuilding in earnest.
     
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  12. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Master

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    For me the world building never stops even as I write. To me the world and the characters are interwoven so I find it almost impossible to separate the two.

    How much do I do? Almost certainly way too much! I am not satisfied until I can see myself living in this world and soaking up the sights, the smells and the sounds of it.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2018
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  13. Vaporo

    Vaporo Mystagogue

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    Oh, I've been world building for quite some time. Four or five years, at this point. Not really sure what this "writing" thing you're talking about is, though.
     
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  14. Skybreaker Sin K'al

    Skybreaker Sin K'al Apprentice

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    World build for a year or two, realize your story sucks and make a new one! Foolproof!

    In all honesty, It is really important to have an immersive setting for your novel. Its what people come to your book to read (yes, I know characters are important, but they came for the setting), so you better get it right. Also, world building is one of my favorite pastimes just when I'm bored (i.e. pick up a pencil and start sketching a map).
     
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