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Keeping Your Worldbuilding Organized

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Black Dragon, May 2, 2019.

  1. Black Dragon

    Black Dragon Staff Administrator

    Do you have a system for keeping your worldbuilding organized? If so, please tell us about it.

    Or do you believe that worldbuilding is better left unorganized?
    CelestialGrace likes this.
  2. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I used to use OneNote, which is absolutely wonderful for it. Every tab at the top has its own subtab pages on the right, so you can have a "Map Locations" tab and give every location its own page. And you can move smoothly between pages.

    But I've switched from using OneNote and moved into the terrible-for-this MS Word. Now I keep everything in a single word document, kept Landscape in three columns. I do this so I can print it easily and work on it from my clipboard. It's easier to work with that way.

    Also I have to give a special shout out for EverNote, which is an organization heavyweight program that you can download free.

    As for the way it's organized, that's different for every project, and I think I'll talk about that in a future post.
  3. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Sage

    I do like to create original world, especially since Fantasy is so unlimited, I don't understand why people keep regurging medieval England settings. But it is hard because in Fantasy you need a certain amount of familiar.

    I don't have a system really because I don't over plan my setting, I focus on character related stuff and plot since they're the most vital.
  4. KJF

    KJF Acolyte

    I write in Scrivener and I usually keep a separate project for the world and organize everything that way. I've heard some people use a personal wiki. Something I just heard about this week is World Anvil (google it). I haven't used it but it seems interesting.
  5. Riorlyne

    Riorlyne New Member

    I have been using Notebook.ai to organise my worldbuilding. It's similar to (although younger and less developed than) WorldAnvil. The more advanced pages aren't free, but I chose it over WorldAnvil as keeping worldbuilding pages private was a feature on the free plan, not just the premium plan.
  6. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    Very organised. Too organised maybe. And all off line in separate files and folders. I have a Background folder. In that there are several folders; Characters, Maps, Locations, Technology, Countries, Magic, Monsters and others as I need them.
    Characters – will have a description of each character in a separate document.
    Maps – Anywhere from quick sketches of a world, or a village to more detailed maps of areas.
    Locations – Are usually smaller scale but more detailed illustrations of a room or a street, place where I need to KNOW if X can be reach in how-many steps by Y; or if Z can be seen by A
    Technology – If I place a limit on what the world has I put information of what can and cannot be done. If I invent a technology then my “research” goes here.
    Countries – A bit like a Character description but for countries, guilds and anything bigger. This will also have climate details as well as social organisation, the military, currency & trade etc. whatever I think I need.
    Magic – What can and cannot be done, how it works etc. sometimes this is a little sketchy, other times it ends up more like a D&D manual…
    Monsters – again like a character profile but for any monsters, aliens, gods etc that might/do appear.
    This can lead me to no longer wanting to write the story so I am TRYING to Pants it a bit more and actually write something first and fill in the gaps as I go. But I love making maps and slide in to that far too easily. I think visually so I like to “see” all the background information available to me as I write. This has also led to me using a 2 and 3 scree set up if I can. The more screens I have the more I need. I’m sure I will end up with 6+ like Terry Pratchett used.
    My name so CupofJoe and I am a World builder. It has been 7 days since I last world-built.
    elemtilas and Night Gardener like this.
  7. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Sage

    Lots of folders on the PC, containing lots of documents (primarily text written in Notepad++). Some folders are of what I have created, some are of research, historical and otherwise. Timelines, biographical sketches, discussions of magic and myth, etc. Fortunately, most of my fantasy is set in the same 'universe' or it would just be too much—I have the same thing going for my various non-fantasy books, but they don't require quite the same degree of world building.
  8. AlexK2009

    AlexK2009 Dreamer

    Start unorganised, just write. This tells me about the world as I explore it. . Organise as needed. I tend to get more organised as the project gets bigger and use mind and concept maps as much as possible, if only to organise research material and notes.
    CelestialGrace likes this.
  9. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver


    My old world building was intended for AD&D campaigns. I created and merged together one world after another - then redid them when I started writing in earnest. Each world or major setting has its own folder on my PC, with contents ranging from skimpy to extensive.
    CelestialGrace likes this.
  10. CelestialGrace

    CelestialGrace Minstrel

    I've been combing through the forum topics to see how people are organising their world-building materials - esp for the more complex worlds. At the moment I mainly use a mix of notepad, word, and paper to get my ideas down but it's not working anymore. I prefer to use a mix of tech and notebooks to keep track of my ideas. I can't sign up for any paid services though. The 2 main world-building projects that I have, have to be organised to avoid continuity errors, to keep relationships straight, etc.
  11. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

    I tend towards organizing the two different settings I use for my writing. Mostly everything is digital. PowerPoint presentations permit me to add blocks of text of various sizes, pictures, drawings etc. The rest is using YWriter, a free writing app for PC that helps organize characters, scenes, items or whatever notes I have concerning a specific scene.
  12. Yora

    Yora Inkling

    Somehow this never has been much of an issue to me. My worldbuilding is mostly conceptual with few details regarding history and geography. All I currently have is a list of the names that I created with a small note what the name is for. I usually leave naming things for much later and sometimes recycle unused names later, so remembering the names for everything can be a bit of a challenge.
  13. MrNybble

    MrNybble Troubadour

    I keep my world building as organized as mother nature. Complex, sloppy, and organic. A note book full of notes with only three sections. World, people, and magic. There are posted notes in the notebook when I have had ideas away from my desk. All this multicolored mess with different colored pens and pencils is backed up by taking pictures of the pages with my phone.
  14. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Sage

    The world I've created is based on that of our world in the period between the two world wars. I've studied that period for decades but there's details like place names, food, cultural stuff, climate, geography, religion, social customs and the small details that add that little bit of spice to this world that I jot down on paper and store it in a coloured plastic file.

    I save certain videos, pictures, maps etc direct to flash drive so I can access them off-line and print maps and pictures off at a local internet cafe. I also do a fair bit of bookmarking how to videos on Chrome Google.

    Mostly it's handwritten notes in folders.
  15. Aldarion

    Aldarion Troubadour

    Because they are familiar with it? My own setting is consists of a hybrid of ancient Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire, 15th century Hungary and Holy Roman Empire fighting against a hybrid of Sassanid Empire, Seljuk Sultanate and Ottoman Empire. As for keeping it organized, I have a folder named "Codex" (Codex Astartes, except not), and each topic receives its own Word document. When a topic has multiple subtopics, I name said documents "TOPIC - Subtopic", so they are easy to find after being sorted by name. Right now, I have 15 documents just about the "protagonist" empire, never mind notes on its adversaries, general mythology, geography, world history and so on. I also have subfoldiers for maps and stories and myths.

    Internet resources such as Youtube videos, documents etc. I save in "Napomene i poveznice" ("Notes and hyperlinks") text file.

    Whether it is better left organized or disorganized depends on your writing style. No use in spending much time on worldbuilding and organization thereof if you are going to let your pants guide your writing anyway. But if you are Tolkien-style pedantic nitpicker like myself, better start planning not just how to organize your worldbuilding, but how to organize your notes on worldbuilding as well.
    CelestialGrace likes this.
  16. elemtilas

    elemtilas Sage

    A lot of material is in Notebook. That's a neat little private wiki which I don't think is available anymore. Notes & jots, unfinished and reasonably finished articles reside here along with links, ruminations and Q&As I've done.

    I have always enjoyed making and binding books, so a lot is actually in book form. Discussions, but also a number of in-world works.

    Same goes for maps & pictures. There are folders full of maps, pictures, sketches and doodles.

    There's a drawer full of undigitised paper notes, genealogies, times lines, etc. I've been successfully procrastinating on sorting this out for more than a decade.

    I can't stand M$ Word and have always preferred WordPerfect. There's quite a lot of material there, too. Some just notes and jots, others are complete books.

    Somewheres around there's a notebook full of musical notation and folders with bits and snatches of unworked music. A few pieces have made it to digitalisation / orchestration, but are not quite right yet.

    Then there's a box full of in-world artifacts. Books, playing cards, maps, utensils, jewelry, etc.

    I guess dysorganised organisation is the way of it here!
  17. Tom

    Tom Istar

    I have to organize, or I'd never be able to find anything. (And leaving stuff unorganized stresses me out!) To help me cope with my ADHD, I've created systems of organization for everything I own/use, including digital stuff such as my writing and graphic design schoolwork. The file organization structure on my laptop is a thing to behold, haha.

    I used to do most of my worldbuilding on paper and in OneNote, but I've mostly moved away from that. Paper is hard to keep track of, and I've moved several times in the last few years so I've had to either digitize or toss most of my paper notes. I stopped using OneNote because it's just not a very efficient program for writing and organizing large documents. And Microsoft's syncing sucks--if OneNote doesn't have enough internet to sync to OneDrive it'll just nuke your data instead of storing it offline in the app until the next time it can sync. I got fed up with losing material to syncing glitches, so I switched to Google Docs. All of my worldbuilding for my current project is in one doc, organized into categories and subcategories so I can quickly navigate to whatever topic I'm making notes on. I also use good old Microsoft Word '13 alongside Docs, because I'm an IT guy at heart and I don't exactly trust cloud-based storage. So I'll save as a Word doc every once in a while, so I have a backup of what I've been working on in case Google Docs starts acting weird.
  18. Zander Willmore

    Zander Willmore Minstrel

    I use college ruled notebooks. Each notebook is for a different genre of writing. I have one for Horror, one for Fiction and a three subject notebook for my fantasy ideas. One notebook for fantasy has the story ideas. While the other notebook has the notes about noble families, wizards, and other characters. I then have several pages for my organizations. I have to have organization with my world or my writing would be a mess.
    CelestialGrace likes this.
  19. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    Pure chaos of pen and paper and digital gibberish stashed willy nilly with the finest intentions of getting it all into Scrivener and Aeon Timeline... hrrm, well... sometime before I die.
  20. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Minstrel

    I started my current NaNo project with only a vague idea of what the world looked like. So all world building was stuck in my head (in lovely labeled folders with pretty decent search, but the backup potential was limited, and as a result stuff tended to get lost every now and then). I found while writing that I definitely needed to keep track of the stuff I invented, if only because it saves a lot of time and searching when I'm trying to remember if I named a city Hinan or Hinin.

    From there it's growing quite fast. Currently it's all in OneNote, with separate pages for different stuff. Works well enough and so far I haven't had any sync issues, so it's a nice way to have everything available if I think of something on the fly.

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