1. Amaikokonut
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    Amaikokonut New Member

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    So when does one stop worldbuilding?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Amaikokonut, Mar 27, 2008.

    Hey all, entirely new here. :) I hope this is the right forum. There's a plot-building forum and a character-building forum, but no world-building forum.

    Well, really long story short, I plan on eventually writing a fantasy novel, or more likely an entire series of stories, based on a world I've literally been developing since I was old enough to have imaginary friends.

    Obviously as I've grown up the world has gone through a lot of development to become more realistic and believable. Stuff like developing the world map, the ecology, the creatures and their inner social workings, and so on. Then I wasn't content to blame any inconsistencies on "magic", so I essentially developed an entire theology for not only the world in question, but "our" world as well, since it does come into play during the story's progression. Just a ton of weird complex stuff.

    And it keeps growing. I keep thinking of more things to add to the world, more things to explain why things are how they are and what makes the world turn. I also keep coming up with more ideas for the characters/tribes that are involved, their histories and so on. Now I'm even working on writing a language and alphabet for the world's inhabitants.

    The thing is, I haven't even written a single word of the story. The plot keeps changing as I change different elements of the world. I have countless pages of notes and ideas which I am slowly trying to categorize and reorganize, but even that is difficult because things change so much.

    It's becoming more and more clear that I'm going to have a very hard time actually writing this thing until I have at least a relatively solid world to write it in. But when is that going to happen?

    It's not that I don't feel like the world is complete, it's that I keep thinking of ways to make it better. I could, technically, decide today to not develop the world any further and start outlining the plot. But that wouldn't stop ideas from still coming to me, and I worry I would end up with a story I feel could have been a lot better. At the same time, I don't want to end up with a more detailed world than our own, and never write the story about it.

    I suppose there is also a perfectionist side of me that will not be happy unless I write this to the very best of my creative ability, which also makes me very reluctant to just stop worldbuilding. I would feel like I'm rushing it.

    But will I eventually hit a place where the worldbuilding ideas slow down and I can actually work out the plot details? It feels like every time I am satisfied I suddenly feel the need to dig and develop even deeper. It's like I'm writing an encyclopedia of the world rather than a novel. Don't get me wrong; I do love the development process.. it's a lot of fun and I certainly don't -want- to stop; But I know it will have to eventually come to a halt if I'm actually ever going to write the stories. So how will I know when to stop?

    Any help and feedback would be greatly appreciated. :redface: Even if you're having the same problems it would be nice to know I'm not alone.
     
  2. (Mark)
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    (Mark) Contributing Member

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    Hmm, stop right now. Take all of your notes, and put them in a big pile somewhere and forget about them. Then sit down, and actually write something. It doesn't even matter what you write, just write it anyway. The more you sit there and create some big world to set your story in, the less interest you will actually have in writing your story.

    What you need is confidence and practice as a writer, not some massive world to set a single story in. Once you've developed a voice and style for yourself, then you should worry about writing something more complex.
     
  3. Amaikokonut
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    Amaikokonut New Member

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    Mmm... but I write a lot already as is. I'm taking writing classes as well as keeping my personal journal and writing poetry/short stories when inspiration for them arises. This is my biggest project to date but by no means is it the first story I'm trying to write. I have a personal style pretty well pinned down. :redface:

    Maybe I should just let ideas keep coming for the time being. I'm still young; no use rushing this stuff with life as busy as it is.
     
  4. soujiroseta
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    soujiroseta Senior Member Contributor

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    Connolly is right. i had to learn this the hard way. iusesd to spend months detailing everything, the roads, neighbourhood, house, color of the inside of my MC's shower, the shape of every crack on every path my characters ever set foot on. i was obsessed!

    i found that after all this planning i didnt feel it was good enough to warrant a novel, so it would join the now 4ft high stack of detailed worlds that i had created.

    someone i met a while back told me to just write, it's rare that you'll get it perfect the first time so let the story come out first. your readers don't want to know how good your planning skills are they want to read a good story. i suggest you sit with pen to page(or finger to keyboard):) and write.
     
  5. Pentip
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    Pentip Member

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    It seems to me you've gone far enough as is. The world is important, but you have to face facts, unless you want a 5,000 page book, including maps, glossary, dictionary. The fact is, you probably won't use the entire world in just one book. You may use about half of in a series of five books, but you'll have to keep going and going, and adding things to the plot to keep your series going until you've included enough of your world for you to be satisfied.
    If you want this to be published and be a success, you're going to have to take it one step at a time. Stop, write a plot, develop it to its greatest potential with what you want to include of the world. See if you can get it published. If that's a success, keep writing, developing each and every book to the best of whatever element of your world you plan for that book. Then, if they're a good enough success, you could write small side books with back ground on the world. A small word translator, a book of maps, maybe even a history of the tribes.
    You can even do that before you know whether or not it will sell, for your own use and enjoyment. Just develop each section of the world that is included in each book.
    Hope that helped, good luck! ;)
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    World-building is a lot like character-building. If you put too much effort into building your world before you enter your stories, chances are you will have over-constrained yourself. Start with what you need for your first story, and no more than that. You may well find that your story will create small ripples that end up shaping your world in a different way than what you might have envisioned if you built your entire world before populating it with people and stories. A small thing like a computer program used to track down a cyber-terrorist may turn into a pervasive threat to individual privacy in the wrong hands. A legal twist that allows an innocent man to escape being railroaded into life imprisonment could result in appeals that liberate dozens of hardened criminals back into society.

    Let your world evolve and grow like your characters. Whenever you finish a story, think about what side effects may have arisen from your events. I think you will find this leads to a much richer and more interesting world than you could come up with otherwise.
     
  7. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Contributing Member

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    I don't know. Maybe it's a security thing that prevents so many writers from actually getting down to the...writing. I'm not a Fantasy writer, but I do know, from experience, that procrastinating on what might be a major project often turns it into a 'never' project. Just do it. Cut out the excuses, because that's what they are, and I know this because I've been as guilty as you in the past. So, bum on seat; pen to paper, and you'll see, it'll be like letting out a long held breath. Go on, try it. You never know, you might be the next Tolkien:)
     
  8. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    For me I just do some basic simple world building before I actually start writing. i establish things that I know for a fact will not change but leave the rest open for tweaking as the story goes on. At this point, one of my universes is massive, to the point where I can publish my own thrity volume encyclopedia with all the irrelevant information that can't be directly put into the story without massive info dumping. This universe is from my Immortal's Edge project, which I've been toying with for about four years. But yeah, don't do too much before you actually start writing. Stuff will work its way into the universe as you go.
     
  9. Edward
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    Edward Active Member

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    I have to say, I disagree with all of you. Amai, you seem to do the worldbuilding as a hobby, correct? Well you shouldn't just stop building your world to write a story, your world should tell you a story and you should write it down. It's not even a story, it's a dramatization of historical events.

    I will however say that some things you should only tweak so much, like how races look, I mean, you shouldn't say a race is the smallest and then change it to the tallest. Trust me, that kind of thing is nothing but a headache. or anything that has to do with cause and effect.

    Even if most of it never even gets a mention in your story, it's still worth it to think about it. And hell, you might even be able to publish your own personal reference materials. Tolkien never intended for the Silmarillion to be published, it was just his own personal history of Middle-Earth.

    Mytheopoeia is very rewarding, and I've only been at it for a year or two, and on a sort of "on the weekends" basis.

    I will say though that if you want to actually write something you shouldn't procrastinate. Like I do. You should at least shrink the scope of your wordbuilding to the stuff that's in the story and go back out only every once in a while. And even the effects that your story will have on your world. Such as the Machiavellian organization that becomes a peaceful religion and nonprofit organization. Or the new alliances that get formed and broken.
     
  10. Vayda
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    Vayda Senior Member

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    You know, if this world is as developed as you say, you might consider publishing it as its own work. I'm an avid roleplayer, with a collection of RP books that would put most stores to shame. I don't know if you've ever played D&D, but it's one of the few RP-systems that supports the development and independent publishing of unique settings and worlds for games under the Open Gaming License (OGL). Under the OGL, you can write a roleplaying book, complete with whatever setting you choose, and anyone that knows the rules to D&D will be able to pick it up and play in your setting.

    I have my own pet project that's a D&D setting, and I might eventually publish it under the OGL. I know there's a story in this world that you want to tell, but if worldbuilding is what you love to do, I say don't stop. Put it all into a book, make it a setting, give it to other people, to other storytellers. Let us all have your world to develop our own characters. I thought my world, Vedan, was complete and ready for any fiction I should choose to pen, and then I showed my RP group, and the reaction was unanimous: We want to play! And so i adapted it for roleplaying in, scratched out some rules (I know the d20 system so well I literally did it on my lunch break with no reference books, but I'm a nerd) and let them make their own characters. All of a sudden my world was expanded with the addition of four other extremely creative minds...and everything was infinitely more complex, there was so much more story there.

    Have you ever read the Dragonlance series? Look into it. The story started as a D&D game, set into a world one of the players developed. You can now buy dragonlance setting books and play in it yourself.

    Don't ever stop your worldbuilding. You can't. If the story doesn't come to you, don't force it. It'll flow in time. But don't deprive the rest of us from the amazingly detailed and rich environment you've created!
     

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