Gift-that-keeps-on-taking

“I’m working on a story, but I’m stuck on the worldbuilding.”

I’ve heard some variant of this enough times that I felt the need to do something. Worldbuilding doesn’t come first. It’s like being unable to decide on the house you want to buy because you’re stuck in the paint store, looking at swatches. Before you worry about your worldbuilding, start writing!

I hear some of you now, “but I need some idea about my world before I start.” Fair enough. You do. Here’s a checklist or what you need to start writing your story:

  • At least one Point of View (POV) character
  • A conflict
  • A premise
  • A setting

If you’ve ever looked for writing prompts, you might notice that they generally give you 2 or 3 from that list, and leave the rest to you. That’s because a writing prompt’s goal is to provide you with a kick start to the writing process.

Can you prepare more than this ahead of time? Sure, of course you can. Some of it can actually even be useful…

  • Additional POV characters
  • Secondary protagonists
  • Antagonists
  • Social structures
  • Political landscape
  • State of technology and/or magic

A lot of those details can come out as you write, but if you want them planned ahead of time, go ahead. All it costs you is time. If you’ve got enough time on your hands, and you’re willing to spend it, you can get into…

  • Economics
  • Religious customs
  • Superstitions
  • Calendars
  • Maps
  • Family trees
  • Laws
  • and just about anything else you can think of…

You never know when timber shipping logistics might provide a vital inspiration to your writing, or how a detailed and twisted family tree might set up for future surprise revelations to your readers. Maybe there is a connection between the lunar calendar and strange happenings in the wilds that will form the basis of your plot.

But really, you’re going down a rabbit hole the farther you proceed into worldbuilding before you start writing. The question shouldn’t be “is my worldbuilding done yet?” It should be “do I have enough to start writing yet?”

You can always find more worldbuilding to do. It will eat your time and stop you from ever writing if you let it.

1 comments
hego damask
hego damask

I would have to disagree with your comment on not worldbuilding first, but it really comes down to personal style. My personal philosophy would be more akin to how can you buy the house(the story), without knowing anything about the neighborhood(the world).