When I was younger, I enjoyed jumping into writing a brand new story with no plan. I didn’t have character names figured out, nor what they were doing, nor where they were. Exploring the story I was writing without knowing what would happen was what I enjoyed, and I thought that if I took time to plot my story, it would feel stiff and unnatural.
While writing that way was fun back then, the older I got, the more I realized that my way of writing left loads of plot holes, loads of inconsistencies, and didn’t make nearly as good a story as I wanted. So, with a disgruntled attitude, I decided to try writing a rough outline for a new story before writing it. I thought that outlining a story, knowing how it will go and what the ending will be would ruin the joy of writing the first draft. However, it did no such thing for me! I realized I loved outlining! And not only did I love it, but it also made my stories considerably better.
I mentioned above that I started world-building and outlining. While I would love to talk more about how outlining saves loads of work, I wanted to specifically focus on world-building today.
After a time, I realized that a few minutes of planning out what a couple kingdoms were called and how dragons flew just wasn’t enough to really make my world’s resonate. They still felt like flat fantasy worlds that ripped off the basic structure of Middle-Earth. So it was time once again to dig even deeper into world-building.
Creating a new world, say for a fantasy novel, is a huge deal. You can’t simply make up a world name, throw a few kingdoms around the place, and call it a day. Worldbuilding is so much deeper than that. This is a world we’re talking about! With real people, generations upon generations of life, plants, animals, industrial work, kingdoms rising, and kingdoms falling.
If you’ve ever read The Lord of the Rings, you’ll know how much world-building can affect a story and its quality. The two languages J. R. R. Tolkien created, along with creating a timeline from the creation of Middle Earth to the very end really gives it the right to be known as the greatest fantasy epic of all time. Everything, from The Shire to Morgoth’s full backstory is planned out and detailed. That is what gives it the richness you feel when you read it.
Now, I’m not going to say do what Tolkien did and spend years of your life creating one world! That just isn’t plausible for most of us, and it isn’t entirely necessary to create a quality story.
However, world-building is a lot more important than most people think! If you spend no more than a few minutes like I did for many years, you’ll come up with mediocre at best backstories, incomplete maps in your head of how your story looks, and no good answer for why your world needs a magic system (just as some examples).
So here’s what I want you to do when you begin to plot your next story:
Take a couple hours, or even a couple weeks on nothing but world building/plotting.
It doesn’t have to be years, but setting aside time to work out the majority of your world and how it runs will be invaluable when you begin to write your novel. You’ll already have descriptions in your mind of how a kingdom or forest looks, just ready to flow out onto the page for readers to take in. You’ll have clear, quality answers for how the spaceship in your sci-fi novel has a gravity system, or why the magic system in your fantasy world works the way it does.
“But Caleb, you said world-building would save time! Now you’re asking us to spend more time on it? How is that going to save any time?”
Thank you for asking! I was about to get to that.
Writing a novel doesn’t end when you finish the first draft. What’s the next step generally? That’s right, getting alpha readers! Then editing, getting beta readers, and more editing.
If you didn’t spend much time on your world-building, and your story is flat and uninteresting because of it, your readers very well could pick that up and tell you.
If you want to write the best novel possible, you’re probably going to get to work revising your novel and coming up with better world-building ideas. Revising an entire novel, finding paragraphs of inconsistencies, and editing them, could take days or even weeks! Some people revise for months!
Now, if you had spent a couple hours or a couple days on coming up with a quality world before you had written the entire novel, you never would have had to revise it. See how that could save you an awful lot of time, stress, and work?
That’s it for this week’s post! I just wanted to point out the importance of world-building. I hope you will spend some more time now to expand the world you’re writing.
Thank you for reading, now go out and write an incredible story! 🙂
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