When is enough enough?
When do you stop worldbuilding to work on whatever it is you are actually building the world for? This can be a serious problem, especially if you are using the top-down method of worldbuilding. If you’re a writer, excessive worldbuilding can prevent you from doing any actual writing. If you’re a roleplayer, you may never do an actual playing.
This tendency for worldbuilding taking priority over your primary project is called Wordlbuilding Disease (well, that’s what Brandon Sanderson calls it). Check out Writing Excuses Season 3 Episode 1. Writing Excuses is a 15 minute podcast that features Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, and Dan Wells. In that episode they discuss this very topic.
Benjamin Rose also wrote about the problem in his blog post World Building: Disease or Cure?
How do you avoid Worldbuilding Disease?
Determine the scope of your primary project – if it is short, then you may want to consider limiting the world building to only those elements that pertain directly to the story. Develop a plan of what you actually need to create for your world based on this scope. For example, if your story only takes place in one city, don’t spend too much time on developing other cities unless they play a key role in the story. Even then, you don’t want to detail them as much as your main location.
Keep your worldbuilding organized – if your worldbuilding notes are a mess, they won’t be of much use when you try to incorporate them into your project. Some people recommend using a notebook tabbed for each topic. You can do the same thing with folders if your worldbuilding notes are kept on a computer.
Take a break – it might be a good idea to take a break from worldbuilding every so often to evaluate your priorities and progress or to work on your project. Take a walk, read a book, write something else, play a game; all of these are good ways to take a break from worldbuilding. Breaks are also a good way to rejuvenate your creative juices if you find your ideas stagnant.
I know from personal experience that worldbuilding disease can kill whatever you are working on. When I was a teen, I drew maps, I created languages, I made up characters, but I never actually wrote anything. I was too busy building the world my stories would take place in that I never actually got around to writing those stories.
Hopefully I’ve become more wise since then.
How do you keep yourself from working too much on your world and not enough on your story?
Until next time…
Photo Credit: La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona by kevinpoh