When I started working on my latest project, Three Faiths Crossed (which you can read more about here), I really wanted to dedicate a lot of effort to my worldbuilding. The themes that I wanted to explore in the work were largely political and cultural, and I wanted my characters to be reflections of the cultures they were raised in. I wanted the world to be rich and vibrant in its own right. So I spent months planning and worldbuilding and drawing maps and fleshing out secondary characters and cultures and religions. I got extremely carried away. I’d never considered that this might actually be a bad thing until I read this incredible blog post by Victoria Aveyard which you can find here.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I still want to create a vibrant world to serve as the backdrop for my novel, but I had taken this far beyond a point that was actually productive. I spent hours on Pinterest picking out actors to represent more and mor minor characters until I had a cast topping out at over 200. I had to create an Excel spreadsheet just to keep track of them all. Not only was this a massive waste of my time in the first place, but the cast was bogging down my story. I couldn’t advance the plot forward because I was so busy trying to introduce new characters to my audience in every chapter. I’ve had to spend hours going through my spreadsheet and Pinterest boards to decide which characters to cut, and this means I’ll have to spend massive amounts of time rewriting the scenes that I’ve already written, transferring over dialogue to characters who still exist. Not only has this been time-consuming, it’s also been difficult. Every writer knows how excruciating it can be to have to kill your darlings. And all of this could have been avoided if I’d just known when to stop worldbuilding.
As a writer, it’s important to know what you need to plan and what you can allow to evolve as you write your story. Many of the finer details of your setting and minor characters can be left out of the planning to save you time, and it will make sure you only give your readers information that they actually need to understand the story. When you as the writer have all these irrelevant details in your head (like the major crops and which regions they grow in and the name of every noble in the country), you can be tempted to try to cram all of that information into your novel, but this will only bog down your story in the end. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, the best thing to do may be to simply not plan it all out at all. Stop procrastinating by convincing yourself you’re being productive and get to writing.
If you want even more information about the right and the wrong ways to go about worldbuilding, you can check out these videos by one of my favorite indie authors, Jenna Moreci:
10 WORST Worldbuilding Tips
Common Worldbuilding Mistakes