Having a worldbuilding notebook on hand as you’re drafting your novel can keep you on track as you write. It can also become a blackhole where you throw all your time and energy.
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Before you pay for a subscription on a worldbuilding website, or spend your precious writing time searching for a worldbuilding notebook for sale, take a minute to think about what you need from your worldbuilding.
Every novel project is different. Even if you’re writing in the same genre as another author, that doesn’t always mean that you’ll need the same level of worldbuilding.
So before you download another worldbuilding notebook pdf, let’s talk about what worldbuilding is and what kind of worldbuilding you need to do for your story.
What is Worldbuilding?
Worldbuilding is a great name for what it is. Basically, it’s the part of your writing process where you create the world your story will take place in.
That means you have to think about culture and infrastructure and currency and physics and like a billion other things.
It’s easy to see that worldbuilding is something that a fantasy or sci fi novel would definitely need. The more your story world is unlike the world we live in, the more work you have to do to create it. But that doesn’t mean that a mainstream fiction story taking place in a contemporary setting won’t need worldbuilding.
Anything you do to create a story world, from designing a fictional main street where your characters gather to defining how magic functions in the world is an act of worldbuilding.
Tone and theme are also a part of worldbuilding, though you may not necessarily have those as clearly defined before you start your project. For me, theme generally emerges as I write, and the tone shifts until I settle into the story. (And I usually have to fix it up in edits.) But again, all writers are different.
Unless you specify something, your reader will likely assume your story world functions the way it does in the real world. So, unless you say the skies of your world are royal purple, your reader will assume skies are the same shades of blue they know from their own life experience.
This post won’t get into how to worldbuild, but know that every choice you make for your story world should have a reason to be that way. You don’t have to explain the chemical reactions behind the purple sky in depth, but you can’t make something different for the sake of just making it different.
If you’d like to see some great worldbuiliding in action, check out The Lord of the Rings, Dune, or A Discovery of Witches. These aren’t the only examples of good worldbuilding by any means. But they’re such different stories that do woldbuilding in their own way.
How to Create a Worldbuilding Notebook
You can absolutely start with a worldbuilding workbook PDF, or even find a worldbuilding notebook template online. But as with all things, I’m going to encourage you to choose things that work for you.
So if pre-made stuff works for you, use it. If it doesn’t, create what you need. I’m a fan of mixing and matching those two methods.
If you’re in the market for a workbook to help you create your story’s world, I recommend The A to Zs of Worldbuilding by Rebekah Loper. It’s a physical book that asks you every question you could possibly need to answer to create a fictional world.
I have a whole post on answering worldbuilding questions, and recommend you grab a copy if you’re new to worldbuilding.
Please know that this book is extensive, and it’s best for someone who has a lot of worldbuilding to do. But even if you’re writing a story that takes place in a world that’s mostly like ours, you could easily use this workbook as a guide and only address the topics that are relevant to your story.
Creating Your Own Notebook
I’ve been working on a series set in a very magical small town run by artists, witches, and anarachists, and I’ve had to do some worldbuilding to make it happen.
Because the series is going to be bonkers huge, there’s a significant amount of plotting I need to do. But I also need to do some worldbuilding to create this fictional place and to understand how the magic works in this world. For that, I created this notebook for One Book July 2022.
So far, this notebook has helped me outline the series story beats and get to know my characters a lot better while also helping me create a consistent story world.
Admittedly, I’m not creating a whole world from scratch. The world resembles real life, with the exception of some magic. (And it’s in a small town where out-of-state developers aren’t buying up all the property, so there’s no jacked up rent prices there. When you can create the perfect world, you totally should.)
Should You Try Digital Worldbuilding?
There are tons of websites out there used by both writers and role playing game enthusiasts to help with worldbuilding. The question is should you try them?
If you’re a digital person, I say go for it. Those website usually have tons of features that make it easier for you to build the perfect story world. And many of them allow you to make visual representations of the world you’re creating.
While I do appreciate these tools, I’m an analog girl at heart. And having a notebook is what keeps me focused on the worldbuilding. But if they work for you, use them!
How Do You Worldbuild?
What tips do you have for worldbuilding? What kind of tools work best for you? Do you like to keep all your stuff in a notebook, or are you a digital person?