You Worldbuild Too Much.

"What are we going to worldbuild about today?" NOTHING. You need to stop. If you find yourself thinking about the historical name of a little village on the edge of your 150-planet star map, it may be a sign that you are wasting your time.
  A big disclaimer right away - if you are just worldbuilding for the sake of worldbuilding, then this article isn't for/about you. Have fun! However, if you are planning to use your world for anything that isn't a 1200 page compendium detailing it, then I have some important words for you.   I know that a lot of people won't want to hear this. But when you spend most of your creative time creating your world and don't actually DO anything with the stuff you create, you are not being productive. You are simply procrastinating. There, I said it.   Do we absolutely need to know every detail of your world's history?   Do we absolutely need to know the name of this forest and every species of flower inside it?   Do we absolutely need to know the exact amount of taxes that peasant Bob pays per month?   I could go on with these questions - the gist is, you should ask yourself "do we absolutely need to know" before you're going to write a detailed article about something. If the answer is yes, if it's relevant to the story/game/campaign/whatnot you are creating, then go ahead. Figure it out in as much detail as needed. But not more than that.  

Enough is enough.

There may simply be a point in your world's creation where you've explained and described everything that needs to be explained and described for now. If you feel aimless and unmotivated to work on your world, this may be the case.   Don't worry about this - take a break from worldbuilding, work on something else. Write your story/campaign/game/etc.   Don't force yourself to continue worldbuilding past this point! If more needed worldbuilding pops up, you will know. You won't find out if you don't actually use your world - in the worst case, you will end up spending time and effort on articles that are literally irrelevant because you don't know what to actually focus on.
Table of Contents

The opposite end of the spectrum

Of course, there is also such a thing as worldbuilding too little. I don't want you to stop entirely after reading this article. I just want you to put consideration into your worldbuilding and focus on the important topics.   Maybe your world is still very new, and you still have to figure out most things. In that case, please worldbuild away - but like I said, focus.   Imagine you'd have to explain your world to a stranger. Focus on the things that would be necessary for an outsider to know to understand your world.

"But Arty, you are also guilty of this!"

I know, I know. I am a big procrastinator myself. Some of the articles in my world are about topics that are literally not relevant to anything I've ever created for it.   But! There's another reason I do occasionally write articles that are not relevant to my stories - yet! Because I plan for the future, and I use these articles as an idea pool for topics that I could feature in my stories sometime soon.


Cover image: by Pixabay

Comments

Author's Notes

Changelog

16th Sept 2019: Wrote original article.
I'm not here to play worldbuilding police. I'm not going to your world page and judge you based on whether I think article XYZ is "relevant enough". I just want to help you save valuable time.


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Sage PanAndPaper
Pan (AS Lindsey)
7 Nov, 2021 20:57

First of all: rude.   Secondly, some very sound advice here. I have to keep reminding myself that the point of all this, for me personally, is to create stories, not to get lost and develop every language and every culture and every competing origin story and every currency exchange rate and and and...   Unfortunately, we're not blessed with infinite time. Or a small army of researchers and editors to handle the minutia for us.

Drake's Dozen | Magic and Tech and Identity, oh my.

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8 Nov, 2021 09:39

I fully agree! (On all points ^^)


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8 Nov, 2021 10:02

Thank you! This is something I keep harping about and keep getting blank stares in return. Glad you took the time to write this article!

Author of prize-winning RPG settings Dark Shadows and Cinders of the Cataclysm. Designer of the narratively focused CD10.
8 Nov, 2021 10:05

Someone had to say it, and the looming approach of WE seemed like a very suitable moment! :)


Check out The Hummelverse, the world of AI tanks!
8 Nov, 2021 15:28

This is great advice for many people. However, the reason I got into worldbuilding and writing a story at all was when I was at Disney World at Animal Kingdom, waiting in line for the Everest ride. I was bored waiting in line, and random newspaper/magazine/posters about missing climbers posted on the wall caught my eye. It was written like actual things, but about a number of fictional events surrounding the guardian of the mountain. How many people waiting on the ride would ever even notice that? It's a ride, no one is even trying to tell a cohesive story here. Then I noticed all the other set dressing that many people will either call pointless or immersive. The Avatar section of the park dials it up to eleven in this regard and the number of background objects, fake pictures, and more created to sell the setting is absolutely absurd, even though 99% of it isn't necessary.   That set me down the path of what I like to call background worldbuilding (I don't know the actual term) where I fill in a bunch of background details that fleshes things out more but isn't actually important . 99% of anyone who reads my article about the Starship VoidChaser will never care how it got its name, what that alien writing even means, how the crew breaths, eats, or sleeps or that the ship has multiple power sources and methods of propulsion, just that it exists, it's a spaceship, and people ride in it for the story to continue. I could have just thrown some beds in a random room on the map and call it good with no thought to the placement. But it matters to me and the 1% of readers who might be wondering. Because of this I will always put too much detail in my worldbuilding whether the majority of people like it or not.

Check out my recent work: Lekagar, the Black River, and Colorless.
8 Nov, 2021 15:44

If the goal is to use the world you are building then yes, just create whatever you need to be able to use it. Then if anything comes up later add things as it goes. Trying to build too much from the get-go is the same as doing nothing, especially since you will most likely not use most of what you create since it might never meet any of your needs or apply to any situation.

8 Nov, 2021 17:03

There are many writers who should take this to heart! It applies to research, too. I know authors who spend days researching the minutest detail for, say, a ship, then end up not including it in their story. It ends up being time wasted in relation to their creation.

8 Nov, 2021 23:48

*Lyraine goes to find the report button and selects I Am In This Photo And I Don't Like It*   In all seriousness, thank you for the reminder because you're absolutely on point about it.

Lyraine, Consumer of Lore, She/Her, primary project: Corive
Thicc Shrek
Thicc Shrek
9 Nov, 2021 13:20

b b but I always find a way to stuff every bit of worldbuilding into my story! So what if it ends up being twice as long with things that don't directly affect the plot as a result? The side-arc including the electric pirates that ultimately has no impact on the larger story aside from them then being present at some other battles where their presence doesn't actually affect the outcome because story battle outcomes are decided by what's cool, thematic and just about believable not by putting numbers through calculators?