World-building is one of my favourite parts in writing, and one of my favourite pastimes in general. Since I know that I have such a penchant for it that I could spend hours on it, fleshing out every little detail about the world I’m working on, I don’t allow myself that time.
Yes, there are some basic things you need to know about the world your story is taking place in. No, those details do not include creating several languages, a fully fledged mythology, and a comprehensive law system.
Before I started I had a very general idea about the world that my novel takes place in, and I wrote none of it down. As I began writing, I got a better idea of what I need in my world and what major conflicts need to shape it for the theme of my novel to work. Then I sat down and wrote a few key things: a pertinent facts about its history, the names of a few key places, and a general map of where the main things were.
A lot is still blank at this point, and that’s because I chose to keep it that way. As the story evolves, so will the world around it. This way I don’t “burn” useful hours on superfluous trivia, and I am not forced to change my story because of a geographical or cultural detail that I had committed to months before, when I had yet no idea where the story might take me.
I plan on “world-building on the go”, leaving plenty of blanks as I start, and building my fictional world gradually as I write. I have a feeling that it will be a more organic, more compelling world that will be less troublesome for me to write stories for. What’s more, building a world this way helps make sure that I don’t break off my story on an irrelevant tangent just for the purpose of showcasing a background detail that I want to show off but the reader doesn’t really care for.
Everybody knows that author. Do your readers a favour and don’t be that author.