NaNoWriMo: World Building

It’s entirely possible to start with world building. Personally I find it more difficult, but that could be because I never do it, not often anyway.

The first thing you want to do is decide what makes up the Setting, with a capital S, as in the time and place. In the instance of a novel writing, time means what period and place, at its core, asks: Are they in our world or one you’ve decided to create? Are they in medieval times or something more modern? If you’re starting out with world building, then it all depends on what you feel like writing.

The second thing you want to do is make sure you have a genre. Crazy, I know. Needing a genre in the world building section? It’s important to know where you’re headed, and even if you don’t have a name for what genre you want to use, a blurry watercolor picture is enough.

This is where things split, in a very simple way, because not everyone is choosing the same place and time. Some of you might not even be using magic (gasp!). So you need to make a list of a few things:

Create a Few Key Locations

There’s an idea in your head, you know what you want, but you don’t actually know what it is yet. So make a couple of areas: a church with some secret passages; an apartment complex with some odd characters living next door to one “normal” one; or maybe you wanna go in for some fun with an underground labyrinth accessible from a mausoleum. I would suggest at the least four fleshed out locations to get your brain moving. When you write, these will be either important locations or just somewhere your characters pass by. You don’t need to decide everywhere your character will go right now, especially since you may not even have one yet or a plot. This is only the beginning of your planning, so start with a few things and maybe a simple map.

Making Magic

If you have magic, you need to figure out how that nonsense works. I’m serious. Sometimes people think that doesn’t matter or they say, “It’s magic, it doesn’t have any set rules!” But you guys, friends, pals, it so matters. You can either make up your own magic system or “borrow” it from somewhere else.

PLEASE NOTE: I’m not saying plagiarize or actually steal. Many magic systems are exactly the same or work similarly.

When you construct your own magic or science if you lean more toward the sci in sci-fi, remember that it needs to have a system of checks and balances. You don’t want crazy overpowered characters ruining your book or flying in at the last moment for some deus ex machina. The two most popular ways to do this is to either limit the magic, Harry Potter mostly uses wands and a collection of spells, or give it a consequence. The common trope of using too much magic is to you lose your mind or have it affect the users body negatively.


Yeah, everyone loves a good monster. And if you’re going down that route, I suggest you do some research or invent your own fun things. If you decide to use something from a religion or culture, make certain it is used carefully and do all of the research you can. Using things from people’s religions, or even religions themselves, should not be taken lightly. Also, do not use people of color as your evil monsters either. This is a big problem amongst writers, and a good source to use to make sure you don’t fall in the same sad pit is the blog Writing With Color. I highly recommend it.

There are always so many more things you can do with world building, secret organizations, portal mechanics, races of super humans that live off of cheese and walnuts, but world building is generally not something you do all at once. It constantly changes and is added to as you go along. So if you had any set ideas, make sure to delve into them now. But a word of caution, try not to do too much or you will become overwhelmed if you haven’t thought of a plot yet.

So remember, all you need is a few key locations, magic (if you have it), and monsters to get started. An easy way to keep all of this together is to use one of our worksheets from our shop. See you next week!