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Are you ready for the biggest worldbuilding challenge of the year? Here are some top tips on how to prep for WorldEmber and get ahead of the game with your worldbuilding!

This year I challenged myself to give NaNoWriMo a go for the first time and boy, I was not ready. I have managed to achieve a grand total of 20,621 words (at the time of writing) and—although I’m proud of my progress—only two paragraphs of this are actual “story”, the rest is structure and plot outlining.   I’ve hit a brick wall when it comes to expanding my ideas, and I find the writing itself stressful – so I’ve gone Rebel and changed direction! I will aim to fill the rest of my remaining word count with worldbuilding and start to prep for the upcoming challenge by World Anvil starting on 1st December : WorldEmber 2018!  

How I’m preparing

As per last year, the rules for WorldEmber stated that only worldbuilding done on new articles with the creation date of 1st December or later would count towards your wordcount goal. So with this in mind, I’m going to work on the following:  

Refine existing articles

 Hang on, why not just pre-write your articles and upload them all on 1st December?

Well, where’s the fun in that? Much like NaNoWriMo, it’s absolutely fine to plan in advance and prepare some material, but writing the whole thing beforehand? That’s plain cheating, and pretty boring too. But if you want some tips for increasing your wordcount then here are my top 5:

  1. Write an author’s journal to document your progress.
  2. Use the plot article template to make a grand plan of ideas.
  3. Copy in excerpts from relevant articles to provide extra lore.
  4. Add a quote from a different person’s perspective within your world.
  5. Try to fill in as many parts of the article template as you can.

Instead of pre-writing articles before the event begins, I like to polish and refine what I’ve already got, because if I work on old articles during WorldEmber, the wordcount won’t go up on the old articles anyway (so it makes sense to do it now)!  

I like to set a personal goal for my articles and try to make each of them around 300-400 words in length. Anything less and the worldbuilding should probably be part of a different article, anything more and it may need breaking down into smaller areas of focus.  

By refining my existing worldbuilding, it refreshes my memory on the current goings on in my world, what needs to be worked on and where everything is based. This leads on to the next stage of my planning:  

Plan worldbuilding scope

When I took part in the first WorldEmber challenge in 2017 last year, I did not plan the scope of my worldubilding at all. I worked on a jungle continent, I threw in exotic humanoid species without a thought, I then worked on an arctic location, then a desert oh and also some tiny little details about cake.  

Overall – I made a mess. It was very hard to clean up afterwards, and ultimately I abandoned this project and started afresh.  

This time I have planned the scope of my worldbuilding. For me, working on the whole world didn’t work, so I gave this a trial run during the Forging Worlds with Tale Foundry competition earlier this year and I set the focus of my worldbuilding to just one small island (many other worldbuilders went smaller than that and just focussed on a town or a city)! This approach went much better for me, as I found it easier to connect each article I had created by @ mentioning them in World Anvil articles, attaching maps, pins and connected organizations and characters. It wasn’t just the writing that felt easier, even the timelines made a lot more sense!   So, this year, I’m doing the same again and will be writing as much of my worldbuilding as possible in The Isles of Meles, a large island ranging from cold southern climates to warmer temperate regions in the north.

The Isles of Meles by TJ Trewin

List ideas for future articles

All hail the mighty to do list! As I’m going along brushing up on my current articles, I am adding in placeholder links to things I need to write about next (check the purple BBCode reference button on the side of the page when you write your next article). I can also add items manually to the to do list as well, but I’m being careful not to create the articles yet, as I mentioned before, for WorldEmber “only worldbuilding done on new articles with the creation date of 1st December or later would count towards your wordcount goal“.   The best way that I’ve found to get ideas for your worldbuilding is to grab a sheet of paper, a notebook, or a plain old generic article on World Anvil, and just write EVERYTHING that springs to mind. Don’t worry about order, let the chaos of ideas just all come out. Write down the bad ideas too, because once the ideas are down you can then go through and try and make sense of it all. Chuck ’em all on your to do list and you’re ready for when the challenge begins!  

Asterean Lamprey by TJ Trewin

An Asterean Lamprey that infests the waters of the Asterean sea to the north of my chosen region. Maybe there will be a gigantic version of this as a myth/legend article?

Experiment with article layouts

This is also a great time to experiment with article layouts using placeholder text and existing images you already use (or placeholder ones, if you like). I like to set up a few draft or private generic articles and play around with how the different BBCode works, and what layouts can be achieved with columns, tables or breaking up large chunks of text with a nice image.   Having a nice layout in mind can really make worldbuilding articles stand out and make them more visually engaging to read, as well as more memorable!  

Prepare artwork, images and headers

Being a highly creative individual, I also like to spend this time preparing a few images in advance that I know I will need. Maps, guild logos and article header images ready to go make the worldbuilding go a lot quicker when all you want to focus on is the writing part. There are many resources out there if you don’t have the time or tools available to make images, such as Vertixico‘s set of Free World Anvil Covers for the community (I use these myself)! I’m also going to use the drawings I did for Inktober 2018 within my worldbuilding!

Asking for feedback

I’ve found that asking for feedback on my worldbuilding so far is a great way to not only improve on existing articles, but to spot any patterns on things I frequently miss out. Reddit is a great place for feedback with communities such as /r/worldbuilding, /r/fantasyworldbuilding and /r/wonderdraft to help you improve and think of concepts you may have missed. There’s also the article critique channel in the World Anvil discord (check out the pinned messages if you’re not sure how the system works) which is amazing for getting comments directly on your articles from other people using the site!  

Help others with their planning

Hopping on the World Anvil discord server and talking with other worldbuilders about how they’re planning ideas has given me a lot of neat tips & tricks to work with! It has also sparked off some early competitive spirit, which will be fun to challenge other people! Sharing is caring, which is why I’ve decided to write up this little blog/journal entry for you to take a peek behind the scenes on what I’ve been up to.

I hope you found these tips useful! Let us know which was your favourite, and don’t forget to share your work with us @WorldAnvil (and use the #WorldEmber2018 hashtag) so we can share your amazing worldbuilding on social media!