UPDATED WITH NEW LINKS OCTOBER 2017
Well, it just so happens that you’re in the right place. This year as part of my Nanowrimo blogstravaganza I’ve decided to create three lists: the ultimate list of worldbuilding resources, the ultimate list of character building resources, and the ultimate list of plot development exercises.
My goal is to present you with all the options and the knowledge necessary to find your own way to success this Nanowrimo, and in every novelling endeavour you decide to take on after that.
Are you ready to start planning your Nanowrimo novel?
Is that a “yes” I hear?
Well then, let’s get to it:
These resources will help you create a realistic, fascinating world that you can play in for years to come. Personally, worldbuilding is my favourite part of writing, which means two things: I have lots of resources on this list, and I decided to put worldbuilding first.
1. Limyaael’s Rants – One of the first blogs I ever liked and definitely one of the most entertaining and thorough resources you’ll find for writers. She’s stopped writing them now, but only because she’s already written on pretty much every topic that could be of value to a fantasy writer—and many that could be valuable to other writers as well.
2. 30 Days of Worldbuilding – This is one of the first worldbuilding resources I found through Nanowrimo. I’ve never gone through the whole thing, but there are certain exercises listed here that I’ve done every time I created a world. This originally was created as a writing course and now exists as both a website and an ebook, so you can download a copy and take it with you for writing on the go.
3. Creating Worlds in Science Fiction: Building Settings – This article goes through many different ways writers can play with science fiction worlds, and provides examples for each.
4. Fantasy World Generator – Of all the resources on this list, this is the one I found most recently. It generates maps, and can generate entire worlds upon request. I love drawing my own maps—though they don’t usually look very good—but this program is awesome.
5. Fantasy Worldbuilding Questionnaire – This questionnaire isn’t quite as in depth as the 30 Days of Worldbuilding course, but it has a lot of the same questions. It’s pretty thorough and a great place to start.
6. Magical World Builder – This was actually created by the same person who did the 30 Days of Worldbuilding course, and is also available as an ebook. It’s a thorough guide specifically designed to help fantasy authors build their worlds, whereas the 30 Days of Worldbuilding isn’t specific to either fantasy or science fiction.
7. Creating Religions – A great list of articles that discuss the different aspects of creating a religion. Creating religions is one of my favourite parts of creating a new fantasy world, and this list has quite a bit of information to help you get started.
8. Quick and Dirty Worldbuilding – Don’t worry, I picked this resource for more than the amusing title, though I’ll admit I chuckled the first time I saw it. If you really want to take the bare minimum approach to worldbuilding because you have limited time before Nanowrimo starts—trust me, I’ve been there, it’s all good—this is the website for you.
9. Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions – A great list of questions to help you build a realistic fantasy world. I haven’t looked through this in too much detail, but it’s on the SFWA website, which is a high recommendation, and seems useful from what I did read.
10. Water Geography – Pretty much everything you need to know about the geography of water when you’re mapping your world. You might not think this is particularly important, but it is something you really should pay attention to. Making the little details of your world realistic helps keep your readers entrenched in the larger story.
11. Defining the Source, Effects, and Cost of Magic – This is a fairly in depth article discussing different aspects of a good magical system and how you can create them. Combined with the resource above and some of your own creativity, this article will help you create a believable magic system. For some of you who have been writing fantasy novels for a long time, this might not be new information, but sometimes it’s good to be reminded, right?
12. Four Questions to Answer When Creating Your Own Magic System – A few simple questions to help you create a magic system that works.
13. How to Create a Rational Magic System – Rational magic systems follow firm metaphysical laws that guide what can and cannot be done with them. This article will help you create one.
14. Creating Religions & Belief Systems – A short guide that will heelp you build the basis of a believable religion for your world.
15. Myths, Creatures, and Folklore – This seems to be the ultimate resource guide for anything you might want to know related to creating your own mythology. You’ll only find basic information about most of the items listed, but it’s a great starting point.
16. Setting the Fantastic in the Everyday World – You don’t get out of worldbuilding just because you want to set your fantasy novel in the real world. This article discusses some of the concerns you should address before starting a contemporary fantasy novel.
17. Creating a Language – This is a pretty detailed article about creating a language. I’ve never actually created a full language before, but I’ve read a fair bit about the subject and this is one of the better resources I’ve come across.
18. The Language Construction Kit – This is the most highly recommended resource on creating your own languages that I know of. I’ve read through most of it, though as mentioned above I haven’t actually created my own language. I find it hard enough to think up names for my characters and countries, let alone an entire language. At this point you probably won’t have time to create an entire language before Nanowrimo starts, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start working on it now.
19. Creating Fictional Holidays – I love creating holidays and festivals in my fantasy worlds. This article has some great information and food for thought that will help you create some holidays of your own. And remember, they can celebrate holidays in science fiction first.
20. Weather and Worldbuilding 101 – This article has just enough information about weather and worldbuilding to make sure you don’t screw it up—and to inspire you to use weather creatively during your novel.
21. Medieval Technology – This is a handy article that focuses primarily on weapons and will help you keep your work both original and accurate. Sure, swords might be cooler, but even if you don’t use these weapons it’s good to know they existed.
22. Music For Your Fantasy World – Music has been incredibly important throughout history and can add depth to your world. This article gives you a basic framework that you can use to create music for your fantasy world, even a musical history.
23. Mythic Scribes Worldbuilding Articles – The Mythic Scribes blog is a great resource for writers. This is the archive of all their articles about worldbuilding, and it has information on a variety of related topics.
24. Internet Sacred Text Archive – For those of you who have as much fun as I do creating religions, this website is a wealth of incredibly useful info. It’s the home of hundreds of sacred texts from different cultures, and should help you create sacred texts of your own—or provide some inspiration for a story based in our own world.
25. The International Phonetic Alphabet – Audio Illustrations – This allows you to see all the different human vocal sounds, so you can mix and match to create a language that sounds just right.
26. Cartography, Maps, Star Charts, and Writing – An article about how maps should influence fantasy stories, along with some examples of good fantasy maps and several useful links. This one was actually written up by a Nanowrimo participant.
27. Decorative-Maps.com – This website has a pretty thorough collection of articles on the subject of map making, and is a handy resource for anyone thinking about creating a map.
28. Fundamentals of Physical Geography – This is a free online textbook that explains how the planet works, written in such a way that anyone can read it, not just science geeks. I haven’t read through it all, but I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve learned so far.
29. SolStation – Are you thinking about writing some science fantasy? This website has local star maps and lots of information about different stars in the area to help inspire you.
30. Orion’s Arm – You’ll find that a lot of these links are more directed at science fiction writers, but quite a few are useful for both fantasy and science fiction authors.
31. Project Rho – Here you’ll find more star maps and more useful information for building a science fiction world.
32. Encyclopedia Mythica – If you’re looking at creating a religion or writing about characters who follow an ancient religion you’ll find this resource incredibly helpful. It’s a collection of myths from all over the world, during every time period.
33. The Ancient History Encyclopedia – Want to base your fantasy world on an ancient civilization? Or maybe you want to base your fantasy novel in an ancient civilization. Either way, this site can help you make sure you get the basics right.
34. Historically Accurate Sexism in Fantasy: Let’s Unpack That – This is a great article about what discrimination really looked like in history with some thoughts on how to treat it in your fiction.
35. Debate with the Squirrels: Sexism in Fantasy – This is an article which takes the topic of how writers can address sexism in fantasy and turns it into an entertaining debate between the author and… Themselves.
36. Feudalism – This article explains how feudalism works and a bit about the history of feudalism in European countries.
37. Feudal Japan – A basic explanation of how feudalism worked in Japan, with enough to get you started on the task of creating your own feudal society if you so choose.
38. English Monarchs – This website is a great springboard for learning about the various English monarchs throughout the ages.
39. Everyday Life in the Middle Ages – This article from the BBC is a great summary of what daily life looked like for nobles in the Middle Ages.
40. Peasant Life in the Middle Ages – This one’s for those of you writing about the less fortunate in the Middle Ages.
41. Victorian Era Family Day Life in England – Thinking you want to base your world off something a little more recent – but not too recent? This website details daily life in England during the Victorian era, and is sure to give you dozens of ideas.
42. The Story and Structure of the Iroquois Confederacy – If you want to break away from the mold of traditional fantasy, one of the best ways to do it is by basing your government off one most authors ignore. The Iroqouis confederacy comes complete with a fascinating story and an intriguing structure. I think most modern governments could learn a lot from these guys.
Take this list, copy+paste it into your word processor and keep it on hand so you can work through these articles and exercises on your own time. And remember these two things:
Not every exercise will work for you, but that’s okay. You won’t have time to get through them all before Nanowrimo starts anyway.
Oh, and there IS such a thing as too much worldbuilding. It happens when you get so caught up in the details of creating a realistic world that you never write a novel. So make sure you stop when November first comes around and start actually working on your novel.
Did you find this list useful? Do you know a resource I should have included but didn’t? Let me know in the comments section below!