The "I am stuck at worldbuilding and can't get out" Thread

I’m assuming most of us, including non-fiction writers, have been there. You get so excited about your world’s culture, religion, politics, economy and so on you forget to actually, umm… start the story!

I am working on a project with 3 star systems containing a total of 25 planets and over 10 races. I’m not complaining though, this is my choice and it is genuinely fun. I am a sucker for worldbuilding! However, even this level of enthusiasm doesn’t prevent the interest loss. Thankfully, I am not there yet, but I’m afraid of it. My concerns prove even more valid given that the same project is an rpg game with main storyline, sidequests and open world features. So, you can see where I am going with this.

I am afraid that I’m not going to be able to finish this game just because i will have lost interest in it when it comes to actually writing. This thread is here because I couldn’t find a seperate one that focuses solely on this issue and i think this title is what a stuck writer would hope to find.

I hoped this thread would be the place you share your worldbuilding experiences, how you got stuck, for how long it lasted and how did you overcome it, or didn’t… Also, tips are largely appreciated ^.^

I'll start sharing

I talked about what my hopes are for this thread, and here i will be telling my part of the story. So you don’t need to read furthermore if you are not interested in my personal experience with the topic.

As i already mentioned above irrelevently, definitely not for advertising purposes- i am working on a huge project. I’m treating every planet and every race like my own and i am writing their politics, religion, technology, geography, agriculture, economy, trade pacts, Tired? I am… etc.

This goes on for races, physics and laws of universe, NPC’s, RO’s and such. And on top of that, I will have so many side stories (side quests) and a main story that will, branch(what a surprise). Im so immersed in and excited about this i can’t let go of writing, but even with this pace I was not able to start the story in even a month.

And the complicated part is… I am not actually looking to get rid of this habit. I am enjoying this so much! Only problem is, I know myself and I get bored too quick to be able to carry on such a large scaled project. So I also hope to find some ways of carrying on writing when things go downhill.

Thanks everyone to listening to my presentation and I hope you have a good day. :blossom: :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

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I’ll give a more detailed reply later, but this is pretty much exactly what I’m going through right now, save for the fact that I’m only developing one world and I’ve written a few snippets.

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I will try to not be rude but still being sincere. You will be permanently stuck in that phase with the current system you are following. I have been in that phase and I am sure that every writer that loves world-building has been in the same place you are.

You are focus on the wrong order to end a story. The world-building has to be at service of the plot, not the other way around. If you don’t have a plot clear and stablish and a reason in that plot that substantially keeps everything coherent and cohesive; you won’t be ending anything of size.

You will just jump from worldbuilding to a new one. Again and again.

First, make a realistic immediate overall story. Then think why is the world like that and lore then create specific characters to tell that overall story in concrete chapters. It is the only way. If not you are writing a lorepedia not books or interactive fiction

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This is my concern put into someone else’s text. I’m glad to hear this actually because it really makes sense and is better than uncertainty for me.

It is all constructive criticism, and I appreciate it. I really wanted to go this direction no matter the advices and see for myself but yeah, It seems i will see and learn rather early.

Seems I will turn to this after my failed attempts :upside_down_face:
Thanks for your sincere advises Mara, i appreciate them. :purple_heart:

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Honestly feel like this would help me out alot more too. Glad im not the only person that gets stuck on the world building.:disappointed_relieved:

But i feel like i get stuck in making the characters as well, like i see the people i want to make but when it comes to the story I get stuck.

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I would like to - carefully - point out that sometimes worldbuilding is required to make the story believable, though.

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Of course, it is a good story is a puzzle it needs balance and all pieces in a cohesive order

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I konw how you feel, my friend… because I’m in a similar situation.

Long story short I’m working on a fantasy novel/series (let’s see how it will come out) and I wrote almost everything (90%) about wordbuilding: I wrote about races, kingdoms, the empire, royal families, various cultures, not magical powers, historical and mythological background… I even wrote the summary about a story wich basically serves no porpuse to the plot aside lore and explaining why a major (not protagonist) character acts in certain manner :disappointed:

What did I actually write of the plot? 1/3 of the first chapter :disappointed:

On the bright side I wrote a good part (60-70%) of the overall summary, the fates of almost every major character, some little scenes.

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I believed in “how much you know the better” while i was also aware you should leave a lot of information out of your story if you go this way. MC, which is reader in our case, doesn’t need to know. But I, as a writer feel relieved and more confident to know and explain every single aspect of my universe. This way i thought it is helping me be creative or be in immersive writing but if it causes me to first write a planet then the gods that created it then the conflict between them then the mountains they created to themselves to live seperately then the teas that can grow on these mountains then arrange the ecosystem of the planet for tea growth and yeah it doesn’t end. What was my gain from this? I would be able to make a living from tea farming if you put me in the black sea region with a little money. :upside_down_face:
I guess going into details and explanation is only good as long as it serves a purpose.

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Exactly, World building without story plot is nothing.

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I am constantly submerged in lore, spending every second I work on anything fleshing out more and more unnecessary corners. Somehow, I still manage to write stories. Here are my best suggestions on how to do not drown while doing so:

  1. As has been mentioned, figure out the actual story you want to tell. Easier said than done? Maybe. But here’s my suggestion on how to do it. The thing is, by your own admission, you already know a lot about your world. Out of all the things that separates it from the real world, which one is the most interesting to you? Find the most intriguing “hook” you’ve created and tug on it. Make that the core theme around which everything else revolves. This doesn’t mean everything else falls by the wayside; you can introduce details as they come up in the story. But like others have pointed out, you need to have a story first.
  2. A similar concept, but on a smaller scale: distill every major concept in your story down to a simple descriptor. Figure out how things relate to each other. Pretend you’re talking to someone who knows nothing about your world, and you need to sum up a given race, country, location, whatever, in a few sentences or less. This might feel like stereotyping your own plot elements; that’s good. One of the best ways to make headway on switching from a top-down perspective to the on-the-ground one you need to write a story is figuring out how people in general feel or think about the things in the world. Again: this does not mean you have to remove all the detail you’ve built up in your head. But you need to understand the core of what everything is and how it fits in before you can properly flesh out the minutiae.
  3. Think about the most prevalent attitudes people might have about your main themes/topics/etc. and create characters to fill in those holes. Allow the main players in the story to be extensions of the worldbuilding you’ve already done; one character might represent the attitude of their species; another might represent the attitude of their organization. And so on and so forth. Not all of your characters need to fit this template (some can just be cool, interesting characters you come up with), but all of them should serve some purpose in exploring whatever narrative theme or concept you’ve decided to make your story about.
  4. Once you know what your story is really about, figure out which parts of your world facilitate the telling of that story and start cobbling together a sequence of events that will take you to those parts of the world. If you really want, you can identify a few parts of your world that you just want to explore for the sake of exploring (don’t let this part get out of hand!) and make up excuses for your characters to explore those elements. As long as you fit it into your existing narrative and do it well, your audience usually won’t be able to tell the difference.
  5. If you’re still unsatisfied by the amount of detail you’re allowed to go into while still telling the story you’ve committed to, add optional dialogue and texts for players who really care about that sort of thing. If they’re as interested in the world as you are, they’ll be delighted to learn more. If not, they don’t have to waste their time on the extraneous information.
  6. If your world continues to balloon so much that you simply can’t contain it in a single story, my honest advice is to just start planning for sequels or side stories set in the same universe. Don’t lose focus on what your current story is ultimately about. It won’t kill you to have a plan for what comes after your current project, either.
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And after reading this, I read Sanderson, and I wonder at how crazy that guy is

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Thank you so much for these valuable tips @CorvusWitchcraft . I shouldn’t comment on every single point you addressed cause that would make this even longer of a post than yours u.u

Just wanna say I appreciate your time to put these precious advises here and I’ll keep them in mind when I am writing.

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First off, welcome back @needs-to-be-loved! :smile:

Secondly, I think that this is most often a case of procrastinating. Something in us does not want to write on our stories, and so our minds find ways to do other stuff, that can still be considered working on them, so we feel productive and not guilty.

Beating yourself up over this is not a good way to work through it, and is more likely to just make you avoid the actual writing even more.
Instead, you needs to figure out what is holding you back, what difficulties you are having, and that can be different things.

Worldbuilding does not use the exact same parts of the brain as creative writing does, and so one may be much harder than the other, depending on your individual brain, your current stress levels, your mental health.
Maybe you’re approaching writing in the way you think you should do it (planner, pantser, etc), and not the way that is actually natural for you.
Worldbuilding is a very structured task, with clear goals. The actual writing is much more chaotic, especially if you don’t know all the theory, and don’t outline. At the same time, worldbuilding can also be spontaneous and unrestrained, and fit all sorts of little ideas in, without getting too chaotic, because the structure is almost inherent in how we think about it.

Whatever your personal barriers are, I think the best way to handle it is to find strategies to work through the source of it, instead of trying to force yourself to write when it feels unnatural.

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Ohhh, painful topic. In the past, I too tended to fall into this trap of worldbuilding and forgetting about the plot. And I think that losing interest in your own worlds\stories is the worst…

So I will share my ways on how to not abandon your story even if you lost interest in it. Maybe even retrieve that interest.

For me, the big thing is how much time and effort I invested in the creation of something. I learned somewhere that the more you invested in something, the more chances that you are going to see it through to the end. And it usually works for me unconsciously! I tend to think that if I stop doing something, then all this effort will be a waste. If I won’t finish a story, then no one will find out about my detailed world. And so on. Not the best way of thinking, but meh, it works me.

But you might have to motivate yourself with something else. Something like setting a goal. Maybe even several goals. For example: create an outline for a story, write 5 chapters, create a demo for the game, etc. These goals not only help you continue working on your story and seeing progress, but they also make the process less boring. It’s like quests! (haha not really but still)

And I have to state that there is always a chance that you will regain lost interest if you simply continue to work on your project.

As for the “how to get ‘unstuck’ in worldbuilding”… For me to stop getting stuck in worldbuilding helped the fact that I stopped worldbuilding stuff that was not relevant for the story.
The main story will be set in one country and the MC is not involved in politics? The other countries don’t need a big description. Or you don’t really need to know all the details, including favorite drink, of NPC that MC will see three times at best.

But for this tip to be useful you need a story. Well, a short synopsis of a plot, at least. Which is another reason how I stop getting stuck in worldbuilding.
When I wrote enough (usually detailed outline) for the plot of the story, I usually become more interested in developing the plot. Therefore I am not putting all my effort only into worldbuilding anymore.

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An alternate way of thinking about this, if it helps: if you have elements of your worldbuilding that you really like and don’t want to let go of, try to make them relevant to your story—or vice versa.

When I think of a new element of my world that I really like, I also try to think about whether or not I can fit it into the story somehow, in a way that doesn’t seem forced; if so, I’ve made headway on both tasks at the same time. Some of my favorite storylines and characters, in fact, have been created simply because I had questions about the world that I felt deserved answers—real, tangible answers that can be thoroughly explored through the narrative.

Worldbuilding and story outlining do not have to be at odds; for me, they often go hand in hand.

Of course, for the details that are, in fact, irrelevant to the story, and always will be, I’d tend to agree; you don’t really need those. They can be fun to think about every now and then, but you shouldn’t let them override your ability to write things that actually matter.

It’s all a balancing act, I guess. But if you can find ways to get both aspects of storytelling working in tandem, it’s often easier and more rewarding than forcing yourself to sacrifice the worldbuilding you enjoy for outlining, or vice versa.

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Edit: Looked back over more in-depth at your original post and this probably isn’t really what you’re looking for. Sorry! I’ll leave my comment here for posterity’s sake, but I’ll put it under a details tag so it’s not so big.

Unsolicited Advice

Listen this might be a bit different from some of the other advice on this thread, so take it or leave it as you will, but-

I’ve certainly been in similar situations before. The trick, I’ve found, is to pick one major aspect you enjoy and focus in on that. Is there a planet you particularly like? A culture? A historical figure? Ask yourself what it’d be like to live there. Is this planet currently in a war with another one? What would it be like to be a soldier in that war? Did this country have a hero? What where they like? I’m not intimately familiar with your world building process, but often times I’ve found that the things that would make for the best stories are already in my worldbuilding, I just haven’t chosen to focus on them. If that doesn’t quite make any sense, here’s an example off the top of my head:

I’ve worldbuilt a story about a fantasy world that suffered an apocalyptic event that forever altered the way magic worked. The “current story” takes place after the event- but there was one particular society that had a major impact on modern day culture because they were formed by a group of adventurers who found a magical artifact. Now, at this point in my worldbilding, those adventurers might just be background history. But it might be worth taking that little footnote in your world and turning it into your whole story, instead of trying to awkwardly fit in a whole new plot.

Basically what this long and rambling post is trying to say that, at least in my experience, when you worldbuild to this extent 9/10 times a good plot is already there. You just have to find it. And, of course, if none of this makes sense and doesn’t apply to you at all, feel free to 100% ignore it.

Good luck!

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I’m normally stuck with the writing too (most probably because of procrastination, that son of a *%#@)
I’m not a writer by any means and this being my first try can get difficult some times… or most of the times…
When I get inspired by some unknown magical event once in a while it tends to be when I know exactly what my character is going to do and all the things that come after that (to a certain point), so I support all the comments that say that you should focus on building the plot, after all that’s what you are supposed to do, tell a story, not a detailed description of the world around it.
Although if for some reason I need some kind of inspiration, sometimes I look for wallpapers or images from alphacoders, just search for fantasy or dragons or warriors or whatever its related with my story and let my imagination go from there, I don’t know why but it works most of the times, maybe just some visual aid can start to crank my brain into work.
Anyways, my simple advise, a system with 3 stars and 25 planets 10 races and etc won’t do anything unless there’s someone that find some problems on them, I think that problems “drama” are the things that motivate the character to do stuffs, if its all good why bother on doing something?, so find your character and give him a cold bath with the worst things you could imagine, then tell the story of how it gets out of them.

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I’ll go ahead and say worldbuilding not in the support of story is a legit thing. Just don’t treat them the same as worldbuilding to support a story you’re planning.

I know some people worldbuild without making any story whatsoever. Their world do have history and lore, which would make a good plot point, but they’ve done no story outside of short stories in the vein of said lore.


But it seems you have trouble on actually writing a story, so what I’ve said is probably a little help to you. Instead, try watching this vid


and do it bottom-up (or inside-out method); focus on the story you want to tell, and then expand from there.
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I’m going to address the burnout element as thats received less attention:

Do you know how much time you have to write?

If it isn’t more than a couple of evenings or a few hours a week, you may have to reason with yourself about the feasibility of combining open world functions with extensive world building and multiple choice paths.

Before I get into that, I want to say - You can do it! I bet your world is amazing and your ideas will be wonderful to read when they’re published.

Heartfelt negative sounding advice now:

Too much worldbuilding, readers may get bored or confused as it can be hard to follow without a strong plot. It may be clear to you, but interest in world only is not enough to make your readers think you made a good story. You do need to write, thinking about the reader, not just about what you enjoy about your world -
@poison_mara put it brilliantly succinctly that your world building needs to be at the service of your plot. If you haven’t constructed the plot yet, I would say do that first.

Too many open world functions may mean the time it takes to write balloons until you never finish. And when you combine this with extensive world building, its easy to underestimate hour many hours it will actually take to complete. It takes a really long time, and you have to remember you’ve chosen to write in an interactive choice based medium. That’s three huge contributions to writing time and burnout!

Writing my first story part time I burnt out after year 5 of a 7 year stint. I can’t describe the agony of the thing you love turning into something you fear.

I suggest you really sit down and compare each element of what you are writing and put them in three bins in advance to prevent burn out: 1/ This is directly serving the plot. 2/ is related and would make good open world side quest material. 3/ Is not related, I like writing about it though. Put bin 3 aside until you’ve written most or all of 1 and 2, including the branching, meaningful choices.
Then do all you proofing, over and over until your game is totally clean. This takes so much time! The more complex your code and the longer your story, the longer you’ll go at the end not actually writing, just reading, tweaking, bug-fixing. That could take a year or more! (Took me two)
So don’t return to bin 3 until after you’ve done that - you can use some or finish, but at least you won’t be stuck without a finished story and waning enthusiasm.

I bet your story is great! Take time now out of your worldbuilding to make sure you finish it :slight_smile:

Ps
@CorvusWitchcraft’s post should be pinned to the top of the forum for all time for first time choicescript writers.

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