At YA Highway, Kaitlin has a great post about world building and how it can slow down your first draft. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes of your character’s world, and it can be a challenge to make sure the necessary information is there while not overwhelming yourself in the details. And while some information is really necessary–has there been a zombie apocalypse, or is this a medieval-esque alternate universe?–not everything needs to be there. Especially in a first draft, when you should be focusing on getting the story written. Kaitlin says:
“So sometimes, when I find myself on the internet for the millionth time, researching if some tiny little thing no one will ever care about is possible, I just tell myself to stop. I ignore my crappy world building, except to leave myself small notes about checking things later, and I plow onward. And then I have a draft. Maybe I have to overhaul parts of it because I realize that something doesn’t make sense, but often, I realize that I was stressing too much over nothing and I’ve actually done just fine.”
I really need to remember this when I get wrapped up in the details of my latest project. It’s okay not to have all the world details worked out at that very moment. The only thing that matters in a first draft is figuring out the story and characters. Different worlds are cool, but people are going to notice if you haven’t fleshed out your characters enough, either. It’s easy to get really bogged down in details and think “But I have to know all the precise terminology for shipbuilding in the 1700s or my readers won’t care about the story!” Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. But usually, when I’m reading I care more about the characters and general plot than specific terms for merchant sailing ships.