Early last year, I explored whether we could worldbuild without a plan. At the time, my perspective was mostly focused on pantsers, those who write by the seat of their pants and don’t plot in advance.
However, no matter how we write, it’s good for us to develop this worldbuilding-on-the-fly skill, as every story requires us to build a story world (at the very least for the genre, setting, and culture: think of small-town cozy mysteries vs. big-city political thrillers). And at the same time, there are many reasons we might not be able to plan every detail of our story world ahead of time.
For example, in addition to simply being a pantser, we might want to expand a successful standalone story into a series after the fact to take advantage of its popularity. Or we might want to create a spinoff series related to an existing one. Or we might want to play with other authors in a “shared world” series.
Worldbuilding in a piecemeal way can work—and work well. In fact, the approach can create an epic story world that readers love to explore.
How can we make this style of worldbuilding work for us? Let’s take a deeper look at the process of worldbuilding in pieces: How can we build a cohesive epic-sized story world, even if we don’t plan everything in advance?