The Gimp – Bitmap graphics editing (the background for my star map was made with this, for example)
Subversion – for creating backups; any other solution will do as long as you have one that actually works.
Google Earth – For reference, and for testing out my maps on a sphere!
If you have enough money (or can get it inexpensively, say, on a student’s discount) the Adobe creative suite might be a better substitute for some of the above, but I am not wealthy enough to buy them.
MS Office is an adequate replacement for LibreOffice, and OpenOffice is a decent replacement.
Well, anything from my link sections really – Plus Wikipedia.
News websites like the BBC or CNN or Google News are the best sources for plot ideas ever invented. A newspaper will do, too, if you are stuck in the mid-20th Century.
WordPress for blogging. Other blog providers will work too, pick what you are comfortable with, but personally I can recommend WP.
Lots of paper for sketching out ideas and taking notes – sometimes a quick diagram with a pencil is the best way to work on something, because it frees you from distractions
Binders into which I sort those, plus “WIP” printouts of maps and so on. Never throw anything away that you might use at a later time.
Cheap inkjet printer/scanner for WIP prints and for scanning stuff if I need to. Will replace this with a cheap color laser/scanner combo device as soon as I have the spare money for it.
Small Wacom Bamboo tablet (buy the largest tablet you can afford and can fit on your desk if you intend to do graphics or mapping at all. Trust me. You will never look back.)
Tons of reference books – A lot of expert knowledge is not or not easily accessible in digital form yet, and books often contain a lot of photos and other pictures as well that you won’t easily find online. Do not be afraid to check out the kids/teenagers’ section – those books are lighter on the details, but usually contain a lot of cool pictures.
I use the “post it” notes function of my iPhone to take notes on world-building when I am on the road, then email them to myself every now and then.
Write down everything, every idea you have – every cool name you hear – even if it’s just individual words or one-liners. Sort them at home – I have several huge collections of ideas, name lists, and so on.
Make backups of everything! – My PC has 2 Harddrives that run as a Raid 1 (meaning if one dies, the other still contains all data) plus all my data is in a subversion repository that I synchronize securely to a server in a datacenter in Bavaria. If you don’t want to – or can’t – run your own infrastructure, there are plenty of cloud storage providers nowadays. Just make sure you are comfortable entrusting your documents to a third party – read their terms & conditions carefully.
Always respect copyright. Don’t use what you do not have explicit permission to use. This is both out of respect for the original author, but also because of copyright laws – breaking them can get you into hot water nowadays. When in doubt, ask your lawyer (and I am not kidding). When I collect stuff for inspiration (images, text, etc) I always save a plain text file with the same name as the work itself (but with a .txt extension) which notes author, source URL, and what license the work was released under. That way, when I go back to it months later, I know if I can put it on my blog or not, for example.
Whatever office suite you get, learn to use it. Use styles instead of manually formatting, automatic table of contents, foot- and end-notes, and so on. You will spend a lot of time in there; make your documents the cleanest to use you can. You will thank yourself later.
I am not a fan of fractal map generators. The maps they create look cool at first glance, but they are decidedly not natural, and this breaks suspension of disbelief quickly.
What do you guys use? Any tools or software you use that’s not on the list?
Sometimes, after you have built your world, you may wish to destroy it. If you need ideas on how to accomplish this, there are two good sources: Wikipedia’s End of civilization article covers the basics. And Exit Mundi is a thorough collection on the topic.
It’s still the weekend and I’ll get away with spending a lot of time on this world-building thing. So let’s take a quick look at what else has been happening.
Eliza has added an underground city to her world of darkness (which is not called The Black, silly me). She even posted a sort of schematic of the layout of Vastii. which I quite like for its “cave drawing” style.
Saint know-all has been working on details of a dragon-like species, known as the “taal“. Nice fresh take on them, I am not even sure I’d really call them “dragons”, but I guess “dragon” is, in a way, as general a term as “monster”.
RG Sanders introduced Arbiture, a dysmal place inhabited by – if I got this right – fallen “angelic” (very powerful) beings, who are now warring endlessly among themselves.
Cirellio has begun to build a planet called CirelliolandLura. Lura has some funky stuff going on with electromagnetism. I’ll definitely want to see how that pans out. For my part, I try to avoid messing with the laws of physics as much as I can, except of course for fantasy worlds and even there it’s just to include magic and fire-breathing lizards and the like.
Ken Kiser started off with a creation myth for his world, which, if I understand correctly, is a setting for a novel he’s writing. Or rather, it looks more like an explanation for magic than a real creation myth, as the humans and the world already existed when this tale took place.
Finally, Aeronwy has created a world called Tria – something which she says she wouldn’t have done without world building month. And she seems to have discovered the joy of being a deity. And if nothing else came from World Building Month, this alone would make it a success. 🙂
I don’t want to pre-empt Eliza – she’ll keep tabs on people and presumably post some sort of summary – but of course I’ll want to comment on what’s happening, as it’s happening. Don’t think I’ll be able to post something daily, but we’ll see.
So far, there have been a couple of “HelloWorld” typearticles. Besides this, Eliza has posted a summary of what she intends to build: A world called “the black” which is plunged into deep darkness for long periods, reminiscent of Nightfall and – the very different but surprisingly entertaining, relatively speaking – Pitch Black. It’s a neat premise and it’ll be fun to see how it turns out.
I am assuming most of the other participants are based in the Americas, and will probably post during the evenings. I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing what develops during this month.