So we’re nearly there, except we’re not. You see, as I’ve discovered, a world never stops growing. The key is knowing when you have enough to support your material and give it depth without going totally overboard. Ideally you should focus on the country or area your material is set in and add some detail to the countries that surround it, if there are any. So at minimum you’re looking for details on the people, their traditional trades, their religious views, how they engage in trade and how they speak. You’ll also need, as I said above, a little detail on the surrounding countries, things to do with either trade or war or religion. Countries will always interact and the population of one will view the other with a certain bias. In the end though, it’s up to you how much detail you go into.
In my case, my most recent creation is an entire world. It has several continents, but all except one are blank. Terra Incognita as it were. The detailed continent, the one you have seen images of, has more detail than I’ll ever need. But for all of that, I’ve only detailed several of the countries. There are areas of this continent that I have not explored, people I’ve never met, traditions that I’ve not recorded and religious practices that I know nothing about. For me this is a form of exploration, and it’s exciting. The areas here are just waiting to be filled. Do I want an isolationist population that has harnessed the powers of electricity to ease their lives? Do I want them to be cannibals? Maybe they’ll be a peace-loving people with a living god walking among them. The possibilities are almost endless.
If you’ve been keeping up you’ll have a question. How can a country, surrounded by other countries be vastly different to what exists around it? The answer to that is usually physical obstacles that make travel virtually impossible or at least very, very difficult. Things like vast deserts or high mountain ranges. I’ll accept that magic usage is also an option in this case, where powers are used to create artificial borders of one sort or another. Vast armies are another option. I prefer natural obstacles though. They help to create a certain mystique about what lies beyond without diving headfirst into over-complication.
There’s not much more to say really, every world is different and every writer has an opinion on the matter. What’s important is that you do it in a way that suits you. It shouldn’t feel like hard work when you’re working on it, as it’s just an extension of the planning phase. It will cost you time in the beginning, depending on how much detail you go in for, but in the long run I believe it will save you time. The reason for this is at its most basic, your world is little more than a system of rules that dictate why your plot is happening, where it’s happening and what your characters are capable of doing about it. The system shapes your characters and the people they interact with, and gives them all a sense of consistency.
So now it’s your turn. Go create your world. Explore it, find your people and challenge them. Give them Gods and Goddesses. Cast down their religions of old and introduce reason and logic. Create dragons and demons, angels and heroes. Fight wars and lose. You have the power to do so because you are the God of your own world and you are the Law.