How to Track World-Building in a Fantasy Series

Writing a fantasy series gets a little easier by tracking the details of the world you've created. EJ Wenstrom offers a few easy ways to manage the controlled chaos.
Publish date:

Writing a fantasy series gets a little easier by tracking the details of the world you've created. EJ Wenstrom offers a few easy ways to manage the controlled chaos.

Image placeholder title

When writing an alternate universe for fantasy fiction, world-building can quickly become complex beyond manageability. Going beyond that first novel to write an entire series within that world can be even more challenging—personally, it has been my truest experience of controlled chaos.

By book two, I realized I could not rely on my memory as much as I thought I could. By book three, I struggled to keep straight what version of certain details made it into the final draft. By book four, I was properly tangled within my own creation, wasting time searching madly through my previous books to confirm crucial info, instead of doing the actual writing.

But, live and learn. Now I know: I should have documented my world’s key details from the start.

Luckily, many authors wiser than myself have come up with creative methods to keep track of your world. Here are a few popular ones to try:

Word Document

This is perhaps the simplest and most familiar tool for a writer. A Word document can be a no-fuss way to track notes about your world for later reference.

However, this document may soon grow quite long as your world grows, and become as unwieldy as the world itself—get ready for lots of scrolling. A table of contents with internal hyperlinks can help curb this.


Adding Excel to your writing process may feel like anathema, but some authors swear by them. A spreadsheet can make it easier to track key details in an organized fashion—and this means it’s easy to find when you need it, too.

How you set up your spreadsheet is up to you—should it be structured by geographic region? By religion? By social class? It may depend on what drives your unique world. However you go about it, the most important thing is to capture those details.


One advantage of creating a wiki for your world is that it automatically keeps your crucial reference on the cloud where it’s safe from the looming threat of hard drive crashes. (Though a Google Drive can fix that in a heartbeat no matter what format you choose.)

Another advantage is that a wiki organizes your notes into sections with an auto-created table of contents, which can be further organized into subsections for several buckets of notes within a category.

Create a private wiki to keep your notes safe, or publish it so your fans can follow along and explore your world deeper.


If you use Scrivener, you already have access to a world-building worksheet, but there are many others out there, too. Just Google it!

If you can’t find one that’s just right, you can also modify a template or create your own. Set it as a custom template in your favorite word processor to start fresh for each new project.

A good world-building worksheet should walk you through the foundational setup of your fictional world in a way that is helpful and inspiring. Additional space to track additional details and updates as you draft can help keep everything straight.

The Ultimate Challenge: Maintaining Your Reference

Regardless of what format you choose to maintain your world-building notes, the biggest challenge is maintaining it as your world expands. Whether you build your world first and then plot, or build your world on the fly as your draft, you’re bound to get caught up in the creative process. No one wants to lose their flow once they get into it! But an outdated world tracker is hardly better than none at all.

To keep up with it, consider setting aside time at the end of each writing sessions to update your tracker with the latest information. It’s a little extra work, but you’ll be grateful for it when you’re suddenly in book four and need to revisit a town your characters traveled through in book one. As you try to search your memory for what’s sold in the market, what the people there eat, and other important details, you’ll be glad to find everything you need compiled in your tracker.

Writer's Digest Annual Conference

Write better. Get published. Build your network.

Writer's Digest Annual Conference | August 22-25 | New York City


Who Are the Inaugural Poets for United States Presidents?

Here is a list of the inaugural poets for United States Presidential Inauguration Days from Robert Frost to Amanda Gorman. This post also touches on who an inaugural poet is and which presidents have had them at their inaugurations.


Precedent vs. President (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use precedent vs. president with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 554

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a future poem.


New Agent Alert: Tasneem Motala of The Rights Factory

New literary agent alerts (with this spotlight featuring Tasneem Motala of The Rights Factory) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.


Timothy Miller: The Alluring Puzzle of Fact and Fiction

Screenwriter and novelist Timothy Miller explains how he came to write historical fiction and how research can help him drive his plot.


Dr. Munish Batra and Keith R.A. DeCandido: Entertainment and Outrage

Authors Dr. Munish Batra and Keith R.A. DeCandido explain how they came to co-write their novel and why it's important to them that the readers experience outrage while reading.


Incite vs. Insight (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use incite vs. insight with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.


Jane K. Cleland: On Writing the Successful Long-Running Series

Award-winning mystery author Jane K. Cleland describes what it's like to write a long-running book series and offers expert advice for the genre writer.