Mid-way through our world-building, you might be interested in some other resources for world-building. This list was compiled by Holly Ingraham, one of the admins for the Other World Writing Workshop, which has a forum (the Starship Barbarian Lounge) over in the Writing Groups forum at NaNoWriMo.

From Holly: Read everything at and and

Patricia C. Wrede has a whole questionnaire on world-building topics for fantasy authors

Dr. Suzette Haden Elgin, working in her double profession of scifi writer and linguist, gives us the basics of creating a new language

Suzy McKee Charnas on vampires

Joan Slonczewski on the science in science fiction

Dr. Elizabeth Viau teaches a course in world-building from the planetary dust up

S. Andrew Swann on world-building

"Construction and Influences" by Stephen Baxter takes speculation to the edge, but stays hard scifi

David Eddings' advice on getting real[/quote]

From my own World Builder's Guide:

From Writer's Digest Books:

The Writer's Complete Fantasy Reference (Introduction by Terry Brooks). Includes some chapters on magic and paganism, as well as commerce, trade, clothing, castles, and real-world cultures.

Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy Includes a chapter called "The World-Builder's Handbook and Pocket Companion."

World-Building, by Stephen L. Gillet. This is indispensable. It's a GREAT resource for how to make a physical world that makes sense.

Aliens and Alien Societies by Stanley Schmidt. Haven't read it yet, but it should be applicable to fantasy races as well as science fiction aliens.

Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherrilyn Kenyon. Actually, any decent baby name book will do-- make sure it lists the meaning of the name, alternate spellings, and origins. The Character Naming Sourcebook lists names by country/culture, so you can select names for characters that are from roughly similar cultures to make sense.

The Writer's Guide to Creating a Science Fiction Universe by George Ochoa and Jeffrey Osier. Another good one for physical world-building, defining where the mountains belong, etc.

Non-Writers Digest books:

A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver -- Good, understandable resource for how words sound. Also useful if you're inventing languages and cultures, so you can write poetry for your gnomes.

Life in a Medieval Castle by Joseph and Frances Gies. They also have books on life in medieval cities, etc. All-around helpful resource.

The Borderlands of Science by Charles Sheffield. Gives a really good overview of science and where scientific knowledge has reached its limit.

A similarly-titled book The Borderlands of Science: Where Sense Meets Nonsense by Michael Shermer explores the boundary between science and pseudo-science.

Don't Know Much About Geography by Kenneth C. Davis is an excellent book for some hard-core basics on physical geography on Earth.

All of the Brother Cadfael mystery novels by Ellison Peters are great-- Peters is a trained medievalist as well as a novelist-- her books are often required reading in college history courses.

The Exercise:

Check out some of the websites that relate to your novel, and pick out a book or two that you plan to read, either between now and when you start writing, or to flesh out your world after you've written your first draft.