So the first time I tried to write a novel, I fell into a common beginner's trap. I envisioned an epic fantasy setting with magic and swords and a hesitant blacksmith at the center. The problem is the world was so huge, I couldn't get things straight. I was building nations, cities, races, and cultures, all from the ground up and, well, I'm sure you can see where this is going.
World building is fun and intense, but it's a rabbit's hole if ever there was one. If you want to build a new world from scratch, it requires a lot of planning and research, because your settings have to feel as alive as your characters. If your character comes from a village high in the mountains, there aren't dining on coconuts. Now, while that's kinda of obvious, it's meant to demonstrate that there are a lot of little details that you might not think of in world building and that can seriously effect how the story goes.
An unrealistic setting can distract a reader just as easily as an unrealistic person. It's important to put just as much time and effort into both. Fortunately, I learned something from that... let's not say failed, but temporarily sidelined project.
The Paladin takes place in a modern setting, something I'm familiar with and something that the average reader won't need lengthy descriptions to understand. My world is no less magical than one set on the edge of an enchanted forest where dwarfs war against gnomes for the riches of the mountain. Instead, by giving my story a contemporary setting, I'm free to tweak the norm and give it a new kind of charm. I'm free to focus more on the cultures that inhabit this world that are different from the norm; I don't have to waste time establishing the norm.
So to anyone travelling down the same path as me, I invite you to set your first big story someplace familiar. If you're like me, you want to get down to writing, but you need to have the world mapped out and understand before you stage your players. Coming up with the ins and outs of the world after the fact is half-hearted and shows. Give it the love and attention it needs. Focus on something you already understand so you don't have to map out every detail.
Don't Forget to be Awesome
Keep your eyes open for my debut novel, The Paladin.