Keeping Track of Your Worldbuilding Part 3: Wikis

Last week. month. year. ohmygodit’sbeentoolong time, I covered mind maps as a tool for fantasy and science fiction writers can use to keep track of their worldbuilding. And we’ve already covered plain ol’ Word documents. Now we come to what I currently use: personal wikis.

You know Wikipedia, right? Or maybe you have a favorite show or video game that maintains a wiki? Then you’re familiar with the concept.

This method is like creating your own encyclopedia, but trust me–it’s more fun than it sounds! (Or maybe I’m just a big ol’ dork. Probably that one)

Pros

Flexibility. There are different programs out there that allow you to create an online or offline personal, private wiki. Building it online may require some light coding/markup knowledge, but you’ll be able to work on your worldbuilding anywhere you have an internet connection.

personally didn’t want to deal with any of that, so I went for the offline option. With a lightweight program, I was able to create a wiki and upload its folder to my Dropbox. (You can use other cloud storage services like Google Drive or iCloud too).

So while I need to have my wiki editor program installed on the computer I’m using, I’m still able to have almost all the portability offered by building an online version thanks to theeeeee cloooooooud.

Cross-linking is another pro for personal wikis. Each character, culture, continent, other things that start with “C” gets its own page in your wiki. And then the fun part! You get to link–same as you would with an internet hyperlink–between them.

So for instance, if I was making a wiki for The Tethys Chronicles, I’d make a page for all my notes and info about Jacquie Renairre. Then I’d do the same thing for her uncle Serge. I’d fill up his page with everything I’ve come up with for him (things that the reader may or may not ever see). I’d make sure to link his page to Jacquie’s, probably with anchor text that indicates he’s her uncle. Now you’re cookin’ with gas!

You get the idea. This is my favorite way to write down what I know about all the parts of my novel/world and not their relationships to each other without an overwhelming mind map that’s too big to use.

Cons

I already mentioned a potential con if you decide to create an online personal wiki–you’re limited by your internet access. You may be able to download an offline version of your wiki, work on it, and then upload it once you’re connected again. That would depend on the specifics of whichever platform you choose.

Another con–at least for the desktop wiki program I use–is that formatting options are rather limited. You can bold and italicize text, and there are a couple levels of “headers” so you can organize your info. However, color-coding isn’t really an option. This may be an issue for the more visual writers out there.

A Note About Scrivener

I know that some people use Scrivener to write their manuscripts and keep track of their worldbuilding at the same time. Great! That’s a completely valid approach. I’m not going to write about that option at length simply because I have very little experience with Scrivener. I purchased the program, have tried it on a couple of projects, and found it just didn’t fit my writing style. If it works for you, awesome! If it doesn’t then maybe some of the alternatives in my posts will do the trick.