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Level up Your Worldbuilding Skills

Everyone knows I’m a geek and I love new toys.

Many of you will know the story of how my favorite writing software became obsolete. I approached a programmer to try and design something to replace it, and he told me to just use Evernote. I still use Evernote for work, but in the last few weeks I’ve been moving my writing into World Anvil.

World Anvil is my guilty pleasure, my passionate adventure project, and my daydream of what the future of writing could be. I’m a fan of this platform. I’m a relatively new user, and not an affiliate—yet.* I have, however, sprung for the lifetime pro level, what they call “Sage” membership, and I’m loving every moment. This is more than software. It is a community of supportive, amazing creative people.

Note: there is a free tier to experiment with, but professional writers will probably want at least the “Master Wordsmith” level so they can access the privacy features. The pricing is reasonable. If you are at the Sage level, they provide the best training in social media and marketing for creatives that I’ve seen. That’s saying something, considering I teach social media and marketing for writers!

Janet Forbes

I interviewed Janet Forbes, one of the creators of World Anvil, so that I could share this exciting new writing tool with you all in detail!

What is World Anvil?

Deleyna: How would you describe World Anvil to someone who doesn’t have any experience with it?

Janet: World Anvil is the writing notebook you dreamed of, that organizes your worldbuilding notes for you. It is the novel-writing software that is as lean as you need it to be without all the extra bells and whistles, but it’s connected to that magical self-organizing notebook. And if you want it to be, it’s also a platform where you can share your work with other people, either in an amateur or a professional capacity. You can build communities around that work; you can take part in other communities as well. And you can generally just get excited about writing and worldbuilding.

Love Story

D: Was World Anvil intended for storytellers and for writers specifically from the very beginning? I know a lot of game masters use it for role-playing games (RPGs). Was the writing workflow added later or built in?

J: World Anvil has a sickeningly sweet backstory. I don’t know if you’re ready for this.

D: I want it! I love sweet!

J: World Anvil is the story of my husband showing up every other husband in the universe.

I have been a writer for as long as I can remember. And I’ve loved to tell these big, epic stories with big worldbuilding. And my husband has been a Game Master since he was six years old. He learned English so that he could play Dungeons and Dragons.

We both come from this sort of very fantastical space of loving worldbuilding. We came to it from different use cases. I came as a writer; he came as an RPG player.

Early on in 2017, I’m going to say it was like April, I was writing an epic fantasy book. And I had that Google document, the 101-page Google document, the Google document that crashes because it’s too big and can’t work, the Google document where you’ve tried to put in images and tables and references. And the Google document can only do so much because it’s a poor little Google document.

In this document, there’s a place where you’ve written about religion. And then further down, you’ve written about politics, because the document is linear. But then you had to repeat information because it was relevant. And then you changed one bit, but you didn’t change the other bit and now suddenly, your world makes no sense because you made an alteration and you forgot to proliferate it through this horrible, linear, gargantuan monstrosity. That is the Google document.

Google documents are great for linear folks. Awesome. They are not good for worldbuilding.

I went to Dimitris, and I said, “This is terrible. I cannot put my epic fantasy world into a Google document,” and he looks at the Google document. He’s like, No, you can’t, that’d be ridiculous. Of course you can’t. And I said, “Okay, but how do I organize this information?”

Dimitris is a coder. He’s also a very smart person. I was like, maybe you can help me with this sort of information hierarchy. And he was like, okay, yeah, I can see why you’re having a problem. Let me make you a thing.

Janet and Dimitris, creators of World Anvil

And World Anvil was made for me by my husband, to help me organize my writing worlds. Then he figured out pretty quickly that he wanted it so that he could organize the worlds for his RPG campaigns. And that’s all World Anvil was ever supposed to be: our own private little space where we could build worlds because we love worldbuilding. We love writing and we love playing games.

That is not what happened.

We have some friends and they bullied us. I blame them. It’s their fault. They said, “Put it online, we want to use it, too.” So we said, “Okay, we’ll put it up.”

If you host something publicly, if it gets a bit bigger, then it has server costs. But fine, we said, “Okay, if it can cover its own server costs on Patreon, then we’ll keep it up. And if, after three months, nobody else is interested, then we will take it down. And that’s fine and no worries.”

We had 1000 (one thousand) people in the first month.

We launched the platform, it was very bare-bones, in October. And by February, we had 10,000 (ten thousand) users. It was insane. We ended up having to run across London from a friend’s birthday party because stuff had got real and the server had just gone bananas. We were worried that it would come down because we had set everything up to be this tiny website that we wanted to use ourselves. It was so small. And then all of these people that came to it basically almost brought it down with what we call the hug of death—where people love it so much, and hug it so much, that it comes off the internet. Obviously, we didn’t want that to happen.

Since then, it has been a roller-coaster ride of realizing that there are 1.5 million and counting. Yeah, 1.5 million other maniacs like us who love writing stories with these big, winding, amazing worlds: sci-fi worlds, historical worlds, fantasy worlds. And yeah, people who love playing games, people who build video games, people who use it to create collaborative worlds, people who teach using World Anvil now. Creative writing courses or gaming courses have been adopting it for university and secondary school classroom use as well. We had no idea there were so many strange people like us who just love to write and world-build. But that’s where it came from.

It was originally intended to build one person’s novels and to build one person’s tabletop role-playing games. That was the plan.

Studying Story and Worldbuilding

D: I’ve been thinking of adding a World Anvil class to the ones I teach. One of my favorite parts of World Anvil is the prompt questions that you build into the articles, the hints and tips that help prevent writer’s block. There is a lot of power there to get writers across the finish line. How did those come about? Who creates those?

J: World Anvil was the reason I managed to finish something. I was one of those writers that produces nice prose and interesting stuff. And people go, Oh, wow, this is interesting. Send me more. And then I go, I don’t have any more. It’s not finished yet. I was always one of those writers where I just couldn’t quite get to the end of anything. Although everything was very nice and very pretty and very well put together. It just had no end.

While we were releasing World Anvil, I was having a writer’s sabbatical where I went and studied plot. Because that was the bit that eluded me. I could character. I could prose. I could setting. Setting was the big thing that I could do. But I just couldn’t get to the end of the novel. I just I couldn’t make it.

I took a deep dive into how to plot. I read books and books and books about plotting and started analyzing everything that I read based on how is this hanging together? What devices are they using and why this instead of that? Then all of that was poured into World Anvil and poured into the plots template, because I feel that can be useful for others.

I finished because I had World Anvil and because I used the plotting templates there.

D: So you’re the creative mind behind some of those questionnaires that pop in.

J: Most of those were done by me or by me and Dimitris together. We had a wonderful time because we both love this sort of rich worldbuilding. And we are both students of history. My own parents are archaeologists. And Dimitris is passionate about history. So we’re the kind of nerds that when we go on holiday, we go to all the museums. And we read history books for fun. I’m currently reading a book about the history of this city, and every now and then I’ll pause and think, that’s worldbuilding gold.

This is how we have learned worldbuilding. We’ve read a lot of books about it. And we’ve read a lot of books of settings. But we’ve also looked at history and said, “Okay, well, there’s this principle that works like this. And when this happens, then these are the dynamics that function around it.” And they all inspired our love of travel, our love of history, our love of understanding different cultures. That’s inspired World Anvil as well. And that’s inspired a lot of those questions. Because as we’re building out, let’s say a building template, I’ll think of all the different cool buildings that I’ve seen. You get landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, you get buildings like the Tower of London, which has been used and reused and reused and rebuilt and expanded and was used as a warehouse for gunpowder at one point, funnily enough. You start to think about, okay, based on the buildings that I know and I think are really cool, what kind of questions can I ask that are meta enough that they could have a sci fi answer?

  • What is it made of?
  • What was it intended to be?
  • How has it been reused?

These are good questions whether you’re in a cyberpunk bar that used to be a spaceship, or you’re in a castle that has grown from a tiny keep into a turreted, sprawling situation. That’s how all those questions came about. It’s just our own passion about the world, about science and history and travel, and really trying to distill those into questions that can have any answer depending on your genre, depending on what you’re interested in, in the world.

The Why of Story

D: You’ve used the word meta. You mean that these questions can be applied to any genre. But in World Anvil, there’s another use for the term “Meta.” One of my favorite parts is the Meta section. Meta is a place where authors can answer: Why are you working on this project? What is your goal, your motivation? You can put pictures and music and any inspiration in there. I thought, how brilliant that someone who understands writers knows there’s going to come a moment when you’re going to think, Why am I doing this?

You say in the tutorial: when that moment comes, hit this button. And you’ve led them to create those pieces that will inspire them in that moment. That shows a lot of insight into not just the creative process, but the emotional roller coaster of being a creative.

J: I am the poster child of multiclassing. It sounds ridiculous when I say, but I actually hold a teaching degree, it’s one of my degrees. Thinking about the didactics, the pedagogy of not just teaching a new platform, but for many people, helping them with worldbuilding as well. Some of them being very new, some of them big pros. Maybe they’ve always done it, or they’ve sort of dabbled and now they want to go deeper. That’s certainly something that World Anvil can support.

D: I’m not sure all of my readers know what multiclassing is. It’s a gaming term where you can level up in different classes, but also mix the abilities of different classes to gain new abilities. Right?

J: Yes, exactly! Essentially, it’s a bunch of different training in different backgrounds – for me that’s writing and gaming, of course, but also teaching. And I’ve tried to leverage that to bring as many different kinds of thinking and learning to World Anvil as possible. As writers, we constantly reinvent ourselves. We reinvent our process, and we explore, and we try because otherwise you become stagnant, right? All creatives do this. So we’re trying to be very didactic as we build the platform. As we built the user journeys, essentially how people get from, I want to write a novel to I have written a novel. I know how hard that journey is and how hard it can be. Any support that we can give there, it’s important. And the meta section, which we’re talking about, is so important for worldbuilding. Whenever I see worldbuilding mistakes, I think they should have had a meta. It would have fixed all of their problems.

D: I love how deep we’re going into marketing and product development here. For those who haven’t heard the term before, a user journey is the path that a person who uses a product takes through their use of that product. It is their experience. In this case, it is the experience that an author has with World Anvil as it helps them through the process of writing a novel.

Moving Gif image of an interactive fantasy map

Business Story

D: You mention the way you want to help writers. I recently watched the recording of a Sage-level seminar. Do you have a business degree as well?

J: I started World Anvil and then I realized I had to learn a lot very quickly. Funnily enough, I had an interview with Brian McClellan [author of The Powder Mage Trilogy and many other books] the other day, I was literally talking about this with him. Lifelong learning is so important. I used to be a musician. He asked me, “What’s the most important thing that you learned from being a musician?”

It’s the ability to learn quickly. It’s the ability to sit down and apply yourself and learn something because you have to very, very quickly because somebody shoves a score at you and you have a week to learn an opera. That has happened to me. It was horrible, but I learned how to learn.

I sat down and started reading books about business because I suddenly had a business.

I did not intend to have a business. This was not the plan. I intended to be an opera singer. When we started World Anvil, I thought, I’ll sing opera, I’ll perform, and then I’ll write novels on the side. It will be awesome.

That was the plan.

That was not what life handed me. Life handed me an Anvil.

So I had to learn how to run World Anvil. I read about the business model canvas, and I read about product management. And I learned how to understand the pain points of your customers and try to provide what they need. And I started to see the world in a really different way. The moment I had a business, I started to understand, okay, this advert is like this, and it’s doing this. Or this is intended to reach me here, because you should always reach your customers where your customers are. So that was a real education, where I just sat down and said, “I have to learn how to do this. Because now this is my reality.”

Through that, we’ve spent a lot of time helping writers, helping game designers, helping people go through Kickstarter, helping people go through indie publishing, self-publishing, and also learning a bit more about the traditional publishing route as well. We were getting into that marketing space, getting into that publication space. Because it’s something that is so important to the people who use World Anvil. And we want to make success a reality for people.

It helps that my husband has a degree in neuroscience, and social psychology. That was beneficial. Because he could walk me through the process. When the business manual says do this, he can say, that’s because of this. So it gives you that next level of understanding.

One of our missions, if you like, is to impart this knowledge to the sages, the professionals using World Anvil.

When I did my music degree, nobody taught me how to do anything business-related. And I think, if you’re unlucky, that can be the case in a lot of arts degrees. You learn your craft, you learn your art, but you don’t learn how to make that into your business, into your living. And I think that’s something that we at World Anvil figured out pretty early. This was something that was missing, and that we could help with. That’s been what those Sage seminars have been about.

Success Story

D: I run an indie publishing business and I see that a lot in authors. Many writers don’t go into the writing process with any concept of their customers. It affects their sales. Even if they have beautiful prose, beautiful plot, if they don’t understand their customers, it affects the sales. I don’t see a lot of other writing software companies working this hard to make sure their customers are successful.

Can you give me some examples of writers who are using this and how are they using it? And what is that professional level looking like for them?

J: People like to divide writers into traditionally published and self-published, so I’ll do that.

In the traditionally published space, we have a lot of writers that I don’t know who they are. And we have a lot of writers who have not made themselves known to us. We see emails coming in occasionally. And I’ll be like, this sounds like an author, and I look it up. This is not just an author; this is a bestselling author. But they keep everything private. They use World Anvil behind the scenes. And I don’t want to out them, I don’t want to shout about how they use the platform because they haven’t come to me and said, “I’m using the platform.” I’m really excited about it. I’m super psyched to see New York Times bestsellers in our list, but I won’t talk about them.

Brian McClellan is an example of somebody that I can talk about. He writes Flintlock Fantasy, I mean, one of the first Flintlock Fantasies, the whole Powder Mage series and his whole new series, that’s all coming out with World Anvil. It’s being published traditionally. But as part of the promotion for that, as part of the home of the book, he’s creating the whole world on World Anvil where people can go and see it and read about it and interact with it. He’s actually outsourced somebody to make that for him. So that’s going to be a living project that grows alongside the novel series, with a map and timelines and all of this beautiful stuff. He’s commissioned art as well.

That’s one of the ways that you can use it. If you’re traditionally publishing: you can use it as the home and the community base. We have discussion boards and users can leave comments. It’s a great place where you can not just show your world, but also, if you choose to interact with people, you can find out what they think, find out what they love. Whenever my beta readers have said, “Oh, I really love this character.” I’ll decide he’s surviving book two. Alright, fine, I was gonna kill him off, but I think that’d be mutiny. This kind of reader feedback, whatever you decide to do with it, is so valuable. You can also get and build up this community of superfans.

That’s sort of the traditional side of it.

On the self-publishing side, we have a lot of authors. Chris Fox is probably the biggest one in self-publishing. Chris Fox, also known as ScholarlyFox, wrote The Six Figure Author. He wrote 5,000 Words Per Hour: Write Faster, Write Smarter. He writes a lot of books for authors. And he also uses World Anvil. He uses it not only as a sort of personal platform for worldbuilding, but he also uses it as a promotional platform. That’s a really good example of somebody who has essentially taken it for personal use, taken it for marketing use, and is using it to drive sales to his own books as well.

Wanted Hero Screenshot

We know it works. We heard from one indie author that their sales went up 300% when they started using World Anvil to market their books. This is somebody who is constantly on the Amazon bestsellers list. So this is somebody who already knows what they’re doing, somebody who’s really established in the writing world, their world. They go by WantedHero. Their world is a sort of fantasy world. It owes a lot to Terry Pratchett and it’s largely for kids and big kids, adults who are basically kids. It’s very witty, it’s very funny. It’s beautifully illustrated. But the minute he had a place to show all of that to the wider world, to show the illustrations, he suddenly found that his books were selling 300% better. He also created a subscription service, a sort of pass, where you can go behind the scenes and see the secret stuff as well. He’s turned it into a secondary product, essentially, which is a really, really smart move. If you have all of that material, invite your special group of superfans to come behind the scenes and see.

Marketing Story

D: There’s a marketing piece here that is brilliant.

J: You just stick a link or a QR code right in the back of the book and boom, they’re on your World Anvil. And if they get curious, then it’s really easy to point them to your other books, or your events, or if you enjoyed this world, why not check out my other world?

You can create these customer journeys. And because the customers have fun on the way, which is the best kind of customer journey, that’s what you want. Right? Everybody is happy. I always say this: marketing is not soul-destroying. Marketing should not be slimy. If your marketing is slimy, if you feel guilty about your marketing, you’re marketing in the wrong way.

Marketing is the act of having something that is beautiful, or wonderful or useful, and getting it to the person for whom that thing will be perfect.

That is marketing. And even more, that is marketing books.

Not every book is for every reader. Your job as a marketer is to be like, hey, people who love dragons and top hats, got you covered! That is the job of a marketer. You love this thing, and then the people who will love it, jump on it. That’s something that World Anvil can really help with because you have more than a single line, you have imagery, you have audio. You have all these spaces that you can create, to not just give them a line of text, but really draw them into your world. And I think that’s so much more appealing. For new readers, for readers starting to learn a world, and for readers who’ve just read the first book and are excited to explore more, you can give them a unique experience of your world.

D: And all of this works with Patreon and Ko-fi, right?

J: That’s right. You can even use another storefront. We did this intentionally. We made World Anvil completely agnostic. You can have a WooCommerce store, you can do it through a pre-existing store. There are all sorts of different ways that you can give people access. Or you can work through Patreon or Ko-fi. You can do it any way that you want, it just hooks into a CSV (comma separated values file, like a spreadsheet). If you can get a person’s email, you can give them access. And that’s the crux of it.

D: I was wishing I could tie this into my WooCommerce store. Now I have to go figure out that hook.

J: You’re a Sage. Hit us up. The next Sage seminar, we’re going to go through Laura VanArendonk Baugh’s world. She’s another writer using World Anvil and self-publishing. We’re going to be going through her world and workshopping it. We’ll be talking about how she’s using the features, how she could use the features, how her user journeys are set up, and how she could improve them. That will be a perfect time to come and say, “Hey, I want to do this thing. Let’s talk about that.” Just ask us. That is what those Sage hours are for. Dimitris and I intentionally make ourselves available. We’re also available on livestreams, at least once a week; we have a Q&A where you can ask questions about how to do something. And we will do a screen share and show you live on stream.

There’s a lot of upgrades coming. But one of the upgrades is we’re going to be doing comprehensive new tutorials of everything on World Anvil. Not just walking through the features, but walking through feature use cases, walking through FAQs, tips, and tricks. And this is all the kind of thing that’s going to be coming out because, again, worldbuilding is a significant thing.

A world is a big thing. You need a tool that has options so you can do that properly. And that means the tool needs really good tutorials. That’s something we’re really committed to providing.

At the end of 2021, we did a massive survey. One of the things I was doing this morning is combing through all that data and figuring out how we can make World Anvil better. That’s what I spend my entire life doing: listening to people’s feedback and making World Anvil better. That’s the dream, right? Helping other people succeed.

Sample page from High Fae Court by ninne124 in Dark-Fall

The Future of Story

D: Do you think this is where storytelling is going for the future? It seems like readers expect to be able to interact, not just interact with the author, but interact with the story and explore. The transmedia aspect of storytelling seems to be getting more popular.

J: Absolutely. I mean, maybe I’m just in that ad case, I don’t know. But I see ads upon ads for interactive stories, media stories, all of this kind of space. And, again, I know how many people read a book and then say, “I wish I could go read more about that world.” Or “I wish I could go explore that world.”

We’ve all done it. I’ve done it, and I learned there’s 1.5 million people just as nutty as me. You get a fantasy book and you read the fantasy book and then you try and look at the map. There’s a fold in it. And it’s small, and it’s black and white, and it’s grainy. And it’s hard to read. And you have to keep, flipping back and forward through the pages to try and figure out what was going on in the first place.

With World Anvil, people can explore your world in so many different ways. You can add video, and you can add media. If you are imagining a song in the great hall where a scene is taking place, you can literally embed the song in the Great Hall on one level. And you can write underneath, This is what I was imagining in this scene in this chapter in that book, and you can bring your readers with you.

I think that’s magical. I love books, I love reading books. I don’t feel the need for music and pictures in books, because if they’re well written enough, I get the music and the pictures. But I love the idea that when I finish a book, I can go and scan a QR code or go to a URL, and I can explore the world behind it that I’ve completely fallen in love with. When I’m at the point where I have finished a book, and I almost feel like I want to start it again, that gives me another place to go. That gives me another place where I can get even more and I can explore and I can see and I can taste the world, like the author wants to show it to me. Particularly in this world of Netflix and video games, people want to interact with media in different ways. Now people want to interact with the imagination in different ways.

D: I remember the first story I saw serialized on a computer and delivered via a bulletin board and I thought, the world’s just changed. Unfortunately, I didn’t follow up on it. I went into coding. I went into other things, but this type of storytelling was in the back of my mind.

J: One of the things we’re really excited about is the amount of choose-your-own-adventure stuff that’s coming out on World Anvil with multiple pathways. And not just interactive, but seamlessly interactive. It’s a completely different way of storytelling. One of the articles that won Best Article of World Anvil is essentially a short story. But the way it’s been presented, it’s like a transformative experience. (World, Specific article)

World Anvil is becoming an art form by itself, which is not what we expected four and a half years ago. But that’s what happened. We gave creative people creative tools, and they did things with it that we could never have expected.

D: I’ve done web design for years. But it looks to me like this is going to put web design in the hands of authors who are not web developers. You can design a world, attach a URL to your world, and create something on the web that people can come to and interact with. I mean, it still looks a little geeky. But it doesn’t look so geeky that a lot of authors aren’t going to be able to figure this out. Are people generally figuring this out and happy with the results?

J: It’s absolutely set up so you can do this on World Anvil. There’s a lot of customizability. First of all, you can choose a visual theme from a list. There’s a sci-fi theme, a fantasy theme, there’s a Star Wars–style theme, and a Dungeons and Dragons–style theme. And medieval themes. There’s lots and lots of different themes. But the other thing is that if you’re savvy, you can go in and change things in the theme. That might be something as simple as changing the font size, or the color of something or the background image, which is very, very easy to do. But if you know a little bit of CSS, which I’m sure you’re familiar with, the world is your oyster. It can look however you want it to look, and the extent to which people have taken this is extraordinary.

Some of the very pretty worlds on World Anvil have things in them that are just mind-blowing; somebody coded an entire pack of cards into their world, for example. Some people have coded small drawers that slide out of things, interactive elements. I will say that it doesn’t have to be that complicated.You can make something look really beautiful and exactly as you want it by choosing the right imagery, by choosing the right theme. It can be very simple. And we’re also taking steps to make things easier for people who don’t want to go on that journey of starting to explore CSS.

I don’t use CSS.

I make a point of not doing it. Because Dimitris does, and I make a point of remaining the user that cannot use CSS, because that means that I can imagine myself in the position of every single other customer that cannot use CSS who still wants to change the way the world looks. And yeah, you can do it. And we’re working on more.

Sample World Anvil Family Tree with Janet

But the other thing is that there are so many pre-made elements. The family trees are interactive. Timelines, the interactive maps and content trees, which you can use to span out hierarchies. How organizations are divided. How militaries are divided. I’ve used it to explain a magic system once. All of these interactive elements work with what you’ve created in your world. And we have so much more coming.

For a very long time, World Anvil was Dimitris and me. Just us two and the cats, and the cats are exactly as helpful as you would imagine them to be. Not great at coding.

Recently, we’ve started to hire on extra people, which has been very exciting. It was a scary step because we take it really seriously, we take people’s livelihoods really seriously. If I’m giving somebody a job, I better be able to pay them for at least a year right now.

So we started to take people on. And now at this point, we’re a team of 11. We just hired two new coders and we already have cool new things coming out. We’re committed to this, we are really going to make a lot of things to make people very happy, using World Anvil. We want to make it easier and smoother. Because that’s what it’s all about.

A Story of Community

D: Your approach of valuing other people’s livelihoods, it extends to your customers and to your employees as well. It’s something that I noticed early on with World Anvil. You really care that people are making a living here, and that’s missing in a lot of industries.

I just loaded my first published novel into World Anvil to see how it would look once it’s in there, and it’s so beautiful. It’s a lovely thing.

I love that you have respect for people’s livelihood. I think that’s something that we don’t see enough of, especially in the writing industry. There’s a lot of people happy to make a living off of writers, and not pay attention to making sure that the writers make a living.

J: We are very passionate about it. I’m a writer, and I published a book this year, The Dark Crystal RPG. I was the lead writer on that project. I do have a novel that I’m just about to enter the query stage on which I’m very excited about. And again, I wrote all of that in World Anvil, because… it’s not a great phrase, but we believe in eating our own dog food. I use World Anvil to run my campaigns. I use it to write one-shots. I wrote The Dark Crystal in there, and now I use World Anvil for everything creative. I do a livestream D&D show, every other Friday. I write all of my character notes in World Anvil. Everything is in there, because it helps me see what’s wrong with it, it helps me see where we can improve it.

But the other thing is that with our Sages, particularly, we go out of our way, not only to help them and take care of them, but we go out of our way to help celebrate their successes and help them publish and help them get excited about publishing and help share the word of their books with our channels as well. Because we think that’s only right. They invest in us, and we invest in them, and a rising tide lifts all boats. That’s how we see this working. That’s how we believe it should work. And we are in a very lucky position to be able to make that happen. So we make it happen. You know, it’s what I would want.

If I were going to… I don’t want to say a big company because as we’re teeny tiny, but if I published a novel with a software, I’d want to go to them and say, “Hey, guys, my novel is out. Thank you for making this happen,” and they would turn around and say, “Oh, let me help you with that.” Right. That’s how it should be.

D: That’s not how most places run. And it’s so beautiful. My exploration into World Anvil has turned me into a maniac fan girl. I love it.

J: These are things that we take very seriously, because if people invest in World Anvil, we want to be able to give them exactly what they want.

D: It’s that extra little bit of care that I think really shows. The Discord server, the community is fantastic. For those who haven’t encountered Discord, it is a social media platform where people can connect using text or voice. It has private and public areas. Very similar to any other online discussion board, Discord lets people chat and connect.

J: The people on our Discord server describe it themselves, I wouldn’t dare, but they describe it themselves as the nicest place on the internet. It’s so tolerant. It’s so heartwarming when somebody comes in and says, “Hey, I’m struggling with something.” Everybody rallies around to help them. When somebody has a success, everybody rallies around to cheer. We have a sprint channel and sometimes people just sit there to cheer on the people who are sprinting because they want to help other people. And I think that, in addition to World Anvil, if I die tomorrow, that’s my legacy. And I’m okay with that. You know what I mean? I’ve helped people and I’ve created a space on the internet that is positive. And I’m gonna say that’s no mean feat in 2020.

D: It’s a fantastic thing. It’s a joyous thing. And it’s something we need so much more of.  It’s such a beautiful platform. I love the expandability of it. Is there an ecosystem building up around this of service providers? You mentioned that an author was paying somebody else to set up his world. I’ve seen artists, musicians, all sorts of creatives in the Discord.

J: Absolutely. We’ve already had artists who got commissions from the community to do X, Y, and Z. And now people who specialize in World Anvil. We internally call them power users. They have unlocked the whole power of the Anvil. People sell CSS themes. People sell packets of CSS, like little gizmos and gadgets that do specific things. You can commission things. You can get people to do data entry for you. People are being commissioned to do mapmaking.

It is not just the commissioning space, but the collaboration space. We’ve seen people who love RPGs, and people with beautiful worlds get together to make a world in an RPG. We’ve seen writers and RPGs cross-pollinate. So there’ll be an RPG adventure in one world and there’ll be somebody writing short stories in the other world. And we’ve seen so many beautiful, artistic creations that would never have come about if there weren’t a community around World Anvil. That is part of our reality.

D: People are connecting with other creatives in the Discord community. So many of the writers I work with, just the concept of getting a map can be overwhelming. Your community has people who love drawing maps for fun. You have somebody who needs a map and somebody who loves drawing a map. And they can find each other.

J: You can just hop into the Discord and say, “Hey, Game Masters, or hey, game developers. I’m a writer, I’m interested in there being an RPG of my world,” and somebody will take you up on it. Somebody will say, “That’s really cool.” We are looking at expanding this area of World Anvil as well, because it’s an area that we’ve seen is so good for community, it’s so good for collaboration. And it is artists helping artists, which is my favorite thing. I mentioned I used to be an opera singer. I don’t come from the corporate world; I wasn’t funded by my daddy. World Anvil was built from our own pockets from the ground up, always. And I am an artsy opera singer, who is just an artist and a maniac, what can I say? So, you know, artists helping artists is my absolute favorite thing. And this is something that we want to expand more.

D: Writers can feel very alone. You’re building a community, so that people can get into that community and can find other like-minded people. I’m teaching students and they say they want to hire somebody but don’t know what to do. Maybe they go on Fiverr, but it is hard to get to know this person before turning over their creation to them. I love what you’re doing with that interactivity.

Is there anything else you would like to make sure gets in the article?

J: It’s nice, we made it, I hope it helps. I mean, it sounds very self-deprecating, but I am quite British. We do our best and we hope it helps. That’s our motto, apart from “Grab your hammer and go World-Build,” which is obviously the motto. We just try and do better every single day. We want to help people every single day. If you want to build worlds and join an amazing community and sell your work, or just have fun writing stories, then maybe World Anvil is for you. And if it is, then come say hi.


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    1. Me either, Lori! I’m having so much fun with it! I’ve got the rest of the Dominion trilogy (in draft form) loaded in already. Stay tuned!

  1. Thanks for sharing this! I shared it with my fantasy writing group on Discord.
    I’ve signed up for a free account – will explore it more later.
    And I’ll keep an eye for your class, if you go ahead and decide to run it!

    1. Oh, I’ll definitely be running it. Haven’t 100% decided when yet. I may combine it with my Evernote class, because the principles and some of the base material will be the same.
      I’d love to hear what you think of it as you play!

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