Every now and then, I look back into my blog archives and scan through older posts. It's a very interesting thing. It's sort of like having a link to my past thoughts and all the weird/stupid/crazy things I thought once upon a time.
Once upon a time, when I was working on something I think I called the Epic Thing -- it's possible I never got around to titling that project -- I put a post on the blog about world building. (I'm not linking back to it, because in hindsight it wasn't my cleverest moment.) Back in my younger days, I didn't know how to balance the story in my head with the story on paper. I thought somehow that because I'd figured out a universe and a back story in my head, it all needed to appear on the page. And, you know, that's just not true.
No matter how big something is in my head, readers only needs to be told as much of it as I intend to use later -- they only need to know what's going to help them understand. Everything else is just wasting the reader's time. It might be cool and clever and interesting, but it's still a waste of time, since I'd just be throwing it out there just to throw it out there.
A few years ago, I hadn't realized how annoying that would be. Nowadays, it's one of my pet peeves as a reader. "Dear Author, just because you thought up a long back story doesn't mean anyone cares." That sort of thing. And in my revisions, I try to boil off the excess, the stuff I included but never ended up using.
This isn't to say I've given up on the idea of world-building. I still do that a lot. I'm working on my edits for Cordamant's Heir right now with both my notes and an alpha reader's, and one of the things I'm trying to make clear this time through are the rules of the political system. This is world-building, but it's world-building I need to do to make the plot clear. Because that's what really matters.
How's your writing going? How do you feel about elaborate back story? How do you build your worlds?