I admit, Now & Forever doesn’t have a lot of actual world building … the beauty of setting it in a couple years back America. I even get the school calendar & course list (yes, including the yoga and the UWA math courses) from an actual Catholic high school from the region of WA the stories are set. When you can cheat, do it with enthusiasm.
That’s not to say I don’t have SF/F fiction that isn’t published yet.
Also, I’m a gamer.
World building checklists and worksheets are, as with characters, nothing to start from and maintain a facsimile of sanity.
One ought to approach world building from a narrow close focus. Have your notions then broaden your views and ask: what must be true for this to be true? Sometimes you have to scrap notions other times you give rise to a rich, organic world.
Take the Forgotten Realms. Ed Greenwood has been asked “do you have all this worked out, or do you make it up on the spot?” to which he answered “yes … and yes”. If you have a living, vibrant world thriving in your mind then you can seamlessly stitch the known and the spontaneous together and dare anyone, even your own clone, to spot which is which.
It helps to have very broad education. Not schooling. You can be a kindergarten drop out with a broad education so long as you’re literate. Concentrate on the soft sciences. Hard science is more malleable than it likes to admit. Focus too hard on what we “know” about biology and you’ll pass up an awesome creature as “impossible” only for us to find one in an ocean lava flow. History, sociology … these, so long as you follow their methodology more intimately than their actual “knowledge” you’ll be alright.
You don’t need to have every trade route mapped out to the gram of copper and the commodities rates for sugar, but it helps. Economics are a major driving force for wars and strife. Good to know where silks are easy or hard to get.
In my scifi stuff it’s hard to get good strawberries. Seriously. Earth has fewer and fewer farms, many of its colonies rely on a war-born artificial ration processor that sort of 3D prints things that let you not starve to death, and their FTL is not up to par. What strawberries are available off Earth are carried by alien traders who have better, but much smaller ships. It’s expensive. One day there may actually be an interstellar war over strawberries! Likely? No, but who knows?!
There’s one world where an entire galaxy’s goods can be, somewhat, easily found along with examples of its cultures. Off that world? No one’s ever heard of them.
This is: know your scale and perspectives. In the Realms, just because Drizzt is important in the far north, he’s virtually a rumour in Waterdeep, virtually unknown in Cormyr, and is unknown in parts beyond. Elminster has had a long and meddlesome life. His name is probably known to many. That he yet lives? Where? How old is he? No. Many of his exploits? Fictions, legends, exaggerations, truths, follies, falsifications, mistaken identity …
Look at out own world. Hard as it is for some to believe, there’s folks who don’t really know who Beyonce is. If they’re from certain countries/cultures they’re bound to know the name, but do they know the face? The music? The profession? Not necessarily.
Keep your places … humble and remember, someone important enough will be known in the next village (or star system, or galaxy) to be sure. But past it?
Also remember, you don’t have to actually know the bestseller list for a region, but you should have a concept what’s In so you could write one up in a trice without much thought.
I might write more on this soonish. But for now I’ve exhausted my thought, utterly forgot if I have or had a point whatsoever, and needs must get onward to the grocery store.