What is the World Anvil Worldbuilding Awards (WAWA)?
It's an event run every year by World Anvil in which you can put forward the best worldbuilding you've made during the year for a chance to win an award! The call for entries is usually announced towards the end of the year.
What can you win?
After being announced in the outrageously fun virtual awards ceremony livestream on Twitch, nominees and award winners get a prestigious rosette in the form of a special badge on their profile, and winning entries (especially for the major categories) are heavily showcased on the website, in World Anvil blog posts and social media, and potentially even in sponsorhip material for big influencers! There are often bonus physical and digital prizes too.
What's this guide?
As an active member of the World Anvil community and previous winner of three Worldbuilding Awards, I want to share all of my not-so-top-secret tips and tricks for: learning how the event works, planning your strategy, making your best worldbuilding, and coming away with the most coveted prize.
This blog post serves as a guide for the upcoming year and future events so you can get ahead of the game :D
Visit the challenge page to enter before it closes!
This is an extensive guide, grab a beverage of choice and a notebook or new document because you'll want to take some notes for this one!
Before you take part in something, pause for a moment and consider your "why". Why? Well, it's important for your mental health and wellbeing! If you're doing something for the sake of it or because you feel like you "should" be doing it, or for fear of missing out (FOMO) - then maybe it would be sensible not to.
If you only worldbuild for badges or accolades, when you go to write and there isn't that reward waiting - you may find yourself unmotivated because you've become used to expecting a reward for your work. Just be mindful of it :D
That being said, awards and prizes are great fun! Here are some excellent reasons why you might want to take part:
- Just for fun!
Honestly, if you think it sounds like a fun idea but you're not sure if you could win something, just go for it! You might be pleasantly surprised and you'll improve your skills immensely along the way.
- To challenge yourself and feed your competitive spirit
The only person you can compete with is your past self, so set a training regimen and go beat your personal best! Learn what works for you and flaunt the best strengths in your worldbuilding!
- To feel proud of your work
You are a creator. You can manifest concepts, stories, characters, entire worlds with the powers of your mind - how cool is that? You made these things, they are your brain-children! Pour your passion into your worldbuilding and feel proud of what you've achieved during the year by submitting your favourites!
- For the chance of your work to be seen by more readers
Even just sending in your entries into the WAWA will have your worldbuilding seen by a panel of leading industry pros! Nominees will get seen by hundreds of people during the voting stage, and winners can be seen (and recommended) from World Anvil's website, promotional material, potential sponsorship connections, and large social media outreach.
- For the chance of winning accolades to further promote your project
Maybe you've created or are in the process of making a commercial product like a book, a comic or graphic novel, or a TTRPG or gaming supplement - having some listed accolades can help boost the promotion of your work!
In the next section I'll show you what the criteria was for the previous Worldbuilding Awards, what changed, and what stays the same.
The categories for the World Anvil Worldbuilding Awards are tweaked & updated every year based on our community feedback (which they really do listen to).
Here's a look back at the criteria for previous events so that in the following section you learn how to plan for your best worldbuilding of the year!
2020 Worldbuilding Awards - There were 9 categories to enter:
- Best Homepage
- Best Fantasy Article
- Best Science Fiction Article
- Best Map
- Best Timeline
- Best Character Article
- Best Geography Article
- Best Organization Article
- Best Family Tree (using the family tree tool and embedded in an article)
The valid entries needed to have been created between June 2019 and June 2020.
2021 Worldbuilding Awards - After the massive popularity of 2020's awards ceremony and lots of community feedback, the categories expanded to include many more opportunities for worldbuilders.
- Best Article
- Most Creative World
- Best World Introduction
- Most Organized World
- Most Beautiful Homepage
- Best World Homepage
- Best timeline
- Most informative map
- Most beautiful map
- Geographic location
The submissions (I think it was just for the major categories) also required a cover letter for the mystery judges.
The submissions for maps, articles, and timelines needed to have been first published after 1st January 2020. They updated this from last year so it was much clearer and easier to understand.
If you'd like to see an example, here are all of the things that I submitted for the Worldbuilding Awards 2021:
2022 Worldbuilding Awards - Growing in popularity even more than before, the latest awards at the time of posting now has its own dedicated challenge page and revised categories based on our community feedback.
I love how World Anvil listened to our suggestion to have options for both brand new worlds AND long established worlds for the major categories this time! It gives a chance for new settings to shine and a second chance for folks who didn't make the shortlist in previous years!
- Best Worldbuilding Article (2022)
- Most Ground-breaking New World-Premise (2022) which requires an elevator pitch (written in the form), a world meta, a primer, the world homepage and 3 core articles
- Most Beautiful New World (2022) which requires your world homepage and up to 3 additional articles
- Most Beautiful World (any year) which requires your world homepage and up to 3 additional articles
- Best New World (2022) which requires your world homepage, a world meta, a primer, and 3 core articles
- Best World (any year) which requires your world homepage, a world meta, a primer, and 3 core articles
- Time and Space Award (2022) which requires a Chronicle with a minimum content requirement of 20 events and 1 map
- History Award (2022) which requires a timeline with a minimum content requirement of 20 events
- Cartography Award (2022) requires an original interactive map with the minimum requirements of 30 pins, each with a title and description of around 120 characters, 2 marker groups, and no less than 50 words of description for the map itself
Additional notes for the Cartography Award were listed as follows:
All map-types can be submitted—there is no stipulation of image-type (dungeon maps, battle maps, region maps etc).
If the submitter is not the original illustrator of the map, then the illustrator should also be submitted into the category as part of the entry and will be an equal winner in the award.
You must either own full rights to the map outright, or have the artist's permission, to submit any map illustration you have not made yourself.
- Heart & Minds Award 2022: "An article touching on intellectual, sociological, spiritual or cultural accomplishments and traditions of a people in your world."
(Allowed article templates: Character, Document, Language, Ethnicity/Culture, Profession, Species, Tradition/Ritual)
- Rise of Nations Award 2022: "An article relevant to the history of civilisations and peoples of your world, and their legacies."
(Allowed article templates: Building/Landmark, Character, Document, Ethnicity/Culture, Geographic Location, Organization, Profession, title, Settlement)
- Wondrous Nature Award 2022: "Your natural world in all its glory — an article describing anything from species to locations, to natural and supernatural events, and bizarre naturally-occurring materials."
(Allowed article templates: Condition, Geographic Location, Material, Natural Law, Species)
- Strength & Honour Award 2022: "An article relevant to the interactions of the people of your world across a grand scale — diplomacy, war, trade and collaboration, and the people who drive and engineer them."
(Allowed article templates: Character, Document, Military Conflict, Military Unit, Organization, Profession, Technology, Vehicle)
- Pillars of Progress Award 2022: "An article describing a technological or scientific (including metaphysical) accomplishment, or celebrating creations developed by the people of your world."
(Allowed article templates: Building/landmark, Item, Material, Natural Law, Settlement, Species, Spell, Technology, Vehicle)
- Myths & Legends Award 2022: "An article describing an aspect of your worldbuilding which are mythical or fictional WITHIN the construct of your world. Examples might include pantheons, urban legends, and stories of non-historical fictional characters."
(Allowed article templates: Character, Myth, Organization)
The submissions must have been initially created between 1st January 2022 and 31st December 2022 (inclusive) unless otherwise stated, and the submissions can be edited until the self-submission deadline Saturday 21st January 2023.
If you'd like to see an example, here are all of the things that I submitted for the Worldbuilding Awards 2022:
What stays the same
Each year there are adjustments made to the categories and criteria for submissions to the World Anvil Worldbuilding Awards based on the community feedback we give, but there are several things that have stayed the same and are likely to remain consistent in future events:
- The worldbuilding content needs to be created during that year on World Anvil, unless otherwise specified.
- The content needs to be created by you, or your world's team.
- NSFW content is not elegible. This includes sexual themes or erotica, and depictions of extreme violence or gore (because if you win, World Anvil will need to be able to show your amazing worldbuilding to all audiences and potentially their sponsors, too).
- The content needs to be created on World Anvil and needs to be public (not private), published (not a draft), and be submitted with its full URL (not the edit or preview link).
- All art used must be clearly labelled with the artist's name, e.g. beneath the image, in the authors notes, footer, global footer, or similar. If you are the artist, you must credit yourself. You must have explicit permission and rights of the original artist to use their work.
What the judges are looking for
We don't know who the mystery judges are until afterwards, but they have previously included a mix of talented folks like authors, artists, influential content creators, publishers in the gaming and TTRPG industry, and members of the World Anvil team.
Aside from any criteria listed on the submission page or form, we also have no idea what the judges are looking for! Now, I've never been a mystery judge BUT - as someone who formerly worked behind the scenes in the World Anvil team for almost four years, I think I have a pretty good idea!
- Interesting worldbuilding concepts
Even if you're writing a well known genre with commonly used species - the judges will want to see what your unique twist is! Think about what will make people go "huh, that's different!"
- Fantastic visual presentation
Being blown away with visual content makes an impactful and lasting first impression and makes your worldbuilding memorable! Consider how you use visual elements such as layout, formatting, use of icons, images, and maps to cause a big WOW factor!
- Excellent use of World Anvil features
World Anvil proudly showcases many of the winning entries across their website & social media posts to show people what amazing things can be achieved using the website. Along with a fantastic visual presentation, the judges are likely on the lookout for excellent use of World Anvil's many worldbuilding features such as: charts, family trees, bloodlines, maps, timelines, chronicles, statblocks, and more! Consider different ways in which you could use these features, too!
- Easy to pick up, hard to put down
Award-winning worldbuilding should be easy to read and understand, and unforgettable - leaving you with further questions and a strong desire to know more and explore the world further.
Playing to your strengths
So, how do you win? You could enter for just one or a small few categories that you like the most, or you can try for all of them - whichever you choose, play to your strengths in each one!
Say for example you love writing characters but you really wanted to enter something for a settlement based category, and maybe you find that really boring. Well - make it fun! Play to your strengths by creating a settlement full of ineteresting characters and how they interact with each other, or perhaps create the hometown or current city your main character is living in or visiting and describe all of the places that they would be interested in. You could even write the entire article from the character's perspective as a journal entry or a guidebook!
If you're a visually creative person, go wild with drawings, diagrams, maps or 3D models! Immerse your readers with an illustrated journey through your world.
Not into art? No problem! You can use free images with an appropriate licence, hire an artist to make something awesome for you, or even go without images alltogether! You can make award winning articles that are text based and let your creative writing and storytelling really shine.
For TTRPG creators where this might be for your new game or a homebrew setting, cast that adventure hook straight at the mystery judges! Include exciting statblocks in your sidebars, slap in some maps, turn every entry you want to submit into something your first-time players would want to explore.
Make a note of what things you enjoy making, what your strengths are, and remind yourself of your "why" from the first section.
Next it's time to make a plan for world dominatio- uh worldbuilding!!
Making a plan
You've got your "why", you've checked out the playing field and the rules of the game, you've picked your strong points, and now it's time to make a game plan.
You have all year for this.
There's no rush.
There's time for making mistakes to learn from.
And there's plenty of time to rest.
Here's how you can make a game plan for the year to create your best worldbuilding ever ready for the next Worldbuilding Awards:
- Choose your favourite categories to enter
You don't have to enter all of them if you don't want to! Also consider if you want to expand your existing world or if you want to embark on an entirely new project and new world (for 2022 there was a separate category for that).
- Future-proof your choices
What if a category you planned for is removed next time? This happened to me! I looked at the choices for 2021 and wanted to take another shot at the Most Organized World, so I spent lots of time and effort restructuring my world, tidying the table of contents, using breadcrumb navigation, tags, indices and more, only to find the category had been removed for 2022. I don't regret the preparation I did though! I was still able to enter lots of other categories because I'd made a broad variety of worldbuilding during the year.
Also bear in mind that article categories might change, too. In previous years it was a simple template-based option but for 2022 the criteria was thematically based. Don't worry too much though because there is usually a period of time where we can make edits and minor adjustments before the judging period begins, so if your favourite article doesn't quite match the theme for that category, you'll be able to tailor it to be fit for submission.
- Make notes on what you want to create
Think up some broad ideas on what you might want to worldbuild for these categories. Consider defining a particular area of your world that you want to develop so that you can easily interconnect related articles in your entries! Having some ideas in mind is also useful for the next tip:
- Keep an eye on upcoming events & challenges on World Anvil
Take part in worldbuilding challenges that align with the categories you want to enter as it's a great motivation to make something polished!
Check out a list of all the upcoming World Anvil events here.
You could even think of them as a practise run for the Worldbuilding Awards! People often use their challenge entries from the year as their shiniest articles to submit to the Worldbuilding Awards.
Community events are excellent for establishing a presence and becoming a known face (which I will go into more detail on in the next section). Make sure to check out other people's entries in these events to inspire you on how to improve your own worldbuilding! This leads to my fifth tip:
- Get inspired by the latest ideas in the community
Think outside the box and find inspiration from other members of the World Anvil community, but don't stop there! Research further afield! Are you making a timeline or chronicle? Consider looking at how video game wikis and websites do this. What information is included, which bits are left out, and how is the information visually presented? Think internally, too - if applicable, how would a prominent culture or organization in your world record their history? Gather inspiration from as many sources as you can and keep them visible somewhere or have them handy - don't just favourite & forget!
- Start on the biggest projects first
If there are things that take a long time to create and polish to a high standard, consider starting on those first. Maps, chronicles, and timelines take the longest for me (especially with adding lots of events, markers, and descriptions). If you're an artist or hiring an artist, make sure you allow plenty of time to create the things you want to make so you don't feel rushed in the last few busy months of the year!
- Pace yourself
It's not a race, there's no rush, and there's no pressure. You get to make what you want, when you want, and how you want :D Take your time and stop when you feel proud of it. Be mindful of perfectionism and keep your creative burnout at bay!
- Keep a list of your shinies
Consider making a list or using tags to keep track of the worldbuilding you create this year and which ones you are most proud of - it will be much easier to find and choose from them when it gets to the self-submissions stage!
- Go worldbuild!
Enough planning! You can't plan for everything! Time to dive into your creative passions and get worldbuilding. Have fun! :D
Who are you?
The mystery judges have their own secret criteria and will go through all of the incredible entries and have the very hard task of choosing the nominees for each category.
After that it goes to community voting and this is where your community presence is really important.
You can win and be a quiet lurker, but you can win by miles if you are an active, wholesome member of the community.
When it comes to the community voting, people are much more likely to vote for your entry because they will have had the time to get to know your world and writing style in advance, giving them better context of your worldbuilding and also of you as an author!
Becoming a familiar face
Becoming well known in the World Anvil community is way easier than you might think - here are my best tips to help get into it :D
- Take part in community events throughout the year
It doesn't have to be all of them, but people tend to check out all of the other entries and they are more likely to remember your work after seeing it there!
Large events like Worldbuilding Summer Camp and WorldEmber are excellent opportunities to connect with the community and have a little trial run for the Worldbuilding Awards! Have fun with it and try not to obsess over the leaderboard stats ;)
- Be active in the World Anvil community
Find World Anvil on your favourite platforms (Discord, Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok etc) and get chatting with fellow worldbuilding nerds :D
The World Anvil Discord community is the largest and most active of them all and for past events the form required you to list your Discord username as part of your submission.
- Lift up others
If you found someone's work to be inspiring, talk about it and share their creation! At the very least leave a like on their work and consider following their profile or world if you really enjoy what they make.
- Comment to your heart's content
Make it a habit to check out other worldbuilding articles in the community and leave thoughtful comments!
Bonus tip 1: include a question in your comment to spark a bit of conversation!
Bonus tip 2: include an unobtrusive link to your world or your favourite article in your user comment signature so it appears beneath your comment for people to check out! The author of the article will see it, but so will all of the other people who go to leave a comment.
- Reply to every comment you receive
Thank people for the comments they leave you and reply to any questions they give - it emphasizes your connection with them, and if people can see that you always reply then it makes it more worthwhile for them to say something!
- Share your work!
Yes, you! I'm guilty of not doing this enough, too! Share your amazing worldbuilding! You put all of your passion and creativity into this, go and share it with the world! Enthusiasm is contagious, so be proud of what you made!
- Share your work, again!
You thought once was enough? What if the newsfeed or the chat was too fast? What about the people in different timezones? Or the folks that are on one platform but not another? A single post can be easy to miss. Link-spamming is never the answer, so while you're engaging in conversation make sure to talk about what you've been making, or encourage other folks to share their articles so that you can then join in with yours. It's easier to consistently show your work if you have lots of different things to share, so you're not sounding repetitive. Don't forget, you can show work-in-progress things and ask for feedback too!
- Send notifications
When you've finished an article, send a notification to your followers so they can see it! Consider adding a message to the notification that gives people a sneak peek of something quirky or intriguing in the article. For things like your homepage, artwork, timelines, chronicles, and maps, post an update from your user profile and consider posting it as a global entry so it shows on the community page in World Anvil! Do this in moderation because spamming notifications will impact negatively on people's connection with you and it's annoying to see too often, so only post notifications once when something is ready to be seen. You can notify again if there has been a major update or overhaul! If you're a prolific worldbuilder that can write several articles in a week then I'd recommend only pushing notifications for your favourite one and putting links to the others in a weekly round-up post from your profile :D
- Reach out to the World Anvil team!
The folks at World Anvil are always on the lookout for incredible worldbuilding articles to showcase on their blog, their tutorials, in their newsletter, or even as a daily feature! You don't have to wait until the Worldbuilding Awards to show them something awesome :D
Bonus tip 1: When they release new features on the website, get in there first (and fast) and make something unique with it because they want to feature real examples of what amazing worldbuilding can be made with it!
Bonus tip 2: Sharing your work on social media is the easiest way to get boosted and shared by World Anvil! Tag them and use relevent hashtags so that your worldbuilding is easy to find.
- Encourage engagement
Sometimes folks need a little visual reminder to engage with your work! Consider putting a question in the author's notes section of your article to encourage people to leave a comment, and when you share your worldbuilding somewhere - ask a question, too.
Make it specific. "What do you think?" often returns a simple response "Great! I liked it :)", which is fine - but how about something relevant to the article instead: "Which guild would you not join and why?", "If you had this creature as a pet, what would you name it and where would you keep it?" and remember, reply afterwards and see where the conversation goes!
- Start something small and fun
Ideas: set your own mini-challenge just for fun and encourage people to take part, organize a worldbuilding-weekend to collaboratively work on a project together, make a homework club to peer-review each other's worldbuilding, do some writing sprints, run a reading & writing livestream, have an in-person meetup, play a one-shot adventure in each other's worlds, do fun stuff! The important thing is to interact with other worldbuilders and become a friendly face in the community :)
- Share something useful or inspiring
Provide value and share your wealth of knowledge with other people around you! Share your writing prompts, worldbuilding guides, article layouts, useful resources, and give a boost to all of the wonderful things that inspire you - chances are, other people will be really inspired by that too and be grateful that you shared it with them!
Before I continue on to the final section of this in-depth guide, I'd like to take this convenient opportunity to share my collection of 400 worldbuilding prompts with you - it's free (or pay what you want) and the prompts are sorted into the different article templates that World Anvil uses so it's easy to find that extra boost of inspiration to take your worldbuilding to the next level for the awards!
400 Worldbuilding Prompts
What you'll get:
🌍 400 inspiring worldbuilding prompts suitable for any project
📊 An interactive Google Sheet to keep track of your progress
📄 A bonus printer friendly .pdf version
Be humble when you share things and lift others up into the spotlights alongside you.
You can't lose
This guide is titled "How to win during the World Anvil Worldbuilding Awards", so while I wish you the best of luck for winning an actual award, if you've followed the advice in this guide - in my book, you've already won.
You will have created your best worldbuilding of the year and be proud enough to send it to a panel of industry professionals - that's truly an amazing feat!
Am I going to pull a "the real prize was the friends we made along the way"?
Yes, yes I am. Reflect back on your reasons "why" in the beginning - I'd bet (and hope) that one of your biggest motivations is to have more people enjoy reading your worldbuilding and engaging with you! Everything else is a shiny bonus.
As a final note to wrap up on this long guide I want to talk about what happens when you aim for something and fall short.
If you don't get nominated, that's okay.
If you don't recieve an award, that's okay.
This does not reflect on the quality of your work!
By putting in the effort and doing your best, look at how much closer you will have got to that target than where you were in the starting position! You don't have to start from square one again next time - you keep your experience and you can build up further on top of your fantastic worldbuilding :D
If at first you don't succeed - keep worldbuilding anyway!
For those of you who've recently entered the Worldbuilding Awards at the time of posting this article - good luck!
And to everyone making plans for this year to enter in the next one,
YOU'VE GOT THIS! :D
Share the love by sharing this guide with your worldbuilding friends, and if you want to talk about planning things feel free to ping me on the World Anvil discord server :)