While preparing and writing Becoming Darkness I wrote copious notes, drew sketches, and made maps that all contributed to creating and fleshing out the environment in which the story unfolded. Not only did these help maintain consistency within the context of the storyline, but they often served as sources of inspiration for particular scenes within the book. Needless to say, there is a lot of this material that remains transparent to the reader, but as a writer it's important to have all these particulars in place so one can essentially walk through one's world and have it be as three dimensional as possible. The more comfortable and familiar the writer is with every detail and nuance, the easier it is to relate to the reader the story that takes place within the confines of the fictional world and have it feel convincing. Basically the writer needs to become an inhabitant, to live and breathe his creation to the point where it almost becomes real. If this doesn't happen for the writer, then it's unlikely to happen for the reader. As a writer that's definitely not a desirable outcome, because a reader who becomes invested in the fictional world is more likely to finish the book and recommend it to others. In this day and age that's probably one of a writer's greatest marketing tools.
It may seem a lot of wasted effort to go through all this to write a book, but you can regard it to some extent as "pre-poduction" -- in much the way it is with movies. You also never know when some of the material you work up in your notes might come in handy at a later date (as it did when I was writing the sequel to Becoming Darkness). For example, you will find places on the maps of Haven and Caelo that are never mentioned in the first book, but they do make it into the sequel.
While it doesn't hurt to have as much information as possible when creating what is essentially a new world, you have to remember that you can't cram it all into your story. You use only what is necessary. There may be things you think are deliciously inventive and interesting, put if they don't contribute to the story, they have to be left out. There's nothing worse than a novel wherein the action comes to a grinding halt for a digression on a subject that has little or no bearing on the actual story. (Yes, Tolstoy did that a few times in War and Peace and Melville did it in Moby Dick, but that's a whole other story - if you'll forgive the pun.)
Since I had all this material on my hands when I finished Becoming Darkness, I thought to work it into an appendix for the book. It was to be presented as excerpts from a fictional semi-academic work, the opening of which I present below:
The following material is excerpted from A Pocket Guide to Haven by James Grant, PhD, Haeden University & N.M.N'Domo, Professor of Comparative Studies, Haeden University. Third edition. Copyright 2004, Three Island Press, 101-53c King Fisher Avenue, Caelo. Copies may be purchased directly from the publisher for $5.99 plus the applicable EAC and shipping costs. Also available in most local bookstores. If you have any questions about this book or others from this publisher please call Exchange 2—Area 6—Number 1959.
Since the appendix never made it into the final book, I've decided to offer much of the content here. You can go through the information either by selecting from the pull-down menu on the website menu bar above, or by clicking on the button (below) that is related to the topic of your choice.