Regarding publishing: Self-promotion sounds like the most exhausting thing imaginable and I cannot imagine making a serious attempt at self-publishing because of it.
The way the first post is set up makes it seem like you should always try for a literary agent/publisher first, and then self-publish if no bites. is that right, or am I making false inferences? Do we have a general pros and cons list for either approach?
Probably the biggest hurdle for me right now is world building. When I sit down and start figuring out this and that, I quickly start to realize that this universe I'm building is extremely similar to another one already out there. It makes me feel unoriginal and uncreative, and that takes out the motivation to continue with that world idea. I start tweaking things here and there, and pretty soon the result is completely different from the original concept.
World building in general is a rather daunting task. What checklist of sorts exist for me to compare mine to in making sure it's complete? I don't want to write my story without my world being built. What are the essentials? At what point can I deem my world build enough to start writing? Probably more important, what elements are necessary to give the reader an easier time believing and immersing themselves into that world in the first place?
I can scribble land structures on a piece of paper and start naming continents and countries, but then I quickly start thinking, "Well this is too random now." I can carefully plug in different shapes and sizes, but then I quickly start thinking, "Well this is too structured now." I seem to always have a reason to be displeased with my result whenever I try to make progress, and I think that's the biggest challenge for me as of right now. What can I do to overcome this?
Perhaps Cyan can remember a writing excuses episode on the subject? I know they revisit this idea every few years as the markets change, but the most recent I can remember basically said, "Even the self-publishing success stories usually take their existing fan base as a marketing tool to get themselves publishing contracts." IDK if that still holds true. The overwhelming extent to which self-promotion feels alien to me means that I don't follow self-publishing and will continue to target real publishing unless every publishing house on earth shrivels up and dies.
Regarding worldbuilding: You can craft a story as soon as a clear conflict exists. "Here is a map, and a list of major locations on it, and a couple major historical events in the general area" doesn't help if you're still left with a central question of "Who gives a fuck about any of these details?" I DON'T mean "Why does the hypothetical reader care what I'm writing?" I mean, "What things exist in here that somebody might care about enough to take action based on?"
If your worldbulding feels too high-level to immediately lend itself to a story, zoom in. What is life like for certain people? Maybe there's a drought, so people start doing violent shit to survive. You can make a story out of people doing appalling things that they regret, or out of people fleeing the area while evading the harsh BS perpetrated by others.
All the tiny details can make a story a billion times better, with extra subtext or subplots or slowly-crescendoing megaplots across a lengthy series of novels, but all you actually need is people who care about things, and the people who have reason to object to those desires. You may not even think of the coolest things that could exist in a setting until you start writing a story in it and run into the opportunity at "street level."