When I was in middle school, I had already decided I was going to be a writer when I grew up. I figured that clawing my way to the top would be such an interesting challenge that when I was incredibly famous, I'd start all over with a pneudonym that not even my publisher would know.
Let's pause for a moment while I roll my eyes.
So, yes, at 14 I was a clueless noob. But I did one thing right: I started worldbuilding. I didn't really know what I was doing, so I just threw everything in, a big cauldron of creative stew that I just kept adding to. I don't think that's unusual in writers. What's amazing to me in retrospect, though, is that I consciously kept my stew free from ideas that I got from other writers, TV shows, movies, and comic books. It was all my stuff, and I did it on purpose so that I wouldn't accidentally use someone else's idea and think it was mine.
That's kind of awesome. Thanks, mini-me. Because I'm still drawing on that amorphous, all-encompassing stew of a world that I started building a really embarrassing number of years ago. The Weredeer books are set in a chunk of that world I named Endra, for instance. And the reason I've been able to write The Taste of Magic so quickly from a standing start is because I had not just the world but the characters, setting, and plot ready-made, just waiting for me to write about it. It had been pending for so long I'd nearly forgotten about it.
And I'm still adding to the stew. One day, for instance, one of my books will include something called the Mare and Stallion Dance. I thought that up about a month ago and I'm still not sure what sparked it, but it's a fun idea and it'll fit in a story one day. Now, though, it's in the world stew (that metaphor is not really holding up, is it?), where I can play with it and turn it around and add more details until I'm writing a story that needs the Mare and Stallion Dance. And there it will be, ready to use.