I just started building a new world.
As anybody who has already done this, you know it can be a massive task. I started like this:
Name 8 "zones"
Name 6 "races"
Name 3 "unique elements"
I try to keep this as vague as possible for myself. Zone could mean a whole city, a plantation, a windmill for an encounter, or a floating mountain chain. Races could be sub-races or subcultures within a standard race. "Unique Elements" is very open ended, but is meant to be something so important to the setting that it could possibly define it.
Once I finish this stage, I'll ask some of my test subjects (errrrmmm..... players.......) which area they would like to start in, and with what race. I'll only be giving them basic information, and I plan on running them a little s play by post/email/text sort of mini-solo campaign.
I'm doing this to see which names and descriptions really catch the eye, and work on those first. Then hopefully I can re-up more interest in other areas by causing class/race conflict with something I've created for them to work with.
How do you guys start your world building as a DM?
Start with a small area and expand? Start with a huge map of everything? Something else?
Let me know, and if you're interested in playing with me online, check the Giant in the Playground forums. My username is "NeverSleep".