Geofiction 101: Creating A Model
In the world of geofiction, most of the heavy lifting is done with pen and paper or a keyboard and mouse. You can create your world completely on paper, or can actually go high-tech and download software that allows you to create and sculpt terrain and tinker with the nitty-gritty details of an environment. Some geofictioners like to go one step further and create an actual model.
Creating a model is not the easiest thing in the world, especially if your created world is large and expansive. But, it is definitely possible - and if you have had experience in building model railroad sets, you are already on the right track. Here is a simple guide to creating a model world for the vision that you have developed in your head and on paper.
Gathering the Materials
The most important thing to realize when you are creating a model is the fact that your world may not directly translate into a real-life, 3D model. That's okay - it doesn't have to. What you are going for is just a representation of your world that absolutely does not have to be incredibly detailed for it to work.
Once you have made the decision as to what your model will look like, it's time to go shopping. You will primarily want to hit up craft stores, such as Hobby Lobby, and hobby stores, like those that specialize in railroad enthusiasts. Craft stores are great for buying the basic crafting materials, and hobby stores can give you the finely-detailed additions you may want - such as miniature trees and other terrain features.
You should invest heavily in crafting putty or molded crafting plastic. You will want a supple material that you can mold into place and then harden by either letting it dry or applying a hardening spray. White modeling clay works best for me (although I have even seen people sculpt terrain out of Styrofoam). Paint is also a must. You can even go all out and use sand, clay, gravel, and other pieces of nature in your model.
Creating the World
To create your world, try and figure out a rough scale. It doesn't have to be precise, and if you don't know how to do it, there is plenty of information out there on railroad hobbyist websites to teach you.
Once you have done this, and know how large your world will be, set down some plywood and start covering the surface with your modeling material. This is your chance to create mountains, valleys, ravines, craters, or what have you. Paint each large section as you go, so you do not paint over other sections.
Once you have the basic terrain and paint down, you can start putting in forests, rivers, lakes, deserts, etc. A cheap and easy solution for forests is to take cotton, dye it, and clump it to create wooded areas. (It also works well for a quick and easy solution for snow).
Now your basic foundation for your world should be established. Just remember that the larger the world, the less detailed your world will be. And that's perfectly fine. Your vision coming into the physical world is the only thing that matters.