To me, the setting of a story can make or break it. It's almost as important as the characters themselves. Look at some popular stories, for instance:
Twilight: the setting is small town Forks in beautiful Washington state where it's lush and green and rains all the time.
Harry Potter: Hogwarts magical castle and realm. Even the town of Hogsmeade is quaint and cozy.
Lost, the TV show: set in tropical, breath-taking Hawaii.
Of course, there are other aspects that made these stories popular, but take away their awesome settings, and you'd be missing part of the formula that makes these stories shine.
So before you start writing, consider your setting. How will you bring it to life, make it feel real? We can't overdo it, or it's ruined, but sprinkle in just enough of a well-thought out setting to ground the reader, and we have a winner.
In my current WIP, I've had to create an entire world. It took a lot of brainstorming and when trying to keep the story under 60k words, I'm very limited as to how much I can describe this imaginary world. But I also feel like it's really important too, and I don't want to skimp on it.
What are your thoughts on settings? Does it make a difference to you? Do you notice them? Please share ....