I thought I’d have a little fun today and share a unique part of my writing process – navigating my worlds via maps – along with my hand-drawn draft version of the map for my WIP trilogy The Tharassas Cycle.
For my sci-fi and sci-fantasy stories, maps are one of the first things I make. Growing up, I was entranced by maps of Middle Earth and Pern in particular (I may or may not own atlases for both worlds) and would refer back to them multiple times during my reading of each story, figuring out where my favorite characters were.
I’ve always been a very visual person. Algebra and trigonometry were very hard for me, but I excelled at geometry because I could “see” it. I can still remember places I visited years ago by the relationship of one thing to another in space, and I quickly draw maps in my head of any new city I visit, making them easier to navigate.
So making maps for my fiction was a natural extension of that talent.
I drew my original map for Tharassas a couple years back, when I was writing The Last Run. In the map here, it’s roughly the left-center portion, where it says “The Heartland” – a full-page map detailing that little part of the world.
When I got ready to write (or rewrite – long backstory there) The Emp Test, I drew the map above to give me some context for the lands outside of the Heartland.
It has served me well while writing The Dragon Eater, The Guantlet Runner, and The Hencha Queen. guiding the story and helping me figure out what’s practical and what’s not.
My maps are a living thing, evolving along with the story as I refer back to them and add bits and pieces from the plot.
When the story is finished, I scan them in, trace them out in Photoshop, and create a fully-realized version for the book. It feeds the visual/artistic part of me, and although I’ll likely never become a famous artist, I can make really cool maps.
In the end, I hope they provide the reader what the maps (of Pern and Middle Earth and many others) did for me – a way to really immerse myself in their fictional world.
And I hope y’all will love them as much as I do.
To my writer friends – do you use maps in your books? If so, do you create a rough draft and then a final, or have someone else do that for you?