Cartography for writers

A couple of weeks ago I found out that some of my novel would be illustrated, so I offered to dredge up a map I made of the island in the novel. After combing through several old notebooks, I turned up this horror:

Original map 2

So since I’d already promised one, it meant that I’d have to make another, better, more readable map. Out came the giant craft paper, and cue to me sitting on my dining table in gloom for about eight hours.

It turns out that playing “find the city” on a world map with my school chums was not an adequate lesson in cartography. No wonder people like Tolkien and Lewis turned to a pro for theirs. Though even my crude attempt helped me to put a few things in perspective for early drafts. I could map out where characters were at different points in the book, how long it would take them to get from one place to another, what kind of terrain they would have to cut through to get to the next scene, that sort of thing.

My final-ish map attempt is different from the original map in my notebook, but it confirms that I relied on some internal map while writing, even though I was ill-equipped to put it to paper.

Hopefully the new map will be of some use to the illustrator. Whoever it is, I heartily apologize. I did the best I could.

Maybe I should have paid more attention to this New Yorker article on the allure of maps for writers, and this book on world-building, which is a recent acquisition with some promising (and helpful?) illustrations.

So tell me, do you put your characters on a map?

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