Creating a map of your fictitious world

You are writing away on your novel when suddenly you can’t remember – is the capital north of this village or south? How far was it from the mountains to the temple? Is the jewelry shop three or four streets away from the inn?

It can be hard to keep track of all the details of your made-up world but drawing a map can make it easier. With a map of your world, you will know what type of terrain your hero and crew will cross over and you can figure out how many days travel it is between locations.

When writing my The Elemental trilogy, one of the first things I did was create a map. I designed it just for me so that I could get an idea of where the different Lands were located. I later devised the scale of my map to let me know how long it took between locations. (1” = 3.66 days on a dragon & 1 day on a dragon = 3 days on horseback)

This one has notes on it from when I wrote DESTINY.

Map of the world in THE ELEMENTAL trilogy. This one has notes on it from when I wrote DESTINY (Book 3).

The maps I draw are for my writing reference only. They will not be included in my book so I don’t need to worry about making them perfect. When creating your map, you can be as elaborate or as simple as you wish. The first thing you will have to decide is if you are drawing your whole world, one country or even just one city, or perhaps you will decide to draw all three or even more.

For the sake of this article, I am going to talk about creating a map of your world. (Actually in my case, I am only doing the continent that the story takes place.) You can work on just a blank piece of paper or use graph paper (which can later help you measure distances).

First, using a pencil, draw the rough outline of your continent. Remember that coast lines are usually quite jagged and irregular. Feel free to look at an atlas if you need inspiration though really they can look however you wish. There is no right or wrong.

Next add some mountains (represented by an upside-down V) and shade in where forests will appear. Draw some lines for rivers and add in some lakes. Add dots where the capital or major cities are located. You can draw dotted lines to show the country borders and even draw lines representing major roads, if desired. Add any other interesting places that you wish to create. Note next to the cities, mountain ranges, rivers and lakes the names of these places.

The World for ALEXANDRIA (my current WIP)

The World for ALEXANDRIA (my current WIP)

Once you are satisfied with your pencil drawing, draw over your map with a black marker. I would also suggest you scan it into your computer or at least make a copy or two so that if you do write on one, you always have a clean copy in reserve.

Now if you are computer-savvy, I recently found some free map drawing software called AutoREALM. I only played around with it for about thirty minutes but was able to design the following map.

practice mapThe software looks interesting, and I will definitely spend some more time looking at it, but for my current work in progress, I will probably stick to just hand drawing my map. Here is a link to a blog about how to use the AutoREALM software though some of the links she lists no longer work.

So now it is your turn to go draw your map. And rest assured that once you have your map, you will no longer have to wonder where anything is as it is only a glance away. 

4 thoughts on “Creating a map of your fictitious world

  1. […] part of my world building, I also usually create a map of my world so that I can refer to it as I am writing. This step is quite useful in knowing where […]

  2. shegyes says:

    I’ve played with AUTORealm a little myself and have been pretty satisfied with it overall. I tend to sketch out my initial idea and then take that idea and play around with it in AUTORealm. At least, that’s what I’ll be doing when I tackle my next project…

  3. […] determine the reactions and behavior of your characters. Fully developing your city/world includes making a map of the area so you are consistent on where everything is located, and how long it takes to travel […]

  4. I am working on a summer technology camp using a fantasy world and storyline as the vehicle to teach the students. Thank you for your insights about making a map for my world. Looking forward to fleshing out my world and curriculum!

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