I write speculative fiction, which is the fancy way to say I write books that fit somewhere between sci-fi and fantasy, both of my manuscripts Coal Belly and Stars exists in realities separate from ours. Coal Belly takes place during an industrial revolution on a river covered planet named Vale, Stars exists in a distant furutre where the surface of the earth has changed significantly and strange creatures interact with humanity on a day to day basis. They’re both very detailed settings and in both cases I found that drawing my own maps really helped me with my world building.
I write with Scrivener (an amazing tool, I’ll probably write a post on it at some point in the future) and it has some templates for locations that I find very helpful. However sometimes a document with descriptions isn’t enough. My love of maps and my reliance on them in my writing is probably born out of my career as a designer. I can write details, but visualizing them spatially is often difficult for me.
More and more I tend to find myself breaking out the ol’ moleskine and starting to sketch. Maps help me see a city, or a nation in better context, I can write to that local when I have it drawn out before me. See the distance between point A and B. Other times I use a map to work out details in a scene or a chapter. Case in point: I wrote a scene towards the end of Coal Belly and after reading it I realized it was confusing, so I drew a map. I choreographed how the whole event played out, I mapped character movement, and made notes on the actions of the scene. It worked out well.
So I draw maps, and will probably continue to do so, how about you? Ever drawn a map to help you write? What tools do you use? How detailed do you get?