5 Reasons To Draw Your Story World Map

I love drawing maps. In fact, I got into map-drawing before I ever started writing stories. I remember sitting in my room as a kid, taping together sheets of paper to form fantasy lands big enough to cover my floor. My love for squiggly coastlines and pizza-slice mountains translated nicely into world-creating for my fantasy stories.

 

Map
Map of Akor, the fantasy continent for my Wattpad novel, The Broken City of Crows. (Drawn by hand, then colored and detailed with Photoshop.)

 

 

I’m a firm advocate of having a complete map for your fantasy setting, and even if your map-drawing skills aren’t exactly Ptolomeic, I think creating your own map is a valuable resource for fantasy writers. Here are some reasons why:

#1 Map-drawing forces you to develop a complete story world

To fill your map, you’ll need landmarks, cities, political boundaries, etc., and it’s way easier to keep track of all that information if you’ve got a map on the desk beside you. Gone are the days of having to make up awkward city names on the spur of the moment. Even if your story takes place in a reduced area, having that complete map gives your book that behind-the-scenes development it needs.

#2 Map-drawing gives you ideas for in-story locations

If you draw your map before or during an early draft, odds are you’ll get inspired for a cool setting for that scene you’ve been trying to nail down. Penciling in a lake in that one trout-shaped valley? That might be a fun setting for a battle…well, “fun”. You know what I mean.

#3 Map-drawing provides a reference for important information

Wait, how long should it take my protagonist to get from this river to that town? Oh, I’ll check my map measurements! Could an army actually make it through that forest? Check the map. Where does the city import its goods from? The port-towns? Good! How far away are they? Check the map.

You’ll be surprised how often you reference your map for questions you never thought you’d have to answer. Laying it all out on paper helps you avoid inconsistencies or fallacies of time and distance as you write.

#4 Map-drawing results in a valuable resource for readers

Most readers appreciate having a visual reference to help keep track of your story’s locations, especially in the fantasy genre. Once you get your map drawn out, you can share it on social media, on your website, or even in the very pages of your book, if you think it’s good enough.

I don’t know about you, but anytime I find a map at the start of a fantasy novel, I take a few minutes to study it so I remember where the major points of interest are as I read.

#5 Map-drawing is just plain fun

Drawing maps is, at least to me, another extension of the creative engine all writers have. It’s an artistic expression that complements and develops our story ideas, and sometimes it just feels good to take a break from writing and scratch out some of those squiggly coastlines and pizza-slice mountains.


Do you enjoy drawing maps as much as I do? Tell me about it! If you’ve never made a map, I highly recommend giving it a shot. In the meantime, have a great day!

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15 thoughts on “5 Reasons To Draw Your Story World Map

  1. It was actually drawing the map of my world that helped develop my book as it is today.And it’s the reason this is the last version of the story–there’s no way I’m redoing that map!

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  2. You made that map by hand and with photoshop? I’m super-impressed. Maybe I don’t need to conquer my techno-phobic tendencies and learn to use a map creator after all 😀 .

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  3. Yes, I love making maps! And I’m terrible at drawing and they’re never to scale. But I do it for all the reasons above. And for me to keep my sense of direction. I’d get lost in my own fantasy world, let’s be honest. 😛

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  4. I have never done particularly well with maps…maybe because I have a terrible sense of direction and even wound up lost in a McDonald’s PlayPlace tunnel when I was 13. 😀 They tend to overwhelm me…maybe I should try taking it one bit at a time.

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  5. Maps are so essential. I first understood my dad’s skills as surveyor and mapmaker while I was a toddler, and once the connection was made I never looked back. I always have to/seem to know what direction I’m traveling; where I stand on that imaginery globe in my head.

    Discovering I could “invent” a map was like discovering I could make up a story. But I’ve never made an entire globe up (maybe an alien planet…) –did Tolkien even? I’m not sure I ever will, now. Because after all my European travels it took till I was 30 years old to be standing on the southern part of Coloane gazing out at night over the South China Sea for me to realize, first time in my life, I didn’t exactly know what was on the other side. That moment of thrill and mystery is something I’d like to preserve and use in writing someday. No, my maps will always have edges to the unknown…

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  6. I like when authors include a map in their book. I have a rough sketch of my map and plan to fix it up, once I practice drawing mountains and trees. I made it during my first draft to help me figure out where all the places were.

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  7. Good mapmaking, the illustrated kind, is a real art form unto itself–but it sounds like I’m preaching to the choir. I spend hours and hours on Google Earth, going back and forth to the satellite, the 3D, the Streetview, the picture galleries…So excited the first time I appeared in Streetview, walking on my coffee break from work.

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  8. I have enjoyed maps in books, but never thought of making one myself, I have a quite limited feald of drawing fantasy and medieval stuff that I have been happy with and done well in and I think each one of my drawings tell a story but I always felt like my drawings need an atmosphere or world to truly exist and now this gives me hope for finally make that happen and feels like the missing link I Was looking for. I’m sure it’ll be lots of fun.

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