I have to blame this post on Tor.com for getting me started on a massive distraction.
Now, it’s not really a distraction from the Soldaris project, as the map that I currently have isn’t an accurate enough depiction of the world geography that I have in my head. I am very pleased with the way the map I made a year and a half ago looks, but it’s not the right map for this world (I will be saving it for another project, though, I think.)
I would be lying if I said I hadn’t tried to make maps to go with earlier ideas that I had while in high school and college and whatnot. But they weren’t good maps. Then, about two and a half years ago, I took a physical geography class at university. I’ll be completely and brutally honest here: I took it because it was the easiest lab science class possible that the university offered, and I needed another one for progress toward my degree. (I love science. Love, love, love it. What I don’t love is all the math that goes along with some of it.) Little did I know that it would open my eyes up to a world of possible worlds and more effective world-building, or that I would develop quite an interest in the subject. Nor did I think that it would set off a passion (albeit rarely indulged) with creating maps for my worlds.
I’m discovering that maps, as much as books, go through multiple revisions. This is, thankfully, a little easier with digital construction via Photoshop or the like.
I always start with the outline. I decide where the land will be, and the large bodies of water. Then I decide on where I want to put mountains and other major land features. That determines, with the help of physical geography principles, what weather patterns will be like, where the fertile lands and the deserts will be, which directions the water will flow and where, etc. Once I know those things, then I can determine where my population centers are most likely to be. It’s amazing the way that physical geography and cultural anthropology tie together. (Two classes I highly recommend for any aspiring fantasy author- but I have another post in mind about all of that.) Then, based on everything I’ve figured out, I add features and color, and make things pretty.
This is the first version of my map (click for the larger image):
The second, expanded and revised version:
And the progress on the version that better fits the way the Soldaris project has developed:
I don’t know why, but that guide layer cracks me up. (Farms! How exciting!) And yes, that gray line down the center is supposed to be there, although it won’t be a visible layer in the finished product any more than my scribbles about where things belong will be. It’s the ‘gutter’ area that Mr. Stewart mentioned in his article, commonly known to us laymen as the book crack. I’ve got this map sized for the inside of my journal where I do all of my prewriting and outlining for this project. (Okay, so it’s the third journal I’ve got for Soldaris; the other two are completely full.)
I’ve paused finishing this map while I complete this draft, since I at least have a decent idea of where everything actually is now. But you better believe I’ll be getting back to it. It’s too exciting not to finish.
(Also? I would be willing to put noveling on hold if I could get paid to do this map thing. Just sayin’. Well, not really. But… yeah.)