Creating a map for a fictionalized world

First try at a rough sketch of a map for my book

First try at a rough sketch of a map for my book The Girl From Oto

One of the items on my master checklist is a map to include with my historical novel The Girl From Oto. It needs to show the Pyrenees Mountains during medieval times, with the addition of a few fictional locales (the Abbey of Belarac and Castle Oto, for example). Today I took a stab at a first draft of the map. To get started I did four things:

1. Amassed a collection of maps for the region where my novel takes place, the central-western portion of the Pyrenees Mountains. I have several contemporary maps, and I found a lot of medieval maps online that showed the political boundaries during the late 1400s-early 1500s, when my story takes place.

2. Got advice from other historical novelists in the Facebook Historical Fiction Indie Authors group about their own use of maps and how they went about it. I have several referrals now for graphic designers who have created custom maps for historical novels. I also checked out the Cartographer’s Guild, whose website includes hundreds of images of maps for real and imagined worlds.

3. Agonized over the time and distance (on foot or horseback) between various locations, both fictional and real, to make sure my characters really could get where they were going in the time I had allotted to them during their various journeys.

4. Got out a big pad of drawing paper and a pencil and started drawing. I have a rough sketch now that I will continue to fill in. Eventually I will probably hand it over to a graphic designer, although I may just do it myself with the help of an artist friend. Why not be ambitious?

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Amy Maroney

I'm a writer living in the Pacific Northwest with my husband and daughters. It took 4 years to write and publish my first novel, The Girl from Oto. Before that I was a writer and editor of nonfiction. This blog charts my progress as an independent author navigating the fog-shrouded switchbacks of "authorpreneurship." Come along for the ride...I hope what I've learned along the way can help you, too!

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