How Will I Get There? Fun With Maps

You do NOT need an official map or to be a cartographer to draw a map.  Get out a piece of paper and draw a basic outline of ONLY the key points that will be pertinent to your story.  If you’re writing historical, you could even trace it around an outline of an existing (period) map you can find in your library.  You do NOT want your map to be too specific; you only want it to have those elements that are critical to your story.  Once you have traced (or created) the general outline, identify key cities, borders and geographically pertinent items such as mountains, major rivers, ports, cities, and sites.  If your story takes place in a city, you need a general outline of the city area, the main streets, and any particularities of the city that are important to the story.  Everything else is blank space.  Keep it simple. 
I have a whiteboard on the wall of my office that started out with the shape of a dog’s head.  As my story progressed, I added geographical elements (a hill, a beach, the highway), and main streets that my characters use to get from place to place.  I’ve noted the locations of restaurants, bars, and where each of my characters lives in this town.  Everything else is blank.  As I add locales, or new scenes, I mark up the whiteboard.  Since I’m writing a series, I want to keep everything consistent, location-wise.  I find the whiteboard map saves me a TON of time, and is really a fun way to ground your story into a location.  If (after you’re done with your story), you decide you absolutely NEED a map, it will be very easy to translate what you have used on the whiteboard into a map for the manuscript. 
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