I’ve been reading assorted histories, books on archaeology, architecture, and the like, and scribbling notes about characters as they begin to appear to me, but I’ve suddenly hit the point where all that has achieved enough solidity to need something under the feet to support it. Time to make a map.
I have a rough map, or a series of them, attached to maps for other parts of this world, but it’s a very sketchy outline, intended mostly to keep the world to scale and attempt to keep the mountains and rivers in realistic configurations. Now I need details. Usually, aside from the bare geographical outlines imposed by earlier works, I would leave the details to emerge as I write, but as I noted previously, I’m trying to work on this project with a bit more of a skeleton outline, or a word-map/itinerary of plot-landmarks of where the story is going, so I need more solidity to my real map. I can’t leave it to the characters to discover, because things will be happening all over which will affect them. I need distances and terrain in place before they ever set foot into the story. Parts of this one will be more like chess or go and less like searching for the source of the Nile.
My sketch map covers a whole continent and includes things that never make it into any book. It consists of sections of professional maps that were done to scale based on my ‘good’ maps, some of my ‘good’ maps, sketches done on the computer, and sketches done in a rather smudgy pencil in my notebook and scanned. Adjusting all those to the same scale and patching them together was a good day’s work, last winter. There’s a real map of part of the primary world underlying it, to keep me honest — I mean, to keep latitude and longitude, climate and distances, reasonable for a planet of our size. What I did today was cut out the relevant sections of the rough map into new files, over which I will put new layers, in order to draw a clean, good copy, on which I can begin laying the groundwork (hah!) for the plot, charting distances and times, and working out who needs to be where, when, and what they need to do on the way.
I need to come up with the right opening sentence, too. Get that right, and the whole first chapter will appear.