How to Make a Fantasy Map

I’m going to give you all the run-through of how to make a fantasy map, by sharing how Jaydür came to be. The fantasy map brings in more readers than any spoken elevator pitch has, so I see it as an investment totally worth it.

When I decided it was time to find a cartographer, I went to cartographersguild.com. To even be able to look at your private messages, you have to leave 5 comments in the forums. After I did that, I posted that I was looking to get a map done for my fantasy world, and I woke the next day to about 8 emails from different people.
And, god…some are expensive.
I sent each cartographer 2 versions of my map: one that I made with my friend, Emilie, back when we were kids and it wasn’t called Jaydür. And the other, a quick sketch-up I made of the first with some slight changes.
how to make a fantasy map
The first version, drawn up with my friend when we were 13.

 

how to make a fantasy map
My shoddy resketching attempt.
Things to realize when getting maps done:
  1. They have to be drawn vertically to fit on a page. Unless you’re going to use several pages to show zoomed in parts of different areas of your map.
  2. If you plan on using the map for things outside of your book–as in, for a background on promotion graphics, or to sell as prints/merchandise–you’re going to need a color version in addition to the black and white map going into the book. This will be an extra charge.
  3. You’re going to need rights to turn the piece into prints and to put on merchandise. This will be an extra charge.
After I spent a day doing back-and-forths with cartographers, I eventually found one who works in the style I want. Within the day, she explained to me how my map was going to have to be changed and stretch vertically. She then sent me this, which kind of freaked me out, because…ew:
fantasy map
It was blurry and stretched weird and so-not-pretty. But she quickly made certain I understood that she was only making sure she understood where the coastlines were. That alone made me go, “holy shazbok…coastlines. My world has coastlines. Like a real world.” #MindBlown
Silly, I know.
I confirmed coastlines, then we talked on Skype about major things like, “how do mountain ranges form,” where would it make sense for rivers to flow, why there can’t be a desert where I wanted a desert, how the land would have to curve for the dwarves to have their waters tainted by the poisons from the poisoned sea, etc. These are not things everyone thinks about as they write. So, we created bays and straights, and moved islands. There was a lot of discussion about regions, what kinds of mountains are in dragon island, what type of highlands the Norden Highlands are, and of course, how much distance is there from the mainland to the islands. How much distance is between two major points on the map?
The next piece she sent was this, and my hopes began to grow.
how to make a fantasy map
I confirmed the breakup of the lands, though she assured me if anything needed to be changed, it’s always possible to change it later.
Then, this came.
how to make a fantasy map
At this point, I’m twiddling my fingers, waiting for the next piece. I’m scouring all of my books to make sure certain areas are where I’ve said they are in the published stories…which is a pain, and scary, and fun, all at the same time.
Town and city names were coming next. (the names here are mostly just placeholders!) I was getting antsy in between emails from the cartographer, because she’s got work to do outside of my map, and I’m too excited! At least I understand artists. There is a need to cut ourselves off from people while we work, so I wasn’t too frustrated with the days and days in between emails from her.
how to make a fantasy map
Once I had the names settled on and spelled right, she made the little tweaks here and there and VOILA!
The black and white version was done.
how to make a fantasy map
Seeing this for the first time, I was already feeling the tears well up at the thought of what I knew was coming up next. The colored version was going to be like a dam breaking.
how to make a fantasy map
BY THE GODS! LOOK AT THIS BEAUTY! How can I not get emotional over my world becoming so real? This was a massive step forward in my writing life. A huge goal was accomplished the moment I had this done.
What do you think?
Does the process seem complex to you? Or easier than you would have expected?
Let me know your thoughts!
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Check out the cover reveal for book 2 in The Chronicles of Jaydür, which takes place in this world!
Want to enter the world of Jaydür? Start with The Lost Voice! Book one in The Chronicles of Jaydür.

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