Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for MAPS

     Last month I drove through a part of the country I'd never been to before. From Flagstaff, Arizona, the trip took me 3 1/2 hours north through some of the most desolate, beautiful spaces I've ever seen. The highway wove through deserts, canyons, and snow-draped forests. I'd have been lost without my map.
     Getting from Point A to Point B without a map is, well, a little unnerving. But that's just me. I like to know where I'm going. I need to see my destination, to know how long it will take to get there. Knowing what town I just passed and which one is up ahead is reassuring when I'm in unfamiliar territory.
     Writing with a map can be reassuring, too. Whether it's a one-sentence pitch, a synopsis, or a 10-page single-spaced outline, most writers follow some version of a map to get from that first sentence to the end. For 'pantsers', your map might be more of a cerebral compass leading you through the story. My version of a writing map is a binder with some bare-bones scenes in chronological order, character sketches with spots of dialogue, maybe magazine pages with pictures of a similar setting.
     Once the binder becomes burdensome, almost as if it's spilling over, I know it's time to start writing. My 'map' is complete. It's time to use it to help me navigate my story.

16 comments:

  1. What a great post! I am not a writer, but if I were to write a novel, I think this approach makes the most sense and appeals to my sense of order.

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  2. Thanks for stopping by my blog and visiting Sweden with me.

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  3. Your comparison of writing to maps is excellent. I can see the lines, some are doted, some are dark, some are even red. But, we can't see the full terrain until we travel the road ourselves and dig into the actual writing.

    Play off the Page

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    1. Exactly! Nothing compares to the actual experience!

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  4. Must have been a beautiful drive. And in a huge country like yours you need a map - where I live (Portugal) when we get lost we just head towards the sea, which is visible from just about everywhere. Perhaps that's why I'm a pantser :-) (Popping in from the A-Z to say hi)

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    1. Haha - yes, that might have something to do with the spontaneity! I suspect I'd be more brave if I had a landmark to look for as big as the sea!

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  5. I love maps in the literal sense - I used to stare at them for hours as a kid (despite also having watched a lot of TV). I'm finding it super cool to do historical map research for my WIP that's set in the early 1960s. But also distracting...

    I also live in IL and am planning to join SCBWI this month! I was invited by an acquaintance to check out a local SCBWI writing chapter (schaumburg area). I like their group but I may need to find one closer in the western burbs. Just stopping by for the A to Z challenge.

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    1. A fellow Illinoisan - yay! I've met maybe 1-2 others so far from the Challenge who are from IL. I think the Naperville area has a pretty active group (I'm originally from Clarendon Hills by Hinsdale/Oak Brook area). Now I live down by Bloomington.
      It's nice to meet you! Thanks for stopping by.

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  6. Great post. I never thought of my outline, character studies and notes as a map through my story. Excellent analogy.

    Michelle :)
    www.michelle-pickett.com/blog

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    1. Thanks, Michelle! Glad you stopped by!

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  7. Replies
    1. Thanks, Kaye. Same to you! And thanks so much for the follow!

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  8. Terrific post and blog. I'm following...So glad I visited. BTW, I'm a southern Illinois native.

    If you've the chance, pop by my blog. I'm the author of the Bella and Britt series for kids.

    Thanks for sharing!

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  9. I like maps too. GPS just isn't the same. Great post!

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