novel with me, Writing group

Novel With Me- Fantasy Map Making

This blog post is a part of a larger writing series called Novel With Me- you can find the first in the series here.

Map making is an integral part of creating your own world. You can go into as little or as much detail as you would like, it entirely depends on what you need. Or what you’re bothered to do.

In this blog post I’m only going to cover the absolute basics- continent, landscapes and terrain. I’ll be adding to this map throughout the course of Novel With Me, so we will come back to it as and when we plan the other aspects such as countries, towns and cities etc.

Don’t feel like you have to wait for then- if you want to keep adding to it, then do so!

Let’s begin.

First off, you need to start with the outline of your map. There are two ways you can do this. (Well, there are probably more, but, oh well.)

Free hand:

With freehand, you simply draw a random outline of a continent. This way gives you more freedom, especially if you have an idea on what your continent looks like. Make it odd and misshapen, there will be more to play with.


With this method, simply chuck some pasta onto some paper, arrange it into a decent shape and trace around it. Simple.

The trick is to draw squiggly lines, as no coast line is nice and straight. Don’t forget any islands surrounding the bigger continents- and do you want to focus on one continent, or a few? This depends of course on the scope of your novel, and if you need to mention other continents within the story itself.

Now you could skip a few steps, add some countries/cities etc and leave it at that. Especially if you just want to use the map for a quick reference when writing. Or you could tackle the more logical parts of map building for a more detailed reference.

Once your map is nice and outlined, it’s time to think about the terrain. Where do you want the mountains, the rivers/streams, the deserts and forests?

Remember that fantasy worlds have some semblance of logic, (I know, right?) in order to help the reader make sense of them. So rivers flow downhill, trees don’t generally grow in the desert etc, etc.

Delving into the depths of map-building, there are a lot of people who say you need to consider things like tectonic plates, especially if you want to create a realistic Earth-style map. But I don’t have time to do that, so i’m going to keep it simple. There will be a link down below for anyone looking to create a hyper realistic map.

Here are some things to remember while adding your landscapes:


  • are usually parallel to coastlines
  • form in ridges or lines. Individual mountains are most likely volcanic
  • extend the mountain range past the coastline to create peninsulas and islands
Red lines are the mountain ranges


  • will flow from the highest point, down to the lowest land
  • most rivers flow into another source of water- the ocean, a lake, another river
  • rivers usually merge as they reach the coastline
Blue are the rivers

Stick your lakes where ever you like- somewhere along the lines of a river- and the same goes for forested areas.

Mountains here are brown, with lakes, and large forest areas

There’s no clear cut line separating different eco systems- the change will be very gradual. You’re not going to step straight from a rain forest into a desert after all. You can add the different eco-systems as well, if you need to.

And there you have it. The basics of building a map for your continent! Again, you can add as much or as little detail as you want or need. You can also come back and add detail at a later date, especially if you haven’t created your different civilizations yet.

Good thoughts and happy map making!

Here is a link to a more detailed post on creating a map:


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