I have always maintained that one of the fundamental responsibilities of the fantasy or science fiction writer is the responsibility to create a contextually plausible setting for the story to take place in. Actually, this is a minimum requirement for a successful story. If the writer doesn’t deliver this, then the events of the story will seem to be occurring in an emotionally detached ether of sorts.
To help gel together the fantastic realm in a fantasy novel, the writer will often create the fantasy map. Now you can give a reference point for the Mystic Tower in relation to the Dragon Hoard. But for the indie author on a budget, this seems to be a potential problem. At least, it is for me. I’m not a strong graphic artist. I can’t really draw, and my design skills are challenged (but it looks good in my head!).
I started my map on a paper sketch pad, and went back and forth on the layout for months. Eventually I digitized it with my Lexmark scanner, and then I imported it into GIMP (open source freeware). Once there, I started trying to clean it up. The image you see above is the result. The problem, of course, is that it’s obviously the work of an amateur. Middle Earth it isn’t.
So now I’m presented with a question: do I continue to clean it up and use it? Do I forgo the map entirely and allow (at least for this first novella) the reader to imagine the world of Maladine? Or has the map become so expected that I need it, and I should be looking for a tool or artist to create it?
Right now I’m leaning toward keeping this one, assuming I can polish it up a bit more. But I’m very curious how other fantasy writers overcome this little obstacle. Any suggestions?