Lazette Gifford
Publisher & Editor

Making Maps with Microsoft Word™

By Cindy Clark
Copyright © 2007 by Cindy Clark, All Rights Reserved

If you are writing fantasy or science fiction novels, chances are you might need to make a map. This is not just for the readers, but to also help you know where your characters are going. This can also save you time on finding names of towns when you're in the middle of writing and from double and triple checking your facts when you go back to edit.

You don't have to be a mapmaker to make such a map. If you have Microsoft Word on your computer, you can easily make any kind of map with the extras that Word has to offer. Going to the auto shapes on Word you can draw any kind of basic land mass. You can draw the land mass or just a portion of it using the curve in the lines.

You can start with dividing your landmass into nations. To do this you can use drawing tool to draw your boarders in a full line or a dashed line. If you don't need to have other nations shown, then just draw the outline of the nation you need to show.

Now it will be time to add in what makes it look like a map. You can find extra clip art items in the more auto shapes section. Looking through this you should be able to find a pine tree clip art picture. It will be colored, but you can change it to white. (If you have a color printer you can use color, but Word isn't great with using different ranges of color.) Using this tree as a symbol, you can create large forests for your world.

Once the forests are in place, you can start deciding where you want any type of hills. You can make this using the symbol with a small arch. You can leave grasslands blank, or to be colored in later. If you plan on having a desert can make a small symbol that looks like a heat wave to show that it is sand. For a mountain range start with triangles, using more then one you can make it look like a large or a small mountain range. You can also make the triangles smaller or larger to show a different it size. Adding in rivers and lakes can be done the same way you did your boarders andyou can change the thickness of the rivers lines, or double the line to make it look like a large river.

If you aren't sure you have the map the way you like it, don't worry because you can always change something if you have a better idea. Now you can start adding in your capitals with a star clip art, (or any symbol you pick).  Cities can be shown with a small circle and villages can be shown with a diamond. You don't have to use these symbols; there will be many you can pick from in Word. However, make sure you do have different symbols for each type of city you decide use for your map.

Once that is done it'll be time to add in your city names. You don't have to worry about naming all the cities and villages, but you should name the ones your characters are going to and might mention during the course of the novel. Extra names could come in handy later and it might be worth the time to fill in as many city names as you have placed on your map. Writing the names of the cities is easy with the use of the text box.  Make certain the text box is set for clear and has no lines, then move the text box to where you want the city names to be at.

Now is the time to decide if you want to color your picture on you computer.  If you have a good graphic program you can copy the map and paste into your program to color it there. If you don't have a a good program, or aren't sure if the color will be right, print it and color it with some color pencils. You might not think that it'll make much of a difference but looking at a color map vs. a plain one might give it a professional feel.

If you aren't working on a science fiction novel then you can still use a map to help you. If you are working on a novel that involves traveling to different planets then why not make a star map? Start with small circles that show the planets and then add in transfer routes, private routes, large ship routes or anything else your novel needs.

Another idea to try is to make a city. This might be harder, but if a good portion of your novel takes place in a city, then having a map can be useful. First you have to decide on a basic shape, from a circle to square, or maybe even an odd shape that works for you. To make it look even more real you can add on small extras to make the city look like it's been built onto. Next place your main castle, palace or other important buildings. Then do the major streets shown by a double line. Any side's streets can be shown with a single line. None of the streets have to be straight; they can wind in and out.

Buildings can be shown by squares, but not all buildings are the same. Adding a couple squares together can make a different shape. Using Word's auto shapes can help you create more shapes. Next label streets and buildings, although you might end up labeling more once your novel continues. You can always go back and reedit the map to add in the new names.

The more maps you end up making, the better ideas you'll have for making better ones. The best thing about making a map on the computer is that you can change things. Move a city around, make a river turn in a different direction and make a larger lake. Add in islands and other extras. Even if you do print your map and decide to change something later you'll still have a hard copy on your computer you can change and print out again. Plus, if you do have a printed copy you can have it near by while you write, just in case you or your characters get lost.