Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The book map - my nemesis but my writing would be lost without it.

A few sheets of my current book map
Writers have many tools to help them write and focus on their plot/story but at the Golden Egg Academy they use the book map. This is a tool that Imogen Cooper created and introduced me to several years ago. I have used it on two novels now and I love the map. Actually let me rephrase that there are times when I love it, there are also times when I hate it. There are moments when I am wrestling with the plot and trying to get all the various aspects of the novel to work together and into the map when it becomes my nemesis. It is when you see all those columns and think 'I can't do this' but you can and you do. It is always for the better.

It is a tool that allows you to spot that inevitable baggy middle bit - for example I have just ripped out two chapters in my own WIP. It was easy to do because you could see in the book map that they didn't actually move the story forward. Off they went into my 'darlings' document (yes  I have a kill your darlings one). Immediately the story is tighter.

My map is hugely detailed in that it has a column for the moon. I needed to know what the moon would look like each night through a cycle. You can't have a full moon when you only had one two days ago! Very important when the majority of the first half of your story takes place at night. I also have a column for my horses. I have so many of the animals that I needed to know who was dealing with what and where. This helped me keep track all the time. I could look at the map and double check. Everything is there you see. My character descriptions and yes that does include the horses. All my settings - fictional and real. It is all there.  Importantly my editor can see it too so that when she is looking at my novel she can check back to it as well. It makes communication easy.

I have worked with Imogen in the past on the Introduction to Book Mapping session that we run and inevitably there will be someone there who thinks this is really easy. I can almost guarantee that within a few weeks maybe a couple of months they will be saying, 'Actually it is really hard!' And it is. Doing a book map takes time, makes you ask questions of your manuscript so that you know it inside out. You really have to get to the heart of it and you will hate the process at times but I know from experience it is worth it so I put up with the pain now. I welcome it. Embrace the map, that's what I say.

If you want to see how others use the book map check out Sue Eves' blog

And especially for the Eggers in particular Andrew Wright who always says that the book map does this for him

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