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This is a quick post to share a couple of fabulous links for my fellow world-building enthusiasts, especially those who are artistically challenged – like me.

I’ve been re-working an older story of mine for a couple of months now, a kind of Sci-Fi Fantasy hybrid, and I’m learning for the first time what a monumental task it can be to build a credible, vibrant new world/universe without getting bogged down in the details (read frustrated because my brain hurts trying to make it make sense). It’s a wee bit daunting.

Wait, no, that’s an understatement – it’s fucking hard as hell, and yet, I’m loving every goddamned, painful minute of it!

As a visual person, I do best when I can see my imagination transformed into reality, which explains why I’ve always enjoyed crafts, cooking, and gardening; with those hobbies, I earn something tangible and uniquely mine at the end. It’s not quite the same with writing though, because even though I get a thrill out of seeing my words on a page, I often feel equally discouraged because I can’t translate my scenes, settings, and characters into gorgeous concept art, which makes me even more bitter about my utter lack of artistic ability.

While I’d love to create my whole world in visual art, (I may try it someday if I find the patience to learn graphic design beyond the basics of making webcam selfies look like improbable-at-best glam shots), I figured that maybe just making some maps of the worlds my characters have to navigate, would satisfy my craving for colourful, pretty drawings. Thus, here enters Photoshop and one awesome tutorial.

With minimal Google searching, I found and tried a few online map making links, but most were geared to RPG players and wouldn’t create the kind of map I wanted. Then, I came across the most wonderful tutorial by the very generous and talented Nathan Smith at The Author’s Guide to Drawing Maps

After tinkering around Photoshop for a while to get acquainted with the commands he uses, I settled down and followed the instructions. As the kids say these days, it was “easy peasy, lemon squeezy”. Within a couple of hours, voila! There be maps here!

These are three I did:

They’re far from perfect, but I couldn’t be happier – especially considering how fast these come together. I also love how easy it was to incorporate unique colour schemes, which in my case is necessary because I’m trying to create three different planetary worlds, plus an alternate Earth.

This is one my eleven year old son did in about fifteen minutes, after watching me do one (he’s such a show off), and now he’s got all kinds of plans to monopolize my iMac and burn through all the colour toner. The husband is going to be so pleased…NOT. Oh well, at least it means the boy won’t be getting into any real trouble (as he does far too often).

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Next, I’ll be working on the last, and perhaps hardest, part in the map-making process –coming up with names for regions, cities, landmarks etc. It’s more complicated because I haven’t decided on the kind of dialects I want to use, but I was happy to discover that Nathan Smith provides a link for that too: Fantasy Name Generator This is hands down the most detailed and customizable I’ve come across, and believe me, I’ve used just about all of the name generators available online.

So, there you have it folks! A quick and easy way to have some fun while creating new and exciting worlds. Now, go forth to Nathan Smith’s World Building School and map your way to world building success!