Can You See What You’re Writing?

I’m continuing to find clarity in my writing process. Earlier this week, it came from Lynn Johnston’s The W-Plot, which showed me that my meticulously outlined scene-by-scene book was destined to fail… and how to fix it.

As I see it, it’s like any theme park thrill ride. If you don’t start the real action at a really dramatic, oh-my-goodness point, your story won’t have the momentum you need when you reach the soggy, energy-sucking middle.

But, I had to step back to see what was broken. I had to partially dismantle my plot to see where it lacked energy. It worked. Now, I’m making great progress.

Floor planYesterday, I was working on a scene and realized I couldn’t visualize it. Not with the crisp clarity I needed, to give the scene an authentic feeling.

I stopped and sketched the hallway where it took place. And, the more I sketched, the clearer the scene was, in my mind’s eye.

This morning, I’m making sure I have all of my story’s main locations visualized.

This means maps and floor plans. A few are easy to sketch. Others… not so easy. To save time (and so I have complete, realistic settings), I’m using some online resources.

Free maps and floor plans

If you’re writing scenes that are set indoors, in a house, Floorplans.com can provide almost any modern home design you might need. 30,000+ floor plans. Just enter the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, floors, and garage bays, and you’ll see several designs that may suit your story.

(To save the floor plans and print them, right-click on the graphic and save to your hard drive. Then print that file. They actually look pretty good.)

Other options include Houseplans.com (40k floor plans), and — for those who want something entirely unique — Homestyler.com (too time-consuming for me).

Need a floor plan for another kind of building? SmartDraw.com offers several ready made designs for locations such as restaurants and offices.

EdrawSoft.com has sample plans for various kinds of buildings, rooms, and even parks. I needed a school floor plan, and they had a perfect sample, ready to download as a PDF.

(I found even more using Google Image Search, with the phrase “school floor plan samples.” It’s another way to find floor plans, etc., quickly.)

For real-life city maps, Google Maps is my first choice. However, you might also like OpenStreetMap (requires registration, free) and similar real-life map sites and apps.

If you’re using real-life hiking locations — or want to use one as inspiration for your story set in a wilderness (or very rural site) — free topographical maps may be the answer.

Or just search online using terms like “free map ________.” You may need to be specific.

I did not expect to find a free map of pubs in the British Isles that allow stopovers (campers planning to spend the night at or near the pub). If that suits your needs, or you’ve just thought of a cool story (romance? mystery?) that would take place at various pub locations, here’s the link: Pub Stopovers Map.

If you’d like to be inspired by others’ fictional maps, be sure to see Urban Geofiction. Lots of maps by many different people, for a wide range of purposes. From vague, hand-drawn sketches to finicky AutoCAD-style designs, I think you’ll be impressed by the collection at that site.

If you’re planning to draw your own fictional town, be sure to read How to Design a Town Map. That site offers many other free resources, as well, including a How to draw a map article, with tips for artists, and some free maps designed for gaming.

Those links are the tip of the iceberg. I’m sure you can find even more wonderful resources, if you search for them.

Paid maps and floor plans

If time is more important than saving money, gaming resources can be the answer. You’ll find maps of fictional locations, and many include very specific details about those sites’ histories, locales, interiors, etc.

My first choice is DriveThruRPG.com. You’ll find era-specific plans, location-specific plans, genre-specific plans, as well as collections of plans (and maps, of course).

All of them are designed for printing. (My free, online resources rarely provide hi-res maps and floor plans. However, in most cases, I just need the general idea of the layout, and even a 72 dpi copy can be good enough.)

At DriveThruRPG, the smallest drawings might fit on a regular sheet of printer paper. Others require lots of sheets of paper (to tile as table-size or poster-size maps and floor plans) and provide an amazing amount of detail.

Prices are usually $15 or less. I usually plan to spend about $5. Also, you’ll find many maps and floor plans listed as free or “pay what you want.”

So far, that site has been a valuable time-saver, not just for maps and floor plans, but for other kinds of fiction fodder, as well.

Be sure to remember that most of my recommendations are from sites with copyrighted images. So, though they’re great references for writing, you probably can’t use them in your book without permission.

However, if all you need is a better understanding of a scene location, these online maps and floor plans can be very useful.

I hope that’s helpful. Now, I’m going back to my book.


Illustration courtesy of GraphicStock.com