Adventures in Book Mapping

I recently finished another interesting and substantial editorial project, this one involving a #bookmap. For those of you who don’t know what a book map is, it’s a visual overview of a novel and charts things like plot arc, subplot progression and character development. It may also show elements such as theme, setting, day/date when an action takes place, significant objects, minor characters present and/or anything else that the writer/editor thinks would be helpful to analyse. In short, it’s a tool to assist writers and editors in seeing the big picture of their novels, and where they might take the next draft. It’s particularly useful for spotting areas of under-development—such as plot strands which aren’t followed through on or characters who suddenly drop out half way through a novel. It’s also useful for structural editing—showing writers and editors where a scene needs adding or action which needs to be rearranged and/or reintegrated into a book.

There’s no right or wrong way to create a book map either. Some writers like to plot out their stories prior to writing, while others only look at the structure of the book after it’s been written. Some book maps are handwritten, as JK Rowling did with Harry Potter, others are created using index cards, Post It notes or even MS Word. The key is to use your chosen method to create a detailed scene-by-scene outline. So far my book maps have been created using Excel spreadsheets, but I may look to try other methods in the future (I’m still fairly new to book mapping). To give you a better idea of the various types of book mapping techniques, check out writer and editor Heidi Fiedler’s Pinterest board:

I started using book maps for editing purposes after taking a course with Heidi last autumn. The course, Book Mapping for Developmental Editors, was run by the Editorial Freelancers Association. And, while I really enjoyed the course, creating the editorial book map was time-consuming and so I couldn’t see a situation where I would seek to use it. However, I’ve since come to appreciate how useful book mapping can be, especially when it comes to novels with numerous plot strands, or gaps in logic. A book map can be an invaluable editorial tool as it allows me to think about the book on a deeper level and to swiftly spot weak or overcomplicated areas of the manuscript, thus making my job easier, if not quicker.

While I’ve only used a book map on a few occasions so far, it’s a technique which I’ll continue to explore and may look to offer as an added service to clients in future (watch this space!).

In my next post I’ll be sharing a free book mapping template which you can use with your own work.

Until then, have a great week and I hope that you continue to enjoy the writing process.

All the best,