Maps are very useful things. People have been using maps for centuries. Knowing where things are is good, especially for writing. I create crude maps of the locations in my writing so that I can keep things consistent. I think it helps me orient the action as well.
I map the town that I set my action in, whether I plan for my characters to visit the town or not. It helps me to put the action in a consistent location. By creating a map of the actual location where the action takes place, I can make the action more realistic. That means that if I can put myself in the location, my readers can put themselves there as well.
I’m no artist. I couldn’t draw to save my life. My maps are stylized consisting of squares and lines. I use Scapple to do it. It’s not the use Scapple was created for, but it works well enough for my purpose which is to orient the action realistically, ensuring that things don’t magically change location from place to place in the story. I can do it that way because I have no intention of publishing my map. It’s just for my use only.
Sometimes, I use Google Earth to map a location. That allows me to include geophysical features in my story. Again, this is only for me to use in my writing process. It’s also a good way to see if your place names already exist. It can save you time to do that in advance of writing. Anyway Google Earth can give you perspective on the places where your action takes place — assuming your action takes place on earth. If it doesn’t, obviously you can’t use Google Earth to view your location, or can you? Of course you can. You can simply choose a location on Google Earth and rename it to the planet and place of your story.
Using a map to place your story is a good way to keep it real. I used Google map’s mars photos to place a character’s home in my book Accidental Colony. It helped to know place names that we put on the red planet. It is something that the average reader wouldn’t bother with, but I know that there are a small percentage of reader who would call me on it. So I tried to be as accurate as possible.
Writing is hard enough without having to worry about maps, but you will be glad you did when it comes time to check your manuscript for consistency. If you used a map, you will have checked your orientations while writing. A map just makes things easier. A map is a tool that you can keep in your files and, should you need that location again, it’s there for use. You can even rename it and use the location map again in another work. That’s all there is to it. Have fun with your map and don’t worry if you can’t draw. You only need enough to know where you are in the setting of your story.