I was working on another manuscript at the time but came home to MAY B., the book I'd recently finished and had just sent out to agents. I decided I should look for the emotional changes within MAY and set up a chart, poem by poem, marking the topic and emotion in each. Unbeknownst to me, it was my first book map.
Cheryl asks each of her authors to create a book map of current manuscripts, and she does the same while editing their work. This helps them both see where the book moves effortlessly from scene to scene -- and the areas that need overhauling. She has a fabulous podcast about this process and other editing techniques here.
BLUE BIRDS is the only manuscript I've ever mapped in its entirety. I've jotted poem topics in a notebook; made a more formal written record of setting (both location and time), sub plots, and POV narration; typed a fancy spreadsheet version; and hastily mapped a couple dozen poems where things weren't unfolding as I'd hoped.
Like Darcy's lesson in the richness emotional complexity can bring a text, a book map can teach a writer to see what's truly happening in a book, whether they're aware of it or not. My first map showed me BLUE BIRDS, narrated by characters Alis and Kimi, leaned too heavily on Alis's point of view. The spreadsheet version I created a week before receiving my first editorial letter was a way for me to reintroduce myself to the book (I hadn't looked at it from the time it sold in April until that week in July) and spot weak areas in character development. The most recent mini map (in the last picture above) helped me through a rough portion when many story strands were coming together. I was able to see how things currently stood and where I needed to change things -- either moving poems to new places, cutting them entirely, or adding something new.
I'll confess I don't really refer to the book map once it's created, as some authors must do. It's the process itself that helps cement the book in my mind. I firmly believe the best way to find the "answers" your story needs is to go back to the story and dig them out. I promise the seed of what you need is already there. Book mapping has been an invaluable tool to examine BLUE BIRDS in a new way.
Here are some other blog posts about authors who have also used this technique:
Making a Cheryl Klein Book Map :: Sydney Salter
J.K. Rowling's Plot or Book Map for Harry Potter Five, HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX :: Writing Junkie
SECOND SIGHT by Cheryl Klein :: Serendipity
Mapping Your Book to Ensure it Works :: Adventures in YA and Children's Publishing
What are some revision techniques you find helpful?