Creating a world from scratch is perhaps one of the best experiences for a fantasy writer. (Please note that new worlds in science fiction is much the same.) But as a new writer, there are no guarantees that if you create a map that it will be published with the book. Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't. Does that mean you shouldn't go through the trouble of creating one? No.
Creating that map, whether it gets included in the final product or not is a great exercise in story research. In much the same way that Stephanie Meyer wrote "The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner" as a way to explore a newborn vampire's point of view (she wasn't expecting it to turn into a published work), you should also do "extras" to enhance your stories. In fantasy, creating a map can do nothing but enhance the story, and give you a point of reference to guide you. It will also go a long way to providing consistency in your story.
Tips to remember:
- Avoid info dump. For more information read What's an info dump?
- Avoid getting so caught up in creating your map that you forget or lose the drive for your story.
- You do not have to list every detail of your world in the map. You can always add details as you write your story (and it would be better to do so).
You can always use a software like Campaign Cartographer 3 but software costs a chunk of change. There is a learning curve to using it and it might take more time than you're willing to spend on it. The easiest and perhaps the best way, considering you'd rather focus on story than maps, is to get some graph paper and color pencils and create your map by hand. It's not that difficult. A few landmasses, some water, some geographical markers... your creativity at work! And remember, you can add details as the details emerge in your stories.