Let’s try mind mapping!

Have you ever tried mind-mapping with your fiction? Or other things? It’s a useful idea. And there is software for it.

Mind mapping is a diagram to illustrate information or ideas— such as plot events that might happen in your novel. You start with a central concept or idea— such is “My novel plot” or “What the heck is this even ABOUT!!!” (Excuse the use of the minced oath ‘heck.’ And two of the three exclamation points.)

You draw a circle around the words and then you think of things that connect— plot ideas, odd thoughts, whatever pops into the brain. Circle those words and draw a line to your original circle.

Then consider each of the ideas, words and concepts you have noted down and connected to your original circle. Find ideas that come from THEM. And put them in circles connected to the circled item to which it relates. Find out more about mind mapping here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_map

You can do this on a piece of paper. If you can draw, or at least if you own colored pencils and aren’t afraid to use them, you can do some colorful images as part of the map. But you can also do it using software— some of which is free software.

Yesterday I downloaded one of the free options (because I’m living on a poet’s level income.) Downloading was a horrible ordeal, but in the end I had it on my computer. I clicked on the little butterfly on my desktop, took a look around, and went on the internet to search for a tutorial. I spent some time building up a general ‘brainstorming’ type of mind-map for my current WIP. I thought it was a useful tool.

One big reason it’s useful is that it illustrates your novel ideas in a minimalist way. The way I tend to work is this: In the planning stages I can write long rambling essays about the system of ranks in a space fleet, or how the zombie causative organism can be weaponized. And then before long I have notebooks full of imaginary information and can’t find the important stuff.

I sometimes take my rambling document and rewrite a shorter, more concise version. But, perhaps because I have Asperger Syndrome, it still doesn’t show me the big picture to write shorter documents. A mind map makes it more comprehensible.

I haven’t tried it yet, but I think mind-mapping could be used to generate a working outline for your writing project. You could put your title in the center bubble, and then have ‘daughter’ circles with Act 1, Act 2a, Act 2b, and Act 3 on it. (If you don’t yet know about the 3 act structure, look it up, it’s useful.) For each Act, you can put down your plot ideas. If that big dragon-slaying scene you put in Act 1 really belongs at the beginning of Act 2, you can move it.

It could also be used to generate to-do lists— both for your writing and for your regular life. You can group connected tasks, and the Free Mind software provides little number graphics so you can prioritize your tasks.

Have you tried mind mapping? On paper or with a software tool? How did it work out? Are there things you might try next time to make the experience better or more useful?


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