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How to Mind Map a Novel

Updated on September 19, 2014

How to Write a Novel - Mind Mapping

Writing a novel is a huge undertaking calling for a great deal of creativity and good organisational skills.

At first sight, you wouldn't think these two concepts would work well together, but mind mapping is about to prove you wrong and show you how writing your book is a much less daunting task than you thought!

If you are not sure what mind mapping is, think of it like a doodle pad where you jot down ideas, beginning with a central concept, (your novel), and then write down other ideas as and when they occur.

These ideas are usually written in circles or balloons and linked with lines and arrows to other ideas. The whole process is usually done extremely fast as the idea is to force your subconscious to come up with ideas which you wouldn't normally have access to in less frenetic moments!

Some people like to include pictures and colour to further define relationships between items and events.

Mind maps are used by all kinds of people for a range of functions, but for novelists struggling with writing a book they are particularly useful as you can quickly amass a large amount of information about your new book within a very short space of time.

Once you have this down, you can adapt the technique to organise your ideas into a logical order right down to mapping out individual characters and chapters.

Here are a few tips to help get you started:

Check These Novel Writing Tips to Get You Started

1. Start by writing MY NOVEL (or article if you like as this method is great for planning articles out as well.).

2. Hit the page with every idea you can think of which you think your novel should be about, e.g. historical, sci-fi, thriller, murder, abduction, personal discovery, etc, etc, etc.

3. From these ideas, brainstorm more ideas. These should branch off from these top level ideas. Don’t worry if some of your efforts don’t tie in with your preconceived thoughts. You’re trying to release your creativity here! Accept that your subconscious may be offering you better options!

4. If you like to use pictures, colours or graphics, go ahead, these are particularly good for characters. You can draw them yourself or find them in magazines. Stick them on your map and let them suggest more ideas for your novel. E.g. names, character traits, ethnicity, occupation etc.

5. Don’t try to edit or discard any thought! You will amass a lot of data you won’t use initially, but there is a good chance you may want to include it later.

6. Don’t take too long over the process. The subconscious works best when under pressure. Set a deadline and stick to it. Short bursts are definitely best. 10 – 15 minutes will certainly pile on the pressure! Less for an article.

7. Once you have finished your mind map you can then take the information you want to use and organise it into a map of your entire novel. This will include a short synopsis, character portraits and chapter breakdowns.

If you work better graphically, this short video explains everything in a few easy steps.

Video: Mind Mapping Your Novel

Mind mapping video explaining how to use mind maps to write and plot a novel.

Mind mapping is a great way to plan and plot a novel, but it isn't the only way. I would love to know any other methods you might have found useful.

What methods do you use to plot your novel?

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    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I use the Marshall Plan Novel Writing software.

    • Sue Kendrick profile image

      Sue Kendrick 6 years ago from English Midlands

      @HealthyBodee LM: There is a lot more information about mind mapping, planning and plotting a novel in How To Write A Novel And Finish It. It is priced modestly and has some very good reviews.

    • profile image

      htwabn 6 years ago

      I'm a big fan of Dramatica.

    • HealthyBodee LM profile image

      HealthyBodee LM 6 years ago

      I haven't written one yet and am struggling to find a way to do it. I will give this a go as it sounds like it could generate a few ideas! I would really like to have read more. Perhaps you could add more info to your lens?!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I use the FreeMind software for mind mapping my stories. It gives me a little more freedom to rearrange my thoughts as I need to. I used to end up with piles and piles of scrawled-on notebook paper. Great lens, btw.

    • Sue Kendrick profile image

      Sue Kendrick 7 years ago from English Midlands

      @Ramkitten2000: Quite agree, different methods work for different writers. The big advantage of mindmapping though is it can throw up ideas which you would not ordinarily think of and can provide a unique twist which is definitely what happened when I used it. Good luck with the non-fiction book.

    • Board-Game-Brooke profile image

      C A Chancellor 7 years ago from US/TN


    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 7 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

      Actually, I've written both my novels by watching a mental movie and letting it unfold in front of my eyes, so to speak. Sure, I've had a general idea of the story and the characters (or most of them anyway), but I didn't create a map or outline. Sometimes I'd jot down a few lines if I had an idea and wasn't ready to use it yet, but, for the most part, I wrote the stories as they unfolded. You make really good suggestions, though. Different methods work for different writers, and I'll certainly be doing things differently when I write my next book--my first book-length non-fiction project.

    • LoKackl profile image

      LoKackl 7 years ago

      Interesting lens! Welcome to Squidoo. So glad you've checked in at the forum, too.