Sunday, March 24, 2013

Writing Method #8: Mind-mapping

 Writing Method #8: Mind-mapping

     I first learned about the concept of mind-mapping when I was working on my second master's degree (this one in Education and Educational Administration) back a few years ago. I was surprised that such a good, unique concept had never been a part of my English education (BA or MA) because I think it is a fantastic fit for writers of both essays and fiction writing.  I don't know if I could tout it as the best method for a fledgling novel writing because it is a bit existential but I do think it is a great alternative for established writers compared to the Outline methods I've highlighted here in earlier posts (Outline, Draft in 30 Days plan, etc.)

     A Mind-map can be a fun thing to create and the visual impact of it can really bring a writer back into a story. The concept is to start off with a main topic and write it in the middle of the page, then draw a circle around it and from that circle draw several lines moving outward, as if you are drawing a sun.  Personally, one of the things I really like about the mind-map is that it employs, in fact it encourages, the use of multiple colors and even drawings to progress.  I think that anything that promotes fun as a part of the process is certainly worth a look. 

     Expanding then on the lines shooting out from the sun (described above) are the main topics or plot points.  Off of each of these are numerous sub-topics or sub-plot points.  Here is an example:

General Mind-map sample

      The best way to incorporate mind-mapping into novel (or short story) writing would be to use separate mind-maps for plot points and character interactions. In the past, I have successfully used mind-maps to straighten out family dynamics in mystery novels with convoluted character relationships.  Unlike the simplistic sample above, lines can double-back and intersect, creating a family tree of sorts for your characters. Such as:

Character Mind-map

     I have found that it is often easiest to draw up mind-maps on paper.  However, for those who prefer to keep everything on the computer, there are several software programs out there to help create mind-maps.

Computer generated mind-map
     Apart from the fun of drawing up mind-maps, these creative templates can be useful to writers of all genres and of all ages. I've used this concept successfully when teaching young children as well as teaching university students in college English classes. What do you think? Have you ever mind-mapped before?  Would you consider it in the future?


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