Using Mind Maps for Writing
Mind Maps are a great way of gathering and organizing material for books, articles, theses, and technical documentation – in fact, any sort of writing.
When I write books or articles, I start by creating a Mind Map of the outline for the book, with the concepts I want to cover as the top level topics, and then details as necessary so that I have enough information there so that I know what I want to cover. At this stage, it is more along the lines of a brainstorming session. Sometimes, it also includes note taking and research, as covered in the video about note taking, where I will add topic notes with excerpts of the material, and hyperlinks to the source material on the topics, or attach documents where necessary.
Here is an example of what I create at this stage, taken from the plan for my book “Teacher’s Guide to Mind Mapping“:
I have heard from people who use NovaMind for writing novels and short stories tell me that they create similar Mind Maps with the main points of the story lines, and sometimes create character profiles with the physical appearance, language patterns, character traits, and personal history and relationships all mind mapped out. There seems to be a lot of variation in the way novelists approach their writing, and seeing as I haven’t yet written any novels myself, all I can do is pass on these suggestions.
So at the end of this process, you have an outline of the story, book or article, but it’s not usually grouped and ordered in the way you want it for the finished work. So how I approach the organization process is that I graft the topics so that the main concepts and supporting concepts are arranged as topics and sub-topics.
This gives me an idea of the size of each area of information. At the same time, I’m thinking about the order of the information so it is presented in a logical progression and the information is being introduced in order, building on the previous information.
Now I group it into chapters, and for ease of understanding, I keep each chapter to about 7 main points, because people can on average hold 7 concepts in their short term memory at once, and that’s a comfortable number to work with. Sometimes I’ll go up to 9 main points where necessary, but try not to go beyond that because there is a high likelihood of inducing information overload in the reader.
This may sound like quite a few steps, but in fact this process is usually pretty quick, and you will have the outline and overall content organized in very short order.
The next step, if it’s a book rather than an article, is to create a new Mind Map for each chapter, and copy the subtopics for that chapter over. If your overall Mind Map had detailed information on it, you would remove the detailed level information and just have the main points on that Mind Map so that you can use it as an overview of the book.
Now for each chapter, you have your approximately 7 main points, and you extend add as many child topics as you need to cover the main points, which will become your headings and subheadings in the text, and then add the body text to each topic.
Of course, being in Mind Map format, you are not constricted to write sequentially. You can add the body text in any order you like.
When you are ready, you can export the Mind Map document with all the chapter Mind Maps into Microsoft Word format, and all the topics and sub-topics will come out as outline levels within the document, and the topic notes will come out as body text, so you can easily apply MS Word styles to the document to format it nicely, and also you will be able to generate a table of contents from it directly.
But in doing this, you are losing the power of Mind Mapping for your readers, so what I do is spend a few minutes on the layout of the Mind Maps and then export them as PDF images and then embed them into the document, with the overall outline Mind Map at the start of the book as another form of table of contents, and then at the start of each chapter, I have the chapter Mind Map which shows people the main points that are covered in that chapter. Here are a few examples from my book Teacher’s Guide to Mind Mapping:
As you can see, I try to make them visually interesting by having different background colors and different styles included in the Mind Maps, but at the same time, if there is something related across chapters, I’ll use the same image in both places so you have the visual connection. Our brains love color and flow, and having different shapes and colors makes them both visually appealing as well as memorable, while the structure makes the information content easily understood and remembered too.
If the book is the type where you want people to take notes, you can include a blank Mind Map at the end of each chapter with just the main topics there so people can make their own notes as they go.
Having the Mind Maps in the book means that when a reader returns to the book later, they will be able to just take a quick glance at the Mind Map and instantly recall the content.
So using Mind Maps can dramatically speed up the writing process and at the same time lead to a much higher quality of output, and completely avoid writers block, because you have the structure in place right from the start and can work on the content in any order, and if you get stuck at all, you can just use the techniques we covered in the brainstorming article for coming up with new ideas which get your thinking going again.
I just can’t imagine writing a book without using Mind Mapping now – it would just be so slow and tedious! So get stuck in to your next writing project using the power of Mind Mapping!