Mind Mapping

Recently, I came across some software for “Mind Mapping,” a snazzy virtual visualization technique that is currently all the rage.  Although the concept of Mind Mapping dates back some 25 years, Mind Mapping software is much newer. So, always on the lookout for things that will help organize the gazillion bits and pieces of information I collect in the process of writing a novel, I set off to investigate this phenomenon. Little did I know what I was getting into.

First, I found the motherlode site, http://www.biggerplate.combiggerplate a kind of clearinghouse for any and all things Mind Mapping, including links, resources, maps, even events. The folks at biggerplate were kind enough to allow me to download multiple maps from their site so I can share with you the best that are related to our craft. Here is one such mind map from Catherine Franz, an eye-catching exploration of the source of inspiration. 40_Writing_Ideas_To_Pull_From_LifeMs. Franz used MindManager http://www.mindjet.com to create this map. I found the software to be somewhat business-oriented, as most Mind Mapping programs are, and not particularly user-friendly. But Ms. Franz did create an attractive and helpful map with it so that may say more about my lack of proficiency in using the program than about the software’s paucity of friendliness.

Here’s a mind map that speaks to the author’s skill as a visual thinker:

How to write a great story

— Produced using imindmap (http://thinkbuzan.com/products/imindmap/) by The Thinking Business, United Kingdom, courtesy http://www.biggerplate.com

Having just learned about beat sheets (I posted about them on April 18), I was intrigued to find this imindmap8 depiction of Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey.” (For more about this concept see http://www.thewritersjourney.com/hero%27s_journey.htm)

her's journey newest

The Thinking Business, United Kingdom, ©2013 Jayne Cormie. All Rights Reserved.

You can view the original of this map at http://www.biggerplate.com/mindmaps/1ZFJ0o5b/the-hero-39-s-journey.

Here’s another version of “The Hero’s Journey,” this one “incorporated with the Seven da Vincian principles developed by Michael Gelb.”

the hero's joourney

Betsy A. Pudliner, http://www.biggerplate.com/mindmaps/plv8H17A/the-hero-s-journey

One thing I can definitely say about mind maps – primary colors and large, clean fonts trump pastels and tiny type every time, no matter the quality of the information.

Another comprehensive site worth a visit is http://ideamapping.ideamappingsuccess.com/IdeaMappingBlogs/.


This blog bills itself as “dedicated to my Certified Idea Mapping Instructors, my clients, Mind Mapping and Idea Mapping practitioners around the globe.” It also produces “Using Mindmaps,” a free magazine available at the Google Play Store and Apple Newsstand.

Here’s a great (if decidedly intimidating) map from that site:

shakespeareThis map, also from http://www.ideamappingsuccess.com, isn’t about the writing process, but it has a tangential appeal:

intuition-mind-map-SmallThis one is easy to read and precise:

6 thinking hats

An xmind6 map (http://www.xmind.net/) from http://www.biggerplate.com.

But this one is definitely more eye-catching:

6 hats new

A mind map summary of Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats – produced using imindmap software. http://www.thethinkingbusiness.com

I found a handy-dandy blogging assistant:

100-Blog-Post-Ideas 3 (2)

Authored by Chuck Frey using mindmanager (http://www.mindjet.com/mindmanager/).

A little tough to see. To view the original, go to: http://www.biggerplate.com/view.aspx?id=lTXaxDZR. You can download five free maps a month from biggerplate.

There are a number of maps along the lines of this one by MindGenius using the MindGenius software http://www.mindgenius.com/:

At http://www.biggerplate.com/mindmaps/Rfmjt8Zk/the-10-most-overused-words-in-fiction

At http://www.biggerplate.com/mindmaps/Rfmjt8Zk/the-10-most-overused-words-in-fiction

And a good many like this from http://business901.com/blog1/mindmap-on-writing-well/. Although it addresses non-fiction, it has application to fiction as well:

Writing-WellDigital mind maps, unlike 3 X 5 cards, are just plain fun. From the site of Mind Mapping’s inventor, Tony Buzan, http://blog.thinkbuzan.com, is this creative look at a subject which would ordinarily elicit yawns:

basic english grammar buzan blogThere’s a lot to think about in this map:

spiderThe author, Paul Foreman, has made an industry of helping others create mind maps. Here’s his site: http://www.mindmapart.com and here’s one of his most engaging maps:

books-to-read-next-mind-map-paul-foremanThis is the way he describes this map: “The Books to Read Next Mind Map Template will help you to plan your reading. It offers space to add 52 book titles. You can plan your future reading or summarise what you have read to date, plan study material, learning and developmental reading or fiction.” Nuf said. I bought the map.

One enterprising mind mapper put her skills to work on a business card:

business cardHere’s a nice explanation of the Mind Mapping process as it pertains to writers: http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2011/10/roger-c-parker-mind-mapping/

And this is a book planner by the same author:

I’d originally planned to provide a definitive list of all available Mind Mapping software, but, the deeper I got into the subject, the more I decided against it.  Given the quantity and variety of items – Wikipedia alone has 32 links — to do the topic justice you really have to research the programs — and sites like Paul Foreman’s — yourself.  These links can give you a running start:




Also, Paul Foreman offers a number of free, downloadable e-books, including one with catchy templates you can use right away. This is the page: http://www.mindmapinspiration.co.uk/#/mind-map-e-books/4529839181.

A few observations before you begin:

1.    If you’re a visual person, hands down you’ll enjoy using Mind Mapping software. If you’re an artist, you’ve probably invented a program already.

2.    If you’re an organized person, Mind Mapping will appeal to you.  If you’re disorganized, take it from me, bringing order to chaos lies in your brain, not in a piece of computer programming. But go ahead and give it a try anyway. Most software comes with a generous trial period. imindmanager is an exception, with a trial of only seven days. You can request an extension; they very kindly granted me one.

3.    If you’re a plotter, Mind Mapping will surely be right up your alley. If you’re a pantser, you’ll probably be left with a lot of white space on the page.

4.    Many of these programs are BIG. In my notes I have “taking a long time to download” and “STILL not finished downloading, grrr.” Just make sure someone else in your house isn’t watching “50 Shades of Grey” while you’re (endlessly) trying to download your software.

5.    Be aware that most programs are not specifically designed for writers. I think Scapple https://www.literatureandlatte.com/trial.php?displayMode=scapple and the Brain https://www.thebrain.com/ come the closest. Even the almighty Scrivener http://literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php has been mentioned as Mind Mapping software.

Still, writers have found creative ways to use programs that were obviously not developed with the author in mind. In addition to several examples above, Miquiel offers this MindManager story template at http://www.biggerplate.com/mindmaps/9mchhXjK/story-template. (Note: this and many other maps are interactive.)

Story-TemplateHere’s the Library tab of this template partially exploded:

story template library explodedOf course, you’ll have to buy the software to make it work. http://www.mindjet.com/mindmanager/

Iain Broome, author of A IS FOR ANGELICA, has a nice description of how he uses MindMeister (https://www.mindmeister.com/) to create stories: http://www.iainbroome.com/blog/mind-maps-stories. (Unfortunately, the links in the post have expired but the screenshots do a good enough job of explaining the concepts.)

Joanna Penn has some thoughts on using Mind Mapping but, echoing her name,joanna penn her maps are in longhand. What does that tell us? Hmm. http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2010/03/19/mindmapping-your-novel-can-help-with-writing-scenes/

6.     Finally, Mind Mapping is a great way to procrastinate. (Please, no yelling.) It’s a toy, a potentially useful one, in the right hands, with the right purpose, and the right discipline, but a toy nonetheless.  All you have to do is spend some time at “Best Mind Maps” https://www.flickr.com/groups/77692793@N00/pool/ or https://www.google.com/search?q=mind+maps+flickr&num=100&newwindow=1&safe=active&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0CEEQ7AlqFQoTCMeS5aHii8YCFfQljAodauEAdA&biw=1032&bih=514 to realize that Mind Mapping is nothing more than doodling on a grand scale. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, After all, isn’t doodling all about letting your mind’s creative juices flow?

Bottom line, if you haven’t tried Mind Mapping, why not give it a whirl? With dozens of programs out there and most offering trial periods, you could be mapping for weeks before ever having to plunk down a dime.  And some programs are free. Even better.

So – happy Mind Mapping —  and do post your maps here for us to see. I’m planning to contribute mine – as soon as I can get those pesky boxes to line up…and keep the text in the balloons…and move that one item I thought should be last but now I want it to go 3rd from the top…and if I can figure out how to make the purple lines thicker…and how on earth can I keep the photo of the hotel before the photo of the crocodile lagoon but after the waterfall…

Ah well.

Til next time.

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6 thoughts on “Mind Mapping

  1. Wow! I tried mind mapping years ago, when it was in its infancy I guess. It’s a whole new game now. Great information. Now, I have to carve out time to investigate. Thanks so much, Britt. :)

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