Mapping my Mind

XMind (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Right now I’m reading a book on how to use a mind-map as an author.

Using it can help you to formulate the outline for a writing project, maybe help you to flesh one out more.

Two free ones for you:

  • Xmind – the better one, also used by many information product sales people.

It has a lot of graphical symbols symbols to use, and you can bring others in. It can also read files made for Freemind.

There are several commercial (pay) versions offering more features, but the free one does what you need.

Sample FreeMind mindmap

There are also shareware-commercial applications that use them:

This is a writing environment with a LOT of options. One of them is a mind-map.

  • Scrivener – Another writing environment, this one originally only for the Mac (but there’s a version for Windows too now).

This one doesn’t have a mind-map utility (at least not in the Windows version. I don’t know if the Mac one does), but it can import Xmind files as research materials.

Regardless of the application that you choose to use, we’ll start the fun:

Mind map of the mind map guidelines.
Mind map of the mind map guidelines. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


How to Mind-Map

You start with a central idea. Usually, this will be the title of your story.

Example: This already exists, copyrighted by me and time/date-stamped on my hard-drive. I’m not worried about it being copied… as a central idea I’ll use the title of that novel:

Koan and Luger

Each separate and related idea is called a node. Each one is connected as a branch. Each idea related to a node connects to that node. The result is like a tree in which each branch is like a thinner one, as it gets further from the center.


Koan and Luger———->Protagonists———–>Charlie Koan

‘                                                                        /

‘                                                                       /


Compound                                                              /

‘                                                                                 /_ Military

‘                                                                             /

Outside L.A.                                                  /_  Special Forces

Note that they can be done by hand with paper and pencil. The only drawback with that is the fact that unlike with a computer app you can’t collapse the lines that you’ve made.  As a result you’ll  have to use many pieces of paper. That’s a minor thing to most. I just try not to squander resources, so pixels on a screen are preferable to me.

Ideas often don’t come to mind in an order, so you may have many nodes all around a map. You may even have a separate map for different parts of your story. You may have a different map for your plot, one for your characters, etcetera — or you may keep them on the same map in separate nodes/branches. If so, that’s  fine; the way you use them isn’t regulated.

Xmind an Open Source mind mapping software
Xmind an Open Source mind mapping software (Photo credit: Nuno Luciano)

You could learn more about mind maps here: mind-map


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