Mind Mapping a Novel



Are you struggling to start your book?  I struggled with this idea for a long time before I dove into the deep end of the writing pool, and then when I dove in it was a bit overwhelming and at times felt I was drowning.

Many people don’t write books because they simply don’t know how to start.  They possess an idea for a book, but they don’t know what to do with it. They can’t imagine how they get from initial idea to finished manuscript which isn’t a small feat at all so don’t think I’m playing this down.

It wasn’t until I began using the “Brain Dump” method to get my ideas that were just floating around that space in my head, to the paper so I could have a visual.  Some call this mind mapping, but for me this is just an old fashioned Brain Dump.  Whatever you like to call it doesn’t really matter, just the methodology and way it’s used. Brain dumping will take you from a few grand book ideas, to a detailed book outline you can work from to make a manuscript.  This ultimately becomes the go to place for when you need a guide to take you from start to finish of this novel you’ve dived into.

It’s funny how our brains work as we have an analytical and creative side, so mapping those ideas out for a book when thinking about that can be tough.  Basically mind mapping allows you to bring the two sides of your brain together in one location so that all the thoughts and information are easily visual and accessible. Once you’ve learned how to wrangle those thoughts it’s time to take a look at the actual brain dump.  This is the point where the thought has to become a reality.  So….how do you make the brain dump happen?

Well multiple ways, but my favorites are using a large white board to map out my ideas and plot pieces of story together.  My journal is always a go to, though lately it’s littered with sticky notes from ideas I need to go back and form into the story section I need it in.  Another favorite is the sticky note and poster board which is always fun for me as you get to move the sticky notes around and write on the poster board as well.  Maybe this is a super writing nerd kinda thing, but this is very relaxing and enjoyable for me and that’s why i’m writing this post.  I’m hoping this sparks some ideas for you as well and lights a fire so you can get to moving on that great book idea you have.

Think of the brain like this and hopefully it will help you picture what needs to happen.

Brain Dump Process

  • Creative Right Brain is where the ideas flow from and all the magic happens.  The fun stuff clicks on this side of the brain.
  • Analytical Left Brain is where the organization of all that creative material you just dumped to the paper happens.  This is where the structure of the book comes from and where your – table of contents, and outline of the book will look like.

If you’ve lined everything out and keep a good record of the book and use this process then you can produce some very detailed information and great chapter outlines for your book.

Now let’s look back at the Sticky Notes and how they will help you map this book out. This is the easiest way to make a mind map of your book.

My Favorite Brain Dump Process:

  • Grab yourself a large poster board or poster boards, or even a large white board will work. Get yourself a big stack of sticky notes….multi colored is what I like to use as I color coordinate topics to specific colors.
  • Take a single sticky note in the middle of the poster board and write your topic on it, or a book title, just depending on what you are working on.
  • Write all the related topics you can think of on sticky notes and place them anywhere on the poster board.  Sounds like chaos I know, but don’t worry about where you place them , or  about organizing them, unless you are absolutely sure the topics relate to one another.
  • Fill the board with as many topics as you can possibly think of as this is the “Brain Dump” phase and when you think you’re done, look again as you will more than likely come up with more topics after taking a break, or a step back.
  • At this point I like to take a picture of the board for reference purposes in case I have to take a break or get pulled away for something.  They are called sticky notes, not permanently held in spot notes.
  • Ok now comes the organization of the topics.  The analytical side of the brain is ready to be worked right? Look for related topics. Pick up the notes and move them around. Take a close look at what you have grouped together as they just might become the chapters of your book. More than likely, this will be the groups with the most information lumped together.  Just remember this is your book and your board so move things around how you feel fits best, and don’t be afraid to break apart groups into multiple chapters if one is too large. Just make sure you use a different colored sticky note to mark that chapter and don’t forget to name the chapter.
  • Use each of the sticky notes you have grouped together under a chapter as a sub-topic that you want to write about in that chapter.  This is where the fun begins as writing guides and book maps are a must at this point.  Sub-plots of a story can make things confusing if you don’t.


Ok now get ready to write as it’s going to take a lot to get that story from your head to paper so what are you waiting for?  Sit down, start slow, think it out and enjoy the process of making that next best book anyone has ever read!


2 Comments Add yours

  1. shan4djfun says:

    Very interesting unique topic, where writing a novel using a mind map has not been done before. I’ve seen some good examples of brainstorming for ideas but this is a whole new level. The examples I was talking about are in Creately diagram community, that might be useful.


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