Sometimes starting a new book project needs a fresh approach. Mind mapping is one of the many alternative ways to “enter” your book project.
I tried various on-line programs for mind mapping to help focus and lay out a potential novel or workbook. What I discovered was that when I created computer based mind maps for books or projects, the actual work of the mind map effectively distracted me from actually doing any writing for the book. I was happy to spend an afternoon figuring out how to make a circle or a square at the end of the “Parent” or “child” grid. How do I make that cloud? What color should this be? On line programs for mind mapping (let alone figuring the smart phone apps for same) ended up being projects themselves and did not contribute to the main purpose, the book project, at all.
Which is not to say that mind mapping doesn’t work; it does.
What I found is that mind mapping is far more useful when done manually. When I pick up fat colored markers and scribble on a big piece of butcher paper, or white board, it is suddenly easier to see the connections that I was missing in the typed MS on my computer. Drawing circles, connecting characters with big thick lines, making notes on the side; that process was very helpful indeed.
I worked with a client on this process the other day. My client was experiencing difficulty starting her book, she had so much material, she had so much to say that the book had grown into a huge hard boulder of information that she could not move. The more she considered the project, the bigger the boulder became.
So we pulled out the markers, butcher paper and spread the project out on her dining room table. Since marking up a big white paper isn’t really “writing” she was able to start thinking and creating the overarching picture of her book. She started scribbling right away: here was this idea in blue, oh wait, this idea clusters over here with the green group. She worked steadily for an hour, the ideas coming together at a gratifyingly fast pace. After two hours she had filled her paper with what will become her book. She was thrilled with how much easier a dreaded activity (the part where you actually have to write the book) became. To keep the metaphor going – the mapping helped chip away at the boulder, one word at a time.
Cut up a grocery bag or a handled shopping bag and spread it out on the kitchen table. Pull out pens, crayons, markers and just start making notes. Write down an idea in the center and surround it with ideas, characters, chapter headings. If there is room, link these idea and characters up – use big thick lines, use colors, be bold and as messy as you need to be. Sprinkle glitter over the whole thing if you’d like. You may end up creating a series of these big maps. They can reveal a book outline, a character solution, or show the internal themes that had eluded you.
If you’ve been struggling with starting your work, or have come to an awkward place in your book or novel. Sketching it out, placing the challenge in the center and circling it with possible solutions, can be a great way to free up your mind and show solutions.
And as you do this, take a picture of the finished paper since stuffing a shopping bag into a file folder is difficult to do and takes up too much room in the file drawer.