Now that you’ve narrowed down your topic and you know who your ideal reader is, it’s time to start mapping out your book. Traditionally, writers create an outline but I’ve found an outline can be restrictive. It forces you to write in a linear fashion which isn’t always the most productive way to write. Instead, I like to use a mind map for outlining my book.
I like to call a mind map a brain dump because it’s a way to get all of the ideas you have about your book out of your head and down on paper without the restriction of trying to organize the information into a formal outline.

A mind map will:
  1. Get all of the important ideas about your topic written down
  2. Identify areas that will later become chapters, sub-headings, table of contents items, or paragraphs in the finished book
  3. Uncover areas that need more research
  4. Help you avoid writer’s block. Mind map tools run the gamut from low tech to high tech. You can use any one of them based on your personal preference.The simplest and most low tech way to mind map is to simply draw your mind map on a piece of paper. The drawbacks to this approach is that when you start writing, you’ll have to type the mind map into your writing application and you won’t be able to easily move ideas or make changes.
    Here’s how to mind map on paper:
  5. Write the main topic of your book down in the center of a piece of paper and draw a circle around it
  6. Below that circle, write one idea in four or five words that relates to the main topic. Circle it and connect the two circles. Circle number two becomes a sub-topic.
  7. If you have a new idea related to circle number two, write it down and connect it to circle two.
  8. Keep writing ideas and connecting them to the appropriate circle until you have all of your ideas down on paper.
Use an app to make mind mapping easier

I’ve found that creating the mind map in my writing application is the easiest and most productive for me. My personal preference is Scrivener (MAC and Windows). It’s my recommendation for both mind mapping and writing. This app was developed specifically for writers and is filled with features to help you write, format, and compile your book for printing.  There is a bit of a learning curve to use the tool, but there are extensive help tutorials available. Scrivener costs forty dollars and there’s a free thirty day trial. I highly encourage you to purchase the app and make it your mind mapping and writing tool.

Scrivener has a cork board view which is perfect for mind mapping. To use it, simply click on the cork board icon and create cards for each of your major mind map topics.  Sub-topics can be created underneath each main card so that just like with real index cards, you have a stack with the main topic on top and the subtopics underneath.

Your mind map will be a work in progress for the first few weeks of writing. As you start writing, you may find that you left some things out or that certain sub-topics really belong under a different major topic.  That’s where the beauty of Scrivener shines. It allows you to easily move topics with a simple drag and drop or change  a sub-topic to a major topic with two clicks of your mouse.

If you want to get started right away before purchasing Scrivener, here are some other tools I recommend. They will allow you to export your mind map directly or indirectly into your writing application:

  • Microsoft Word: If you plan to use Word, I recommend that you write each of your major mind map topics on a separate page. This will give you the flexibility to move pages around and re-order them.
  • Evernote: When using Evernote, create a new database with your book title. Create cards for each of your mind map topics.
  • Index Card (IOS app): As the app name says, you create virtual index cards in the app. Make each one of your mind map topics a new card
  • Magical Pad (IOS app): This app has a mind map function but also incorporates other capabilities such as adding photos

Whether you start with pen and paper or use an app, your writing will go much smoother and you’ll be able to write with more speed when incorporating a mind map in your book planning.

Linda Griffin
Linda Griffin

Linda Griffin is the author of the book, Maximum Occupancy: How Smart Innkeepers put heads in beds in every season and the founder of She is currently working on her second book, Book Smarts: The ninety day guide to writing and self-publishing for busy professionals.

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