It’s October. The weather has turned cooler and I’m feeling more inclined to sit inside and write. I’m in first draft mode right now. For the uninitiated, that means that I am writing the first draft of my next novel titled At The End of Forever. The goal is to write 1500 – 2000 words at least five days a week and to finish the rough draft by the end of November.
To some of you, writing 2000 words in a day probably sounds about as fun as getting a root canal. LOL. I understand. Two thousand words is the length of the research paper that my high school teacher assigned, and she gave us 6 weeks to complete it. It seemed like such a huge amount of writing back then. Now, it’s a day’s work.
I admit, I’ve learned a lot about my creative process since my high school writing days and one of the techniques that I use to help me be more productive in writing is called mind mapping. I use it for plotting the overall structure of a novel and for plotting out each scene, as well as for planning blog articles, nonfiction books, marketing campaigns and so much more! Even if you aren’t a writer, this technique is one that can really help you with planning and organizing tasks. Here’s how it works:
Get a blank sheet of paper and a pen or pencil. Sit down in a quiet room with your writing supplies on a desk or tabletop in front of you. Now start thinking about your book or article or project that you need to tackle. Write down everything that comes to mind. I mean everything. There are no right or wrong things you can put on this paper. Write down everything you need to do, to buy, to consider. Write questions that come to mind, research you might need to do. Just write and write and write in any old order until your brain can think of nothing more on the subject.
When plotting a novel, I sit and think about things that have happened to my characters in their pasts, things that might happen in the future. I write down how I envision them dressing, what color their hair and eyes are, how they react to stress, and a billion other things that come to mind as I begin to form a picture of this character in my imagination. I think and write and think and write some more until I have emptied my brain. (haha, now my kids know what’s wrong with me.)
The next step is to take this page full of ideas (or two or three or more pages if you had a LOT of ideas) and begin to bring some organization to it. I might make a new page just for a character’s looks and personality and write all those details on that page in a more orderly fashion. Then I grab another page and put some of the plot ideas that I had into a logical order so that I can start to form the outline of a story. Continue organizing (and adding more ideas as they come to you, because they will) until you can see the picture taking shape.
I use this same idea when mapping out each individual scene of a novel. Before I begin writing each day, I read through my one or two sentence scene description that I wrote when I did my original novel plotting and brainstorming session. I sit and think a few minutes and then write down all kinds of ideas about what to put in the scene, emotions to touch on, twists to include, even what the weather or setting should be. I put those in a logical order and flow to create a sort of scene outline to loosely follow as I write. Often this mind mapping exercise will result in my first 200 words or so, which gives me a boost as I aim for that word count goal for the day.
The idea behind mind mapping is to take all those random thoughts and ideas that float through your head and get them out on paper where you can put some concrete order to them. So many times, we experience hesitation or trepidation about beginning a new project or writing a new book, or beginning a new business venture because we don’t really know where to begin or how to proceed. This very simple process helps to give structure to my thoughts and helps me map out my path so the journey doesn’t seem so intimidating.
I hope you will try it sometime, and if you do, let me know how it worked out for you!
PS: And in case you are wondering, I just wrote 787 words in about 15 minutes. 🙂