Mind maps, how I love thee

FreeMind saved my sanity.

I had been turning the thought over in my head for ages: how could I personally organise all of my series ideas into something cohesive? I have a very expansive world built, I have a large over-arcing plot in place, and I have a cast of characters as long as my arm. But I had not been able to lay it all out neatly and look it over.

I’ve tried index cards. They only work for me in very select situations. For instance, indexing a single-sentence summary of each scene through my finished draft to find dead zones, areas where no particular action occurred. If three scenes in a row turn out to be discussion or travelling, I can see that right at a glance and spice it up. Change where that information is shared. Throw in a different scene between them.

I have tried various programs designed to be used to track plots and outlines. Most of the writer/story programs drive me to distraction. I want simplicity, yet I need a lot of control. Not much software is designed for basic use with a high degree of customisable features. The software designers think they’ve stumbled across a great way to do this one thing, and it won’t be the one way I’m looking for. I know I’m picky, so if it doesn’t work, I shrug and move on.

I have even attempted to write things out on large sheets of paper, but there’s no way I can keep something like that tidy. Besides, who has the time? I could be drawing out huge diagrams, or I could be writing! Or… crocheting. A lot.

Eventually, I remembered an article I read back when I first discovered my favourite novel-writing software, yWriter. My love for yWriter is all kinds of special, but that’s not what helped me organise the quagmire of my chaotic plot, characters, and various world events. Simon Haynes (author, and programmer of yWriter) wrote about his own methods, in Plotting a Novel.

When I first found that article, I used FreeMind for a project, then promptly forgot about the program. When I went back to Simon’s page, it was a lightbulb moment; of course, why wasn’t I using FreeMind? I already knew how well it worked for me, using a system of organisation very similar to the one Simon discusses (with examples!) in his article.

Needless to say, I went ahead and fired up FreeMind right away. After inputting just a little fragment of the important information for The Damning Moths, I felt a lightening from my mind. It was getting all laid out. Nice and neat. Right where I could see it and feel like I’m not going to miss anything. Mind maps are great.



10 thoughts on “Mind maps, how I love thee

    1. I’m tempted to say you might get all ruffled using something like this, because it doesn’t have quite the perfect tidiness that your other methods tend to employ! But then again, maybe that’s specifically my use of mind maps talking. Because I’m more than a little chaotic, which is awesome, I’m sure my mind maps come out all wild-like because they’re mine. 😀

      (Yes, they do.)


  1. The more you talk about this story and the series, the more I want to read it. Gimme gimme!

    I can see how this would help. That article is interesting. Thanks for sharing that.

  2. Wow, doesn’t that look intimidating! I like the idea of it, and can see how someone writing fantasy would need it to build worlds, etc. But honestly, it scares me. If I filled all that out, I’d probaby never get around to the writing.
    I love reading and checking out these programs other writers use. One day I know I’ll find one that works with my way of thinking.
    Thanks for letting me have a peek at this one, Ashlee.

    1. To be fair, I’ve never used it for outlining the entire plot like Simon does, though I more than made up for that with locations and gods. XD

      Exactly! Finding the one which works for *you* is the special part. 😀


  3. You mean there’s something more organized and effective than notes jotted down on pages in my weekly calendar and on store receipts?


    I DO need help. I may have to check this out. I will report back on my thoughts.

    1. As a proud member of the “QUICK give me that envelope, I need to write down this idea” club, I wholeheartedly appreciate your comment, twin. 😉 All said, it’s actually really rewarding to see it all laid out on one screen, even if they are chaotic bubbles of disconnected information! Hope it works for you, too!


  4. Hm, yes… put me in the intimidated camp. Coincidentally, I am smack dab in the middle of an online course for Scrivener. Ever hear of that writing software? After I completed NaNo in 2010, they offered it for half off to all the winners so I bought it. It’s got all the things I use in my paper & pen writing life (index cards, post it notes, a place to put pictures of characters & scenes, color coded point of views, etc.), so now I hope to learn how to apply everything digitally. The course has been helpful so far, but like all technology, I have an aversion to learning quickly. Things seem to take forEVer to sink into my small brain!

    Btw, I have hand-written mind maps in my real life notebook. I do appreciate the ability to brainstorm non-linearly.

    1. I’ve had a look (or two) at Scrivener, but all the options in the program are confusing enough that I never felt like it’d get enough use to justify it! Same as Liquid Story Binder; there’s just SO MUCH to use in it, I have some kind of mental short-circuit. XD Of course, then I go and use separate programs to do all the same things, no doubt…


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