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.