Using Mind Maps to Develop Your Forward Story

There was a day when I used a Big Chief Tablet and a # 2 pencil for my big plans. I have to confess that I am still partial to a yellow legal pad from time-to-time. However, most of my work is now done on a computer or a wireless device. Regardless of your writing tools of choice, mind mapping is a powerful technique for organizing your thoughts and making plans. Have you ever created a mind map?

Let’s see how it works on a sample project. The task before you is to tame that unruly garage. The challenge is that taming the garage is not a fifteen minute “to do.” It is actually a fairly complicated project that needs to be thought out carefully and organized into smaller tasks. So, let’s create a mind map of the project. Here is what it might look like with pen and paper.

From this humble beginning we begin to brainstorm with all that will be required to tame the garage. We begin adding branches and bubbles with the items that come to mind:

The mind map can be as sparse or detailed as you want it to be. I actually no longer use pen and paper to do mind maps. I use a program called XMind to generate my maps. There are also excellent mind mapping tools available on all of the various mobile devices. Here is our familiar map created in XMind:

How does this technique relate to your Forward Story? Well, it is a powerful tool for organizing your plans and the writing of your story. What if instead of taming the garage the mind map is about going back to school to finish your undergraduate degree? (Note: The image below can be enlarged by clicking on it).

From this XMind mind map, you can export into a spreadsheet or format it in a variety of ways. By doing this type of mapping and brainstorming, you can envision and organize great things. When you add the element of time to your mind map, the technique really becomes powerful. We will focus on the time element of mind maps in our next article.





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5 thoughts on “Using Mind Maps to Develop Your Forward Story

  1. When I taught English, we used this technique to brainstorm and organize ideas for writing, but I have never used it to create a plan of action. I can see that it has advantages over a simple “to-do” list in that you can break down each task and sub-task into its components.

    • Susan, it is no accident that we are discussing mind maps with reference to building our forward “stories.” As you taught your students, I also use mind maps on the fiction projects I have on the drawing board. It is a great technique for allowing the creative juices to flow.

      We are doing the same thing here that you taught to your students because we are ultimately engaged in writing a rich story that will empower us to take action.

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