A couple of years ago, I downloaded Lynn Viehl’s ebook on writing, The Way of the Cheetah. Great stuff if you want to be able to produce more writing without trading off too much on quality. However, I have just one tiny problem, one that keeps me from doing what Lynn suggests.
It takes me as long to do a detailed outline as it does to write a short novella. I still have to think of the scenes. Part of the issue is I have a day job. And for 8 hours everyday, BigHugeCo would like me to, yanno, work, since they’re nice enough to deposit a decent amount of cash in my bank account every couple of weeks.
BigHugeCo, ironically, provided me a solution. About two weeks ago, I had a machine infected with the icepoint.exe virus*. One of the apps the user had was FreeMind, a mind mapping application. What’s mind mapping? Well, it’s easier to show you than explain it. Go ahead and read that. I’ll wait.
So how’s this apply to writing, especially if you’re going to indulge in The Way of the Cheetah? Simple. The reason outlines take so long for some writers is because you still have to make stuff up as you go along. In other words, you’re either flying blind, or you’re working from a bunch of notes spread out and disorganized. The it takes to formulate a scene doesn’t change, only the time spent on the prose. Mind mapping lets you put all those elements into one document.
Last weekend, I installed Freemind on both my tower and my laptop. I then started a map with the name of a novel I’ve wanted to write in the middle. From there, I created “nodes” for each element I wanted to write about: Protag, antagonist, crime, setting, supporting characters, etc. The mind map that resulted was elaborate, too long to print out, but very, very organized. I could easily create a short outline from this.
I did another for a novel I’d like to do after that. That, too, came together rather quickly. So I know what I want to do with two projects. I can draw short and long outlines rather quickly now while I work on the current novel (which I’m writing blind.)
On a lark, I mind mapped a third project. I discovered I didn’t have as much on this one as I thought. Therein lies another advantage to using mind maps. You can see where you have holes in your story idea and close them as you come up with new material. What’s the protag’s name? What’s the conflict? Where is this set?
Is it perfect? No. And it’s clearly not for everybody. But if you want a way to organize your story fast before you’ve even done the outline, Freemind is a great tool to put in a writer’s toolbox.
*If you see icepoint.exe anywhere on your drive, back up your data and just wipe the hard drive clean. Like Cleveland Brown says, “That’s nasty.”