Mind Mapping: The Outline Alternative

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It doesn’t matter if you’re a technical writer, copywriter or are working on the next great novel, having a way to organize your ideas or plot elements is vital to staying in a good work flow. But what if outlining is just too dry and boring, stilting your creative juices? Today we’re going to take a look at mind mapping as an alternative to outlining and a great writer’s tool.

What it is

A mind map is a tool used to jot down a number of different but related ideas on a topic. Because it is not a pre-written outline format, it allows you to record related ideas in different amounts of depth without having to worry about the subheading levels or order. This creates a graphical representation of your outline in a form that is better for brainstorming or recording related ideas without worrying yet how they are related.

How it works

To start a mind map, you write your central theme in the center of a paper and enclose it in some fashion, whether it’s by circling or whatever makes you happy. Then start laying out the main categories you can discuss about this topic by writing them around the central concept, circle them and link them with a line to the central concept. If you start into a main category and find that you have a lot of ideas that you want to get down for that category, you can go ahead and focus on laying them out without worrying about exactly where they’ll fall. Mind maps make it easy to skip around to different topics and categories instead of having to create a linear outline.

Turning it into an outline

Once you’ve finished getting your ideas down, start going through it and checking how the ideas work. Your central concept is the basic theme of the piece and should be woven throughout it. The categories become section or chapter headings. If you have two smaller categories that can be combined? What about ideas that are okay for something else but don’t really fit well with the rest of the project? Stash them for ideas down the road when you’re expanding on the subject in a different angle.

Modern mind maps

With the advent of smartphones, tablets and independently developed applications, mind maps can now be put together while you are on the go. I use an Android app on my tablet to brainstorm blog ideas for a number of blogs I regularly contribute to, so that if I get stuck when I have an assignment due, I can come up with ideas by just glancing at my mind map for that blog.

Cathleen V is a multi-talented writer with experience in various fields. She focuses on content, article and blog writing for small business management, content optimization and marketing, arts businesses, crafts, agriculture, home improvement, food, nutrition and natural health. She is a top 1% content writer out of over 22,000.

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