Mind Mapping for Writers – How to Mind Map a Story or Article

mind mapping for writersThese tips on mind mapping for writers are from a Vancouver-based publication coach; she explains how to mind map a story or article and describes the pitfalls writers make when mind mapping.

“My teenage children like to joke that if they ask me about any problem, I will always suggest mind mapping as the answer,” says freelance writer and editing coach Daphne Gray-Grant. “Not true, kids! I’ll only suggest it for writing problems.”

Are you struggling with an article, story, or blog post? Take a deep breath, turn away from the computer (or turn to a different computer screen if you mind map online), and start creating a mind map.

To learn more about mind mapping and tapping into your creative potential, read Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques.

And, here are Gray-Grant’s tips for mind mapping…

How to Mind Map a Story or Article for Writers

Guest Post ~ Daphne Gray-Grant

If you haven’t successfully combined mind mapping and writing in the past, you may have been making one of the five mistakes commonly committed by writers new to the practice.

Check to see if these questions apply to you…

Are you treating your mind map like an outline?

The whole point of mind mapping is to avoid the pitfalls of outlining (mainly, thinking in a linear, non-creative way), so be sure to keep your mind map nice and loosey goosey. Don’t be overly concerned about which circles link with which. Don’t worry about the order in which you write things down. This may sound a bit gross, but I like to describe mind mapping as “vomiting onto the page.” A mind map gives you the chance to empty your brain, not organize it. The purpose? Inspiration!

Are you doing only one mind map for a very large project?

While you can start with one mind map for a large project like a book or thesis, I recommend doing many additional mind maps — perhaps as many as several a day. Again, the purpose is not to organize, it’s to provoke the aha! experience that increases your motivation to write. If you have an overall concept of what you are writing each time you sit down to write, then that should help you swat away the tendrils of TMI and keep you focused.

Do you think your writing is “too short” for a mind map?

I used to write a series of 150-word articles for a client. Did I mind map them? Perish the thought! But, then one day I was foiled after spending 90 frustrating minutes trying to write one of these difficult little pieces. Desperate, I decided to mind map it. Creating the mind map took me less than a minute. I then wrote the article in less than five. The time-success ratio convinced me that there’s no such thing as an article too short for mind mapping!

Are you spending too much time staring into space, not knowing what to write?

Don’t mind map too early. Instead, make sure you have done most, if not all, of your research and, even more importantly, ensure you’ve given yourself time to think about your findings. I like to go for a walk before mind mapping — it gives my brain a chance to wander, along with my legs.

Are you limiting yourself to just the “facts”?

The words and phrases you write down should also include feelings, anecdotes, images and metaphors that occur to you. These will help make your writing more interesting, colourful and lively — and will help inspire you to want to write.

To learn more about more about mind mapping, read how to create a character web for fiction writers.

Have you created a mind map when writing a story or article? I welcome your comments below…


What's going on in your life? Tell me below!
I don't give advice, but writing can bring healing to your spirit and soul.
Take heart, keep the faith, have courage ... Laurie


Daphne Gray-Grant is a writing and editing coach and the author of the popular book 8½ Steps to Writing Faster, Better. She offers a brief and free weekly newsletter on her website. Subscribe by going to the Publication Coach.

11 Responses

  1. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen says:

    Thanks, Mel — I think Daphne Gray-Grant would be very please to learn that you’re applying mind mapping to writing your articles!

  2. Mel says:

    What a great idea! I can’t believe I didn’t think of using mind maps for doing my articles, I use mind maps for everything else 🙂

    Thanks for the inspiration, I’m off to do a mindmap


  3. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen says:

    I think I prefer lists over mind maps. I’ve tried mind maps, but find a simple list more effective.

    I guess one writer’s invaluable writing tool is another’s pit of despair! 😉

  4. Freelancer says:

    Many people are not aware of the power of mind mapping, and I am glad that you are highlighting the fact that it can be used by freelance writers as well. It is an invaluable writing tool.

  5. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen says:

    I’m glad these mind mapping tips helped!

  6. Ken says:

    I’ve been using mindmapping for sometime now for my project management work. However, I have not use it enough for the purpose of “vomiting onto the page”, which I would like to thank the author for the tips.

  7. Republic Monetary says:

    I thought mind mapping was something that only creative types did to engage their inner child or something strange like that. It wasn’t until someone explained it to me that I understood how powerful it is to help work through problems – creative or even business oriented as I often face. Great article!

  8. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen says:

    Thanks for your comment — I appreciate your feedback!

  9. Momo says:

    An article on a visual technique like mind mapping that doesn’t include an example pic seems a little silly.

  1. September 20, 2010

    […] tip for rewriting old articles and get ideas for new blog posts! For example, I posted Mind Mapping for Writers – How to Mind Map a Story or Article by guest writer Daphne Gray-Grant. A reader commented that an article about mind mapping that […]

  2. June 23, 2011

    […] The more time writers spend planning (which might involve letting chocolate melt in your mouth or wine roll around your tongue), the more pleased you’ll be with the results. If you’re not writing enough, take time to create a mind map for writers. […]

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