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Wednesday, 24 April 2013

U is for - Using Mind Maps To Brainstorm Ideas

Brainstorming is used to generate ideas. Chances are you've used the technique before in your writing, maybe for a short story, or a novel, or when you've reached a tricky piece in a scene.

An excellent way of finding solutions to problems, it is used to come up with a notion, a spark of an idea, with thoughts that at first might seem a bit crazy, but, often a crazy idea will generate further ideas, the quirkier the better.

Alone or in a group?

You can brainstorm alone, or work in a group with other writers. Interestingly, any ideas brainstormed together, usually buy-in support from everyone, because everyone, has been part of the decision making process. It works rather well when writing scripts, where several writers colaborate on a project. Its a fun way to get everyone working together.

Doing it  alone is better though - I say this because in my experience, what generally happens, is that people are paying far too much attention to what someone else is saying, and they tend to shut up, and don't generate any ideas of their own. To do a good job you have to take part in the process.

What is the process?

For me its mind mapping, a useful technique you can utilise which will help you to improve the way you see information, a way to solve problems creatively. You'll see how things fit together better, all on the same page, instead of a list or notes, which tend not to focus the mind to the task. The mind map format makes it easier for your mind to recall, and review.

How do I get started?

Okay, to get started, find somewhere quiet to sit and relax, get comfortable, find a pen and a sheet of paper. Write a word down in the centre of the sheet of paper, our word is MURDER for this example.

Now draw a circle around it. Next you need to add some important sub headings. Draw a line outwards from your word in the circle, and write down your first sub heading in a smaller circle. Repeat the process several times, so that you have several smaller circles extending out around your larger one, and  write a word in each.  You might have words like, VICTIM, MURDER SCENE, WEAPON, MURDERER and DETECTIVE in your circles.

The next step would be to draw out some lines from the smaller circles, so lets take the word VICTIM, and draw out our line, now write the word KATY, and draw a circle around it, then draw out a line from that circle, and write NURSE. Keep repeating the process, working quickly without thinking too deeply about the words at this point. Feel free to write anything down!

Keep free writing for five minutes, or until your page is full. See my example below, a fellow blogger, and passionate lover of mind maps, Catherine Noble  introduced me to an App called SimpleMind which I find useful to use on my phone if I'm out and about, and for the purpose of this blog, but I prefer to write on paper. Its a personal choice.

I hope you'll give mind maps a try, as it really is an excellent tool for brainstorming. Let me know your thoughts?

Mind Map - Maria A Smith

12 comments:

  1. I don't use charts, but my first drafts are a form of this as I include everything I think of and then (hopefully) cut out what doesn't work.

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    1. Isn't it interesting how we all work differently...

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  2. Love this, Maria. Although I was aware of it, have seen it demonstrated at business conferences and have also seen it in Catherine's examples - it isn't something I've ever properly tried myself.

    You sold it to me by mentioning the app, too - I'm a sucker for a good writing app! I will definitely try this next time I am planning or stuck with something.

    Kelly's Eye - Writing, Music, Life

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    1. I've only recently downloaded the app, but have been doing mind maps for a long long time. I love them!

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  3. Oooh, I especially love the "single mother - daughter aged five" and scrabble tiles. They really bring a story to life! I'm glad you like the app, it makes me feel more productive than spending all day on Pinterest (which I do also...).

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    1. Oh Catherine you are productive I'm sure...and thank you for introducing me to the app too!

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  4. I did something similar when I was plotting my novel, but I usually make notes of ideas for stories in the notebook of the moment just as they come to mind. I let them work together in there for a while, before sitting at the laptop and writing the draft copy. I'll have a look now at mind maps for short stories as they sound a good focus, thanks Maria.

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    1. Hi Sharon, its worth trying out...and fun too!

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  5. We used to have to brain storm with kids at school, more inspiring was doing this process with writing groups. I find it's always more inspiring in groups than alone.

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    1. I had fun doing this with a group in a workshop the other week - they came up with some great ideas for a thriller, and had a good laugh working together.

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  6. Love mind maps and use them all the time. Can't help myself! Mine will usually be hand drawn in cloudlike bubbles. Love that we can have a *serious* conversation about this. Tee hee..

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    1. Of course we can...I have however encountered a few folk who find it difficult to take them seriously as a good tool to find story ideas.

      We know better though don't we...

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