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How to Use Mind-maps to Improve Your Writing

I have been writing a few articles on mind-mapping, and only recently have I realized its potential for a writer, whether it is used for fiction or non-fiction.

A mind-map is essentially a diagram created on a page, which contains the gist of information on any given topic. The subject under discussion is placed at the center of the page, and then the ideas that occur to you when thinking of the subject are placed at the end of branches stemming from it. This branching out is free, unconstrained and extremely stimulating, because you can see the big picture at a glance, and can include images as well.

You can use a chalk on blackboard, pen on a piece of paper and even free software to make a mind-map. For a writer, it can be a fascinating alternative to taking notes, because its free-thinking associative nature mimics that of the creative mind.

Mind mapping and fiction:
You can create a mind-map for each of your characters, working in appearance,personality, background, timeline and so on.

Plot-lines work out smoothly through mind-maps as well, because you can easily see how each character and event is related to the other in the universe of a novel on a simple page as a snapshot. Plot crinkles can get ironed out this way, or new pathways chosen on the spot!

Brainstorming this way can be incredibly fun and most always successful. Collaborative brainstorming done between friends and colleagues using this technique can yield some fantastic results.

Non-fiction and mind-mapping: Without realizing it, I have been making mind-maps on subjects on which I need to write articles, and they really help, because I can easily go from headings and subheadings to the actual matter and the kind of images Iā€™d need.

Research using mind-maps: It is so easy to read, research and retain while working on a writing project if you use these maps. Whether you are a historical fiction writer researching background or a feature writer for a magazine collecting medical facts and definitions, mind-maps make it incredibly simple to reduce all of it into understandable pictures that contain all the info at a glance. It is there is your brain and on the map right when and where you need it.

Writerā€™s meets and mind-maps: Taking notes through mind-maps at conferences, or taking such a map with you on the podium before speaking, is a great way of keeping track of all the points that need to be covered. The same goes if you are attending a creative writing workshop.

It might sound a little complicated, but once you start on it, it is addictive.

Try planning a party or an upcoming vacationing trip through a mind-map, and see what you get. Use lots of different colors and put down everything that comes to mind, and very soon you would find yourself planning your next bit of writing using mind-maps!

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Sarah Jensen says:

    Now this is the kind of outlining I can do!

  • Damyanti says:

    Thank you all for commenting on this post, and for those who find the idea helpful, you are welcome!

    I have been away from blogosphere for a while, but I am back and will soon put up another post:)

  • Nalini says:

    Never thought of mind-mapping before.

    I tried this out and the ideas kept pouring. Now it helps me write better. Its a great way to get the creative juices flowing and lets you streamline your process of writing.


  • Radvixen says:

    So true! Mind maps really do help when your brain’s all clogged and messed up and your thoughts are all scattered everywhere.

    Great post.

  • Anonymous says:

    I’ve been using NovaMind for my writing. I used it for my last two books, and am using it for my next two which I have underway – speeds up the whole process and gets things nicely organized so you can see where you are going. I tried just about every program I could find before settling on NovaMind, and agree that many programs are worse than paper mind mapping, but NovaMind was one of the notable exceptions in that area. I suggest you give it a go…

    Wei Bin

  • Cruz says:

    Here’s another interesting technology that can help you with your writing/brainstorming: Molecular Thinking. You can check it out at

  • Paul says:

    I like this idea. In a writing sense, I’ve been dormant for too long now and the way you describe mind-mapping, I can see how it might enhance things for me. I’ll give it a try for my upcoming projects. Hey, I love that expression, “plot crinkles.” šŸ™‚

  • Vince says:

    I love this mind map idea, a freelance journalist I used to share a few ales with says he used it with great sucess in the past, especially when he got stuck.

    I am going to give it a try as I try to unchain a few fiction stories in my head that need to get out.

    Thanks for the comment on my blog as well.


  • DG says:

    Yes, dayya, I’ve used it like that often, and speak from experience:)

    Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment!

  • dayya says:

    This looks like a handy tool for working out scenes, as well as sticky plot issues. d:)

  • DG says:

    Hi Natalie, A Singapore sling at the Raffles would be fun, I live 10 minutes drive away from Raffles, on the Upper East Coast.

    Yeah, mind-mapping is very helpful, and could also work for you in your line of work. It is pretty simple, really, just another option to note taking, but definitely much more stimulating!

  • Wow – mind map. That isan interesting idea. I’ll have to give it a try.

    Thanks for saying hi at The Liquid Muse. And — my husband is currently in Singapore. Small world!

    Cheers – and maybe one day we’ll run into each other over a Singapore Sling at the Raffles…


  • Anonymous says:

    If you type in “fear of death is intransitive” into Google you will find it

  • DG says:

    I completely agree, quicker on paper, especially for us writers:)

    I am sorry I could not figure out which one your blog is tho, the link here leads to your profile which has several blogs attached to it!

    Thanks for taking the time to visit and comment:)

  • Since I’ve written one comment back to you on my blog, to heck with it I’ll write one to yours as well!

    Mind-mapping seems great doesn’t it? Teachers use them a lot nowadays. But the ones I have tried are a a chore to use digitally and I give up on them rather quickly: the point is to get the notions and or structure down quickly but sometimes the software confounds you and by the time its sorted the brilliant idea has completely gone.

    Quicker to do them on paper! Pencil and rubber or just screw it up and start again. šŸ˜‰