When I wrote my first book I used index cards. I wrote one element or idea on each card; such as, a topic, question, quotation, or a reference. Once I had all of my cards written, I sorted them into stacks of related topics. Within each stack, the cards were sorted into a logical order. Each stack eventually was a chapter in the book. Sometimes it was helpful to tack them on a bulletin board so that I could see them easily.
A linear outline is often used listing the main topics with relevant information under each topic. From there you can form the paragraphs. The main topics could be the chapters in your books. This is more challenging for me since I am very visual and I don’t always see an immediate relationship to my ideas. I prefer to start with the cards and then move to a linear outline.
I recently came across mind mapping. (The Mind Mapping expression is a registered trademark of Buzan Centres.) I have used the technique for several posts and a book that I am currently working on. A mind map is a perfect tool for a visual learner like me. I was using a form of mind mapping when I organized my cards on a bulletin board. It is easier to connect ideas and see what doesn’t fit or what should be moved to a new area. The more detail you include the easier it will be when compile your final document. The more you planning and research you do before you write the faster you will complete your book.
Diagram via flickr
Studies have shown that people don’t think in a linear manner. Thoughts often pop into our head and we jump from topic to topic. Mapping your thoughts will help you pull them together in an organized manner while cultivating your creativity. You can put all of your ideas down without worrying about how they fit together. Writing your ideas down in this way will lead you to think of unrelated ideas that may fit in another area.
Mind mapping is a fast way to create material because you write key words and ideas so when you sit down to write your ideas will already be organized. If you are organizing a lot of material for your book, mind mapping will make it easier to see your ideas and how they fit together. If you are suffering from writers block, mind mapping will stimulate creativity through brainstorming. Mind mapping is an effective way to start, organize and finish your book.
Windows has a free and premium version of mind mapping software. Of course you can find a more expensive version if you find it helpful. I have created my own mind map on paper or a dry erase board.
How do you outline and organize your material for your book? Do you start with an outline or do you have another method?