Novel writing

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I'd like to connect with other fiction writers who use Mindjet in outining, character development, or any other way. Does something like this group already exist? Where? If not, anyone interested in sharing ideas?
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Wanda Craig

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Posted 1 year ago

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Colin Horner

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Hi Wanda Roger Parker has written a number of articles on this, and has produced some templates - follow this link: http://www.publishedandprofitable.com/public/224.cfm
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Wanda Craig

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Thanks for the info. Parker sells marketing services, templates, etc. I would love to connect with actual writers if there are any of you out there. 
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Alex Gooding, Champion

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Hi Wanda, though I don't write fiction I use MindManager extensively to write reports and blog posts and I'm thinking of taking up creative writing. I know one or two people who do write fiction and I can see how MindManager would be very helpful - in fact one of them uses hand-written mind maps to help structure plots.

I'm very interested in your approaches to this. Plot outlining is an obvious use for MindManager but I'm also curious about how you use it for character development. Do you use it in any other areas - and do you do any actual writing within MindManager or just use it to generate structure and ideas?

For what it is worth (and I'm not in any way trying to compare what I do with writing a novel!) the way I use MM in writing had changed. I used to use a mind map to brainstorm and then spend a lot of time getting the outline just right before exporting it to Word to actually do the writing. I found however that this approach was killing spontaneity so I have altered my practice somewhat.

I still start off by brainstorming and developing a broad outline, but now instead of structuring everything I just write fragments and ideas as subtopics. I use the MAP add-in to convert these subtopics to topic notes and then use them to start writing actually in the topic notes. It's a primitive word processor but I find that is less distracting and in a way less intimidating to write here.

When I'm ready and depending on what I'm writing I then either export the lot to Word to finish off, or I use another add-in, WordX, to selectively export topics for further work. I'm also experimenting with the new map roll up feature in MM 2017.1 to create dashboard maps which pull in selected branches and topics of the original map. This means I can export just these specific branches to Word for further writing.
(Edited)
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Wanda Craig

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Alex, thanks for you detailed reply. I was a business writer for 10+ years and used MM to develop case studies, brochures, speeches, and other business copy. When I started writing fiction, I tried to work from an outline, but I not a linear/outline kind of person. The minute I try to outline, my creativity shuts down. So, I realized I needed to use MM in fiction, just as I had in business writing.

For creative writing, I use MM in various ways. When I'm first starting a novel, I map key scenes (usually 10-15 scenes) that I visualize happening in the story. They are just random scenes at this point, usually a vague beginning scene, an ending scene, an inciting incident, a battle scene, etc. As I begin writing, I use the linking function to expand a point on the map. For example, I'll link a scene to a new map that's a map of that scene, which is in far more detail. As I get further into the writing, I keep adding to the original plot map and linking to additional, detailed maps. My original map may have 20 or more linked maps before I finish.

During this iterative MM'ing process, I start writing in Scrivener. Each node on the MM is a scene, and Scrivener is great for writing scenes in a non-linear way. When I'm writing a scene and need to develop it further, I just hop over into MM and brainstorm. I don't compile everything into Word until I've finished the first draft in Scrivener. 

I've just starting play around with concept maps for plotting, although I use Literature and Latte's Scapple program to brainstorm concepts that have no connection at first. Then I transfer it to a MM when it's more developed and when connections emerge. The two programs are similar but different and complement my work. I'm also using the timeline in MM to map out the overall timeline and key events from beginning to end.

I use MM less for character development, but I do explore characters somewhat via MM. I do a lot of free writing on each character, writing as each character, in their voices, so I get to know them really well that way. 

Hope this helps. Please free to ask any questions.
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Alex Gooding, Champion

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Hi Wanda, thanks for your detailed response. I knew a little about Scrivener but not about Scapple, which seems like a great tool for brainstorming. I have one question - how easy (or difficult) is it to transfer material between MindManager and Scrivener, and between MindManager and Scapple?
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Wanda Craig

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It's very easy to transfer from Scapple to MM. You just "select all" and past into a map, and then rearrange the nodes as you want them. There's not really any way to transfer (that I'm aware) from MM to Scrivener. What I do is map the scenes, then put a place holder for each scene in a folder named "scenes to be written." When I have the scenes written, I move them to a Scrivener folder named "scenes to be placed." Then as my story develops, I revisit my MM, making connections in the plot, adding/deleting scenes as needed and then move the written scenes into my Scrivener manuscript.

It may sound complicated, but it's actually quite easy--that is if you're comfortable with not working in a linear manner. My process is fluid and iterative, even though I like a certain amount of structure. It's just that I write in structured chunks (scenes), rather than trying to envision the whole novel at once. That's too overwhelming for me.

I have some author friends who MUST make a linear outline and then write from beginning to end. I just can't do that, as I get visions of scenes that I don't know exactly where they'll fit until the story develops further. It all somehow comes together at the end. The beauty of Scrivener, MM, and Scapple is that they are all flexible and encourage creativity. 

Hope this helps!
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Alex Gooding, Champion

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Thanks again - I've had a quick look at both Scrivener and Scapple and I'll explore them further when I emerge into daylight after the Sydney Film Festival in 10 days' time.

Actually there is a way to exchange files between MM and Scrivener but it will cost you about AU$70 (around US$50) - that is to use iThoughts. It turns out that Scrivener can import and export Freemind (.mm) files. Freemind can in theory import and export MindManager files but it does a poor job of it and I don't like its interface that much, while MM of course won't lower itself to import or export any other mindmapping file format.

I have used Ithoughts for some time on my iPad as an alternative to the iOS version of MM and was already aware that it could import and export a very wide range of mindmapping software formats. A Windows version has just been released and I've had a quick play with it this morning as well.

It doesn't import and export quite as many formats as the iOS version but it still talks to both .mm and .mmap formats, so you can use it as an intermediary between MM and Scrivener. I had a quick play with it and it works. It seems to work better going from MindManager to Scrivener via Ithoughts than the other way but I haven't really tested it. It does a very good job of talking to MM and importantly it will import topic notes from MM and then export them to Scrivener.

As a mindmapping program in its own right, Ithoughts is actually quite nice to use. For $70 it's surprisingly fully featured and has one or two things that MM doesn't have, though of course it's not nearly so powerful especially in relation to things like task management integration with other programs (and of course there are no great add-ins like MAP or WordX).

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Wanda Craig

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Thanks for the update. I honestly don't see any advantage, however, to exporting maps to Scrivener. I try to keep my MMs as brief as possible, using only enough words to capture an idea. Those would be of no value to export, unless it is to Word for an outline, which I don't do. I think once you play around with Scrivener you'll see what I mean. I do insert a link to a map in my Scrivener research folder. 

I failed to mention earlier that one way I use MM is for project management, with a novel being my project. There are many tasks asssociated with a novel other than writing that MM is very helpful in organizing. 
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Ian Etchells

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Hi Wanda and Alex

I use MM extensively in the day job for all sorts of activities. I have decided to use it for a novel I wish to start writing now and it will be a great tool for me to use to capture and structure my thoughts - I think!

Whilst searching for examples of how other authors use MM, I came across this short video which I thought had some good ideas for capturing and developing characters http://www.trainingauthors.com/mind-map-your-book/  I have found it difficult to find any other real world examples of how authors have used MindMaps for authoring fictional pieces - do you have any pointers you could help me with please?

Thanks for your contributions - they are good food for thought.
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Wanda Craig

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Ian, yes, if you already use MMs, then they will definitely help you write a novel. As I responded to Alex earlier, I use MM in various ways for fiction. I start with a high-level map of key events--usually 10-15 scenes. I don't worry at this point how/if they all fit together. Then I take each of those key events and link that event to a new map (right click on that branch-->link to a new map). In the newly created map, I flesh out as many details as I can at that point. Nothing is final at this point. 

Once I have fleshed out those key scenes, I think make a new map of characters. Sometimes I do characters in Scapple first, because it allows me to just put them out there without any connections. Then I start drawing connections, both familial, friendships, and also events that connect them. When the character MM is complete, I do a map on each character, again fleshing out details. 

As my novel progresses, I constantly return to the key event map and add/delete scenes. I plan several chapter ahead at least. 

I've also mapped clues (as I write mysteries as Raegan Teller) so that I can plant red herrings and tidbits along the way. I use the checkmark icon in MM to check out each clue as it's used. 

These maps all serve as checklists when I've done the first draft to be sure I didn't leave out anything critical. 

In a nutshell, I start with a big picture and continue to decompose each event/idea/character, etc. down to a very detailed picture. I use linked maps rather than trying to fit it all into one map. Too busy and messy for me!

If you haven't used Scrivener to write fiction, I suggest you consider it. The combo of Mindjet and Scrivener are unbeatable!

Hope this helps. Feel free to ask any questions. 
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Ian Etchells

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Hi Wanda

That is so clear - I have been trying to build a template that I could use and it is all on one map. I am used to creating large maps, but linking out to sub-maps is a great approach. I was looking at the template I had constructed for characters and was already wondering about its accessibility, so to go to an overview of characters and then link out again to the specifics will make it so much more manageable and it is a concept I can see having huge value in each of the other areas too.

I haven't used Scrivener and had made a mental note to check it out followityour previous post - I certainly will do so now.

I have a few days to myself soon and shall download Murder in Madden
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Wanda Craig

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Thanks, Ian! Let me know what you think of "Murder in Madden." 
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Ian Etchells

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Hi Wanda

I have been trying to work out how to get started - I think my problem is that I have a whole bunch of scenes in my head and party written down too, but I don't really have the overall plot clearly established. In your previous post, did you suggest you don't worry about this you get things down on paper as it were and then connect them up and somehow the plot just becomes apparent? I am happy to try this approach if that is what you were saying and would welcome finding a start point. I have always liked the saying "how do you eat an elephant" - "start with the toes". Now from an avid animal lover and wildlife photographer, that might seem odd, but thinking about problems with that in mind has helped over the years and I am searching for some toes I guess. The elephants need to stay where I love to see them most though.

I tried Scrivener and it looks brilliant thank you - that was a great steer and hugely appreciated.

Finally - I bought Murder in Madden and finished it yesterday. When I put the Kindle down, I thought to myself, "that was a really good read" - so thank you for that one too.

Best regards, Ian
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Wanda Craig

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Hi Ian,
First of all, thanks for the feedback on "Murder in Madden." I'm so glad you enjoyed it. If you have time to leave a review in either Amazon or Goodreads, I would greatly appreciate it. 

FYI--I'm about half way through book 2 in the series. 

Now to your questions---
The beauty of MM is, of course, that it allows you to get stuff out of your head so you don't get in an endless mind trap. So, start mapping the scenes you know you want in your novel. (Start with the toes--I like that!) These scenes might just be images at this point, so just try to capture the essence in a few words. In fact, I find it helpful to imagine the plot as a movie scene. Once I can visualize it, I can write it. When you have mapped at least 10 - 15 in your story, then start writing them in Scrivener. Don't worry about the transitions between scenes and how they connect at this point. That comes later. Just start with the pivotal scenes and get those in your map. The "connecting" scenes should become apparent later when you ask yourself "how do I go from this scene to that one?"

Scrivener, unlike Word, allows you to write scenes as you want to, without having to be "in order." It's very easy to move scenes around.

Not to overly complicate things, but I divide my Scrivener manuscript into Acts 1, 2, and 3. If you're not already familiar with the three-act model, James Scott Bell's "Super Structure" is an excellent resource. When you map your first key scenes, you really need to know if there's going to be in the first 25% of the book (Act 1), the middle 50% of the book (Act 2), or in the last 25% (Act 3). The percentages are rough approximations. I'm making this sound way more complicated than it is. Don't overthink it; just write. Act 1 is the set up, Act 3 is the conclusion, and Act 2 is everything that happens in between. So start mapping from that perspective if nothing else. You'll change all of these changes a lot before you have a final draft. 

Again, not to overly complicate this, but don't get hung up too much on figuring out the plot. The key is to know your characters and get in their heads. Once you know what they want and how they react, they will help you write your story. I have a series of questions I use to "interview" my characters before I ever start writing. I respond to the questions in their voice, as if I am that character. 

Of course, it goes without saying that you can create a traditional outline and write from beginning to end. I just can't do it--tried, didn't work with my brain. I like the flexibility of working with a map and Scrivener, but for some people it's too flexible. One thing you learn with your first book is how you need to organize and approach your work. 

Best of luck. Feel free to ask for clarity or any additional questions. I'm happy to help any way I can. If you'd rather email, you can reach me through my website: http://RaeganTeller.com

All the best,
Wanda
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Ian Etchells

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Hi Wanda - thanks again for the help - I have decided I know where the toes are and I am going to get on with it and see what happens. I used to be a software engineer which I suspect is a private version of being an author. I have seen many comments in other people's code over the years where they recognise a vulnerability or are really proud of something they have written,but never expect anyone else to see and appreciate . However designing and coding a program whilst checking for all eventualities coming in from the side seems to me to be a similar process to writing a novel - except that the hope is everyone is going to see your cool coding skills
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Wanda Craig

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I took a few programming courses in college, and I would say that writing a book is probably (for me at least) the polar opposite of writing a book in terms of thinking/approach. You can't write a book from your left brain, not until you're ready to edit.
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Ian Etchells

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Interesting, there is a chunk of left side stuff for sure, I always found coding to be a very creative process and tend to completely lose sense of time and feel more like I do when drawing or painting. I have enjoyed creating the scenes I have so far - I guess I'll have to see if I have the right stuff to make a novel out of them :)
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Wanda Craig

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I'm sure you're a much more creative programmer than I could ever have been. Yes, you can write a novel! Not to sound too cheesy, but believe in yourself and most importantly, stick with it! There will be a thousand (or more) times you want to give up. You'll say, "this is a dumb story," or "I don't have what it takes," or other self-recriminations. That's normal--every writer experiences doubt. As my writing coach told me, focus on what that feels like, because your characters likely have the same fears. Use it! Best of luck, Ian. Let me know if I can help you in any way. 
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Ian Etchells

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Thanks Wanda - I really appreciate the encouragement. Writing coach eh? Now that sounds like a very good idea!
Thank you again, Ian