I’ve never been of a planner when it comes to my writing. I write by the seat of my pants; I know the beginning of the story, a few key plot events in the middle, and the end. The rest is a vista of possibility.
Recently I heard a discussion about mindmapping. Ordinarily I’m very much a skeptic when it comes to stuff like this, but I thought I’d give it a shot because I hate saying something doesn’t work for me if I haven’t tried it. Being the frugal (cheap) person that I am, I naturally looked for free software. I found one, Compendium, that had some neat examples, so I jumped through the free download hoops and opened that baby up.
Holy. Freaking. Crap. It was much like trying to learn PhotoShop your first day ever on a computer.
Back to the drawing board…or in this case, search engine. I stumbled upon bubbl.us, a free web-based mindmapping software. I signed up for an account and went to town. It’s simple, it’s accessible from anywhere you have access to a computer, and it does the job just fine without getting too fancy. This is a writing tool, remember, not a luxury vehicle.
An amazing thing happened once I did some mapping on my first novel, which I’m revising. For the first time I had a clear picture of the major forces driving the plot, and their motivations. What was even more amazing is how each force drove the plot in the ways necessary to validate the other forces’ motivations (damn, I’m better at this writing thing than I’d thought!). Everything meshed nicely, but until I saw it illustrated I hadn’t really understood just how well it meshed even though I’m the author.
Here’s the mindmap I did for the motives of my characters in The Wyckham House.
Red Bubble: The event that serves as a catalyst for all the plot-driving forces
Gold Bubbles: The different plot-driving forces
Pink Bubbles: The motives of each plot-driving force
Grey arrows: Show the connection between each of the plot-driving forces
One thing is certain: before I begin the next novel, I’m going to mindmap first. Nobody die of shock, please.