Sunday, September 28, 2014

Ever heard of mind maps?

Remember a few posts back where I mentioned 'character sheets'? Well it turns out that there are already hugely more detailed and beneficial things called 'Mind Maps'. Excuse my ignorance but I did say that I am new to this author thing and that I had a bog standard state education.............. and even that was quite a few decades ago.

So, for any other new Authors out there that have sat in blissful ignorance of the 'Mind Map' - I am about to shatter your world.

Firstly, I was hugely privileged to have an Author of Val Simones talent, experience and knowledge share a template of said Mindmap. After spending a wee while downloading the appropriate program and opening the file I was horrified at what I was looking at. 

Those 'character sheets' that I spoke about, oh my God, not even a scratch on the surface by comparison. Therefore, initially, I was already suspicious of this mammoth task that presented itself, possibly even a little anti it. A quick conversation with my editor Judi confirmed my worst fears - the 'Mind map' was a damn important tool if you want your book to compete with the big boys, it's the structure of pretty much all books - well, that was the message I got back.

Here was a two more issues for me to face - did I want to compete with the big boys (Not out of fear but more a case of my writing is my hobby, do I want it to become my life.) and secondly, I have a natural character flaw that makes me want to swim against the tide, take the unusual path, to do things differently. It's just in my DNA. 

Not one to dismiss a challenge, or speak from an uninformed perspective I decided to spend a few hours on this 'Mind Map' thingy and see what it could do.

I am reliably informed that most authors fill in the 'Mind Map' as they develop their story, apparently it can keep you on track. But when I applied it to the newly written INVICTUS Part One: Introducing Richard story I found it incredibly useful. I started with the Characters, identifying the main, main support, kinda important, sub characters etc and completed the information required from reading through the book. It was truly gratifying to note that 97% of what the 'Mind Map' requested was actually in my book already. Especially gratifying when one remembers the source of the Mind Map template. However, it was also quite an eye opener to see the 3% that wasn't; in the hundred metre sprint the difference between first and second place is a matter of tenths of a second so that extra 3% here could mean a big difference to people reading my books.

Make no mistake I had to tweak the template a little so it was better suited to my genre but in all honesty I found it a real boost for me to be that close. There are still a few hours to spend inside that map but it holds no fear for me now - it's a friend as opposed to an enemy stealing my time.
Another benefit is that it retains the information as a reference so you can always go back if a sequel or series is in the offering.

Something else that comes into play is my own style of writing. I don't 'plan' books, I just park myself at my laptop when I feel the need, and the story just seems to flow. I tried planning INVICTUS but almost as soon as I started tapping the keys it went off on a huge tangent and took on a life of it's own, and will never be the story I sat down to write. Writing this way may not be the 'norm' but it's just the way it is. This is why I think the whole 'Mind Map' thing serves me best as a detailed check sheet.

So, now to the concern over the structure - The Mind Map gives you an idea of what should happen, and where, in the story. It also gives you all of the component parts. As long as all of the component parts are in place the actual order of said component parts is not necessarily compulsory; it's a guide but not as big a guide as the feedback from readers. I tend to write my way and hope that there are people out there that enjoy my way of writing, and actually buy my books. It would be even better if I wasn't related to them as well! :-)

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