Struggling to organize your ideas when you’re writing? Here, we’ll explore how to use the technique of mapping writing.
Whether you’re in the brainstorming portion of your prewriting or have a solid plot line and are ready to move forward, creating a mind map can be an intelligent way to get your thoughts in order before you begin creative or academic writing. Creating a map is a way to visually categorize your thoughts so that you can see your ideas on paper before you begin to develop your written work.
Story maps typically involve placing a central idea at the center of a paper, drawing a circle around it, then making several branches that connect to related ideas. From there, additional branches can allow you to add ideas to your initial concept further.
There’s no one way to story map. However, as you’ll see below, creating a concept map is just one way to develop your ideas. Freewriting, using mind mapping software, creating a flowchart, and using story mapping apps are all great ways to kickstart your writing process before you begin the first draft of your work.
Without further ado, let’s dig in and check out some ways to map your ideas before your writing begins.
How-To Try Story Mapping
If you’re new to story mapping, fear not–it’s an easy and fast process, and you’ll be glad you tried it out.
To create your first story map:
Step 1: Get a blank sheet of paper.
Step 2: Set a timer for five minutes. Start the timer.
Step 3: Write the start of your story in the center of your paper, and put a circle around it. Make several “branches” (straight lines) stemming away from the center circle.
Step 4: Add ideas you’d like to include in your story or academic writing at the end of each new branch.
Step 5: If necessary, add additional branches to each new idea, creating new, smaller branches from each subtopic to add new support.
Step 6: Take a moment to step back and look at what you’ve created when your timer goes off. If you need more time, set your timer again.
Step 7: Creating a story map should give you a sense of whether your initial topic has enough meat to create the story or academic writing project you want. You may find that you need to spend time between mapping sessions to give your brain time to develop new ideas.
It’s wise to create your first story map a few weeks before your assignment is due to give your mind plenty of time to flesh out your ideas. Here is an excellent example of a story map to give you an idea of how you can get started.
Best Mapping Writing Techniques
Now that you’ve got the basics of writing mapping down, it’s time to dig into different ways to organize your ideas as you start to think about how you’ll flesh out your writing. Here, we’ll look at four different options for organizing your thoughts before you begin to write, including freewriting, using mind mapping software, creating a flowchart, and writing an outline.
Freewriting is exactly what it sounds like–getting your ideas out of your head and onto your paper with no judgment or stopping to think. Like standard story mapping, it’s wise to set a timer before starting freewriting. You can also limit yourself to one page (or half a page). The key to freewriting: don’t stop writing until your time or length requirement is satisfied. Give yourself some grace when you’re freewriting. Not all ideas in your freewriting will be winners, and you must be able to get the good out with the bad. When you’re done freewriting, use a highlighter to indicate the ideas you’d like to keep and feel free to strike through the ideas you don’t care for.
2. Mind Mapping Software
If you’re not a fan of using paper and pencil to map out your stories, it can be wise to try out mind mapping software and apps to help you digitally get your thoughts together before you start writing. Popular options include Lucid Chart, Coggle, MindMeister, and Bubbl.us. As with any new software, getting used to a new program can take some time. So give each option a few tries before deciding whether it’s a good fit to support your writing process.
If you’re writing a narrative story, using a flowchart can help you move from one idea to another. A chronological story often necessitates a different type of structure from academic writing. Creating a flowchart can help you seamlessly move your story from one event to the next. A flowchart can give you a good representation of what parts of your story deserve more attention and which you can let go of with fewer details. When you create a flowchart to guide your writing, it’s key to remember that you don’t need to follow an exact format. Writing down different ideas and notes as you go is OK; developing a flowchart format that works well for you.
A standard outline can be a good fit if you’re not a fan of a standard story map’s visual and artistic aspects. People who prefer checking things off as they go may find that a standard outline is a solid fit. Cool bonus: it’s just as easy to create an outline on a computer as it is on a piece of paper.
Tips For Mapping in Writing
Whether you’re just getting started with essay writing or have been an author for years, it’s important to note that you never outgrow story mapping. No matter how solid an idea seems in your mind, writing it down (as well as your subtopics) can help you find holes in your plot or areas in which your academic writing could use a bit more support.
1. Take Your Time When Learning How To Map
Don’t judge yourself when you’re starting with a story map (or ever–but that’s another topic for another day). Getting your ideas on paper for the first time means you’ll have some great and not-so-great ideas. That’s OK. Taking the time to put your thoughts in front of you can help you separate the good from the bad, one idea at a time.
2. Figure Out What Techniques Work For You
Note whether you prefer story mapping and freewriting by hand or using a software program. Every writer is different, and you may find that one method is more effective for getting your ideas out than others. If you’re a pen-and-paper person, there’s no reason to force yourself to use a story mapping software program if it’s not a good fit.
3. Know When To Map–And When To Stop
Know when it’s time to stop mapping and start writing. When you feel anxious about an assignment or project, it can be easy to spend too much time in the prep phase instead of digging into the writing. Remember, you can always return to your map or revise your work if necessary, but the important thing is that you eventually get started once your ideas are organized and ready to go.
If you are interested in learning more, check out our essay writing tips!