If you’ve read Book Blueprint or have seen me speak, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of mind mapping to gain clarity on your book idea.
But how much information do you need in a mind map? How do you know if you’ve done it right? And, if you’re using it as a way to test your knowledge, how do you know if you’ve passed the test?
If the idea of mind mapping is creating more confusion than clarity, fear no more – in this article I’m going to share the ‘why’, the ‘how’ and the ‘how much’ of mind mapping, with a step-by-step look at how I developed my own mind map for Book Blueprint.
Why mind mapping?
A mind map is a diagram you can use to record and organise your ideas, and they have been used by some of the greatest minds of the last five hundred years, including Leonardo da Vinci, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, Pablo Picasso and more.
In short, mind maps are a great way to get your knowledge out of your head and on to paper. They are also a fantastic tool for testing whether you have enough knowledge to even write a book on your subject.
Where most people go wrong with their mind map
So if there are so many benefits, and anyone can do it, where do people go wrong?
I believe that most people stop too early – especially busy, Type-A entrepreneurs who are just trying to get their books done as quickly as possible (you know who you are). They pop their book idea in the middle of the page, add five ideas that branch of from the main ones, and then they stop. Five ideas is enough for five chapters, right?
In reality, five bubbles are not enough to give you a solid start for your book (even if you only expect to have five chapters, or five steps). Instead, your mind map should give a clear overview of all of the major points you want to make in your book. Chapter topics, subtopics, points, examples and exercises you want to share within those subtopics… it should encompass your book on a page.
If you don’t go to this level of detail, you’ll find yourself drawing a blank when you start to write, staring out the window as you wait for inspiration to strike, or turning to Google for more ideas.
If you get this right, on the other hand, it’s one of the first steps to a blueprint so detailed your book will write itself.
So what should you be aiming for?
A walk through the mind map for Book Blueprint
Sometimes the easiest way to pick up a new method or system is to see how someone else tackles it. With this in mind, here’s a look at the mind map I created when I first wrote Book Blueprint.
Step 1: Write your central idea in the middle of the page
My central idea was simply: How to write an awesome book.
Step 2: Ask yourself, how can my readers do this?
When I asked myself, how my readers could write an awesome book, the answer was that they needed the right idea, the right content, the right structure, and the right language. They also needed to choose a book type.
Step 3: Again, ask how can my readers do this?
Then, for each of those bubbles, I asked how my readers could do that. How could they find the right idea? Well, they needed to think about their level of passion/interest in their idea, they needed to test their knowledge, and they needed to consider their readers’ wants and needs.
Step 4: And once again… I think you get the idea
And so on and so forth! Essentially, for every single bubble on the page, ask yourself how your readers can do that. Each of your second-level ideas will then become chapter/part topics, each of the third-level ideas will be subtopics within that chapter, and each of the fourth-level ideas will be specific exercises for your readers to consider.
By the end, you should have something that looks like this:
Step 5: Start asking ‘why’
Once you’ve run out of ‘hows’, a bonus step is to start asking yourself ‘why’. Why is it important for your readers to follow your advice? What are the benefits if they do? What are the risks if they don’t?
As you might have gathered, if you continue asking yourself question after question, you’re very quickly going to have a mind map that can easily guide everything you write.
So what’s the bare minimum?
Now I can hear you thinking, ‘do I really need to go to that level of detail? Isn’t there an easier way?’
First, this is the easier way. It’s much easier to go through this exercise up front and then have an incredibly detailed mind map to guide your writing. Just imagine if you were writing without something like this to guide you – trying to think of ideas on the fly, going in circles as you try to up your word count, wondering why it’s so hard to hit that magical, 30,000-word target when you know you know your stuff.
Instead, with a mind map like this (or a blueprint would be even better) you will have a guide for everything you write. When you sit down to write of a morning (or of an evening, or to dictate in the car or on your lunchtime walk), you simply pick a topic, and start elaborating on all of the points that are already there.
However, if you’re really keen to know what the bare minimum is, here’s what I recommend:
Your mind map should have a minimum of five second-level ideas, and each of those ideas should have two to three third level ideas branching off from them. This will give you give chapters and a couple of subtopics for each of them, which is damn sight more than what many authors have mapped out when they get started on their books.