Writing the first draft of a novel involves a lot of idea generation and writing the bare bones of the story, as well as putting the overall structure in place. Sometimes you may come up with a topic or a place or theme you don't know much about before you write it. I have found mind mapping to be very helpful for this research prior to writing the scene.
Here is a rough mindmap of my research on storms in Arizona. I used the principles in this article on writing about a new place. Although I have been there, it was a long time ago and I have no notes on it.
- I searched for pictures of storms in Arizona and found some great images. I looked through the images and wrote down my thoughts and impressions, what the lightning reminded me of, what was in the background of the pictures.
- This led to an investigation into types of lightning and what each was called, as well as what causes the thunderous noise.
- To ground the storm in a physical place, I searched on the plants and trees of the area the storm would be in, and found pictures and descriptions of saguero cactus, jojoba and other desert plants.
- I listened to sounds of various storms (free sounds here) and wrote down my thoughts, in an attempt to avoid cliche descriptions of rolling thunder.
- I used a Thesaurus to try to uncliche the descriptions I came up with.
- I then wrote around 1000 words of a scene with the storm in the background of the action. It took me a couple of hours of research to actually get this material but I think it was improved by my attempt to ground it in reality as well as get into the storm frame of mind before actually writing.
Mindmaps enable you to brainstorm thoughts and connections before you write in a linear manner.
This helps you to come up with new ideas and phrasing and acts as a guide for your writing when it is time to actually get the word count down.
Do you find mind maps helpful in your writing?
Image: Flickr CC Dark Matter