Okay, let’s be honest and say that plotting your novel can be tricky. It’s tough to hold onto all the different things that are happening in your novel and it can be difficult to direct it where you want it to go.

And for those who plot as they go, aka pantsters, you will inevitably hit a point where you wonder – what should happen next?

A few years ago I started creating Mind Maps for some clients at AllCustomContent.com. Many clients offer them as tools for their customers, in the form of downloads or part of an information package.

However, it only took me about ten seconds after completing my first mind map for a client to realize what a great tool this is for romance writers. (I use them for business planning too.)

What is a Mind Map and How in the World Will It Help Me Write?

Mind maps are essentially free flowing diagrams you create as you brainstorm ideas. You  can organize them however you want. For example you might start with your book’s title in the center. From that center each chapter is a branch. Each chapter might then be broken down by scene and each scene may be further broken down by outlining the character’s motivation/reaction/conflict.

Or you could place the main conflict in the center of your mind and each branch might be a step in the resolution of that conflict. And if you’re having trouble figuring out what happens next in your romance novel you can use mind mapping to help you create a course of action. You can list potential directions for your characters to take and then list the possible outcomes for each action.

Finally, consider using a mind map to create your main characters. Each map could be a diagram of the characters: sociology, physiology, psychology. Filled out you will have well rounded and consistent characters every time.

Where Can I Find Mind Mapping Programs?

Okay, the first and least expensive way to mind map is to simply get out a pencil and some paper. However, if you’re like me and you will probably lose the paper or you like to keep things organized and on your computer (or you just erase too much to make pen and paper viable) then you can find both free and paid software online:

Note: I recommend starting with a free version. If you find that it’s a useful tool for you, then consider upgrading. Don’t spend money until you know it is going to work for you!

  • Xmind (xmind.net) – Free. Haven’t used it but it looks like it does the job well.
  • MindMeister (MindMeister.com) – Free. Recommended by Lifehacker.com
  • Mindjet MindManager (Mindjet.com) – Free trial – Wicked expensive! $349. This is what I use and I love it. Keep in mind that I also do client work and business planning on it. If you’re only going to be using it for romance writing or you’re on a budget there are other options.
  • FreeMind (Freemind.sourceforge.net) – Free. Quite functional and also recommended by Lifehacker.

You can also find an extensive list of options at Wikipedia

And if you have an iPad or iPhone/iPod touch check out:

  • iThoughts
  • Mindmeister
  • MindNode – I use this one on my iPad. It works very well.