Mind Mapping on iOS then Outlining and Writing

Thinking and getting those ideas organised into a book

IThoughts mind mapping

I have had mind mapping software for quite some time now and I like using it, but often forget to get it out of the box as it were. This week I started to think about a new book to write and it is going to be about switching from iOS to Android and so I opened up iThoughts HD on the iPad. I like to dictate into my computer, in fact, all of my devices as much as possible so that I don’t have to use the keyboard. This is also the case when using iThoughts mind mapping software on the iPad as well. The nice thing about using mind mapping software is that you don’t have to think in a one-dimensional way. You can jump from idea to idea and just throw it in there and then you do all of the organisation at a later stage.


NosillaCast and David Sparks talking about a writing workflow

Next thing I know I’m listening to the NosillaCast podcast by Alison Sheridan and she’s talking to David Sparks of Mac Power Users Podcast who was explaining the way that he does his writing. He was talking about how he likes to plan things with his writing work and build up an outline using mind mapping, before moving on to an outline program and then onwards to Scrivener. When I am doing my writing, I generally have a few ideas of what I want to write about and I just get started in my writing software and see how it flows. This is what is known as writing by the seat of your pants. I am a pantser by nature! Even so I think I’m going to give this other way of working a try, because I think I will end up with better structured final product if I organise myself in this way. I have in fact already started on this way of working by diving into the mind mapping application before doing anything else. What I probably would have done next, would have been to get the text from the mind map exported out and ready to put into Scrivener or in Dragon Dictate text editor window. I would then be using Scrivener as my outlining program, which you can do to a certain extent. I have now looked into outliner programs which I can see have more facilities available for that part of the job.


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Let’s talk about software to use for the project.

On my Mac I have the mind mapping software called Mind Node Pro. It is very good for creating mind maps and I still plan to keep using that when I’m doing mind mapping on my Mac. What I did on this occasion though was to use my iThoughts HD on my iPad to create this mind map for the book. I did used to have the Mind Node Pro available for iOS, but I actually prefer to use iThoughts on iOS, it just seems to have a better feel to it for what I want to do. I just like the way that it works!


Give full reign to the creative side of the brain

The way that I was working in the mind mapping software was to tap the button to create a new node from the centre starting point and then dictating in what I wanted in that new node. It is much quicker and easier to dictate the words in and it is a very good way to get your ideas out of your head efficiently. Making a mind map lets you think in a non-linear way and that is particular good for me because my brain works like that anyway. It must be the artist within me! All you have to do is to just keep the thinking juices flowing and putting stuff in there, even if it is silly or stupid. You can delete anything you don’t want at a later stage. The idea is that there are times when something silly will lead on to something that is useful anyway. It didn’t take long before I had quite a large looking mind map that I felt I could start doing something with in terms of organising. The process was giving me the placeholders or chapter titles, a grid for me to fill in the spaces.

Getting the data out

Top of Tree Tree outliner for Mac OS X Horizontally expanding outliner

So the next part of the workflow is to create a file with the data from the mind map. This can be used in that outlining application that is specifically for giving organisation to this sort of data or as I said, you can use Scrivener directly. If you don’t want to use either of these then it is also possible to do similar work in a word processor or a text editor. That wouldn’t really be good for being efficient and organised though. So the export format to send out from the mind map is called OPML.

This format is particularly good for using in an outlining tool such as Omni Outliner Pro. Well this piece of software for me from the Omnigroup is very good indeed, but it is far too expensive for my pockets. This seems to be the case with all of the software from this software developer. Having said that, I do own a copy of Omnifocus which I like to use for the getting things done type of organising. As I write this, I’ve just become aware that there is a new version of Omnifocus has just become available. I have already upgraded to this new version 2.

There are lots of ways to get the data out of iThoughts – By email, cloud, browser transfer over wifi, iTunes Transfer. I sent it out by email and saved the OPML file to the desktop on the Mac.

Using Data you have exported out of iThoughts

I didn’t have a proper outlining application and I needed to look for an alternative to Omni Outliner. Tree Outliner had been mentioned on the podcast, but I found a couple that were cheaper or free. I tried them and then decided to get the trial version of Tree. In the end I found that Tree was the one to go for so I bought it. It has the usual Outliner app view and it also has an expanded out sideway view. I liked the reorganise tools with the keyboard combinations to make it all happen quickly. I liked how easy it is to collapse all items and it makes it easy to arrange where you want things in your list.

IOS to Android and Dragon Workings

What next after organising the outline?

You could just take that outline and open it in a Scrivener project and then start to add the flesh onto the bones of the project.If you don’t want to rush things, you can send the data out of the outliner app back to a mind map and continue working on it. Bring it back into the outliner again to organise some more before you send it to Scrivener the best writers software. It will be surprisingly easy to write the first draft then because you have something to hang the words on already.



Get the Good and Geeky Writers Workflow Book for free – Click on the book


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Get the Writers Workflow Book for FREE. Click here or on the book

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