Using a Mind Map to Plan Your Nonfiction Book

Mind mapping offers the most effective tool I’ve ever discovered for creating a content plan and organizing ideas. I use mind maps with my book coaching clients quite often, and I always recommend my clients do one when they evaluate their book ideas using the proposal process or write a book proposal. When we get to the section where they must create a table of contents (List of Chapters) and then write chapter summaries, I tell them to first mind map the contents of their book. A mind map provides a great starting point for any writing project, but it’s great for longer projects.

Roger C. Parker, a book coach and author of 40 nonfiction books, is a master at mind mapping and a mind mapping advocate and trainer. Today I asked him to join us for a guest post on how to effectively use mind maps. Any WNFIN participants struggling with their book or article content in these early days of the challenge  might benefit from this post.

Using a Mind Map to Plan Your Nonfiction Book
By Roger C. Parker

The easiest and fastest way you can plan your nonfiction book is to use a mind map. Mind mapping is a technique you can use on paper, on whiteboards, or you can use a variety of computer software for Macintosh and Windows laptop, iPhones, and iPads.

What is a mind map?

Mind maps resemble the solar system, with the sun in the center and the planets revolving around it.

Since we’re talking about nonfiction books, the center graphic will contain the title of your nonfiction book. Surrounding it are subtopics—each containing the title of one of the sections, or parts, of your book.

Each of the section graphics links to smaller subtopics—each one representing one of the chapters in your book.

Finally, the last step, is to add the main ideas—or subtopics—you intend to cover in each chapter. You can explore and download free PDF examples of mind maps of current nonfiction books here, here, and here.

Mind mapping benefits

When you’ve finished a mind map, you’ll have a graphic that displays the “big picture” of your book—the sections and chapters—as well as the main ideas and contents of each of the chapter.

If you’re using software like MindManager on your computer, you can control your view of the map by collapsing and expanding the map:

  • Collapsing a mind map means displaying only the “big picture” sections and chapters of your book. This permits you to analyze the sequence and flow of your ideas. When you collapse a topic, a small icon appears, reminding you that that the topic contains additional information.
  • Expanding a mind map occurs when you press the “collapsed” icon. This reveals the previously-hidden subtopics.

One of the big advantages of working with mind mapping software is that you can share your work with others. Once you have created a mind map of your book’s table of contents, you can share copies with agents, co-authors, co-workers, editors, and publishers. Mind map files can be shared as e-mail attachments or placed online for others to add their comments.

Export is another major benefit offered by mind mapping software. Once you’ve completed the mind map of your book, you can export it to your word processing program, eliminating the need to retype what you’ve already written.

Planning your nonfiction book

Here’s how I suggest you use a mind mapping software program to plan and write your nonfiction book this November:

  1. Organize your ideas. Start by adding your book’s proposed title in the center of the map, and—just as a starting point—add 3 subtopics for the main sections of your book (beginning, middle, and end). Then, add 4 chapter subtopics to each section. As you plan your book, insert the titles of each of the 12 chapters. Then, add subtopics to each chapter identifying the main ideas of each chapter. Put your map aside overnight. The next day, drag ideas from one chapter to another, or add new ideas or delete unwanted ideas. Change the order of the chapters if necessary. When you’re finished, you’ll have a detailed table of contents for your book.
  2. Schedule your work. The next step is crucial. It’s not enough to plan your book, you have to write your book—and this requires creating your own deadlines for each chapter. Without specific writing deadlines, all you have are intentions, not commitments. Most mind mapping software programs allow you to add Start dates and Deadlines to each topic. These provide a visual commitment and timetable for writing your book.
  3. Tracking your progress. Finally, use your mind map as a motivational tool by showing your progress as you move forward. Each time you complete a topic, you can add a finished icon—or small visual symbol—to the topic, or you can indicate completion by changing the color of the topic or deleting the topic. You’ll feel a definite sense of progress as you add completion dates or finished icons to each topic!

Getting started with mind mapping

There are over 100 mind mapping software programs available for computers, iPhones, and iPads. Pricing is all over the map, from free to several hundred dollars. Some programs are entirely web-based, and charge small monthly payments.

The best idea is to search online for mind mapping software, follow blogs like Chuck Frey’s Mind Mapping Software Blog, the Mindjet blog, and my Published & Profitable Writer’s Tips Blog which contains frequent mind mapping examples and tips, plus upcoming events for authors.

Closing Thought

Mind mapping can make a major contribution to the success of any nonfiction author. It boosts creativity, keeps you focused and on schedule, while saving you time. Best of all, you can’t really go wrong, because most mind mapping software can import and export files to different formats. As a result, you’re not locked into a specific program when you get started mind mapping on your computer or mobile device.

 About the Author

Roger C. Parker, a mind mapping advocate and trainer, has written 40 nonfiction books sold in 37 countries around the world. He blogs at Published & Profitable. His latest book is #Book Title Tweet: 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Compelling Article, Book, and Event Titles.

Before you start to write your nonfiction book, download a proof of his free “do-it-yourself” developmental editing workbook, 99 Questions to Ask Before You Write or Self-Publish a Brand-building Book. Send your mind mapping questions to me at Best wishes on your November writing!

 Have you ever used a mind map? Did you find it helpful? Leave a comment and let me know.


  1. It makes a lot of sense. I would imagine it helps you to remember and keep track of the elements when you are immersed in the minutia of it.

  2. Thanks so much for posting the Mind Mapping Technique. All my
    life I wanted to write and I have never heard of MMT until tonight.
    Maybe that’s why no book yet. The
    Concept strikes me as “by an inch it’s a cinch” saying on nuclear powered Steroids. Thanks


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