The stock take — or, an intro to MindNode

Most of you are ahead of me. Most of you have started or even finished a novel. But this is my first. How do women face pregnancy and childbirth for the first time, I wonder. That’s something I’ve never attempted either.

Rather than stare into the abyss of inexperience, I thought I’d do a little stock take of where I was in this novel-writing gambit. If you are about to start your first novel, this is a good tip. It was really helpful.

First, I got myself a copy of MindNode on the recommendation of my brother. He’s also a writer, and he said it was great for getting down and then organizing a lot of information. It helps you think laterally, because you can ideate first, and organize later.

So, I put down the core structure I mentioned in my last blog. East, South, West, North. I put down a two-line description of each part’s protagonist. I put down everything that I knew about each protagonist in terms of life moments. Then, from each life moment, I budded out all the things that I didn’t know—knowledge I would need to describe that moment well.

This is what it looked like. (This is as fast as the animation will go!)

There wasn’t a lot of random ideation, yet. I was unpacking things that had been gathering in my head, and for the most part, it all came down in chronological order. But I can see how MindNode will be great when I need to throw ideas at the wall later.

One cool thing about MindNode is that it makes it easy to reorganize your thoughts (nodes) by just dragging and dropping them. So, I reorganized the life moments so that they were sequential — a timeline. Well, four timelines.

Then I shook out of my other ear all the scenes that have been rolling around in there — little flashes, brief movie snippets. I aligned those with the timeline.

Scenes I have

You can see quite quickly where I have gaps, where I need to get down to the writer’s first job of imagining. But it’s been very reassuring to me that I have this much at all!

Of course, “Do I have enough to write about” is not the only cause of anxiety. “How do I write this” is at least as terrifying.

I have a crutch for that too! I am going through a fiction course and letting that guide me along. The one I’m using is an audio course by James Hynes (sorry, Michael) from the Great Courses. I love the Great Courses — but don’t buy anything that’s not on sale. If you wait long enough, your course will go on sale and the discount is always significant.

So, seeing as I now know that I have enough of a plot to get started, and that I know my protagonists well enough to at least summon them for a meeting, what next? For me, the first barrier to laying ink down is which tense and which POV?

We’ll see what James has to say about that next week, when Julia speaks.

In the meantime, happy writing!