Before you can start writing, you have to know what you are going to write about. For a project of any length and substance you would normally start with the design aspect of writing. This involves defining our purpose and our key takeaways (messages) that we want our reader to retain and act upon. Often it is a good idea to start with a roadmap (Figure 1).
The starting point is our purpose. We usually end with a call to action, result or conclusion. Our intermediate stations are often our takeaways—the key points we want our audience to remember.
For a short document, the plan can be a simple one but even short documents benefit from being sketched out, either on a piece of paper or on screen.
Your roadmap defines your journey but it does not tell you how you are going to get there or what you will need along the way. You are clear on your purpose, your end result and your key points (these may well be the basis of your chapters or section headings) but planning requires a lot more than this.
Mind Maps are a useful tool for fleshing out your writing plan and determining your needs. Once you have your main thoughts (these will often be your key takeaways and your action target), you can create a Mind Map and add to those thoughts. Figure 2. shows what a simple planning Mind Map may look like. Your plan will include ideas on purpose, audience, output, tools, resources, templates and results sought.
Planning involves looking at both the structure and the intended content. Furthermore, our audience-centric approach will require that we look at these from the perspective of our readership. It is important to plan out what we intend to write. We can consider our structure as our blueprint.
And remember, we haven’t even started to compose yet! Don’t worry, after a while these processes will become second nature and you will apply them without even realizing it.
Mind Maps are diagrams you create to represent ideas, tasks and linked around nodes, each of which represents a central theme or idea. Mind Maps are similar in concept to organization charts but can be used much more flexibly and are ideal for collaborative projects. They are simple to use and provide a powerful tool for brainstorming and organizing your ideas.
Developed originally by Tony Buzan there are now a number of software programs you can use for creating mind maps. For an interesting gallery of how Mind Maps are used visit <http://www.buzan.com.au/learning/mindmapgallery.html>. I use FreeMinda but there are plenty to chhose from.