Keeping Track of Your Worldbuilding Part 2: Mind Maps

Last time we talked about using multiple Word documents as a system of keeping track of your worldbuilding. For some, that system is the be-all end-all. I used Word documents to keep track of the worldbuilding for my first two novels. But over time, as the series went on, trying to work with multiple, often conflicting documents didn’t work.

So what’s another system authors can use to keep track of their worldbuilding? Mind maps.

Maybe you remember using them in school during group projects, probably when your teacher wanted everyone to brainstorm ideas.

Simply put, they’re just a visual way to represent ideas, concepts, and the connections between them.

Pros

So how does this help you keep track of your fantasy or science fiction universe? It can let you group important aspects of your worldbuilding together, color code them, add notes, and then show their connections in a visual way.

There are a lot of free programs out there, but the one I used the most is XMind.

I used a mind map while writing Terraviathian, the unfinished third book in the Tethys Chronicles, an unpublished sword and sorcery novel, a fantasy novel, and partway through an urban fantasy novel. I got a lot of mileage out of my mind maps.

The Song of Siya mind map

With just a little bit of effort I was able to list characters on one side of the mind map while charting all my countries, cultures, locations, whatever on the other.

Plus color coding!! Using color to group certain things together appealed to the organizational freak within me. And it looked pretty.

Cons

It sounds like mind maps are the perfect choice for the budding (or experienced) author trying to keep track of their worldbuilding, right? To that I say “Maybe…?” and offer you a ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Personally, my mind maps got more and more elaborate as I used the same file for multiple books in a series. As I added more and more stuff to them, they got too big for me to handle. There were hundreds of entries, and some of them became outdated as I wrote. So I tried to mark them to separate them somehow. Or others were placeholders. And there were duplicates. Plus I wasn’t sure where to put info sometimes. Did bits about the history of a city belong in the “Locations” section or in the “Culture” section?

Maybe you’ll have better luck tackling these issues. Or maybe you won’t put so many entries in a single mind map.

I’ve moved on from mind maps, but maybe they’re just what you need!

Come back next week whenever I get around to writing the next installment about…wait for it… personal wikis!