Nonfiction Book Writing, Self Publishing, & Marketing Coach

How to Write a Book Outline with Mind Mapping

If you want to learn how to write a book outline, mind mapping is better than linear outlining because authors can use flexible thinking and creativity for their book outline. One can add and subtract a thought or phrase from a mind map easily. This is an excellent way to start, organize, and finish your book–fast!


What is Mind Mapping?

Mind mapping is a color-coded outline of main ideas, sub topics and details, printed on different colored branches connected to the center. In the center in a circle, you will list your main idea, such as your book or chapter title.

For “The One-Minute Sales Person”, Spencer’s mind map would have had seven different colored vertical branches coming from that center, so details can be put on connected horizontal branches. For most of us, mind maps are easier to read than the typical list outlines. For all of my 14 business books for authors and small businesses, I mind mapped each book title in one mind map of 20″ by 36″ and others of 8 1/2″ by 11″ of each chapter title and its related chapter titles. I taped them to my office walls where I could see them every day. Then, I could add on new points, and clarify other key words on the branches coming from the middle subject.

What are the 4 advantages of Mind Mapping?

One. Mind mapping is open-ended and open-minded.

No more squeezing new “aha’s” or ideas into the strict, tight form of the linear outline. You can make mistakes in your mind maps. Imperfection leads to creativity. When you get an idea for chapter one, you can just add another branch off the main one. Mind mapping expands flexible thinking that makes for better writing.

Two. Mind maps use only three to five concrete key words on a branch.

These key words help jog our memory. Under Chapter One “Attracting Passion,” I added several horizontal lines that represented the format that follows. One line had “opening quote,” the next one “introduction,” the next one “Jerry’s Story,” the next “Food for Thought and Action,” the next, “Passion Hot Line,” the last line, “Practice.”

Three. Mind maps speed up your writing because you only write key phrases.

When you sit down at the computer, from your color-coded map, the answers will flow naturally. If you need to fatten up your chapter, just go to your chapter file folders where you keep your research.

Four. In mind maps you see the whole related to the parts.

Your thesis, chapter titles, and chapter contents all flow because you answered each question your readers had. This fast-forward technique allows me to write at least two or three books each year. Mind maps makes each book more organized, more focused and clearer, easier to read, and finally, brings more sales because people can understand the information quickly and easily.

How Do I Create My Mind Map?

Use a large sheet of paper, at least 8 ½ by 11 inches, but I recommend a large square of butcher paper or poster board, so you can spread out and enjoy the process! Have at least six or seven colored felt-tip pens in primary and bright colors ready.

In the center, encircle your book title. Arrange your chapter headings, each on a different colored vertical branch, around the center in any order (you can number them later). If you can’t think of a title, place a few key words. Use only one color per branch. Off each main branch, put five or so color coded horizontal branches of particular chapter parts. (One chapter=one color of main line and those connected to it.

Even though you later change your mind about the contents, this initial mind map gives you the overall picture of what your book is and what it will share with its readers. I made several mind maps of my Passion book before I settled on the best information to include.

Practice: Create your book’s mind map on a separate large piece of paper.

Practice: Create one chapter’s mind map on a separate piece of paper now.

Practice: Create the rest of the chapter’s mind maps on other separate pieces of paper.

Wow! You are up to speed. You have your thesis–what challenge your book will solve, your chapter working titles, your rough draft evolving with a Table of Contents, and you have questions to answer in each chapter.

Mind mapping is an excellent way to start, organize, and finish your book.

Need free help writing a book? Want the tools and skills necessary to start your book now to promote your business and brand yourself?

Judy Cullins, 25 year veteran book coach who has published over 14 books to help authors make profits including “Write your eBook or Other Short Book Fast “and “LinkedIn Marketing–8 Best Tactics to Build Book and Business Sales.” She has coached over 80 authors to publish, and 1000’s to market their books with social media and blog writing. Join her site to receive free weekly fresh tips.

Judy Cullins

Judy Cullins

Book Coach at
Judy Cullins, MA, is a book coach extraordinaire with 30 years of expertise.In her VIP packages, she offers entrepreneurs, leaders, and upper management shortcuts to complete their ebook and print book fast. She teaches the essential skills to self-publish and market your book and services online with powerful results.
Judy Cullins
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  • Your website is great. I find more useful and practical resouces from your articles than I can imagine.
    I have enjoyed all your offerings over the years. Keep up the good work. You are a blessing to those of us who attemt to write.

  • I just posed a comment. Evidently, it was an anonymous response to your article. I am Jerry Foster Smith in Calhoun, GA and my email address is

  • Mind mapping is an interesting exercise in organizing thoughts. I've never used an institutionalized version of mind mapping, but I tend to do something similar when I'm brainstorming. A problem for me with this method however is knowing when I have enough information to continue. In other words, knowing when to stop.

    For instance, I recently mentally plotted out a 12+ book series of novels. You know how? Because brainstorming kept leading to new ideas around one subject, which leads to new ideas around another. This all started with me mapping out a SHORT STORY! :))

    Thanks for the article though. Mind mapping is an effective tool as visualization can make all the difference for some.

  • Atul C

    Examples are a great way of teaching.

  • sueleonardCFS

    Interesting. Thank you for sharing this post.

  • Jack Berger

    This is great, but how do you share it? I've used paper in the past, but got tired of snapping a picture of it and then sending to a colleague. There are a variety of online mind mapping tools that will do all of the above, AND offer sharing, collaboration, etc.

  • HI Jerry, Thanks so much for sharing that my information is valueable to you! I appreciate that and hope it brings to more commitment on your writing project! Reading articles is how I got started writing my 14 books that help writers make money! I'd like to nudge you to take some action!

  • Not sure of your name, but mindmapping is not just organizing. In the model above it shows you top key words that help you choose only pertinent information to include in each chapter! That's what a book coach like myself does– I help you know what's good and what's not–all to please your specific targeted audience! No lectures please!

  • Atul, Thanks for the comment. I teach with all modalities for the kinesthetic, visual, and auditory.
    Examples are a must for all of these. Which way do you like to learn?

  • HI Sue, Glad you stopped by. If you want more info on writing to sell check out this link with 40 other blog how to's at

    also if you haven't yet, join my site.for free emailed weekly tips and resources. Just click here for benefits to you.

    Cheers, Judy

  • Diane Ziomek

    I wish I had thought of this method when I started my book series. It was originally supposed to be one book, but as I worked on different parts of it it became evident a series would be better. I installed a Mind Map App on my computer earlier today, so will be utilizing it shortly. Thank you!

  • Diane, Glad to help. What is your series? I like that idea.

  • Jack, It's fine to use paper. It's for your benefit. So get out there and keep it simple. Mindmap your cha. titles first, then do a mm for each chapter with all the specific parts that go into it–begin, middle and end.

  • Kit Hughes

    I have found this free Mind Mapping software and it's pretty easy to use

    good luck

  • Jerry, This is my passion–helping writers get the skills, strategies, and confidence to take action every day on their book.

  • Thanks Kit for the URL to MM software. As a kinesthic, I prefer to write the MM my self. Then I can cross out what I don't want and add what I do want on paper in color/ I applied this method to my 14 books I published to help auhors suceeed.

  • Cheryl Jantzen

    Hello Judy,

    I've had outlines for educational books for about 12 years now and haven't followed through. Any suggestions on the best next step?

    Also, is mind mapping different for educational/workbook style of books?



  • I had forgotten about Mind Mapping.. I LOVE it! It clears the mind and makes sense of stuff. This is such a great blog. I am a visual artists but also write scads of poetry, so I want to put it all together into a book. I want to, is the phrase that keeps ringing through. I think Mind Mapping is a great first step in getting started. YAY! So now just do it, right?

  • Cheryl, Sorry to be tardy in answering you. We goofed in technology to get the Q and A going.My feeling is to start with the best book idea (meditate and it will come up) Then, mindmap for a short 3-5 chapters that is so doable. Next step? Write the easiest chapter first. It doesn’t need to be ch. 1.

    Hope this helps!

  • Kathy, I love MM too. Used it for my write your ebook fast.

    Here’s the steps fom Ch 2 of my book:
    1. MM 3-5 ch titles
    2. MM one title and include hook, middle and end.
    3. read my book to help you do this easily at

  • Linda Bell Brighton

    I wish you’d do a detailed ebook about this.

  • Hi Linka, I did write a chapter on mindmapping. It’s in Ch 2 of my book Write your eBook or Other Short Book Fast! All my books have the how to details in them.

    Available at Amazon and

  • Hi Judy,

    Thanks for your outline.

    What I often do is outline the entire book in one single map and then use in my mindmapper software tool the notes section to write the text of a specific topic.

    Afterwards, I may re-organize the outline to better fit the needs of the reader.

    When that is done, I export the entire map to MS Word to get a ready to print book (well… almost 🙂 ).

  • judycullins

    Argen, sounds like you have a system that works. I do all my mm by hand and colored pens.

  • Christian Biz Traveler

    Judy – great post – thanks for sharing your expertise

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