One of the first challenges many first-time authors face when it comes to beginning or completing a manuscript is getting their content clear and organized. Specifically, authors aren’t always able to clearly articulate their main idea–the thesis of their book–or illuminate the supporting evidence for their claim in the following chapters. Without taking the time to truly develop their concept, authors run the risk of submitting or pitching projects that are read as unorganized or half-baked.
Ultimately, the failure to sift and sort through the details of a concept in order to develop it well can result in rejection letters and discouragement. My favorite tools to solve this particular problem are the processes of brain dumping and mind mapping.
As an agent, and content creator myself, sifting through all of the ideas and concepts that are constantly swirling around in my brain can feel like a full-time job. At any given moment, there are seventeen potential book titles, two-hundred chapter ideas, and a handful of marketing ideas that fight for the top attention slot in my head. When I have prioritized a project and started working in the beginning phases, the first step to complete is a brain dump.
What is a brain dump? A brain dump is the process of transferring all of the thoughts and ideas around a central proposal or project out of my brain and onto a piece of paper. Doing so forces one to process through all of the information connected to a specified topic and creates a visual representation of the data that can be repeatedly referred to.
Here’s how it works. Grab some scrap paper and your favorite pen. For me, my materials of choice include 4×4 grid paper, a fresh set of markers, some random stickers, and a handful of snacks. It’s a whole mood. After snagging the supplies, I begin writing down any and all details that pop into my mind surrounding the central focus of the project.
For example, if I were using this process to develop a book about women’s ministry or a devotional for moms, I would jot down all the interrogative words and create questions to answer. For instance, check out some of these possible questions:
- “Who is this book for?”
- “Why do I want to write about this topic?”
- “Why is the reader struggling?”
- “Why is the reader looking to me for the answer?”
Once you have taken the time to write down and process through all of your thoughts, it is time to start sorting them. The process I use to accomplish this portion of concept development is called mind mapping. After pouring all the pertinent content onto the page, I begin connecting all of the pieces by locating the central ideas, sketching them out all over a new page, and placing connected items around them. By the time I’m finished, I have managed to process my thoughts, sort them into similar categories, and tie them to the evidence or Scripture support in a visually appealing and easy-to-refer-to manner.
Here is the important takeaway. It doesn’t matter how you process through building and strengthening your concept. What matters is having a well-developed, well-defended, and well-communicated one. Agents are looking for communicators with the potential to create content that is clear and compelling. So, do the work of building strong thesis statements and supporting them by conducting thorough concept development. Indeed, the work is worthy.