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So What’s The Fuss About Scapple?

If you have been writing for any length of time it is inevitable that you have come across those writers who treat the act of writing as if it is bound in the realms of magic and mysticism rather than just being a lot of hard work and a case of bashing out one word after another. They will wave a hand in the air and talk about their muse and their energies with such upmost seriousness you will wonder if they are trying to be a writer or a wizard.

It is for this reason that you might not have really looked seriously into the concept of mind-mapping. It sounds like one of those words that belong to those aforementioned sorts of writers. You imagine the phrase being used alongside “mind palace” without the slightest hint of humour. But despite its misleading name, mind-mapping does have a place in the writer’s toolkit. It is certainly not a tool for every project or one that suits the way every writer works, but it can be extremely useful in the planning stages of a story or novel.

So what is Mind-mapping? You may find you already unknowingly do it, but for the benefit of everyone, here are the basics. Imagine you had a huge white board or sheet of paper on which to collect and collate your notes; where you could link characters and plot points together, add notes about themes and make notes to yourself? You might ask yourself important questions such as “why is the character doing this?” or “what is the importance of this?” Or maybe note some physical characteristics: “Looks like a young Carrie Fisher”.

Scapple (logo)Now you link these notes together with lines. You might have a line coming from the character name to their description, another one relating to a plot point. And as you progress, creating more notes and more connections with lines going all over the board or page, it will get to the stage where it becomes such a mess that you will feel the urge to wipe the board or tear out the page and start again. But imagine you could do this with a software product instead, where you had an infinite-sized whiteboard or notebook and notes could be dragged around the screen, be they text, images or links. This is in essence what Scapple is.

In many ways, it is a very simple software product but coming from the makers of Scrivener you know that simplicity doesn’t mean it isn’t versatile. At its most basic, Scapple will allow you to place notes on a screen and connect them with lines. You can format the boxes, text and lines how you wish, and you can drag your notes around the screen without losing the connections you’ve made. What notes you make and how you connect them is entirely up to you. You simply double click on the screen and start writing your new note. Then you create connections by dragging one note on top of another. You can even drag in images and external text files. Whereas a lot of (more expensive) mind-mapping software have one central note from which you spider out from, Scapple is completely freeform, allowing you to have unconnected notes (or groups of notes) if you so wish.

And once you’ve completed your mind map you can import it into Scrivener, just by dragging notes across. There are also a number of different export options ranging from PDF to RTF files. Just like Scrivener, it will not dictate a process to you, but instead allow you to map out your notes and ideas as you see fit. It can, therefore, be a fantastic alternative to those parts of your writing process where you would normally sit down with a pen and paper and map out all your ideas, whether it be a character sketch, the plot to a novel, or even the structure of a chapter you wish to write.

At just $15 for the full copy it is fairly priced, and is available for both the Mac and Windows operating systems. There’s even a 30 day free trial available. If the trial does prove useful to you, do keep an eye open during November as there are usually offers relating to NaNoWriMo.

Of course, you may find nothing will replace your note-taking, plot planning, notebook and pen. Or you might find that mind-mapping has no place in your personal writing process. But with NaNoWriMo less than a month away and writers planning their novels for this year, now is the perfect time to trial the software.



  1. Avatar Jim Martin says:

    I thought you were talking about the breakfast meat scrapple, I was very excited. I may check this software out too though…but trust me, scrapple (the meat) is fuss worthy too…

  2. Avatar Karen Myers says:

    Over on a Scrivener Facebook group a few of us kicked around the best way to lay out a series bible using Scrivener with Scapple and Aeon Timeline. You might find that interesting, if you have the need for something that elaborate.

    I summarized a writeup for it: http://hollowlands.com/2014/09/creating-a-book-series-bible-using-scrivener-scapple-and-aeon-timeline/

  3. Avatar Eunice says:

    Scapple used in conjunction with Scrivener work great for me! Love both. Neither is costly so is worth a try; every writer should at least try these two fantastic tools.

    • Avatar Overlord says:

      Glad to hear they are helping you as a writer 🙂 I think it is about getting the balance right and it will be different for different people.

      For some people these ‘toys’ take away from their time writing (those who like to let their characters lead them), for others the planning stops them running into brick walls and getting lost on route (people like me!).

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