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Outlining a Novel


Writing a novel is a grand adventure, but it can also be a daunting journey into the unknown. One of the best tools at your disposal to navigate this vast literary landscape is a well-structured outline. An outline serves as your roadmap, guiding you through the twists and turns of your story, keeping you on course toward your destination: a completed novel. In this article, we'll explore the steps to create an effective novel outline.

1. Start with Your Concept Before diving into the nitty-gritty of outlining, you need a clear concept for your novel. Ask yourself: What's the story you want to tell? What's the central idea, theme, or message? Define your protagonist, antagonist, and the world they inhabit. The clearer your concept, the easier outlining becomes.

2. Decide on Your Outline Format Outlines come in various formats, and you should choose one that suits your style and the complexity of your story. Common formats include:


  • Linear Outline: A straightforward, chronological list of scenes and chapters.

  • Storyboarding: Visual representations of scenes or chapters on cards or a digital platform.

  • Mind Mapping: A visual diagram linking key story elements.

  • Character-Driven: Focusing on character arcs and development.

  • Three-Act Structure: Divides the story into three acts with distinct plot points.


Choose the format that aligns with your storytelling preferences.

3. Create Main Plot Points Begin your outline by defining the major plot points that will drive your story. These typically include:


  • Inciting Incident: The event that disrupts the protagonist's ordinary world.

  • First Plot Point: A significant event that sets the protagonist on their journey.

  • Midpoint: A turning point that deepens the conflict or reveals new information.

  • Climax: The story's highest point of tension.

  • Resolution: How loose ends are tied up and the story concludes.


4. Develop Subplots Subplots add depth and complexity to your novel. Create subplots that complement the main story and characters. They can involve secondary characters, explore themes, or provide moments of relief from the main plot's tension.

5. Outline Chapters or Scenes Break your story into chapters or scenes, and outline each one. Include key events, character development, conflicts, and any important dialogue or settings. A well-detailed outline minimizes writer's block and helps you stay on track.

6. Character Profiles For major characters, create profiles outlining their backgrounds, motivations, and arcs. This will help maintain consistency and ensure characters evolve naturally.

7. Be Flexible While outlines provide structure, allow room for flexibility. Your story may take unexpected turns as you write. Embrace these surprises if they enhance the narrative.

8. Revise Your Outline As you write, revisit and revise your outline. Sometimes, the story evolves in unexpected ways. Update your outline to reflect these changes and maintain consistency.

9. Stay Organized Keep your outline organized and accessible. Digital tools like Scrivener, Evernote, or even a simple document can help you manage your outline effectively.

10. Trust the Process Lastly, trust the outlining process. It's a powerful tool to help you stay focused and motivated throughout your novel-writing journey.

In conclusion, outlining a novel is a critical step in the writing process. It provides structure, helps you stay organized, and guides you toward your goal of completing a compelling story. Remember that there's no one-size-fits-all approach to outlining, so adapt these steps to suit your unique writing style. With a solid outline as your roadmap, you'll be well-prepared to embark on your novel-writing adventure.


If you found this article useful, check out this article on how to create compelling characters. Click Here.

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