There are several ways to outline a novel. Some writers already have the story in their head and don’t need to do a formal outline. Others like to create a formal plan. For those of you who map out your story before tackling the writing part, here are some ways you can do it.
It helps to start with a plot structure. There are several different plot structures to choose from.
The 3-Act Structure
The Heroe’s Journey
The Fichtean Curve
In Medias Res
7-Point Story Structure
The Plot Dot
Do your research to determine which structure is best for your story. I prefer the Plot Dot method. You can google it or read my blog post about it here – The Plot Dot
Using a plot structure doesn’t mean you can’t add subplots or deviate a little from the hard outline. Doing a basic outline using a plot structure helps you get the essential parts of your novel in order.
If you’re like me and want more detail, start with the plot structure then add chapters to each plot point. The number of chapters for each plot point can vary. You generally want to reach the inciting incident quickly, but the number of chapters leading to the final battle can be many.
I sometimes use notecards to outline my novel. I use white notecards for the main story and colored notecards for the subplots. Notecards help make it easier to switch, add, or delete scenes (but then again, so do the cut and paste options on digital documents).
A storyboard can help you visualize your novel. You can also find storyboard worksheets online. These worksheets can help you establish the setting and characters for each scene, as well as the events that take place.
There are also some great online writing tools and apps that can help you outline your novel. I’ve heard a lot about Scrivener. I’ve also heard about Trello and XMind. Googling “tools to help you outline your novel” can help you find more. Some are free and some you have to pay for.
Don’t get too caught up in creating an outline. Your outline is a guide to help you stay on your main path. An outline that’s too detailed might limit your creativity. Create an outline for your novel but stay flexible.
Are you a pantser or a planner? Do you know of any other plot structures to use for wring a novel? How do you outline your novel? I’d love to hear from you.