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How to Outline Your Novel (Ten Simple Steps Guide)?


How to Outline Your Novel (Ten Simple Steps Guide)?

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Writing a novel can be an exciting and fulfilling endeavor, but it can also be overwhelming without a clear plan. An outline is essential for organizing your thoughts and ensuring a cohesive storyline. A system provides structure, helps you stay focused, and guides you through writing. In this article, we will guide you through ten simple steps to outline your novel effectively.

Importance of Outline Your Novel?

A detailed outline is better than a vague one. The more you know about your story, the easier it will be to write it. But don’t worry about writing down every detail of your story. You can always add or change things if they don’t work or if a better idea comes up. The purpose of outlining is not to create a perfect plan for what will happen in every chapter of your novel but to give you some ideas on where you want your story to go and how you’ll get there.

Step 1: Define Your Story Idea

The story idea is the conceptual foundation of your novel. It is the seed that will grow into your book. The story idea is what you want to write about and how you want to tell it. The story idea can be anything from a simple concept like “a boy who wants to go to outer space” to a complex idea like “a woman who struggles with her identity after being abducted by aliens and left for dead on an uninhabited planet.”

In general, you should be able to describe your idea in one sentence or less. You should also have a clear picture of what happens in each chapter of your book and how it relates to the overall plot arc (the main conflict).

Step 2: Identify Your Main Characters

This step is essential because the main characters will be the ones driving the plot of your story. If you don’t know who they are, how can you expect to write a story about them?

There are two types of main characters: heroes and villains. Heroes are generally easy to identify because they’re the ones who do good deeds for others and always try to help people out. Villains do bad things for their selfish benefit or just because they enjoy causing trouble for other people.

The easiest way to figure out what kind of character you want is by looking at yourself and asking, “What would I do if I were in that situation?” If you say, “I would help them,” your main character probably needs to be a hero. If you say, “I’d probably just walk away,” then it’s more likely that your main character will be a villain.

Step 3: Create a Plot Summary

Creating a plot summary is the third step in outlining your novel. This is where you take all the ideas that you have and put them into one single document. The plot summary will tell you what happens in each chapter and how it fits together.

You can do this by either writing it out or using software such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs to write it for you. You can also use a mind map tool like MindMeister or a concept mapping tool like Coggle.

Here are some tips for creating a plot summary:

  • List every major event in your book, including scenes, subplots, and twists.
  • Make sure each event has a unique purpose; don’t just list events because they happen chronologically in the story—list only those important to the plot or character arcs.
  • For each event, describe its effect on the main character(s) and the secondary characters (if any).

Step 4: Develop Your Setting

The setting is the place where your story takes place. Choosing a location that fits the type of story you want to tell is important. For example, if you’re writing a romance novel, you might not want to set it in New York City because it’s too big and busy for your characters to run into each other.

You should also consider how the setting affects your plot and characters. If you’re writing a murder mystery, for example, you’ll probably want to set it in an isolated location where few people are around. So there’s less chance of someone overhearing what your killer is saying!

When choosing a setting for your novel, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this location relevant to my story?
  • What kind of atmosphere does this create?
  • Why would my characters choose this location?

Step 5: Establish Your Story Structure

The next step in outlining your novel is to determine the structure of your story. This involves figuring out how many scenes you want in your book and how they will be organized.

You can choose one of two main types of narrative structures for your novel: linear or nonlinear.

Linear Structure

A linear structure means a beginning, middle, and end. The events happen chronologically, with one event leading naturally into another (as opposed to a nonlinear system with no connections between events).

Nonlinear Structure

A nonlinear structure does not have a clear beginning, middle, or end and does not follow chronology. The events are disconnected and may happen randomly during the story.

Step 6: Outline Your Chapters or Acts

Now that you’ve got a general idea of how your story will flow, it’s time to get a little more detailed. You need to know what happens in each chapter and how the chapters fit together to write a solid outline.

The first thing to do is outline by chapters or acts. Both approaches have pros and cons, but I prefer outlines broken down by actions. I find it easier to see how each scene fits in with the overall story this way, and it helps me create more dynamic plot points along the way.

Step 7: Outline Each Scene

The scenes in your novel will be the individual units of movement, conflict, and resolution. The stages in your outline should reflect these elements. Each set should be broken down into its three-act structure:


What happens before the scene? Why is it important? What is the main character’s motivation?


 What are the obstacles (internal or external) prevent the main character from achieving their goal?


 How does the scene end? Do we find out what happens to the main character after this scene? Does this scene resolve one of their goals?

Step 8: Fill in the Details

In this step, you will fill in the details of your outline. You will write one sentence for each plot point and the scene in each act. This is where you will flesh out your story.

  1. Look at your scenes and determine what needs to happen in each one. Make sure that everything moves forward in the story, no matter how small, so nothing feels like filler or unnecessary information (this is called “sequencing”).
  1. Write down a one-sentence description for each scene in the act that it belongs to.
  1. Ensure that the scenes match the plot points from step seven; if they don’t, change them so they do!
  1. Go through each activity and ensure that every scene matches its corresponding plot point from step seven; if it doesn’t, change it so it does!

Step 9: Review and Revise Outline Your Novel

Once you’ve created your outline, don’t just throw it in the bottom drawer to gather dust. Keep it handy, and refer to it often.

You should also revise it as you write. Once you start writing, nothing is set in stone, so don’t be afraid to change things around. If something isn’t working, fix it before you get too far down the road. There are many writing services or ebook writing services to help refine and outline your novel.

Your outline will become more accurate as you write, but there’s no reason to revise it until your novel is finished. Revise it often so that when you complete your book, you know what needs fixing and how best to fix it.

Step 10: Start Writing!

You’re ready to write now. You have a plan, you know your characters, and you know the story.

The hardest part is over, but it will still be tough. If you haven’t already started writing at some point before this step, I strongly recommend that you do so now. The reason is simple: If you start writing before outlining your novel when you get stuck in the middle of a scene or chapter (and inevitably you will), there will be no roadmap as to where to go next.

How long should it take? As long as it takes. Some book writers think they can write a novel in one sitting (ahem) — but that rarely happens unless they have an outline like this one that tells them exactly what needs to happen next and when!

But don’t worry about timelines or word counts yet — just start writing!


Outlining your novel is a crucial step in the writing process. It provides a roadmap, helps you stay organized, and ensures a coherent and engaging story. Following the ten simple steps in this guide, you can create a solid outline to guide you through the writing journey. So, grab your pen or open your favorite writing software and start outlining your novel today!

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