Learn how to effectively outline your novel and take your writing to the next level with these expert tips and techniques

How to outline a novel

If you’re an aspiring writer or author, outlining your novel is an essential part of the writing process. Having a clear outline can help you develop your ideas, create a sense of structure, and ensure that your plot and characters are well-developed. In this article, we’ll teach you how to outline a novel step by step, using a method that works for many writers. Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, outlining can help you stay organized and focused while you write.

When should you start outlining your novel? Some people like to outline before they start writing the first draft, while others prefer to outline after they’ve written a few chapters. There’s no right or wrong answer – it depends on your workflow and what works best for you. If you love to plan and have a clear sense of your story’s structure from the start, outlining before you start writing may be the way to go. On the other hand, if you’re a more creative, free-flowing writer who likes to discover the story as you go, you may find it helpful to outline after you’ve written a few chapters.

One popular method for outlining a novel is to use index cards. You can write a brief summary of each chapter on a separate card, and then shuffle and rearrange the cards until you’re happy with the order of your story. This method allows you to easily see the big picture of your novel and make changes as needed. If you prefer a digital approach, there are also outlining tools like Workflowy that allow you to create a chapter-by-chapter outline online.

Here’s an example of how you might outline your novel using index cards:

Chapter 1: Introduce main character and their goal.

Chapter 2: Main character faces their first obstacle.

Chapter 3: Main character meets a potential love interest.

Chapter 4: Main character’s goal is in jeopardy.

Chapter 5: Main character finds a clue that will help them solve their problem.

Chapter 6: Main character confronts the antagonist.

This is just a basic example – your outline can be as detailed or as sparse as you like. The main point is to have a roadmap for your story that you can refer to as you write.

Outlining your novel can also help you vet your ideas and ensure that your plot is logical and engaging. As you outline, you may discover plot holes or inconsistencies that you can fix before you start writing. This can save you a lot of time and frustration later on.

While outlining is a valuable tool, it’s important to remember that it’s just one part of the writing process. If you find that you’re getting stuck or feeling uninspired with your outline, it’s okay to deviate from it. Your outline is meant to guide you, not restrict you. Trust your gut and let your creativity flow.

In conclusion, outlining your novel can be a helpful step in the writing process. It can help you organize your ideas, develop your plot and characters, and ensure that your story has a clear and logical structure. Whether you prefer to outline before you start writing or after you’ve written a few chapters, finding a method that works for you is key. So grab your index cards or open up Workflowy, and start outlining your next novel!

How to Outline a Novel: 60 Index Cards Method

If you’re a writer, you know that outlining your novel can be an essential part of the writing process. It helps you organize your thoughts, develop your ideas, and plot out your story. In this article, we’ll share a method using index cards that can help you outline your novel in a structured and effective way.

The 60 index cards method is a popular approach used by many authors. It not only helps you outline your novel but also teaches you more about your story and helps you get a sense of the overall structure. This method works well for both plotters who like to plan everything in advance and pantsers who prefer to let their creativity guide them along the way.

Here’s how you can use the 60 index cards method to outline your novel:

  1. Step 1: Get ready – Before you start outlining, make sure you have 60 index cards and a pen or pencil ready. You can also download index cards templates from online sources, if you prefer using digital tools.
  2. Step 2: Divide your novel into chapters – Take a moment to think about the general structure of your novel. Divide it into chapters so that each chapter represents a significant part of your story. For example, if you’re writing a novel about a year in someone’s life, each chapter could represent a different month.
  3. Step 3: Write down the main plot points – On each index card, write down the main plot points for each chapter. These plot points should represent the major events or developments in your story. For example, in a detective novel, one plot point could be the discovery of a new clue.
  4. Step 4: Add subplots and additional scenes – In addition to the main plot points, you can also use the index cards to jot down ideas for subplots and additional scenes. This will help you have a more holistic view of your story and ensure that all important elements are accounted for.
  5. Step 5: Analyze your outline – Once you have all the index cards filled out, take a step back and analyze your outline. Look for any gaps or inconsistencies in the plot and make sure everything flows smoothly. This is also a good time to vet your story with others and get feedback.
  6. Step 6: Make changes if needed – If you find any issues during the analysis, don’t be afraid to make changes. The outline is not set in stone, and you can always adjust it as you go. Remember, the goal is to have a solid roadmap for your novel.
  7. Step 7: Start writing! – Now that you have your outline ready, it’s time to start writing the first draft of your novel. Having a well-thought-out outline will help you stay focused and organized throughout the writing process.

Using the 60 index cards method can be a game-changer for any writer. It provides a structured framework for outlining novels and ensures that all essential elements are considered. By following these steps, you’ll have a solid foundation to develop your story and bring it to life.

As a bonus tip, some authors like to use tools like Workflowy to organize their index card ideas digitally. This can make it easier to move around and rearrange the cards as needed.

We hope you’ll give the 60 index cards method a try and see how it works for you. If you have any questions or need more guidance, feel free to reach out. Happy outlining and happy writing!

Outlining from Your Gut

When it comes to outlining a novel, there are many different approaches you can take. Some people like to plot out every detail before they start writing, while others prefer to let the story unfold organically. If you’re someone who falls into the latter category, outlining from your gut might be the method for you.

Outlining from your gut means developing a sense of the story and its structure without relying on a detailed outline. Instead, you rely on your intuition and creativity to guide you through the writing process.

To outline from your gut, start by asking yourself some key questions about your story. What is the central conflict? Where does it take place? What are the major plot points? Take note of these ideas, but don’t worry about organizing them into a structured outline just yet.

Next, start writing. Sit down and write the first chapter of your novel, using the ideas you’ve brainstormed. Let the story unfold naturally, allowing your gut to guide you as you go. Don’t worry about getting everything perfect on the first draft – this is just a starting point.

As you work on the first draft, keep a separate document or index card where you can jot down any additional ideas that come to you. These might be plot twists, character developments, or thematic elements. These bits and pieces will help you shape the story as you go.

After you’ve completed a few chapters, take a step back and do a structural analysis. Look at what you’ve written and think about how it all fits together. Are there any gaps or inconsistencies? Are there any areas that need more development?

Use this analysis to guide your writing process going forward. If you need to make changes, don’t be afraid to do so. Outlining from your gut means being flexible and open to letting the story evolve.

One bonus of outlining from your gut is that it allows you to learn more about your story and characters as you go. You might discover things about them that you didn’t initially plan, and that’s okay. Embrace these discoveries and let them shape your writing.

If you find that outlining from your gut is a method that works well for you, consider using a tool like Workflowy or index cards to help you stay organized. These tools can keep your ideas easily accessible and allow you to rearrange them as needed.

Whether you’re a new writer or a veteran author, outlining from your gut is a method that can help you develop a strong and compelling story. So take some time now to outline your novel from your gut, and see where it takes you!

In Part I You’ll Vet Your Story Idea…

In Part I You’ll Vet Your Story Idea…

In this first part of the novel outlining process, you’ll take the time to vet your story idea and see if it has the potential to become a full-fledged novel. It’s important to start with a strong idea that you love and are passionate about, as this will fuel your motivation throughout the writing process.

To vet your story idea, you can start by asking yourself some key questions. Does your idea have a clear plot? Is it unique and different from what’s already out there? Will it resonate with readers and offer something fresh and compelling? As an author, you need to have a sense that your story has the potential to grab people’s attention and keep them engaged.

Once you have vetted your idea, you can then start to develop it further. This is where outlining comes in. Outlines can take different forms, and you can choose the method that works best for you. Some people like to use index cards or a giant whiteboard, while others prefer to use software or online tools like Workflowy. Find a method that suits your workflow and helps you organize your thoughts efficiently.

When outlining your novel, it’s helpful to start with a broad overview of the story. Break it down into key plot points or chapters, and think about the structural elements that will hold your story together. From there, you can delve into each chapter or scene, adding more details and fleshing out the story bit by bit.

In this part, you’ll also learn about the 60 Beats Analysis, a method taught by author Dan Wells. This analysis breaks down a novel into 60 key scenes or “beats” that drive the plot forward. It’s a helpful tool for understanding the underlying structure of a story and ensuring that your plot has a good balance of suspense, conflict, and resolution.

As a bonus, you can download a free chapter-by-chapter outline template from my website to guide you through this process. It’s a great resource that will help you stay organized and focused while drafting your novel.

Remember, outlining is a creative process, and it’s not set in stone. While you may have a solid outline, it’s okay to deviate from it if your gut tells you that a change will make the story better. Trust your instincts as a writer and be open to new ideas and possibilities.

So, if you’re ready to start outlining your novel, get yourself a cup of coffee, find a cozy spot, and dive into Part I of the vetting process. By the end, you’ll have a clearer sense of your story and be one step closer to bringing it to life.

Download This Novel Plot Outline Example

If you’re ready to start outlining your novel and need some help getting started, you’ve come to the right place! Download this novel plot outline example and learn how to develop your story in a structured and organized way.

Outlining your novel is a crucial part of the writing process. It helps you map out the plot, identify key points and milestones, and ensure that your story flows smoothly. By creating a plot outline, you can have a clear sense of where your story is headed, which makes the writing process much easier.

In this novel plot outline example, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to help you outline your novel, chapter by chapter. You’ll also learn some creative methods that many authors use to outline their novels, such as using index cards or a software like Workflowy. Each part of the outline will take you through the process of outlining your novel, from the initial idea to the final draft.

This plot outline example is a bonus that you can download for free. Just click the link below and the outline will be sent to your email. It’s a great resource to have as you start outlining your own novel.

Download the Novel Plot Outline Example Now!

Download Now
  • Structural Analysis
  • Gut Sense Analysis
  • Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis
  • 60 Questions to Ask Yourself
  • Using Cards to Outline
  • And More!

Many writers, both new and seasoned, love using outlines to guide their writing process. Outlines help to organize thoughts and ideas, ensure that the story has a logical flow, and prevent getting stuck in the middle of the writing process. They are especially helpful if you’re writing a complex or multi-layered story.

So, if you’re ready to take your novel writing to the next level, download this novel plot outline example today. Whether you’re a vet writer or a newbie, this outline will provide you with the guidance you need to develop a compelling and well-structured novel. Get started now and share your success story with others!

Note: If you still need more help with outlining your novel, you can also check out some books on Amazon that teach different methods and approaches to outlining. They can provide even more insights and tips on how to outline effectively.

Are You Ready to Outline Your Novel? Now Get Workflowy Today

When it comes to writing novels, having a solid outline can make all the difference. It helps you organize your thoughts, develop your characters, and plot your story in a logical sequence. But where do you start?

If you’re ready to outline your novel, it’s time to get Workflowy today. Workflowy is a powerful online tool that allows you to create outlines and organize your ideas in a way that makes sense for you. It’s easy to use, intuitive, and perfect for writers who like to work in bits and pieces.

So, why Workflowy? First, it’s an excellent tool for outlining because it allows you to easily change the order of your ideas, add or delete items, and move things around. With Workflowy, you can vet your outlines and make sure they work before you start writing.

Second, Workflowy is a great resource for writers who need more ideas. The platform has a community of creative people from whom you can learn and get inspiration. You can also teach yourself new techniques and develop your own unique writing style.

One of the best features of Workflowy is its step-by-step process. It not only helps you outline your novel but also guides you through the writing process. For example, it teaches you how to analyze the structure of your story and break it down chapter-by-chapter.

Still not convinced? Workflowy also offers bonus materials. You can download a free copy of “The Novel Writer’s Index Cards” from Amazon. This book is full of practical tips and examples that will help you with your outlining process.

So, how does Workflowy work? It’s simple. First, you start with a general idea for your novel. Then, you break it down into smaller parts, like plot points or character arcs. From there, you can create sub-outlines for each part and fill in the details.

When outlining with Workflowy, it’s important to keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way to do it. Some people like to start with a detailed outline, while others prefer a more loose approach. Workflowy accommodates both styles.

If you’re a gut writer, Workflowy can help you get started by providing a basic structure for your novel. You can then fill in the details and let your creativity flow. If you’re a more structured writer, Workflowy can be your best friend, giving you a roadmap to follow.

Whether you’re a seasoned writer or just starting out, Workflowy will be a valuable tool in your creative process. It offers a simple and intuitive way to outline your novel, providing you with the organization and structure you need to bring your ideas to life.

So, if you’re ready to take your writing to the next level, get Workflowy today and start outlining your novel like a pro!


Brandon Sanderson’s 9 Step Outlining Method

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