Three Basic Ways to Outline Your Novel

As a first-time novel writer, you might be wondering how to outline your novel. The question is where to start with the outline—should you work on your characters first or start with outlining your story? Before you start to write, should you create scene cards or work on every character’s profile? 

Another question that you might be thinking about a lot is about the length of your outline. 

Let us have a look at the first few steps that you should take to outline your story. 

Establish the Idea

When it comes to outlining your novel, you might want to start by establishing the idea of your story. Write down the story idea as soon as you get it. Then, write down every single thing that you can possibly imagine related to the story idea. 

When you sit down to write the story idea, you should know that it doesn’t need to be coherent. At the time, you will want to focus on getting everything out on paper before you forget about it, which means that you don’t have to worry about structure or theme.

At this point, you don’t have to worry about the character’s names, either. Initially, in its evolving period, the story idea will only be a vague, messy thought. When establishing the idea, the only thing that you will have is a brain dump, which is essentially all the messy ideas dumped together in no order. The idea here is that you will have something to work with. 

The essential benefit of writing down your idea is that it will benefit you later in a way that when you are in the phase of outlining, you won’t be staring at a blank canvas. 

Create a Rough Sketch

The next step that is a part of outlining the novel is creating a rough sketch. At the time you were establishing the idea, you were essentially brain-dumping everything around the idea on a page without following a proper order.

In the next stage of establishing a rough sketch, you want to find the story in the mess. This is also the stage where you will be exploring the main conflict that your characters will be facing in the novel or story. You will want to focus on the following areas:

  • Who – the characters
  • Why – the theme
  • What – the plot
  • How – the character’s journey

So, you will want to start by establishing a solid idea about who your characters are. You will also want to establish their internal conflicts, their fears, and their desires. More importantly, you will also want to establish why all respective characters have their own reasons to be in the story. 

The plot, which is also the what, is the basic foundation of your story. If you only had one sentence to tell someone what your story is about, you would want to think about how you would describe it. You will also want to establish the character’s journey and how all characters will learn through their internal and external journeys. It is important to mention here that through the journey, the characters will transform in some way. 

When making sense of the information dump that you did in the first stage, you will now want to establish the truth that you want to share with the readers through the themes of the story. You will want to address one area after another, as this will help you later when you work on your first draft. Of course, you will need to opt for one of the freelance proofreaders for hire, as a proofreader will be the last pair of fresh eyes who will be scrutinizing your manuscript to ensure that everything is as it should be before you send out your manuscript for publication. 

Create a Bullet Point Outline

At this point, you won’t have to worry about getting into the bigger details, but you will want to take that rough sketch that you made in your previous step and break it down into story points. By establishing a bullet point outline, you will get a better sense of your character arcs and how their internal conflict and subsequent transformative journeys synchronize with the basic timeline of your story.  

At this point, you might be confused about how to make a bullet point outline, but believe us when we tell you that it is essentially simpler than it actually sounds. You might want to follow the below-given order and only add a single sentence after the bullet points so that you know the main events. 

  • The hook
  • Inciting incident
  • 1st plot point
  • Pre-midpoint reactionary hero
  • Game-changing midpoint
  • Post-midpoint action hero
  • Dark moment/ disaster
  • Aha moment
  • Climatic confirmation
  • Resolution 

This bullet point outline will help you tremendously in organizing your messy idea dump and flushing out the extra things while creating a sharp and precise outline of all the aspects that you want to include in your story.

Make sure to include every compelling point in your outline. The best part about this sort of outline is that it is customizable, which means that you can even go a step further and proceed with the outlining process by getting deeper into each story event. 

Even if you succeed at establishing the primary outline, you can take the next steps and start drafting because you will already know that your outline is solid despite being short and precise. The point is that you don’t necessarily have to write a detailed outline, especially as a first-time writer, as a detailed outline might give you the impression that you have already written the entire book, and your thrill will be gone.

Outlining your book is absolutely crucial, as you can immensely benefit from the little bit of foresight that an outline can provide you. Once you have the outline down and you start editing the outline, you will be relieved and proud of yourself that you sat down and did the work to establish a really good structure and character arcs. 

By Admin

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