Friday, May 4, 2012

Novel Outline Tool

Outline…I need to do an outline for the novel.  How can I write a novel from the story idea in my head and make sure I answer all the questions, resolve all the situations, assure each character is as strong as they need to be, etc., etc., etc.?

Outlining a novel is a tool, a necessary tool (in my opinion) to writing a full length novel.  Each writer needs to find the outlining tool that works for them.  What I use may seem too simple or too convoluted for another writer.

I took the concept of this tool from J.K. Rowling.  It is the same tool she used for the
Harry Potter books.  It works like my mind works…fluid with some structure.  Confused?  Best way to keep you from being too confused is to stop talking about it and just show you.  Below is a picture of J.K. Rowling’s outline from one of her books.

(Click on picture to enlarge)

See the arrows where she has realigned some of the outline.  Places where she crossed things out.  Fluid.  Changeable.  Something I can work with and that makes sense to me.

Shown below is part of the outline for one of my novels.  This was the first cut at this outline and it has substantially grown and changed since.
(Click on picture to enlarge)

You can get a copy of this Novel Outline Tool and some other great outlining tools at Fountain Blue Publishing.  They offer a FREE DOWNLOAD of these tools and the tools are in usable formats!

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Thanks for reading.

Brooke Ryter


  1. Wow. I'm overwhelmed by the outline. I have to hand it to you. Writing a novel is much more difficult than writing a children's book. So many P.O.V. and subplots to deal with. Best wishes on your novel! (fellow MNINBer)

  2. Clarify please. The Outline will change as the story evolves? Do you start out knowing how many chapters the books will need? I've noticed that some writers use the designation "chapter" for what I would call scenes. They start a new chapter every 3 or 4 pages. That would make knowing ahead of time exactly how many chapters the books would have difficult. Do you have a formula for when you change chapters?

    1. What I start out with is the story outline; a skeleton of what the story will become. I have a character list and each character has a defined personality. I begin the Novel Outline using the thought process of a timeline. The character named Sophie isn't introduced until after Fred breaks up with Heather...the Outline then will show at what point to introduce Sophie and what other characters are doing and how are they all interacting. As the story evolves, I may find that introducing Sophie during the last few weeks of Fred and Heather's relationship works better, so I move Sophie on the Outline. I do not start out knowing how many chapters; yes, scenes; the book will have. I have a rule...I will write as many words into as many chapters as it takes to tell the story.

      Hope this helps.

  3. Thank you for posting this! I know you blogged this a year ago, but it's still super helpful. :)