How To Identify The Right Way To Outline Your Novel

Many of my clients tend to struggle with outlining their novel.  They have a great idea, but have issues organizing their thoughts into a cohesive story.

The good news is there are no one-size-fit-all solutions for a novel outline.

Think of it as a way of cleaning your house — everyone organizes differently.

So if you’ve had trouble outlining novels in the past, you may be dealing with a classic case of  ‘square peg meets round hole’.  Trust that there’s a story outline for every writer: it’s just a question of finding the right one to fit your mindset, personality, and writing style.

Here we list a few ways that you can plan a work.


Mind Map
A visual approach to outlining that shows the spatial relationships between your plot points, characters, themes, conflicts, chapters — you name it.

A holistic story outline that gives a brief overview of the story’s plot, characters, conflicts, and themes in a two- to three-page paper.

The Beat Sheet
Documents the beats of the story in shorthand. Each individual ‘beat’ gets a bullet (or a number). Examples of beat sheets are here and here.

The Skeleton
Constructs the spine of the novel, or the key plot points. Imagine a roadmap with only big-name destinations marked in red — the road to get there is up to you.

Characters First
A character-led novel outline. Prioritizes character development, character arcs, and character beats over planning of the plot.

Scenes and Sequences
Details all the scenes and sequences — in other words, the large set pieces of the novel.

When you have an idea of the novel outline that you want to produce, it’s easier to get busy and execute it.

Post any questions below!

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