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My Novel Outline Strategy

Before I start a novel, I outline it. But my outline is not a static, writ in stone document. I create it in GoogleDocs and I try and make sure it has a beginning, middle and end. All the dramatic points are there and the resolution. I break it down by chapter only. I usually wind up with a fairly good overview of what I want to accomplish. But that is just a guideline. When the writing starts, the outline begins to morph.

Each chapter gets broken down into scenes. The scenes build on each other and carry the plot forward. Each chapter is a collection of scenes that build on each other or are somehow related. Chapter breaks usually are for the reader to take a breath. I try and end them so that the reader won’t take a breath.

As I write, the outline gets filled in and starts to change. Some chapters are moved around, others are changed completely. Every chapter I complete, I go back and fill in the scenes under the chapter outline. So I always have a current outline of the whole novel at hand. This is good for spotting pacing and keeping track of subplots. It’s a lot easier to glance at an outline than to try and read through several chapters to see what happened earlier in the story.

Here is how I header the outline:

CHAPTER | CW(completed) | ACTION | WORD COUNT | POV (Point Of View) | PLOT/SUBPLOT

I keep the line spacing at 15 and make the chapter headers double that size and bold. Here is a picture showing part of the Starforgers outline. This is Chapter 15. It has a bunch of boring stuff happening, so that’s why it’s short at 2K words. Usually a chapter runs around 3-4K words.

The thing to remember is that the outline really is a living document. It changes every time I write a new chapter. So keeping a copy of what it looked like before you started writing, is advised. What you wind up with in the end is pretty much a synopsis of what you wrote. So writing a synopsis becomes much easier. I don’t worry about spelling or sentence structure in the outline. No time to waste on those things. Just get the action down and readable enough so you can keep from getting lost.








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