How to Outline a Novel in 6 Steps: Your Complete Guide
Dude has done his research on story structure. But this one? I was able to connect the dots from beginning to the complete end. I had to study it for a week straight before I finally was able to really understand how to use this story structure completely. I have been looking for a plot structure like this for a long time! It cut out most of all the nonsense that the other outlines be giving. You should also check out the free videos that walk you through the basics, over on www.
You can paste it into the word processor of your choice. Show flaw and lack. Want, Problem, Need. Major setback. Reveals dissatisfaction with ordinary. Introduce all main characters. Frustration and doubt. Trials and challenges. Promise of premise. Fun and games. Begrudging acceptance. Demanding answers. In or out? Victim to Warrior. Stakes are raised. Guilt and anger. What they want is unattainable. Vulnerable share, inclusion. All hope is lost. Confront fatal flaw. Remove glass shard.
Innocents saved. Death of former self. Acknowledgment ceremony. Optional: Hints of future challenges or antagonist lives. Happy writing! I wrote a free book with all my best book launch and marketing tips - if your book isn't selling and you're not sure why, this will definitely boost your sales.
There's even a free video series walking you through the 3 secrets, and a haunted castle tour. Totally free. Get it here. Related tweet About Derek Murphy Hey there! I'm a philosophy dropout and book cover designer with a PhD in Literature.
After spending a decade as a starving artist, I vowed to create the life of freedom my restless spirit demands. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write young adult fantasy novels and do a few editorial critiques to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles.
The One-Page Novel Plot Outline
Today she talks about her process, and generously shares the sheet she uses for plotting her psychological thrillers. One question that comes up regularly is: do you know what you will write before you write it? My answer is a resounding yes!
I am a plotter. I like to plan. Initially, I was reluctant to plan as I thought it would somehow crush my creativity. Rather, it is a balancing act. I have learnt that my psychological thrillers are multi-dimensional and complex. To maintain balance, I let my imagination run riot. But during the writing process, I keep track of different dimensions of my novel on a plotting sheet.
I have filled it with an example for illustration purposes. You can download it at the end of this article. The following sections of the plotting sheet help to build the big picture of the story I am writing: Complex novel structures — different ways of plotting or not plotting! Not everyone wants or needs to keep track of their plot. But if you are writing a complex structure with plenty of strands and depth of subtext, at some point you will need to know where your story is going — and where it has been.
Before I begin my novel, I take a blank plotting template and make columns for the dimensions of my story that will make up the world of my novel. Story Arc — plotting the main story : Sometimes I can use the plotting chart before I write to plot the beats or plot points of the main story. I might have a column for plot points I will populate initially with the initial ideas I have about the story, plotted against a three-act structure. This will give me an outline to work with, although I never feel that this is final, and I often change it as I write.
I plot this in the chapter number column. This is the mainstay of my novel, the people who will live in the novel world. I write their name and any details I need to know against the appropriate chapter.
I might even split this into separate scenes where various characters appear. When I have completed a first draft, I colour code the characters so I can see the character arc. Not only does plotting them allow you to situate your characters but also to make sure you have got your continuity right. If Anita has flown to Spain in one scene, then later she is in a bar in London, then you need to explain how that has happened.
Places also provide a backdrop for delicious description and an opportunity to add light and shade to your writing. Strands: Timelines — working with backstory and non-linear timelines If I am working with different timelines, I will have a column in my plotting chart for each timeline.
For example, in my latest novel my main character was narrating in the current time. I had a column for now and a column for and some characters populated both timelines. This was useful when looked back over the story. This can become confusing as the individual stories need to be roughly aligned time-wise, and invariably during the novel their stories will collide.
Plotting them allows an easy comparison of where they are in relation to each other. Subtext — plotting different story strands The subtext of a story is the most difficult to plot because it is often intangible and sometimes does not show itself fully until the end of the novel.
I like to leave a subtext column blank to fill in as I go along, or even retrospectively. What happens next… Psychological thrillers are both character and plot driven. It is essential that chapters and scenes are economical and contain events that move the story along. This is essential for me both when writing the first draft and on every edit afterwards. It helps me to avoid going off on a tangent and stops the characters wandering off on their own little sub-story. Bringing it all together — my plotting chart When I have finished the first draft I use my plotting charts as a tool to look over my novel — a kind of summary of who, where, what, when and how.
This forms the big picture of my novel. But it has been invaluable at the editing stage. My editor once sent me structural edits where a new character strand was needed. This meant removing a lot of backstory and adding a new voice — and ten thousand words!
It also meant that I had to change the remaining story to reflect this new character and their story. My plotting chart made this so much easier to do as it meant that I already had my story laid out in front of me with existing plot points for reference. I hope that my plotting chart is useful to you too — please adapt it to suit your own project.
Do you read or write psychological thrillers? Have you read The Perfect Ten? Do you believe in plotting or are you a pantser? Drop your questions and comments below—Jacqueline is giving away 3 signed copies of her book to randomly chosen commenters! She holds a PhD in narrative and storytelling which produced a new model in identity construction.
Jacqueline has worked with victims of domestic violence and families of missing people as well as heading a charity that deals with the safety and reliability of major hazards, and received an MBE for services to vulnerable people in This monthly event has brought smiles on the faces of a lot of participants and their audiences, and somewhat restored their faith in humanity.
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Mystery Novel Four-Act Structure Demystified
If the Midpoint was a false defeat, this section will generally be an upward path where things seem to get progressively better for the hero. After the Midpoint, the hero typically has either a new or modified goal to pursue throughout this beat. The hero should be worse off than at the start of the novel. The character arc is nearly complete. To do that we, show them enacting the plan they came up with in the Break Into 3. Bad guys are destroyed, flaws are conquered, lovers are reunited.
So, there you have it. The 15 beats or plot points that make up almost all successful stories EVER told! Everything you could ever want in a novel! Want examples of all these beats in action? Download my free Save the Cat! Starter Kit PDF which comes a handy, printable list of ALL of these 15 beats plus 3 full-length beat sheets or plot analysesshowing you how the beats appear in some popular bestselling novels.
And If you want to dive deeper into these 15 beats and the Save the Cat! The good guy might not be the model citizen, and the bad guy may have a justification and conviction for everything they do — at least in their mind.
How To Write A Suspense Novel
The rivalries between these opposing forces is what will give rise to the action that will propel your story forward, so you need to give each of your characters a clear motivation. Ask yourself: Why do they what they do? What is their ultimate goal? Does the protagonist need to save him or herself or somebody else? How do they react in the face of adversity?
Start with action The opening scene is a pivotal moment in any book. Oftentimes starting in medias res is a good way to accomplish this. He is eventually rescued by a fishing boat, and we find out that this survivor has amnesia.
At this point, the reader has virtually no information about the characters or the plot of the book before being launched into a life-threatening situation. Image: Universal Pictures 3. For example, in a domestic thriller, the stakes will be more character-specific.
Contrast this to a military or political thriller, where the consequences will probably be broader, affecting the fates of a group, country, or even the world. In this domestic thriller, the stakes are specific to the family. This will help heighten the stakes and make their eventual success much more satisfying for the readers. So, put your characters in jeopardy by having dangerous situations come at them from unexpected places!
In thrillers, this means that the antagonist will constantly put the protagonist in physical danger. If the protagonist goes to investigate the house of a kidnapped person to find clues the kidnappers might have left, then maybe there are a few traps and surprises at the house waiting for them. As the danger increases, and the protagonist gains more information about the problem, the tide shifts, and the right decision looms closer and closer — the real villain is visible on the horizon, the traitor in the ranks is becoming more and more desperate, which makes him easier to manipulate out of hiding.
All of that leads to the protagonist making the right decision. And once the protagonist starts acting upon that decision, it all comes to a head in the climax where explosions might be involvedwhich leads to the resolution of the story.
The world touches upon science fiction quite often, because the story might revolve around a new drug that hypnotizes people with specific effects, or a new type of technology that will enable the bad guys to gain political power, destabilize the current political system, or just enable them to cause chaos as a means of weakening a country or a city before staging an invasion and war.
Moreover, with the rise of technology in the real world, quite often, modern political thrillers include cyber-attacks and digital warfare. First, which organizations are involved, and which countries? This, of course, will depend on the political nature of the story, and whether the stakes are going to involve the world or just a single country or a single city.
Second, make sure that the technology you will use, whether in the form of a new drug or a new cyber attack or both, if a cyber attack on all cell phones in the country will result in hypnotizing a whole nation, for example is not magic but actual technology.
Moreover, the office of a mayor and the office of a president will feature different staff and function in different ways. An election campaign will run differently than a re-election one, and, on top of that, remember that you need to think of two different organizations with opposing goals — or the same goal, if the focus in the novel is actually on an election, where both sides would be aiming to win public support and win.
As such, make sure that even the locations in your novel make sense. For example, a president who is running a re-election campaign might have to travel to different places to make grand speeches, have debates with other candidates, and so forth. This is not something that you can just add or remove from your story — the election itself, as a framework for the plot, demands these events.
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Remember, nothing is set in stone, and the world and the political situation you will focus on are meant to serve, rather than hinder, the story.
Some writers have the whole story in mind and just write the first draft of the novel without any outlining whatsoever. These writers usually say that if they know everything that will happen, they lose the desire to discover the story as they write it. In other words, outlining the novel might hinder your excitement for writing it and hinder your process, and maybe even stop it altogether. However, for other writers, having an outline to follow makes it easier on them to not get lost in the story.
The good news is that there are many different ways to outline the plot. The bad news is that there are many ways to get lost in it too.
You can go for a surface level outline, where you just outline the chain of cause and effect that connects the story from beginning to end. Or, you can go for an outline that focuses more on the protagonist and other point of view characters, if you have them in the novel. This type of outline focuses also on the emotional development of the characters — more on that later — and here, you might get bogged down by details about the protagonist and his or her backstory.
Another way to go about it is to develop a very deep outline for every chapter, especially if your novel will feature chapters on the longer rather than the shorter end. In this case, focus on the fact that a scene is comprised of two things: action and reaction. What can happen in this part of the scene?
Well, the protagonist will either achieve the goal — but what he achieved does not really help in the overall problem. The protagonist might get answers — that only lead to more questions. The reaction part of the scene is the protagonist mulling over what happened, why it happened, and making a choice as to what to do next. It serves as the intro to the next scene, and it ties up the scenes in the link of cause and effect.
Here’s How Bestselling Author Jacqueline Ward Plots Her Psychological Thrillers
You can have as many scenes in a chapter as you need to tell that part of the story. Remember, every chapter has a beat, a point, an achievement that moves the story along into the next chapter.
Emotional development is when a character changes his or her views and principles during the course of the story. Some of these views can be major, and some of these can be minor changes that imply at a big inner change.
Remember, the protagonist is the one who needs to move the story forward. He or she will be the one making the major impactful decisions in the story.
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With proper emotional development, there will be a difference between where the protagonist was at the beginning of the novel, and at the end, and the major characters too.
Positive, negative, and flat arcs. By the end of the novel, the protagonist is put into situations that require bravery, confidence, and a large dose of courage, in order for the protagonist to succeed in overcoming his obstacles and achieving his goal.
By the end of the novel, the protagonist will have changed for the better. For example, if the protagonist trusts too much into an organization or a person, and that trust is shattered. By the end of the novel, the protagonist is disillusioned, disappointed, and he has gone from a positive basis to a negative one.
These beliefs and principles can be both negative and positive. Additionally, you need to make it personal for the protagonist, in terms of motivation. He or she needs to have a personal stake in the matter at hand, not just act out of a general altruism to save thousands of people. There needs to be a face among those people, someone the protagonist will care about. Because of that, a common mistake made in political thrillers is to introduce the highest stakes early on in the novel.
However, what happens after that? How do you increase the stakes, beyond planting a bomb that would result in massive loss of life? On the other hand, if the story begins with an event of a smaller scale, it creates a sense of foreboding without revealing the full stakes so early in the novel. It puts the protagonist in an uncertain situation — something is happening, yes, there is a problem that has to be solved, but there is very little information to go on.
Each beat of the novel from the introduction to the climax and the resolution has to have bigger stakes, both personal and for the community. Part 3: Editing and Publishing No one ever publishes a first draft — successfully, that is.
Because of that, all novels go through extensive editing before publication. Here, traditional publishing has the advantage, because publishing houses have professional editors on staff who work with the authors to create a very good novel. However, regardless of which way you will go about publishing your novel, you need to edit your novel on several fronts.
First, you need to edit it on a macro level: take a good look at your story as a whole, ignore all the spelling errors, and determine whether it works or not. Search for plot holes: if the protagonist could have come to the right decision at the beginning of the novel, then your plot falls apart and needs extensive rewriting.
Second, focus on the pacing: are you tiring the reader with extensive descriptions that do not belong, descriptions of mundane actions that do not really matter to the plot? For example: I needed to see Maria. So I went and grabbed my keys, put on my shoes, and was out the door in a moment.
I walked the three steps to my car, got in, and turned the ignition on. The engine rumbled and died. I turned the key again. The engine coughed a little bit and died again. I looked at myself in the rearview mirror; dark circles marred my eyes, and my face was pallid and sickly.
I blinked. I really did not have the time for this. Neither does the reader. Instead, consider: Deciding that I had to see Maria in person, I was in my car a moment later, trying to coax the engine into sparking.
The engine coughed and spluttered, but refused to start. Maria did not answer her door, even after I rang the doorbell five times… The first example is 20 words longer than the second one, yet, the second one actually has more action in it than the first hdpopcorn com. Third, focus on the length of your paragraphs and sentences.
Long sentences can be exhausting to read. They slow the pace down, and are a bad decision in action scenes as well.
Short sentences imply a quick action, quicker thinking from the protagonist, and read faster. Additionally, pay very close attention to flashbacks and dream sequences if you have any. Just like long sentences, flashbacks slow down the story because they take the readers away from the main story and into the past.