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I’ll be the first to admit it:
I hate outlining.
Sure it can be fun, and it’s definitely a great way to organize your ideas if you have billions of them-
But if you only have a few great ideas, and know you can fill in the rest as you go?
You’ll never finish the book if you start with the outline. There, I said it… Sorry.
This is how it will play out:
1. Be really excited you’re about to write the best novel ever.
2. Write awesome detail-filled scene notes for eh, four or so chapters.
3. Run out of ideas, let alone details.
4. Have no idea how your story is going to end (or begin).
5. Get really frustrated with yourself and your stupid story that you shouldn’t even write anyway because it’s stupid garbage doo-doo.
6. Decide you’re never writing again and wonder how large of a cardboard box you’ll need to fit your family.
7. Never write a book.
1. Quick outline so you know what your story is about.
2. Write a book.
Hmm? Which to choose?
I’m not saying people who love to outline are terrible people. They’re probably not.
And to be fair, some books probably need more outlining than others.
When I wrote my first book I used a very rough outline that put my characters somewhere new in every chapter.
All I had to do was figure out creative ways to get them there. That can be applied to every story, even if the “place” is actually a major point in their personal journey, relationship, disease progression, whatever your story is about.
In my second book, my original outline only consisted of five words, the five major plot points I would need to address, perfectly spaced out through the progression of the book. I had so much inspiration from the first story I didn’t worry about writer’s block or plot holes at all.
When I wrote the third installment of my Travelers of the Mainland series, however, I had so many great ideas from the first two books I knew I had to make an outline so that I wouldn’t leave anything out.
Today I’ll be showing you the 15 chapter outline I’ve used for all my novels with great results.
First, decide how your story will begin and end, and what the most exciting event will be. Also decide what length of time the story will cover (One year, a day, a school year, etc.).
If you don’t at least have a beginning, middle, and end you may want to do a little more Brainstorming so that you don’t end up in the cycle of defeat stealing carpet samples to decorate your box.
But if that is all that’s keeping you from writing? Don’t let me stop you. Write now and work out the rest of your outline later. A good writing stretch will do wonders for getting your inspiration going.
All right, here it is:
My 15 Chapter Outline
Part One: Intro
Introduce all the major players, show event that changes their lives.
Chapter One: Introduction
Usually a day-in-the-life snapshot of your character. What is life normally like at the start of the story?
Introduce your main characters and setting. Also, introduce the antagonist or at least hint at them.
Chapter Two: Call to Action
…and that’s when it started raining meatballs! Or whatever.
A major change in characters life that will cause them to do whatever crazy things they’ll be doing the rest of the story.
Chapter Three: Point of no return
This is when your character will be thrust into their new world, their new reality and you give your readers the first real taste of the darkness that hides in your story.
Something happens to keep your characters from going back to ‘life as usual’, also you should have a decent introduction for the antagonist by now if you haven’t already.
Part Two: The Mystery
What is this strange, new world? Who are these people?
Chapter Four: New Reality
Now that your characters can’t go back to life as before, what will they have to do? Where are they trying to get to or what are they trying to achieve?
What is life like for your characters in this new reality? What will they have to do to get back to life as before? (If that’s their goal)
Chapter Five: New Friends
Who does your character meet in their new world? These are the people who will help them out later.
Introduce new characters, skills, and resources that will support your character through the rest of your story.
Chapter Six: Major Event
Oh no! What’s going on? This character your readers are falling in love with has some crazy stuff going on in their lives right now…
Put a major plot reveal, twist, or hint in this chapter. But be sure it’s not the most exciting one though.
Part Three: The Action
This is where your best action scenes should be, also should be the mid-point of your timeline.
Chapter Seven: Build Up
Things are happening. Tension is building, you’re preparing your readers for the most exciting part of your book.
Reaction to the first event or reveal, build up of tension, hint at upcoming explosive events.
Chapter Eight: High-Action Event
This is where we put our wars, people.
This should be where you put your most explosive event. Something your characters will be reacting and adjusting to the next few chapters.
Chapter Nine: Simmer- down.
Wow. That was incredible. I don’t think life will ever be the same after _____.
Try to be nice to your readers in this chapter, especially if they are in mourning from Chapter Eight still. Show them their favorite characters still have hope and will (maybe) be alright.
Part Four: The Conflict
This is when your character will decide they are dedicated to complete their quest despite the crazy thing(s) that have happened to them.
Chapter Ten: Encouragement to complete the quest
Despite all odds, they’re committed to seeing things through.
Introduce or hint at a person or resource that would really help your character out right now.
Chapter Eleven: Major Event/ Lose Everything
Oh no, now something even worse has happened, and your character no longer has the one thing that’s been keeping them going this whole time.
You can be mean to your readers again in Chapter Eleven. Try to make them cry.
Chapter Twelve: Major Twist
Maybe that traumatic event was too horrible for your character to recover from, maybe it’s turned them evil! Evil I say! (Insane laugh here)
Put your best twist here (unless you need it for the end then use your second-best twist).
Part Five: Conclusion
You’re almost done! You are going to be an author! Yay, you!
Chapter Thirteen: Tie all storylines together
What? I did not see that coming. A and B are connected??
Find a way to smoothly bring all your characters, and subplots together, proving to your readers you did, in fact, know what you were doing the whole time!
Chapter Fourteen: Resolution between Protagonist and Antagonist
The final battle.
This is when your good guy beats your bad guy. Make sure all your plot lines have been addressed and questions answered.
Chapter Fifteen: Conclusion
Do they live happily ever after? Do they make it back home? What will their everyday life be like now? Make your readers really happy here so that they’ll buy more of your awesome books.
Deliver your character to their new life, conclude all storylines, show readers glimpse of what your characters are like after their journey. If you are writing a series, hint at what the next book will be about.
You see what we did there?
We just outlined a novel, and it wasn’t even that bad!
Do you outline your novels? Or prefer to dive in? Shout out your preference in the comments below!