3 More Outlining Methods That Help Your Novel Along

Yesterday we touched upon four outlining methods for your novel. I decided to split the post up because there are three more ways to outline.

These are the ways I outline my own novel.



This method is pretty straight forward. You write a basic synopsis for your novel. Play around with various summaries for your story.

Write a one-sentence summary. Write a paragraph summary. Write a whole page summarizing the novel.

Summarizing gives you a good idea about what you want the point of the story to be and allow you to think about how you want to get there.

Of course, it’s sometimes easier to write a summary for your story after you’ve finished the novel. So take this one as you will.

How I use this method:

Similar to the free writing from yesterday’s post, I tend to babble out the beginning, middle, and end of my story. I actually haven’t used this method in a long time, but I used to find it helpful because it allowed me to figure out how to get from point A to point B.

Flashlight Outline

This one is pretty similar to summarizing your novel. Flashlight outline is summarizing each chapter. “In chapter one, this will happen. In chapter two, that will happen.”

You summarize each chapter without the minor details and description. This one is great so you don’t end a chapter and have to ask, “now what?” You know what you want to accomplish in each chapter and you know how to get from one idea to the next.

How I use this method:

The flashlight method is something I’ve always used, even way back when I first started writing fan fiction. And I just found out that this method has an actual name!

I use this method now before I begin any novel writing. I write a summary of each chapter, some being a paragraph long, others being a page or two depending on my thought process that day. It helps me to know what’s going to happen next and why it happens. Do I always follow it? No, but it’s a good guideline.

Scene Map

Instead of planning out each chapter, plan out each scene. It seems like a little more work, but you get a little more out of it over the chapter summary. More detail is added and you can figure out what you want to happen when. It’s easier to move around a scene from one chapter to the next rather than reworking an entire chapter.

How I use this method:

In addition to the flashlight method, I currently use the scene map. I used to do the scene map before I began writing, but now I outline a bit different.

I flashlight before writing and I use the scene map during my writing. I outline first and then outline a little deeper as I write the story.

The scene map helps me know what I wrote and when (I include the page numbers). This helps me refer back if I forget something so I don’t have to go scrolling through pages upon pages of text. It’s always easier to move scenes around in the editing process.

I use sticky notes in a notebook so they’re easy to pick up and rearrange if need be. I also have a back page dedicated to “deleted scenes.”

I think this method, along with the flashlight, is the way to go. It is for me, anyway.

Do you use any of these methods? Or do you outline in a different way? Or not at all? Let me know in the comments below!

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28 thoughts on “3 More Outlining Methods That Help Your Novel Along

  1. I am not sure which one it falls under. I always make a few notes before I quite a season for the day. Sometimes I write the ending first and then fill in the blanks between the start and finish. I am more a fly by the seat of my pants type of writer.

  2. Reblogged this on Wind Eggs and commented:
    I love to stress outlining on my blog because in my experience writers have an easier time and do better work when they prepare in advance. This is why I wanted to refer you to Rachel Poli’s posts. The more options you become aware of, the more flexibility you have.

    I use a number of different methods, including simple brainstorming, where I write down ideas for a story and then organize them later. I combine methods and sometimes write from a partial outline and then develop the outline further as I’m writing.

    (I’m including the link to Rachel’s second installment because it links back to the first. This gives you access to both parts.)

  3. Thinking in terms of scenes rather than chapters works for me. I guess I use a combination of methods, but mostly summary and scene map. Some scenes can be quite compelling in the mind, and therefore easy to write. This can lead to a bunch of vivid scenes with nothing to stick them together into a story arc. So an outline, however created, acts like a framework.

    • I find the scenes easier to work with as well. Chapters can range from a different amount of scenes while if you look at each scene individually it’s like you’re zeroing in on it.

  4. I *just* wrote a post about how I don’t outline (well, I implied it with all my “pantsing”) but did wonder if it that might hinder the progress of my WIPs. I’m bookmarking this. And it has a handy link to your last four so…bonus. 🙂 Thanks.

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