There are so many different ways to outline your novel and everyone takes a different approach to the task. Outlining can be daunting to some while some writers look forward to the process. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to tell which method you should use on your particular novel. Here are 5 outlining methods for novels.
Also known as the traditional method of outlining, brainstorming allows you to sit and really think about what’s going to happen in your novel. You can divide your novel into sections and decide what will happen when. It will help organize the structure of your novel. You can use index cards, notebook paper, or post-it notes to work out each chapter or scene or however you decide to divide it up.
From there, you can either begin writing your first draft or move onto a different outlining method.
This is exactly what it sounds like. Summarize your novel. Give your novel that blurb you find on the back of books. Who are the characters and what are their goals? What’s the big idea of the story? This will give you the big picture of your novel. You can use this as an outline alone or tag it onto a different outline method.
I did not make up the name to this method but I wish I did. This is another summarizing outlining method but instead of the novel as a whole, it’s each individual chapter. Get a notebook and start with chapter one (or the prologue) and write a summary about what will happen, characters who will be introduced, any conflicts that will be shared, and all the more. Then move onto chapter two and keep going until the whole novel is done.
I personally love this method because I don’t usually get stuck. As I write the summary to one chapter I get ideas for what could happen in later chapters. I take notes and then work them all in. This method doesn’t always stick though, like more outlines. It’s just a guideline and there’s plenty of room to change and grow as you write the first draft.
This one is more or less the same as the flashlight method except you’re working with scenes rather than summarizing whole chapters (or the whole novel). The may be a little more work than summarizing each chapter. Multiple scenes can happen in one chapter and this narrows things down a bit more.
List or Bullet Points
Sometimes I feel like it’s easier just to make a list. I’m not even sure if this is a “legit” method with a cool name, but I do it a lot and it works for me.
I’ll divide the novel up into the parts that make it up – characters, plot points, locations, etc. For my mystery novels this also includes evidence, clues, witness statements, and the like. For characters especially, I’ll make a list of their names and basic information. I might also write a little blurb about what they contribute to the plot and story as a whole. This lays everything out for me and makes it easier when I write and I need to look up how I spelled a certain name or something.