5 More Outlining Methods For Your Novel

Yesterday I listed five different outlining methods for your novel. Today, I have more.

5 More Outlining Methods for your novels | creative writing | novel outlines | novel prep | RachelPoli.com

Snowflake Method

This is also known as the expanding method. You begin with an idea and simple expand on it. It’s easier said than done, but if you have ideas, it’ll fill itself in.

I personally have never used this method but I know you can go about this one two different ways. You can start at the beginning and expand upon how the story starts – getting from point A to point B. Or you can start at the end and work your way backwards if you’re unsure how to get to the end. What events could lead to the end?


This is a slightly different kind of outline in which you don’t necessarily focus on the plot and the events leading to it, but the mechanics of the story. This means if you’re writing a story with magic in it, be sure to have your magic system worked out. This could also be different languages, cultures, and the like.


This is a popular outline for academic papers. I’m sure most, if not all, of you have heard of this and used it for essays in school. This is an outline that focuses on the core points of your plot. This includes the exposition, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. This outlines your plot in detail breaking it up into different sections.

Visual Map

This is a fun method. You can create charts, maps, or timelines. I love using a web diagram to write one idea in the middle and then expand around it, expanding on those other ideas in the process. I mostly use that kind of map for the setting and various locations.

I’ll write the main setting in the middle and then list all the places my characters go around it. I’ll write why they go to each location in their own bubbles as well. That’s the best way this kind of outline has worked for me; especially since setting is something I personally lack at when it comes to writing.

Free Writing

Writing the first draft can be a kind of outline. We all know the first drafts aren’t going to be published. They’re guidelines for the second draft and so on. However, as you write the first draft, it doesn’t hurt to keep a list of notes. Plot ideas, characters, and even notes for editing down the road. Even if you keep a list of scenes, it’ll be easier in the long run to keep track of. Sometimes writing the actual novel is the best outline because everything is already in place and all you need to do is just move things around and look at your notes.

Do you have any other methods? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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5 Outlining Methods For Novels

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.

5 Outlining Methods for novels | creative writing | outlining a novel | novel outlines | blogging | RachelPoli.com


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.

The Synopsis

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.

Flashlight 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.

Scene Map

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.

Do you use some of these methods? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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The Sticky-Note Method For Outlining A Novel

There are a lot of different outlining methods. Some people use lists, others use templates they create or find on the Internet, or there are methods floating around such as the Snowflake Method. I’ve never really outlined in those kinds of ways. I’ve always summarized or made lists. You know, the basics of the story. I recently started outlining scene by scene, especially now that I’ve been outlining as I write the first draft. So, here’s the sticky note outlining method that I use.

The Sticky Note Outlining Method | Novel writing | creative writing | outlines | novel outlining | RachelPoli.com

I’ve always loved office supplies, especially Post-It Notes, or sticky notes as I like to call them. I started to use them for a novels a long time ago. I’d make notes to myself within my manuscripts as I edited and stuck them in between pages. Well, I still do that, but I actually do it less now that I use them for outlining. Now I use each sticky note as a scene or an important event such as a plot point or special time.

Where I Put The Sticky Notes

I started using this method during my second or third time editing my mystery novel, George Florence & The Perfect Alibi. I placed the sticky notes 3-by-4 on each page. I filled in the notes as scenes in chronological order of what was happening in the novel. I did this for a while and filled up a notebook doing so, but then I decided I was kind of wasting good notebook paper.

While it was great to have the sticky notes together in a notebook that could close and keep them sticking and flat, I decided I’d rather use my notebooks for writing. So, now I use this method in a different way.

Instead of leaving the house to buy a poster, I taped a few card stock pieces of paper together and made my own poster – best part about this “poster?” It folds! So it works similar to the notebook in keeping the sticky notes together and portable, but I can also hang it up on the wall and work on it as I go while still sitting at my desk.

Why Sticky Notes?

They are so easy to move. You don’t know how many times I’ve written something down and then needed to change it. The only time I like to use pencil is if I’m drawing. So, I always use pen when writing or outlining. Then I need to scribble something out if I make a mistake or change something.

The sticky notes allow me to pick up the scene and either move it to a different spot or put it on a separate sheet of paper. I never throw away the sticky notes because even though I may not use it at that moment, I could very well need it later. I don’t want to forget any ideas no matter how good or bad, old or new.

I Love This Method

Sticky notes make things so much easier. As I said, I can easily move them around from draft to draft, see things all at once together in one big sheet of paper rather than flipping through pages of lists and ideas, and it’s really colorful. Sticky notes come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. They’re a lot of fun and brings your project to a new light.

Do you use this method at all? How do you tackle outlining your novels? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around!

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