You have an awesome idea for a book. You’ve opened your laptop, pick up a pen, AND… *crickets*. How do you begin? Where do you go? How do you end? Don’t worry, there is an easy way to figure that out.
You write an outline.
Don’t worry, it’s not the scary outlines you may have to have written in high school or college. In this blog, I’m going to give you an easy template for outlining your novel in as little as 11 sentences. You can visually see where you start, where you’re going, and how you end! (Don’t worry, it’s not set in stone. If your story goes another way, you can change your outline!)
There are 2 parts to outlining: THE PLOT and THE STORY ARC.
PART 1: THE PLOT
There are six questions to answer for the plot part of the outline. Frankly, these are probably the easiest. If you have an idea for a book, you probably already know the answer to these questions!
Who is the protagonist?
What is the situation?
What is the protagonist’s objective?
Who is the opponent?
What will be the disaster?
What’s the conflict?
So in short: good guys, bad guys, and the problem. Easy, right?
PART 2: THE STORY ARC
This section might be a little more complex. You do have to look at your story as a whole. Remember, it’s not set in stone. If you feel like changing the ending later (or don’t know what it is yet) that’s okay! As long as you plan out enough to get you started, then you can go back and fill in the blanks!
This is the beginning of the story! In the exposition, you’ll introduce your characters, their situation, start your world-building, and so on!
These are events that create suspense. This is the meat of your story and I would recommend outlining it as much as you can. If you can’t, no worries! Just write a vague idea so you can get started.
The most intense and exciting part of the story! This is what your rising action has been leading up to. What is revealed, what happens that changes your characters’ lives. This is the moment that should make your readers gasp or cry, gripping the book and not wanting to let go.
This is when everything changes after the climax. The snowball reached the top at the climax, now it is rolling downhill. What happens now? What actions will lead towards the end of the story?
You’ve made it! The resolution is when the problem you outlined in the plot is resolved. This is the end! What do you want readers to remember? Are you going to give them a cliffhanger? Are you going to satisfy their needs?
These five points are the norm for every story arc. Sure you may have multiple rising action/climaxes, but that’s up to you to decide.
And that’s pretty much it! By following these prompts, you can create an effective outline in as little as 11 sentences. I know that some people are pantsers—preferring to think of the story on the fly—and that’s okay! But even pantsers should have some idea of what they’re writing.
Outlines are the backbones to stories that stay straight.
I was a pantser starting out. My first book was written without a plan. Frankly, it took much longer to fix the book than to write it. I revised it about 16 times before I filled all the holes. When I wrote my latest books, I used this outline template I created. Writing the stories was amazing. The outline proved helpful. It made the writing and editing process go much smoother. No major plot holes or inconsistencies! I was able to reference back to the outline if I felt the story was going in circles and was able to fix it for a much easier read.
I hope this helps you! If you need a reference sheet, I have a downloadable version of this outline: https://bit.ly/SF-DOWNLOAD It’s there for you if you need it.
Author | Media Communicator | Speaker
ABOUT: Sara Francis is the author of the YA Sci Fi/Dystopian trilogy “The Terra Testimonies” and the children’s series “Adventures of Wobot”. She is determined to share the love of writing, literature, and the arts with aspiring creatives all over through her books and services. Check out her website for more information! www.sara-francis.com and follow her on Instagram, @sarafrancis_author.