How to Outline a Plot For Your Novel

Today is going to be very busy, as it is my son’s well-baby doctor visit and we have to drive an hour and a half to get there (and to come back). I’ve also been working on plotting out a rough outline for my second story in my YA fantasy series. Because of that, I thought I’d re-post my article on how to outline a plot.

Only three more days until NaNoWriMo starts! Have you outlined a plot for your novel? Here’s how!


There are lots of different ways to plot a novel. Some authors have extremely detailed outlines that are almost as long as their novels. Some authors don’t plot out a single thing, and just see where their writing leads. Then there is everything in between. I tried all the different methods before I finally settled on one I liked. I thought I would share my insights with you.


The first three novels I tried to write, I didn’t plot anything. All my story ideas start with a spark, as I call it, and then I build the characters. A “spark” is basically an opening scene, a nice piece of dialogue, or an interesting event. Those three novels never got beyond 10,000 words. I always got to a point where I had written myself into a corner and couldn’t figure out where to go from there.


The next novel I wrote was the first one I finished. For this one, I plotted out every single scene (around 50 I think) on note cards, shuffled them around until they were in the perfect order, and then wrote the whole novel, sticking faithfully to my outline. Yes, I finished it, but I hated every moment of it. There was no excitement, no joyous flash of inspiration that would lead you into a new direction. The writing was fine. You couldn’t tell I hated the process. But it was still a horrible eight months.


The method I use now, and the one that works for me the best, is in between those two extremes. I have my spark, I have my characters, and then I choose ten or so things I want to happen in the plot, including the last scene. The last scene is extremely important to keep you on track. As long as you know where you are going with the whole book, you’re free to explore as many interesting side trips as you want. I have never suffered from writer’s block since I happened across this method, and I still get to have the fun and excitement of having spontaneous flashes of plot delivered by my “Muse”. It’s the best of both worlds.

2 thoughts on “How to Outline a Plot For Your Novel

  1. I’m still trying to figure out how much of an outline I need. My current WIP needs to follow a timeline set by the historical facts I’m using. I think I might take your advice and just write scenes, then shuffle them to match up with the timeline. Thanks for helping me figure things out a little! 🙂

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