3 Steps to Outline your Novel

You just got a great Idea for your first novel but don’t know where to start?

Follow these 3 Simple steps to guaranteed success.

If you still don’t have the right idea, learn how to come up with Bestseller concepts here.

1. From large to small
Often times you try to put down every small detail when you get that grand idea. Fearing to forget anything, your piece of paper is about to suffocate under ink. Then when you get back to read it you ask yourself what the hell you wrote down there. The key to effective outlining is to start with the big things. Put your novel in 10 words. Now put it in 30 words. Now 100. Now 250. Now 500. At this point you get a clear idea of the central conflict and hierarchy of events within your novel. You will learn to pick and choose the things that are important and the things that are not. Every outline in my opinion needs a summary, so that you know from the get-go what you are writing about and where you are going with this. Then use bullet points that guide you from beginning to end. You can be vague and fill in blanks later, but you should know how it starts, how it ends, and the logical connection between the two. Doing this properly will safe you hours of writers block.

2. Stick with the Classical Structure
If you are a first time author and intend to be published, your best bet is to follow a Classical Structure. What does this mean? You have a beginning (the first quarter of your novel) that gives back-story and introduces a major change or conflict in a character’s life. A problem arises. In the middle (the 2nd and 3rd quarter of your novel) the character tries to find a solution to the problem. All the while he becomes more committed to solving the problem and the excitement curve gets steeper. In the third final portion, the end of your novel, the character finds the solution to the problem and has a realization (often evoking the stories theme and central message). With this structure, you already got the bones of the story and know what has to come next. Following a structure is not unoriginal, nor is it trite. It is simply a way of organizing the way you tell a story. The more comfortable you become the more you can make alterations to your structure. For an in depth look at story structure get the Screenwriters Bible. It has helped me immensely get to the core of my novel.

3. Focus on the Key Turning-points
Maybe you don’t have the whole plot in mind. Maybe you don’t even have enough to chart out the story using the classical structure. But at the very least you will know key turning points. A key turning point does not have to be car chases, but rather points that impact and define the story. For example central character (CC) goes on a quest, CC finishes quest, CC gets with girl, CC defeats enemy, CC is faced with a problem, CC suffers from a great tragedy etc.
Turning points are what make your story. If you cant think of a single turning point then you don’t really have a story (CC just being himself and nothing happening to him is not quite Blockbuster ready).

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