How to Outline A Novel

Have you created that great book yet?

Have you created that great book yet?

One of the benefits to outlining is that you will have something to reference to when you have writer’s block or don’t know how to end a scene. When you know where you’re going it’s a lot easier to get there.

So here’s how I outline a novel. I’ve written two novels and all have been created with the same outline procedure.

Step 1: Know Your Story

-You  can’t plan what you don’t know so take a while to figure out what exactly happens in your story.

Step 2: Bullet point your major parts

My last novel had four parts broken off by character point of view between the hero and the heroine.

– Each part had its own agenda to move the story forward, so me knowing what happened in each part helped a lot.

– If you don’t use POV switch you can outline your parts with events, time frames, or just plain beginning, middle and end.

Step 3: Break your parts into chapters

– Fill your parts with chapter headings that will guide you to completing each part

– So know what you need to do for each chapter

– Those chapters will cover every thing that needs to happen in that particular part of the story

Step 4: Break your chapters down to scenes

– This is just to help you get each chapter done. You don’t have to break it down to scenes if you prefer not to.

– Some novel chapters just have one scene, not multiple. My first book each had one scene per chapter but my second book has two or three scene per chapter so how you want to write your book

Note: It’s your outline so you can change its format later on if you have to. I change my all the time because I might want a certain scene not to happen at all or I would want it to happen earlier or later in the story. Your outline is your GUIDE, not a rule book so use it to just to keep it focused.

Here’s a way to picture your  outline

Part 1: Hero meets Heroine

Chapter 1: Introduce hero

Scene: hero wakes up in the bathroom drunk and ends up late for school

Scene: Runs into heroine

Part 2: Heroine realizes she has a crush on the Hero

Chapter 2: Hero and Heroine go out on a date

Scene: Heroine stops hero after class to ask him out

Scene: They go to the lake and eat sea food

This is just an example of how you would outline your novel. You’ll be able to get a clear understanding of your goal for each section, each chapter and each scene so you know what you’re writing before you sit down to write.

If you don’t like where the story is going you can simply erase your outline and write a new one. It’s up to you! So use this outline guide as a tool to get writing!

Hope this helps.

Have you created an outline before? What are your tips? Share them in the comments so we all can learn new ways to write.

Photo credit: Jaimie Duplass

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About the Author

Shaquanda Dalton

Hello, my name is Shaquanda Dalton and welcome to! I'm from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and graudated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a degree in Creative Writing. I fell in love with writing at the age nine and love it till this day. :)


  1. J. Lyons

    Your guideline is really helping to organize my thoughts and ideas! Recently, I was thinking about how much I struggle with bringing my ideas to life on paper. I write really well and have a lot of ideas for stories. I do struggle actually constructing the story. I feel so much better having a guideline and examples. I already can see the difference in how my storyline and storytelling is flowing!

    • Shaquanda Dalton

      Awesome! Glad this helped!