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Outlining a Novel

Last updated on 22/06/2023

Outlining a novel can help you organize your thoughts and ideas, establish the structure of your story, and maintain focus throughout the writing process.

These questions are things you should ask yourself in order to understand what is going to happen within the story. Not everything needs to planned out but the more than is planned out the easier it will be to write a cohesive story.

Character: Who is your central character? Is there more than one main character?

Do you have any important side characters that are important to the main character?

Setting: Where is the novel set and how does your character function in that setting?

Motive: What does your character want to achieve in the course of the novel?

Inciting incident: What is the significant development that sparks your character’s desire to achieve whatever it is they want?

Change: What is the fundamental change that must happen in the novel?

Plot developments: What are the basic incidents that need to happen to move your plot along?

Crisis point: What is the worst thing that happens in your plot, the point at which everything seems lost?

Resolution: What happens at the end to draw your plot to a satisfying ending?

If this is a stand alone book you will need to think about how you are going to tie up all the loose story threads but if it is going to be developed into a duology or a series then you only need to tie up the loose ends that are pertinent to creating an ending that makes sense for your reader.

Theme: Is there an underlying theme to what you are writing? It’s good to realise what it is as it will help you to create the best structure for the book.

Point of view: What is the point of view of your story?

One other thing to think about during the outlining process is to decide on the narrative point of view of your story. This will allow you to decide on what information you can talk about and where. It also defines how the story will flow and how storyline will pan out.

Narrating in the third-person tends to provide authors with greater flexibility; it allows a degree of omniscience that makes parallel, circular, and nonlinear plot structures possible.

If your story is best told from the first-person point of view, consider sticking with a linear story and scene structure—but remember you can still use flashbacks and internal dialogue to reveal necessary information

You may even find that your story requires multiple points of view. Writing different sequences of events through the eyes of different characters can make your story more engaging, but it also makes structuring your novel more challenging

The easiest and most well-defined story structure is the Three act story structure. This structure will be explored through another blog post where I can break it down in more detail.

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