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How to Outline a Novel: Learn in 6 Simple Steps – 2024 Guide


Outlining a novel is an important step towards completing a structured narrative. How to Outline a Novel: Guide is a step by step process that explains how to organize ideas and plot points, as well as how to introduce characters and settings.

What is a Novel Outline?

Outlining a novel is a crucial step before you begin the writing process. First and foremost, developing your novel’s outline helps clarify your vision for the story, including the plot, characters, themes, and tone. It provides a roadmap that can be referred to throughout the writing process, ensuring that the story stays on track and focuses on its core elements.

Additionally, outlining can help writers, especially those considering professional assistance, like Ghostwriters for hire can avoid common pitfalls, such as getting stuck in the middle of the story or introducing plot twists that don’t make sense. By having a clear outline in place, writers can identify and resolve these issues before they become bigger problems.

Creating an outline also helps develop the story’s coherence and consistency. This is because outlining forces the writer to think through the story systematically and deliberately, enabling them to ensure that all elements of the story fit together seamlessly.

Thus, outlining can be a valuable time-saving tool, allowing writers to avoid the frustration of having to rewrite large sections of the story due to plot holes or inconsistencies. By investing the time upfront to create a solid outline, writers can save themselves a significant amount of time and effort in the long run.

How to Outline a Novel: Step-By-Step Guide

Now, the question is, “how to outline a novel?” While there are several ways to outline your plot, it can be confusing to follow one that meets your needs. Therefore, continue reading this blog as we help you develop your initial ideas and produce an outline that will get you working!

Solidify Your Story’s Premise

It’s crucial to start with a solid premise to create an engaging plot. This is like laying the foundation for a house; you want it to be powerful and sturdy. The premise is the central idea behind your book and what you will need to explain when asked about your story. If you only have an idea of the themes you want to explore, like grief or coming-of-age, it’s best to make these ideas more concrete by asking yourself why you want to tell this story. Seeking guidance from a Children's book writing service can provide valuable insights during this creative process.

Then, use the 5W (and H) questions to flesh out the core facts of your story:

  • Who is the main character?
  • What do they want to achieve?
  • Where does the story take place?
  • When does the story occur?
  • Why is this story important, or why is it happening?
  • How will the story unfold?

Now, elaborate on the answers to these questions, but remember to keep these core elements in mind while writing to develop a comprehensive story.

Develop Your Characters While Outlining A Novel

After the premise, consider the characters who will make up the story. It’s essential to have a clear understanding of the protagonist and non-protagonist characters before outlining the story. Consider their motives and what drives them to achieve their goals. For instance, in The Hunger Games, Katniss’ motivation is to protect her sister and create a better world.

Think about what each character will do in the story, and how they interact with the world and others. Consider their relationship dynamics. To further flesh out the characters, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are the consequences for the characters throughout the story?
  • How do they interact with each other?
  • What is the impact of their interactions on each other?

You can also gain insight into your characters by creating “What if” scenarios and imagining how they would react. These scenarios don’t have to be included in the plot but rather serve as a tool for understanding the character’s behavior in different situations. For example, you can consider, “How would they respond if confronted with their worst fear?” to learn more about the character.

Also Read: Book Publishing How To Self-Publish Your Own Book in 8 Steps

Develop Your Setting

Now it’s time to think about the larger picture and the world where your characters exist. This is the stage for world-building. Whether you’re writing a fantasy novel or setting your story in a real location, considering a professional biography writing service can help shape the environment, impacting the plot and characters in a more nuanced and engaging way. Creating a well-constructed setting can also add depth to your story.

As you work on the setting, you can ask yourself these questions:

  • What makes the setting special or distinctive?
  • What are the significant social, political, and cultural factors that shape their world?
  • How does the setting relate to the central premise of the story?
  • What is the relationship between the characters and the setting?

Choose Your Outline Template

Having gone through the process of brainstorming to determine the type of story you’re writing, it’s time to select a structure to guide your novel writing process. There are several options to choose from, and we’ve highlighted some of the most commonly used ones here:

There are several types of outlines that you can use for your novel, including:

1. Chronological Outline:

This outline follows a straightforward, linear structure, detailing events in the order they occur.

2. Scene-by-Scene Outline:

This outline breaks down the novel into individual scenes and describes each one in detail.

3. Conceptual Outline:

This outline focuses on the key events, characters, and themes of the novel, without necessarily following a linear structure.

4. Chapter Outline:

This outline breaks down the novel into chapters and describes each chapter in detail.

5. Mind Map Outline:

This outline uses visual elements, such as diagrams and flowcharts, to organize ideas and events in a non-linear fashion.

6. Snowflake Method:

This outline uses a step-by-step process to build upon a basic idea and develop it into a fully fleshed-out story.

Ultimately, the best outline for you will depend on your writing process and the type of novel you’re writing. Experiment with different approaches to see what works best for you.

Create Your Outline

It’s time to get to work and start assembling your novel outline. Select the elements that you want your story outline to follow as you write. Remember that the outline is not set in stone, and you can always modify and rearrange the details in each scene. As long as you keep it updated, you will have a clear understanding of the overall structure of your story.

Organize your outline variables according to their importance to your storytelling. If your story has many characters, consider adding a column that shows the location of each character in each scene. If you are managing multiple subplots and character arcs, use your novel outline to track these elements.

You can use a spreadsheet, notecards, or sticky notes to create your outline, whichever works best for you and your story. Regardless of the medium you choose, back it up digitally, take a photo, or keep multiple copies of your work on paper so that you can work on it on the go. This will ensure you are prepared for any unexpected issues.

Also Read: How Long Does It Take to Write a Book

Reread Your Outline

To look at your outline with a new perspective, take some time off and give yourself a few days to recharge before coming back to review it with a highlighter in hand. Mark any sections where:

  • A concept is left unresolved in a scene.
  • A connection is missing between the two scenes.
  • A scene is unnecessary or excessive.
  • A significant plot inconsistency arises.

If you find it difficult to continue the outlining process, it could indicate deeper problems with the overall story that require attention.


If you’re getting nowhere despite following these techniques, and still don’t know how to outline a novel, allow Gnome Book Writing to help! If your pacing is uneven, or you don’t know what to write next, our experts are here to help you! From drafting a compelling outline to developing each chapter and then finally publishing it, our book writers for hire can smoothen and expedite your book-writing process efficiently. Contact us today for more details.