How to write a novel outline

How to write a novel outline

How does a pantser write using an outline? Well, I am so glad you asked. I am about to drop that info on you right now.

Here is another post about outlines from earlier this year – I have said a few things about them before now.


First of all, before all else, decide what sort of story you want to write. Is it fiction? Is it a mystery? Romance? Other?

Then once that is done, you are ready to sit down for a little real work.

So, I find that writing books goes a lot farther when we start out with small ideas written out in outline form and build them up from there. I do not count words at this point. For sooooo many reasons! The biggest of which is that you are only in the idea phase and stuff changes. No sense making yourself crazy. I have discovered that the less stress you put on yourself at this time – the better your results will be. Different strokes for different folks. I am not scared of fat outlines, that can be edited down later-but I do try to keep it relevant. No wandering here folks.

Just try to get to know your story here, your characters, the important stuff. It’s a process.

Kim’s Guide to Outline a Book

First Step:

I look and see WHAT I ALREADY KNOW!  This is crucial when it comes to starting the story.  Super important in terms of new paper people, but also useful with standard stuff like setting, time of year, weather, etc.  Or it might even be noticing  the way things work like people at their jobs(I am from the corporate world so -yeah), so to save time I’ll think about how to incorporate what I already know into the scenes.

Second Step:

Next, write the outline. Scrivener is excellent for this because you can move the entries around to suit you. Generally follow these rules:

Point one – the meat of the story

Whose point of view is this story told from? What is their pain point? Where does it happen? What time of year? How does the pain point make them move forward and take action?

Point two – the potatoes of the story

Especially relevant are other items of story.

Is there a sub-plot I can weave in? Who are the supporting characters?

I plan for subplots and supporting characters like making a lunch for kids. It has to be good, quick, and non-refrigerated.

Third Step:

Here, I research. I do this last after all the brainstorming, world-building, etc. I mean, you can go down so many rabbit holes doing this research stuff, no written matter will happen. And by the way, Scrivener is excellent for this also as it allows you to put research materials in the binder portion VERY easily. Straight outta Internet.

Anyway, I hope this helps you get started. I try to use some sort of outline basically every book. It does save time later. And since I have mentioned Scrivener ad nauseum in this post, here is the link if you haven’t gotten yours:

It’s only $40.00 so – not a huge investment and you may find it helps you get more writing done.


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About master

Kim Smith is the author of the Shannon Wallace Mysteries, and the Mt. Moriah Series- plus, YA fantasy, and Bizarro fiction. All available on Amazon.

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