How to Plan and Outline your Novel in 4 Steps

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Creating a novel is a long and arduous experience for both professionals and newcomers alike. This large undertaking requires loads of research and a deep understanding of the story a person is trying to tell. Planning the outline and structure of your new novel can help streamline the creative process into more manageable chunks. Outlining key requirements such as settings, events, and the characters involved will make sure you stay on track. Here are the essential elements you need in order to plan out a successful novel. 

1- What’s your story?

Establish your general premise by summarizing your entire story idea in a few paragraphs or shorter. Create a short blurb or elevator pitch you would use to explain the story to a friend. Pretend like this summary is appearing on the sleeve jacket back cover of your novel sitting on store shelves. Present a clear plotline and intriguing characters on their journey. Make this first impression memorable and entertaining to potential readers.

2- Type of novel

Whether it’s fantasy, mystery, or young adult, you need to decide on the book genre your novel will encompass. Keep your choice flexible because this will impact the overall tone and voice of your novel. As you write, you’ll quickly set how the story will be narrated, either in first or third-person. Once you’ve made these stylistic choices, you can determine the overarching message your novel is trying to convey. Is it about loss, coming of age, love, or something else that speaks to your character’s experiences? 

3- Info dump

Outline all your characters, big or small, with basic details, like name, age, and physical appearance. Give main characters more detail such as a backstory that will shape their motivations. Set conflicts and goals for the main characters that challenges their belief systems in ways they need to overcome. These are character arcs with core conflicts and objectives they are prevented from achieving. This will help create a timeline of places and events to build the settings and environments of your world. 

4- Beginning, middle and end

Most stories follow a traditional three act story structure or hero’s journey archetype. But regardless of your narrative structure, stories need to start with a setup, a conflict, then end in resolution. Outline all your story material in chronological order to set up any plot twists and avoid creating any plot holes. Then make note of any subplots you want to incorporate into your narrative. A platform like WriteWay Writer with its Integrated Idea Board can help keep all your story ideas in order. 

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