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How I Outline My Novels [With Resources & Free Templates]




Fellow writers have been reaching out with questions on how outline my novels, so below is a step by step guide to how I outline, collect information, and develop my story structure before I write!


NOTE* this is how I personally like to outline. Feel free to deviate and create your own structure!





KM Weiland's guides were the key to my success as a writer. I highly recommend purchasing her award winning books, Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. They are available in print, ebook and on audible.





Reading KM Weiland's guides helped me avoid major plot holes in my story. I highly her blog and podcasts as well- www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/





I use online writing platform Dabble for my outlining & writing!


Dabble is cloud-based, which means you'll never lose your work, and you can work offline if wifi isn't available and it will immediately sync once you are back online! Dabble also has zero learning curve due its simplistic design and for just $10 USD a month (billed annually) this is a great affordable option for us starving artists!

All plans start with a 14-day free trial of Premium, no credit card required, and once you've signed up you can cancel anytime.



For more info on Dabble and how I setup and use Dabble, check out this post



If purchasing a writing program subscription isn't in the cards, utilize google docs or google sheets! It's free and cloud-based so you will never lose your work. I can't stress that point enough. Whatever medium you choose to outline and write your story, ensure it is cloud-based so you never go through the heartbreak of losing what you've written.






Outline your novel with ease using the free downloadable templates below! They will help you setup your novel according to the three act structure, and have links to KM Weiland's blog & books if you need further guidance. * The templates are compatible with Microsoft Excel & Google Sheets *










Most, if not all, commercially published books follow the Three Act Structure.


When I'm brainstorming my novel, I try to determine how my story hits all the plot points of this structure (highlighted next).


When I outline, I write out each act element whether it's in a spreadsheet or Dabble, and do a bullet point description for each.


When I write, I tend to pants (writing on the fly) subplots and connecting chapters/sequences around the major, already outlined, plot points.


- Check out my latest post on how I outline and pants effectively: Plotter or Pantser? Here's How To Do Both Effectively!





Here are the story elements/plot points for Act I in order: (credit KM Weiland)

- HOOK (1% mark) :

"The beginning of any good story is its hook. the hook is nothing more or less than a question. If we can pique our readers’ curiosity, we’ve got ‘em. We’ve created a hook only when we’ve convinced readers to ask the general question, “What’s going to happen?” Because your ability to convince the reader to keep reading is dependent on your hook, it must be present as early as possible in your first scene. In fact, if you can get it into your first line, so much the better." - KM Weiland

- SETUP (1%-12%) Readers learn about your character, their goals and the stakes

- INCITING EVENT (12%) Turning point occurs halfway through the first act. This is the call to adventure. The normal world is rocked by conflict.

- BUILD UP (12%-25%) Final pieces for the main conflict are moved into position while ramping up the tension.

- FIRST PLOT POINT/KEY EVENT (25%) The doorway between the first act and the beginning of the second. example key event physical departure from normal world, first plot point entering adventure world.



For more information on the three act structure, please check out KM Weiland's resources and writing guides on helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com






Here are the story elements/plot points for Act II (in order): (credit KM Weiland)


Act II is typically the longest part of your book so there are more elements within the Act II structure.

Building off of the key event from Act I you then have:

- REACTION (25%-37%) After the first plot point, the protagonist scrambles to understand obstacles thrown in his way by the antagonist

- 1st PINCH POINT (37%) A reminder of the antagonists power which provides new clues about the nature of the conflict.

- REALIZATION (37%-50%) Protagonist’s realization grows and his reaction become more informed.

- MIDPOINT (50%) The moment of truth when the protagonist realizes the central truth about the nature of the conflict.

- ACTION (50%-62%) Thanks to his new understanding, the protagonist makes headway against the antagonist

- 2nd PINCH POINT (62%) Foreshadows the third plot point and serves to remind the protagonist what is at stake.

- RENEWED PUSH (62%-75%) Protagonist renews attack upon the antagonist. He reaches a seeming victory.


For more information on the three act structure, please check out KM Weiland's resources and writing guides on helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com




Continuing from Act II, the plot points are as follows: (credit KM Weiland)

- THIRD PLOT POINT (75%) A dark moment for the character. After the victory at the end of the second act, he experiences a reversal.

- RECOVERY (75%-88%) Protagonist reels as he questions his choices, his commitment to his goal, and his own worth and ability.

- CLIMAX BEGINS (88%) This turning point forces the protagonist and the antagonist the face each other

- CONFRONTATION (88%-98%) Due to the literal or metaphoric death, what occurs here ensues the protagonist and antagonist cannot both walk away

- CLIMACTIC MOMENT (98%) The moment the protagonist’s goal is met, it becomes a physical impossibility for the conflict to continue.

Resolution (98%-100%) Ease readers out of the excitement of the climax and into the final emotion.



For more information on the three act structure, please check out KM Weiland's resources and writing guides on helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com





For story notes, I recommend having separate tabs on Google Sheets or Google Docs so you can keep everything organized and reference them with ease. - I typically keep a main character tab and a minor character tab so it doesn’t get too cluttered.


I also like to include:


- A world building tab/document. This is especially vital if you write paranormal, fantasy or science fiction novels.

- A settings tab/document with descriptions of the setting and where everything is in reference to each other geographically.

- A research tab/document if there is anything I have researched that I want to incorporate (and credit!) in my story.

- A writing tips/resources tab/document where I can add various links to writing resources like KM Weiland’s website!






Fellow authors - how do you outline?





Beginner's Guide To Starting Your Novel


Plotter or Pantser? Here's How To Do Both Effectively!


8 Tips For Brainstorming Your Novel


How I setup & Use Dabble

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