Outlining your first novel can be a herculean task, but it can have exponential rewards if it’s done the right way. One of the most important sections of the manuscript application is, well, you guessed it, the manuscript. The manuscript should be intriguing, entertaining, and relevant to your target audience. Developing an outline can help you develop your characters, plot, and content, all in one manuscript. 

What is an outline? 

An outline is a document that includes important information about a novel’s plots, characters, scenes, and more. It can also be used as a tool to brainstorm different plots, events, and themes to make the entire story cohesive. 

Do I really need to create an outline? 

Creating an outline is not a necessity, and different writers come up with their creativity in different ways. Sometimes writers view outlines as a road map, while other writers view outlines as a process that diminishes the process of creativity. There is simply no correct way to write, it is completely up to you as the writer what will help you write an intriguing story

How do I start my outline? 

  1. Determine the main theme of the novel, or what your story is about. To solidify the main theme of the novel, ask yourself the following questions:
    • Who is the main protagonist? What are their goals and motivation? 
    • What is your story about? 
    • Who are the characters? What are their backstories? 
    • What is the central conflict of the novel? 
    • What is the heart of the story? 
    • What brought your character to the beginning of your main story? 
    • What is the hook, the first act, the key event, and the first plot point? 
    • What is the climax of the book? 
  1. Decide which method you are going to use to create the novel outline. There are different  methods for outlining a novel, including mind maps, synopsis, and a character-led novel outline. 
    • Mind Map: a diagram to visually organize information between your plot points, characters, themes, conflicts, etc.. 
    • Synopsis: an outline which gives an overview of the plot, characters, and conflicts into one or two pages
    • Character-led novel outline: an outline which prioritizes the character development of the plot. 
  1. Organize the scenes. As you think upon the scenes, decide how the scenes are going to be structured
    • How will your scenes advance and build upon your theme? 
    • Will a scene further character development? 
    • How do the scenes fit into your narrative. 
  2. Step back and view the story through fresh eyes. Highlight whenever there is a scene which is missing, redundant, or a while plot hole appears.
  3. After reviewing all of the character scenes, create a complete chapter list and include the key scenes within each chapter.