How To Write A Brilliant Book Outline

By on October 11, 2016
How To Write A Brilliant Book Outline - Writer's

Taking the time to write a useful book outline can make all the difference when it comes to writing your novel. There are plenty of different methods and techniques you can use to do so. You might simply prefer to write it down; you might use pictures, collages, spider diagrams, enormous mind maps that you pin on your wall. There is no ‘correct’ way to create your story outline, but doing so will help you to ensure that your idea works, guide you when you get stuck, and keeping you sticking strictly to your storyline, rather than straying down paths that could take away from it.

The benefits of planning your book

Let’s face it, planning your book just makes good sense. You can clearly define and set your goals, understand how your story will flow throughout the entire novel, and even finish your manuscript faster. In fact, until stories are outlined in their entirety, it is often difficult for authors to say definitively that any idea has legs, and that they will be able to make it to the finish line.

A good outline will see you effortlessly (well, almost) skipping from chapter to chapter with confidence and ease. If you don’t do this, you run the risk of getting halfway through your book only to come to a complete and debilitating standstill, unsure of where to go next.

An outline keeps your organised - this applies in particular to authors who like to do a lot of research before they write their books. Planning your novel in its entirety will help you to naturally organise and categorise your research so you know exactly when to draw on it when writing your book.

So let’s look at some of the most effective methods that authors use to plan their books.

A simple table

There is no need to download the best book software out there. In fact, some authors find they prefer to keep things simple. A basic word document outlining chapters can often suffice. A table gives a little more structure - here you can summarise key points, make notes of research to look back on and create columns for each character and plot point.

The wall of Post-Its

This is a pretty old school method, but it works. The beauty of the Post-It wall is that it is hugely visual and you can effortlessly move bits around if you feel that something isn’t quite working. You can post anything you like, from words and phrases to sketches and quotes. Colour coding is also possible and can create a rather aesthetically pleasing effect on your wall too!

A writing app

In this modern, digital age, there are, naturally, plenty of great writing apps out there that can help you get organised and inspired when it comes to writing your novel. Check out our post on great writing apps for further advice.

The Mind Map

Mind maps are incredibly helpful when it comes to creating a useful book outline. Here you can see how different parts of your story connect to one another, and get a sense of how it all fits together.


Creating a timeline for your novel works well, particularly if your novel takes place over a long time or jumps from the past to the present to the future. A timeline will help you keep track of what happens when and ensures that there aren’t any inconsistencies when it comes to your finished work.

However you choose to create your book outline, it is so important that you create one, before you start writing your book. Gathering as much information about your character, your plot and the themes of your novel, and setting it all out in a way that is logical (to you at least) can help you feel confident your story will be a success, and makes writing it much more of a pleasure too!

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

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