How to Outline Your Fiction Novel


When it comes to outlining any book many writers go about the process very differently. Some will outline their entire novel down to the most minute details. And others will wing their entire first draft. Plus, there are a group of writers who fall somewhere in the middle; they will create a loose outline that still leaves room for characters to direct the next steps.

It’s important to say that there is no wrong way to outline a novel, and that includes choosing to not outline at all. Creative writing is about having the freedom to write and create in a way that fits you. If you’re trying to decide which type of book outlining you follow for your novel…

Here are four popular outlining methods for fiction novels. 

1. Index Card Method

If you’re a visual person, the index card method is for you. This method allows you to physically arrange every scene of your novel into chronological order. The cards can easily be taped up on a wall or spread on a surface to get the full scope of your book. You can write where the scene takes place, which characters are involved, and the outcome of the scene. This is also a great outlining method because you will have a clear picture of any scenes that may not move your story forward.

2. “Save the Cat Writes a Novel” Method

This book has become extremely popular in the fiction-writing community because it breaks down and explains the entire novel-writing process into small, doable tasks. If this is your first time writing a fiction book, Save the Cat Writes a Novel is a beneficial resource to have at your disposal. The book teaches you to break your story down into beats, and those beats will create your story. You can couple this outlining method with the index card method if you like.

3. Create a loose outline

If you’re riding the fence about creating an outline for your novel, try pulling together a loose outline. It can include as much or as little information as you want, but the goal is that the outline will still help ensure you’re hitting your most important points in the beginning, middle, and end of your novel.

4. Wing it

The beauty of writing a novel is that as long as you finish writing it, there is no wrong way to get to the finish line. If you’re a panster — someone who doesn’t outline your novels — more power to you. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re writing the wrong way simply because you don’t outline. There are plenty of writers just like you in the world.

Read more about outlining your nonfiction book is easy with our tips.


Erika Bennett is the Content Manager for Xulon Press. She has worked in the publishing industry for more than a decade and her passion is to make sure great books find their way into readers' hands. You can also find her writing on XulonPress.Substack.com.

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