Preptober is upon us, so it’s important that we discuss how to outline your novel. If you wanna win NaNoWriMo next month, then you need to get your ass in gear and pay attention.

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How to Outline Your Novel

Original photo by Hannah Olinger

FYI: I’ll be doing a video a day in October to celebrate everyone’s favorite time of year…Preptober! Subscribe to my YouTube channel and get daily updates to get you ready for NaNoWriMo.

The number one way to stay on track with a writing goal is to have an outline. It’s something that I make my college students do when they have a paper. It’s something I do when I’m working on ANY project. It’s something I do when I have to send an important email. Having an outline gives you a clear direction on your project, and makes it easier to keep working.

(Have you seen my everyday writing outline?)

The only reason I hit 50,000 words during Camp NaNoWriMo this past July is because I had a good outline. And I’m gonna hit 50,000 this November too. But if you’ve never made an outline for your fiction before, it can be hard to know where to start. But I’ve got your back, y’all.

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The following are some hella easy outlining methods that I think you’ll find agreeable. If you’re looking to get into the outlining game, then take a look at what I have here.

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How to Outline Your Novel

Plot Embryo

If you follow my YouTube channel, then you’ve heard me talk about Dan Harmon’s Plot Embryo. For a more detailed look at this, check out this wiki, or Rachael Stephen’s video, or Emily Bourne’s deep dive into it.

The plot embryo is a shortened version of the Hero’s Journey, and it’s a great way to ensure that you’re protagonist goes through the necessary stages of development. I think this structure really applies to almost every single story you can imagine, and I recommend it if you’re looking to make sure your protagonist is an active part of the story, rather than being some sort of placeholder to whom the story happens.

Save the Cat

I’ve mentioned Save The Cat before (in this reading lately post), and I really like the structure of it. If you’re the type that likes to think of major plot points in a story, I recommend this method. Basically, Save the Cat is made up of story beats that drive the overall plot. These beats occur at certain points in the story to balance out the narrative.

You can definitely buy a copy of this book if it sounds good to you. But if it doesn’t, know that you can find the beat sheet online for free. If you’re familiar with story structure at all, I think the beat sheet is all you need. And if you do choose to read the book, fair warning: The author tells the worst dad jokes of all time.

Major Points

This is the most basic method, and perhaps the method that I see writers use the most. All you do is create a list of the major points you want to happen in the story. I like to do this sometimes by writing all the major points on notecards, and then shuffling them around to see what order I want the story to happen in.

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Most often, I see writers do this on a sheet of paper with a succinct, bulleted list of major points. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this method. Though, I will admit, it’s more of a stage one of my personal outlining process. I’m a little too Type A to let this loosey goosey method be the only way I approach outlining. But if you’re looking for a simple method that just gets your brain on paper, this may be the best option for you.

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What’s your Favorite Way to Outline?

I know I’m a die hard Plot Embryo user, who may also use Save the Cat simultaneously. What about you? How do you outline your novel? What method works best for you? Are you using Preptober as an opportunity to get ahead for NaNoWriMo?

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