How to Outline Your Novel – part 1



hello everybody you guys have been hounding me all about how to write an outline so guess what today is your lucky day I am here to answer your 10 most popular questions about outlining before I get started a little disclaimer all of my answers are based on my experience and research people get very sensitive when it comes to outline why I don't know humans are weird so just know from the start that I am a huge fan of outlining and my answers are going to reflect that let's get to the questions number one what exactly is an outline an outline is kind of like a blueprint for your book it breaks down the events that are going to go down in sequential order that way you can reference it while writing and make sure your story is going according to plan number two what does an outline look like if you want to get technical there are rules for writing a proper outline but so long as it works for you it really doesn't matter what your outline looks like some writers follow a technical format and there's a bunch of different kinds like the skeletal outline the flashlight outline the topic outline but some writers don't bother with technicalities they just use numbers or bullet points bottom line it doesn't matter what format you use it just needs to be easy for you to follow because the point of an outline is to make the process a lot less complicated and soul-crushing number three is there any benefit to an outline oh yeah there are approximately of a jillion benefit an outline will guide you throughout the writing process it will significantly decrease or potentially eliminate plot holes it'll make sure your story line doesn't go off on to useless tangents it'll increase your odds of crafting a super intense climax because no one wants to be left hanging right before the climax right get it get it and it will decrease your potential for writer's block you won't be saying I don't know it's right next you always know what's right next it's in your outline also writers to outline spend a lot less time in the reviving phase than write or through don't outline number four I've been outlining for days and I'm stuck what do I do now there are lots of things you can do to unstuff yourself while outlining but one of the most effective methods is to work backwards start with the climax of your novel and figure out all the steps that lead up to that moment not only will this help you nail down a super-awesome climate right from the start it'll also make the outlining process a lot simpler it's easier to navigate a maze when you can clearly see the finish line now while you're going to the outlining phase just keep in mind it's normal to struggle outlining it's hard for the same reason writing is hard you're creating a lot of something out of a whole lot of nothing but when you create an outline you're basically getting a lot of that frustration out right at the start and in a shorter period of time versus experiencing it throughout the entire writing process so if you're attempting to skip the step just because it's difficult you're shooting yourself in the foot if you want it easy you probably shouldn't have decided to write a book number five does that lightning ruin the creative process how would it ruin the creative process you're literally creating a story that's what outlining is outlining is one of my favorite parts of the writing process because it gives me the opportunity to let my creativity shine I'm inventing an entire story and I'm watching it unfold to completion it's kind of a power rush outlining is essentially a streamlined version of storytelling you're building a world and a plot and conflict and characters using nothing but your imagination it's just instead of writing it in lengthy colorful sentences you're writing it in shorthand and it's fun to do because you get to see this world you created completely mapped out in full number six with an outline you always know what's coming next so that lessen the excitement of writing the novel honestly it should probably do the complete opposite I am more excited to write my novel because I know what's coming back I don't get bored with the scene I'm currently writing because I know I've got to finish it if I want to get to the next scene they kiss in the next scene Jenna hurry the fuck up unless you've outlined a supremely boring story knowing what's coming next should be exciting because the following content is often exciting content number seven what if I need to deviate from my outline a lot of people complain about having to deviate from their outlines and the number one reason they cite is that their characters decided to do something else first of all take some ownership here your characters are fictional they don't exist Oh Jenna someone how to say it when you say your character decided to do something else more often and not what you really mean that you outlined your story before you fully understood your character psyche you plan certain events to happen but the characters you created don't mesh with those plans the easiest way to avoid this dilemma is to thoroughly plan your characters alongside the outline create your characters to fit the plot and create a plot that fits your characters now if you have to deviate from your outline to make the story as entertaining and realistic as possible do it the outline is not an ironclad contract it's just a guide but figuring out your characters alongside the outline could eliminate this problem altogether number eight how long should my outline be fuck I don't know however long you need it to be to help write your story some writers prefer shorter concise outlines that just cover the basic plot point others prefer lengthy outlines that we've no stone unturned my outlines are usually really detailed and really long well over 30 pages because that's what works for me you got to figure out what works for you number nine some famous also so an outline why should I first of all you don't have to do anything you don't want to do no one's putting the gun to your head but unless you're equally skilled and established I want to get into the habit of comparing yourself to famous people with years of experience it's possible that you're the type of writer who doesn't need an outline it's also possible that you don't know what the fuck you're doing you need all the help you can get and just like there are famous authors who don't outline there are also many famous authors who swear by them I would recommend making your decisions based on trial and error and personal writing style not because you're trying to emulate someone else and number 10 do I have to outline no you don't typically there are two types of writers those who outline and those who wing it most people call them plotters or Panthers I don't because I think the word Panthers is done there are definitely writers who are able to make up content as they go along and turn it into a masterpiece but these writers are typically seen as the minority most newbies who try this method crash and burn I'm just keeping it real a lot of writers need an outline it makes an extremely difficult process so much easier if we and it works for you then screw the outline keep doing what you're doing but if it's not working maybe be realistic might be time to give another method a shot that's what I got for you today outlining could be hard to get a hang of at first but once you get into the swing of things it's a godsend you can dabble with different outlining styles or vary between how detailed you want to be but bottom line is you got to choose a method that works for you and in an upcoming vlog I will show you my personal outlining method so be sure to stop by what that said don't forget to subscribe to my channel I post new videos on Wednesdays even the awakening is still available in eBook and paperback on Amazon right now you can also order a signed copy all the links posted below and if you have any questions or something like e to talk about in my next video be sure to tweet me at Jenna maresi bye

49 thoughts on “How to Outline Your Novel – part 1

  1. Ive been winging it and got about 50k words in so far. Been working on this project since thanksgiving. I would really like to have an outline though.

  2. It's possible you're the type of writer that doesn't need an outline. It's also possible that you don't know what the f*** you're doing

    L…m…a…o

  3. Brandon Sanderson calls them "discovery writers" instead of "pantsers" and I like that term a lot more. Thank you for another amazing video!

  4. I'm writing my first novel, and I'm having troubles expanding my plot enough to make 3 books. I have a beginning (approx 27,000 words) and I know the endgame. Just don't know how to stretch it enough to be more than one book.

    P.S. I'm a beginner level writer

  5. Well, I guess I'm an outliner type of guy. Was outlining before even knowing what that was. I just can't do anything without a blueprint. Thanks for the video, really useful

  6. I hate outlining. As I write, I expand my world, build on my characters, and often discover plotholes/details I no longer agree with. When I do outline, I never follow it after a few steps in

  7. “Your character doesn’t exist”

    My DID ass: Lmao I mean for neurotypicals who don’t accidentally write about their other personalities all the damn time 😂😂😂

  8. As a pantser (and yes, the name is stupid XD) I can say that outline would kill my creative process, but that's just my opinion. I tried to figure out the all story of my first book before writing it and I had literally zero ideas about the plot points: I had only very stupid and bland concepts. So I told myself "fuck this, I'm gonna try and write it" and I did it. Now, half through the story, I'm more motivated than ever: I know how the story is going to end, but I have no idea how I will get there, and that's so exciting because I discover the plot as I go, creating everything at the moment. I feel closer to the characters this way and I think it's easier to stick to their characterisation, but I must admit that pantsing is hard when trying to keep the plot together and consistent: the instinct to write whatever you have in mind at the moment is very strong XD in the end it really depends on the writer and there is no right answer. Everyone has to find their own way, be it pantsing or plotting ^_^

  9. "pantser" is a dumb word – that term should be changed to something else. dont get me wrong, im a pantser, it just sounds weird.

  10. 1:57 How did you know??? This is the exact reason why I watched this video
    Thank you so much for the help Jenna! Your videos and personality are fantastic ❤️

  11. I defintely outline. It is essential for the writing process. I don't like to do a lot of planning ahead in general, but I do it for the book anyway. It is like the quote "If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail." I have my outline be a list of chapters. Then for each chapter, I have a brief summery. the summery is only a few sentences long. Over time I get the outline memorized, so I don't refer to a written outline. That is wierd. I do have a tip for characters. Develop character arcs ahead of time. Then create events in the plot that fit the arcs. That will be helpful for making the plot work and making the characters behave themselves.

  12. "I've been outlining for days and I'm stuck, pls help" ..what?? I've started creating a novel idea last October and I'm still in the middle of outlining. How on earth can you create a proper outline in a couple of days

  13. I always outline as i go, chapter by chapter based on what's come before that. And my outlines are way short:
    Location
    Journal entry (there's a journal entry at the beginning of most chapters)
    Major event that happens in said chapter
    Where it ends

    I find that this way it's enough to keep me on track, but the stuff in the middle is basically my play time to do as needed or to mess around–my feeling is is i can clean it up later, that's why editing is a thing x3

  14. Okay, so I'm that new writer that can wing it and crashed & burned!😫

  15. I'm finding that as I move into the middle of my book an outline would be pretty helpful, up to this point the characters drove the story and I was able to keep coming up with logical transitions as I went. I'll try outlining and see how it goes.

  16. How troublesome is it to rewrite parts in the story because of bad structure?

  17. A couple of friends I've had in the past are guilty of just letting their characters do what they want. They never got anywhere. It really, really annoyed me when I was trying to talk about plots and stuff and they can't just sit down because "my muse isn't there". 😐

  18. This was very helpful thank you! I have been trying to write a story but couldn`t understand why I was finding it so difficult to write the characters. Although the story seemed to be moving, the characters just felt as though they were just there along for the ride and didn`t seem to growing or changing. I had backgrounds and personalities for them but didn`t develop their goals alongside what was holding them back from achieving them. I believe once I have figured these out it will really help flesh out who they are and how they interact with the overarching plot. They will no longer be soggy turds floating down a raging river! Or at the very least they will be interesting turds with goals and obstacles in their way 😀 Thank you so much

  19. I was like… it’s one of Jenna’s videos…. she is going to give me advice… and it’s going to be brutally straight to the point.

  20. Do more videos about outlining, please, especially about kinds of outlining (flash outlining and all of that)

  21. I've pantsed my stories my entire life
    for the one I'm writing now I decided to outline it
    mostly because I've been out of the game a while and I wanted to have a better idea of what I was gunna write
    and holy shit I'm so happy I did
    never not outlining ever again

  22. Your savagery with a smile is honestly the best thing on the internet. Thank you for that.

  23. My outline consists of plot points with references to first-draft scene outlines I wrote in a fit of imagination
    So yeah outline can be whatever works
    Edit:
    So I just realized that probably made no sense, so here's my elaboration:
    When I'm developing the plot outline for a new story, it's usually because I've already written a few scenes along the lines of that story (because I write down literally every single idea that pops into my head no matter how random or stupid or straight-out-of-a-dream just in case I find it useful later when I'm looking for new ideas) and I've looked at all those scenes together and decided 'hey, I could make something cool of this.' And then while I'm writing the outline itself, I'm continuing to write out new scene ideas that pop into my head (just to have them in a text file to make sure I can't forget them because my memory is crap :P) so I add notes in my outline telling which pre-written scene is connected to which plot point. E.g.:
    – plot point (Scene.txt)

  24. I know this is a year old but its helps me out when ever I get stuck. It also cracks me up at this point 3:31

  25. My outline: I'll just write the beginning, middle and end and some lore for the story and hopefully I can get to writing instead of watching youtube for 5000 hours a day.

    Edit: I agree with Jenna with making a middle (climax) first then writing the steps that lead up to the climax. It seems lile a gerat idea and helps keep the story a little more structured. Now hopefully I won't get distracted from m- R6S

    DANG IT!

  26. is it just me or is anybody watching this while procrastinating outlining their novel?

  27. I subscribed after the word "fuck" 😂😂😭😭😂😂

  28. I could probably “wing it” but then I end up with a mess of notes in the margins so that I don’t forget something I thought of for later in the book while I’m writing a different part. That’s why I use a more basic outline, then have a dedicated space to put these extra thought on so that I can go back to organize them by putting them back in my outline. Otherwise I might loose or leave out a brilliant idea for another section of the book. I also can’t write linearly because I get excited by an idea and want to write it all out before I forget any single detail

  29. Outlining for me is a tonne of notes brain-vomited onto a page which then have to be sorted into a reasonable order.

  30. Does the title "Fleeing the Unknown" a good tits into a psychological thriller novel?, someone answer me pls.

  31. I'm probably one of like 1000+ people who have come to say thank you Jenna for the detailed information you've provided. I'm currently writing my outline for a murder mystery/science fiction style book and have done all but the planning to nullify plot holes, so I feel this will help so much! Onward to part 2!

  32. There are two types of writers in this world: those who outline and those who do not.

  33. "Why? I dunno, humans are weird." Hahahahahahaha!!!!!

    Jenna, thanks for your videos; I'm not much of a writer but even though you don't joke every other sentence or have any special visuals, I'm never bored watching the videos because they are so interesting and helpful. 😀

  34. I am currently outlining a couple novels, yes, that sounds crazy but whatever. I can handle it, and I like to plan out my books ahead of time. How I outline my novel is I write the chapter number and buttel point all rhe events that happen in each chapter. I know it's a simple way, but it works for me. But I am curious, is there anything else I should put in my outline?

  35. I've got the outline and the characters in my head. And written down. Problem is, you know, the actual writing process:/

  36. Great video. 🖒 I just jumped head first into my stories. Defiantly starting anew after I outline… 🤓 #Subscribed 🤗

  37. Fun Fact:
    H.P Lovecraft swore by outlines! Despite only writing short stories, he still fervently wrote up very detailed outlines about them.
    And if one of the most celebrated authors of the 20th century used outlines, maybe you should too?

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