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Outline Your Novel In A Day

Updated on December 15, 2015

The Seven Essential Plot Points

When I'm planning a novel, I don't plan in exact order of how the plot points will fit into the story. I find it easier to build a general structure and then fill it in with more and more detail. If you like to just jump into drafting, this is a quick way to really get the best of both worlds. The final order for your outline will be as follows:

Beginning

Inciting Incident

Turning Point 1

Middle

Turning Point 2

Climax

End

However, this is not how I first plan. I will explain each plot point in the order of how I actually plan the novel. I find this order the for making sure your story has a strong central direction, and even if you want to explore different concepts or avenues while you write you can always returns to this outline to make sure your story remains cohesive.


Beginning

The first thing you need to establish is what happens first in your story. Where are the characters now and what are they missing from their lives.

Inciting Incident

After knowing what your character's are missing, something must come into their lives that throws the status quo into chaos and puts them on the journey to filling that missing space. Maybe your character is a grumpy old man who thinks he wants to be alone, but really needs to make a human connection in life. The inciting incident could be him reluctantly taking in a long lost relative.

End

The end is where the character are when all is said and done. Have they filled that missing space in their life by changing themselves fundamentally or have they refused to change? I like to plan this before the climax because I need to know what decision the character will make before I define how exactly they will make that decision.

Climax

This is where the characters will make the ultimate decision between changing and remaining the same. The climax is the most tense, emotional and dramatic point of your story. Here the characters will achieve their goal finally or they will not.

Middle

The middle of a story is where the character almost gets what he really wants. Where the story goals and character goals are nearly achieved. On one level this should feel like the end of the story, but the reader should be aware of other circumstances, emotional or physical, that prove the story is not over yet. Something must go wrong in some way here to keep the story going and it should be primarily based on the character's inability to change.

Turning Point 1

This turning point comes after the inciting incident. This is where the character decides to start taking some of his circumstances into his own hands. Where the inciting incident is a force that happens to the character, the first turning point is how the character has decided to react the inciting incident.

Turning Point 2

This turning point follows the middle and is usually a low point for the character. This is where the character truly believes he has failed and there is no hope, but something - a person or a moment of inspiration or revelation gives the character the courage to try at least one more time and this leads us into the climax.


These seven points are not comprehensive but they give the writer a strong backbone to work with as they begin to tell their story.


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