Planning your novel (outlines & other processes)

The newer you are to novel-writing, and the more complicated your story is, the more likely you’re going to need some kind of plan or road map. The more experienced you become, the more likely pantsing (which means writing without plotting and having no idea where you’re going) will work for you.

Through the course of your journey to develop as a writer, it’s good to experiment widely and gradually find the processes that work for you. Don’t allow yourself to be put off by terms which have unpleasant school associations, such as “outline.” Most novelists who outline are not using the form of outlining they were taught in school. If you’re put off by the word outline, come up with your own term.

Most writers create their own process by adapting and combining elements from other writers’ processes. Most writers find their own personal balance between pantsing and plotting. There’s an infinite variety of combinations and you can find sometimes pretty idiosyncratic methods described on author websites and blogs.

Below are some of the most common approaches to planning:



Story Bible

Long Summary
Many writers use this method. Other terms for it are: extended outline or zero draft.


Updated April 20, 2019

Header Photo: Ithaca, NY, courtesy of Paul Joran

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