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How to Outline a Novel - Three Templates to Get You Started

Let me guess - you have the best book idea, but you don’t know exactly where to start. Now that you’re here and ready to write, you need the right resources to help organize your thoughts. Let’s look into what it will take to make the best book outline for your project.

Quick note: Remember that outlining is about taking ideas and tidbits of the story and pulling them into a sequence that fits your vision for the storyline. It rarely includes dialogue, but that doesn’t mean it can’t. You’re creating the blueprint for your novel. It’s the intentional step that will keep you on track throughout your writing process.

Here are three great free resources with templates you should look into.


Milanote has a template that works much like a sticky note system. Start outlining your book by putting the overarching plot on the top sticky. Then, follow it up with lower stickies describing subplots. Or write out the various locations you have for your storyline and work through scenes based on those settings. Check out the template and guides here.


MasterClass may not have a fillable template like Milanote, but it walks you through how to answer three vital questions for your novel:

  1. What is the main contract of the story? You must resolve the promises you made to your reader by the end of the novel.

  2. What sort of time pressure is working on your characters?

  3. What is at stake for the protagonist of the novel? Does the pressure on the main characters grow more intense as the story progresses?

MasterClass gives perfect examples from current and popular storylines to guide you through outlining your novel.

The Novel Factory

The Novel Factory has a step-by-step guide on how to outline your plot to make it easier to pull all those important character development and scene-setting details together. The site includes a thorough definition of what exactly a plot is and various troupes around it, while also sharing templates to follow, similar to Milanote.

I’ve tested out each of these resources, and my favorite thus far is Milanote. I’ve worked with Kanban Boards for tracking communication projects, and this application allows me to mimic the process, but within the focus of my book. Once you add in the great developmental guides and features like mood boards and character queues, it’s a winner for me and one that I’m using for my current young adult novel.

Does outlining your book still feel a little intimidating? H.E.R. Legacy has services that help you map out your route on your writing journey. Our hands-on, 8-week accelerated program helps weed through all the resources available to match up what would work best with your writing style and storyline. Plus, the shortened program challenges you to remain dedicated to your writing goals.

Josephine Smith's headshot with service review.

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