Recently, I was chatting with one of my writing friends and they asked me how I outline my stories. If you have watched my first reading stream or read my first Q&A post, you know that I outline my stories before I write them. My methods for outlining have changed over the years, but I think that the current one that I use has been the most beneficial when it comes to crafting long, organized stories that I can actually finish. So, today I wanted to share a quick step-by-step guide on how I outline my stories.
Keep in mind that this guide is specifically for fiction stories that are meant to entertain. I don’t delve deeply into the story’s message or morals while planning because they tend to appear as I write or I already have them in mind. Also, this is what works for me in my own experience, so a different method may work better for you.
Without further ado, let’s get into the first step!
Step 1: Write A Basic Summary
This is always the first thing that I do when I get a new story idea. When writing the summary, include a brief introduction of your main characters and what you want to happen at the beginning, middle, and end of the story. This summary doesn’t have to be super detailed; I would actually recommend that you keep it pretty vague in order to leave enough room for growth, unless you know exactly where your story is going already. Then, you will be ready to move onto step 2.
Step 2: Break Story Up Into “Chunks”
I started doing this recently and I have noticed that it helps me write longer stories, which is something that I struggled with in the past. In this step, break the story up into different sections. Keep in mind that you don’t need to have equal-length chunks, so each chunk can have a different number of chapters. My current project, The Rise of The Dragon Queen, is broken up into five different chunks of varying lengths and each one ends at a specific turning point, such as the main character being given options, learning something new, or gaining a new skill. After I have decided how to split the story, I write one-sentence summaries of each chunk to get a basic idea of what happens in each piece.
Step 3: List Needed Events For Each Chunk
After you have determined how to split up the story, start listing what events need to happen in each chunk. I usually do this right below the chunk summaries and it helps me determine where different details should go while working out the overall pacing of the story.
Step 4: Outline Each Chunk In Chapters and Scenes
Now, this is the part where I really dive into the details and it is probably the most time consuming part of this process. I use the previous notes, summaries, and event lists to plan out chapters and scenes. I do this separately for each chunk to avoid burning myself out and to help leave room for revisions as I continue to develop the story. For example, the picture below is the outline for the first chapter of The Rise of The Dragon Queen. (Ignore the green highlights, they are just used to mark what I have already written.) Each bullet point is a scene with a short paragraph summary of what happens in every scene.
If you are worried about the length of your chapters, just end them wherever it feels right. Also, you do not have to worry about describing each scene in complete sentences or anything, just take enough notes to where you will remember what you envisioned when you wrote them.
When you are done with this step, you should have a working, multi-part outline for your story!
Basically, that is how I outline my stories. I hope that this guide was helpful and if you liked it please consider giving it a like or telling me your thoughts in the comments. If you would like to learn more about The Rise of The Dragon Queen, more information can be found about it here. Also, please consider contributing to my Ko-Fi to help keep this site running.
Thank you for reading and I hope you have a wonderful day!