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Jodie's Blogs

Outlining a Book


First, let me apologize for the length of this blog. I love outlining a new book. L-O-V-E it. I'm a planner, not a pantser. What does that mean? It means I plan everything out before I begin to writing a book instead of just flying by the seat of my pants. To be honest, I outlined most of "The Gangster's Mistake" but I got hung up a little and part of it I had to be a pantser. I'd say the book turned out pretty good.


In my new book folder under outlining, I have 4 different methods of outlining that I like to choose from, depending on what I'm writing. The first one, a very simple outline and the fourth one, is very detailed. I'll expand on it more below. I tend to over-outline. Once I get going on writing, I don't like to stop because I have hiccups in my outline flow.


Method 1: Simple Scene List

This is just as it implies. Simple scenes. Write down all the scenes I can think of, then put them in order of how they should go in the story. That's it.  


Method 2: The 9-Step Plot

This is just the basic outline to get you to where you're going. Easy peasy.

  • Ordinary World: the main character in normal life
  • Inciting Incident: Something changes that normal life
  • First Plot Point: Things are getting more intense, everything changes and there isn't any going back
  • First Pinch Point: First major interaction with the antagonist
  • Midpoint: a shift from victim to warrior
  • Second Pinch Point: Second confrontation with the antagonist
  • Second Plot Point: Battle lost, hope is almost given up
  • Final Battle: The main character gets renewed vigor, then victory!


Same as the last one, you just need more details than just the basic six. You can still incorporate Method 1 into Method 3 with all your scenes.


Method 3: Save the Cat!

If you're a writer, you've likely heard this term. If not, you're in for a treat. The Save The Cat outline method is a popular outlining method for planners. It's 3 acts and 15 beats, with the second act being the bulk of the beats.


Act I

  • Opening Imagine (0-1%): the main character in normal life
  • Set-up (1-10%): Exploring more of the main character's normal life, including internal flaws, external challenges and supporting characters
  • Catalyst (10%): Otherwise known as the inciting incident and life as they know it changes forever
  • Debate (11-20%): The main character is balking at the change, seriously reconsidering moving forward

Act II

  • Break Into 2 (20%): The choice is made to take the plunge into new life
  • The Promise of the Premise/Fun and Games (21-50%): The main character gets used to the new world, whether loving it or hating it, doing well or not, and possibly introducing a new 'helping' character
  • Midpoint (50%): Either everything is good, or everything is bad at this point
  • Bad Guys Close In (51-75%): Things start going wrong for the main character and it gets bumpy
  • All is Lost (75%): Your main character hits rock bottom, their absolute lowest point
  • Dark Night of the Soul (76-80%): Time for your main character to wallow in hopelessness


  • Break Into 3 (80%): The main character realizing what he/she needs to do in order to break through this problem
  • Finale (81-99%): The main character does what he/she decided in Break Into 3 and succeeds or doesn't
  • Final Image (99-100%): This is the opposite of your opening, the main character in the new life


The more in depth outlining, the more you have to sit and think things through, but then you don't have to do it when you're actually writing. And maybe you don't have to, if you're a pantser!


Method 4: 3 Act / 9 Block / 27 Chapter Outline

This is the mack-daddy of all outlining. If you love outlining, this is the one for you. Now, keep in mind that you do not have to stick to 27 chapters. It can be more, it can be less. But you will have 3 acts and 9 blocks. I use this, combined with Method 1. I also have very specific things I incorporate in my outlines, such as information such as date, time, chapter/scene,  scene props, scene purpose, characters in the scene. I go ALL out. And if you ever want to see any of my materials, just let me know. I'll share.


Act I: Set Up

  • Chapter 1 – Introductions: Introduce the main character in the ordinary world
  • Chapter 2 – Inciting Incident: A problem disrupts the main character's life
  • Chapter 3 – Fall Out: The main character deals with the inciting incident
  • Chapter 4 – Reaction/Rebel: The main character's long-term reaction
  • Chapter 5 – Action: The main character makes a decision, impacting the rest of the story
  • Chapter 6 – Consequences: The result of the Action
  • Chapter 7 – Pressure: The main character starts to feel the pressure
  • Chapter 8 – Plot Twist: Things get complicated and the main character wonders if the right decision was made
  • Chapter 9 – The main character is pushed in a new direction

Act II (Conflict)

  • Chapter 10 – New World: The main character experiences a new world or situation
  • Chapter 11 – Fun and Games: The main character explores the new world
  • Chapter 12 – Old Juxtaposition: Comparison of the new world to old
  • Chapter 13 – Build Up: The main character struggles, which motivates him/her
  • Chapter 14 – Midpoint: The main character encounters a complication
  • Chapter 15 – Reversal: Everything changes.
  • Chapter 16 – Consequences: The main character reflects on what has happened
  • Chapter 17 – Trials: The main character takes matters into his/her own hands (see Reversal)
  • Chapter 18 – Dedication: The main character is determined to overcome

Act III (Resolution)

  • Chapter 19 – Calm Before Storm: A solution is found, but the main character has to overcome doubt
  • Chapter 20 – Plot Twist: Worst that before. Everything is possibly ruined
  • Chapter 21 – Darkest Moment: Everything seems list
  • Chapter 22 – Power Within: The main characters finds the courage and strength to carry on
  • Chapter 23 – Action/Rally: Taking action, the main character overcomes the plot twist and continues
  • Chapter 24 – Converge: Everything comes together, the big event is imminent
  • Chapter 25 – Battle: The main character fights the villain or tackles the issue
  • Chapter 26 – Climax: The main character triumphs or succumbs to a fatal flaw
  • Chapter 27 – Resolution/The End: All loose ends are tied up and the main character has changed


I'm sure there are numerous other outlining techniques out there, and I'm sure I have some saved in folders, but these are the ones I've tried to use and have had some success at. I've got these from researching and finding what others do for outlining and made my own modifications. Feel free to use any of these methods, all these methods, or none at all! Happy writing!

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