How to Outline Your Book Chapter – Wise in 6 Steps

How to outline your book

As a writer, it can get daunting to assemble all your ideas including plotlines, summaries, characters, different scenarios, etc. You can either write a plan for your story, go into detail about each aspect, or even make a flowchart of how you want your story to flow, adding all necessary details. A solution to simplifying this process is outlining. An outline is a document that includes the structure, plot, scenes, dialogues, etc. It is the skeleton of your book. From a single-page document to a sweeping visual mind map using diagrams, you can pick anything to represent the link between information and ideas. It helps keep the story in sync, maintaining the actual representation of a character’s arc,  rectifies the disconnect in the story and helps overcome the writer’s block.

Let us understand these benefits with a technical story-writing perspective-

  • Along with helping you stay organised and giving you a sense of direction, it also opens doors to many different ideas you may not have thought of prior to writing down all your ideas.
  • Additionally, it helps save time and you can go straight to writing instead of sitting in front of your computer and just staring at a blank screen.
  • It helps maintain a flow of ideas and will give you much more clarity than before.
  • Another benefit is that you probably will have fewer edits and rewrites since you already have most of it planned in your outline, which again will save you a lot of time.
  • Lastly, it prevents having many plot holes in your book. If you know something is a problem area, you can easily resolve that from your outline, and therefore will not leave your readers confused. 

Outlining your book chapter wise can be done with a structured process. Here’s how-

Define the action- It is a good practice to open your chapter with an activity in a scene. Try to align the actions of a character with the chapter sequence and fit them in accordingly. A character that is in the middle of something exciting is always more engaging to a reader than a dormant character. Start your first chapter in motion.

Structure your plot- Ending your chapter with a cliffhanger will help introduce a turning point in your story. Anything from a new piece of information to unresolved inter-character conflicts, to augment the degree of reader engagement.

Assign an objective to every chapter-A chapter could focus on a dramatic downfall of the protagonist, while the other chapter’s objective could revolve around an introduction of the antagonist. Establishing the goal of every chapter offers substance to your story. Later ask yourself “how can I further refine this chapter to build the reader’s interest?”

Build your story via substituting titles- Every chapter title represents the crux of story segments and paves the way for the next scene. It subtly glides from the first page leading to the next few pages. While writing your manuscript, utilize the stand-in chapter titles as a map to reach the ending.

Regulate the chapter length: Based on your genre and subgenre, carefully weave your chapter length. For instance, a thriller novel would be entirely based on cause & effect relationships and action-reaction approach. When readers experience a rush, it leads to a quick page-turning pace, keeping them engrossed in a nail-biting thriller novel. 

Maintain balance: While outlining your chapters, you can pick either scene or dramatic narration. While scene narration deals with the display of an on-going conversation or action, the dramatic narration deals with merely describing the events that remain “offstage”. To seek balance, draw a distinction between passages to understand their narration type and then keep adding a hint of whatever is lacking in every chapter.

Any kind of chapter break in your initial draft gives a definitive direction. While you rework your draft, imbibe shifting the elements to give a perfect end to your story. Leaving room for suspense and excitement is a good way to keep your book’s spark alive. To get the best possible version of every chapter is the aim of outlining your book chapter-wise. 

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