I wrote a blog on outlining a novel, which will soon be hosted on Ali’s website. This is a cheat-sheet I wrote up, simplifying Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method (which I wrote more about in the blog post). I have it printed up and tacked to the wall over my desk, as well as the inside of my notebook where I keep my notes on the story:
Step 1: Write a one-sentence summary of your novel. Keep it short (less than 15 words), avoid names, tie together the big picture and the personal picture. [1 hour]
Step 2: Expand the sentence into a full paragraph describing story setup, major disasters, and the ending. [1 hour]
Step 3: Write a one-page summary sheet for each of your major characters that tells: Name, one-sentence story summary, motivation (abstract), goal (specific), conflict (obstacle to goal), epiphany (growth), and a one-paragraph summary of the character’s storyline. [1 hour per character]
Step 4: Expand each sentence of your summary paragraph into a full paragraph. All but the last paragraph should end in disaster. The last paragraph tells how it ends. [several hours]
Step 5: Write a one-page description of each major character and a half-page description of the other important characters. These character synopses should tell the story from the point of view of each character. [a day or two]
Step 6: Expand the one-page plot synopsis of the novel to a four-page synopsis. [1 week]
Step 7: Expand character descriptions into full-fledged character charts detailing everything there is to know about each character. Birthdate, description, history, motivation, goal, change through the story, etc. [1 week]
Step 8: Make a scene list in a spreadsheet. Include one line for each scene, the POV character, and what happens. (Perhaps Chapter Numbers) [1 day]
Step 9: Take each line from the spreadsheet and expand it into a multi-paragraph description of the scene. Put in any cool lines of dialogue you think of, and sketch out the conflict.
Step 10: Sit down and start pounding out the real first draft. This stage is incredibly fun and exciting!