How to Make an Outline for Fiction

by James Stuart

Whether you're writing a short story or a full length novel, you may find it helpful to write an outline. An outline covers all of the important points in your story in a few sentences or paragraphs. It can be used to plan the story and as a reference once your work has begun. Everyone has their own method of writing an outline with varying amounts of depth and detail, but following a few basic principles will ensure that your outline, and subsequently your story, is strong.

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Step 1

Write a one sentence summary of your story. This will give your outline a focus. You can elaborate on your story later, but writing a single sentence will force you to condense your story to its basic elements.

Step 2

Make a list of your characters and what their goal is in the story. Describe their appearance and personality in a few sentences along with what motivates them.

Step 3

Describe the setting of your story. In a few sentences, talk about where your story takes place and what significance the setting has to the story. Include the time frame of your story .

Step 4

Expand your one sentence summary into a full outline. Ensure you have a strong beginning, middle and end to your story. What is the central conflict in the story and how does the protagonist overcome or fail to overcome this obstacle? Continue to expand your outline, adding more detail until your story seems complete.

Step 5

Review and edit your outline. Get rid of anything that doesn't seem appropriate. Try to trim your story down to the basics. This will help save you time once you begin to write your story.

About the Author

James Stuart began his professional writing career in 2010. He traveled through Asia, Europe, and North America, and has recently returned from Japan, where he worked as a freelance editor for several English language publications. He looks forward to using his travel experience in his writing. Stuart holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and philosophy from the University of Toronto.

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