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6 Writing Outline Templates and 3 Reasons to Use Them

I have a question for you: What’s your book about?

No, no, I don’t want the long explanation. If you started with “Well, um, you see…there’s this girl…” I immediately stopped listening and started thinking about what I’m going to have for dinner tonight. I want you to give me the thirty second elevator pitch that’s going to pique my interest and make me want to read your novel instead of the pile of unread books I have at home on my nightstand.

Okay, follow-up question time: What’s the TP of your novel?

Did you seriously just say something about toilet paper? No, TP in this instance stands for Turning Point. In other words, the catalyst that makes your characters resolve their conflict. Wait — do we need to back-up here? Are you clear on what the underlying conflict of your story line is?

Alright, final question: What happens at the end?

I know you’re giving away all your secrets, but you can share with me. I won’t tell a soul. Just share the last line with me. Maybe the last paragraph. The last scene? You do know what the last scene in your novel will be, right?

Right?

If you stumbled through your answers to the questions above, I’d like to introduce you to our newest set of helpful Duolit tools. We have put together six plot and character outlining forms that not only look extremely spiffy, but they might actually help you get focused on your novel.

Still unsure why you should take the time to fill these out? Let me give you three quick reasons:

1. Writer’s Block: Despite the best efforts of the world’s leading doctors, a cure-all for Writer’s Block has yet to be found. However, there are some preventative measures we can take to keep the beast at bay, like writing outlines.

2. Motivation: A daily once-over of your plot or character outlines will keep you focused on your end goal. It will also remind you that you can (and will) complete your project if you put your mind to it.

3. Marketing: If you start promoting your book prior to its completion (and you should) having an outline with specific details about your characters and plot will help you focus your marketing efforts.

So now that you know how badly you need to do this, let me share a few details about the six helpful (and did we mention beautifully designed) plot and character outlines that we’re giving away today.


(Preface: You can choose one outline that best fits your style or a combination of outlines, but you don’t really need to do all six of them unless you just really, really, REALLY like outlining things…and there’s nothing wrong with that.)

[ PLOTS ]

The Basic Plot Outline

IF you prefer to leave plenty of space in your plot for changes on the fly….this one’s for you.

The basic plot outline can be tackled in under thirty minutes while you’re also watching TV and waiting for the clothes to dry. Just write down your title, names of your characters and maybe a line about each, and an overall summary of the plot you have in mind. Simple, quick and easy. Like my favorite foods.

« Download Basic Outline [PDF] »

photo by orcmid

The Detailed Plot Outline

IF you own more than six colors of post-it notes….this one’s for you.

From the highest roman numerals to the lowest alphanumeric characters you can outline every last inch of your novel scene by scene, page by page, line by line. Our plot templates include a starter kit for your outline but we know you’ll want to go into much greater detail than one page can hold, so feel free to expand. Also, I own more than six colors of post-it notes…and a set that features a different notepad for each month…with corresponding post-it flags. Don’t judge.

« Download Detailed Plot Outline [PDF] »

The Freytag Model

IF you prefer more of a scientific approach to outlines…this one’s for you.

In between the highly detailed and the very basic, the Freytag model begins with the exposition (introduction of characters, establishing the scene), rising action (building scenes), climax (turning point), falling action (aftermath of the climax) and the resolution (tying up of loose ends). It covers all the important bases without excess.

« Download Freytag Model [PDF] »

[ CHARACTERS ]

Basic Character Profile

IF you like to let your characters reveal themselves to you on their terms…this one’s for you.

Start with a choice between protagonist, antagonist, stock character, supporting character or the delightfully ambiguous “other” and you’re on your way. Throw in a name, a few goals, some information on what motivates the character to act the way he/she does, and wrap up with any other information might be relevant. You can fill it out in a hurry and be on your way to writing your novel in no time!

« Download Basic Character Profile [PDF] »

In-Depth Character Profile

IF you want to know your characters better than you know some of your family members…this one’s for you.

Leave no detail unplanned with this outline that can seem more like an intense dating profile than a character sketch. From height, hair color and facial features to favorite foods, hobbies and music, you’ll come away from this profile with a three dimensional character so realistic you might start to feel a teensy bit schizophrenic. It’s okay, we’ve all been there.

« Download In-Depth Character Profile [PDF] »

[ PERSPECTIVE ]

Choose-Your-Perspective Profile

IF you sometimes get your perspectives mixed up…this one’s for you.

Outlines don’t have to be limited to plots and characters. One of the biggest trip-ups for authors can be that pesky little thing called perspective. First perspective, third perspective or a mix of the two can make things difficult, which is why we created this choose-your-own adventure style outline for sorting your perspectives and tenses. Jump in and knock this profile out really fast so you’ll have established guidelines before you tackle your novel.

« Download Choose-Your-Own Perspective Outline [PDF] »

Alright, what are you waiting for?

We just gave you six (count’em SIX) free (totally FREE) tools for planning your novel. If you’re not excited, if you’re not ready to get to stepping and fill these suckers out, then something’s wrong with you! Even if you’ve already started writing, you can still dive in and fill out a few of these worksheets to stay on track with your writing down the line.

What are your feelings about outlines? Do you love them? Are you a rainbow post-it person like me? Are there other tools you’d like us to create? Shout out in the comments, shoot us an email, tweet at us or find us on Facebook.

You can also send out a smoke signal, but it’s been a little windy here lately so I can’t promise things will translate well in that medium…

 

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  • Brenda Kezar

    Awesome! These look great and I can’t wait to start using them (heavens knows my novel needs the help, lol). Thanks!

    • http://selfpublishingteam.com/ Toni @ Duolit

      Excellent, Brenda — I hope they help you out. How’s your novel going?

  • http://docraptor.com/ Tyler Moore

    Great post, Shannon. A lot of authors can make great use of some basic marketing know-how, and knowing how to make individuals interested in reading their novels with a quick conversation is invaluable.

    • Shannon

      Thanks Tyler! That 30 second pitch is uber important and getting your plot organized really helps to pull out the unique details of your novel to highlight in a pitch.

  • Jen McConnel

    Wonderful!  Thanks for sharing this.  I’m usually a pantser, but I am trying to learn to outline before writing rather than after: these will be a big help!

    http://displacedyankeeinnc.blogspot.com/

    • http://selfpublishingteam.com/ Toni @ Duolit

      Awesome, Jen! Please come back and let us know if outlining makes a difference for you. Happy Weekend! 

  • http://twitter.com/katyhulme Katy Hulme

    This is fantastic, thank you!

    • http://selfpublishingteam.com/ Toni @ Duolit

      Hope they help you out, Katy! See you around the tweetverse :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/crhobson Chris Hobson

    Fabulous article! Very helpful. I’m not a fan of outlines, and really can’t stick to them even when I force myself to write them up, so it was great that you provided a template for us anti-organizers. :)  Most blog posts about outlining don’t make an allowance for non-outliners. You inspired me to write a blog post of my own on the subject at http://crothhobson.com/?p=802.  Thanks again!

    • http://selfpublishingteam.com/ Toni @ Duolit

      Thanks for the comment, Chris (and for the link to your great post)! I’m so glad we could provide a resource that helped you out. 

  • http://www.devotedtoquilt.wordpress.com/ Nita

    Current novel is moving along nicely (at least in my mind and as long as I remember to write). However, I have another one in mind, but can’t figure out how to write it, one (or a couple of these) will come in handy next month when I start it. Thanks.

    • http://selfpublishingteam.com/ Toni @ Duolit

      Good luck with both the current novel and the new idea, Nita!

  • Antonio

    The character plotting templates were very helpful, I can create all these things in my mind but having them down on paper is much more reassuring! Thank you!

  • Karen

    Thanks so much! These are amazing! I have a long trip soon, so prime time to fill them out! They are very organized and seem helpful to stay focused on my novel. Thanks again!

  • Jack Morgan

    in a word…AWESOME!!!

    • http://selfpublishingteam.com/ Toni @ Duolit

      Woot! Thanks, Jack :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/khadija.craddock Khadija Craddock

    thank you i will use them with the one note notebook. I can’t live without onenote by Microsoft it’s like post its and notebooks but digital…don’t get me wrong I have like a ton of notes on traditional paper as well and on my cell and on envelops. i tend to get ideas when i’m doing things so i have to grab whats around me to quickly write it down or i’ll forget

    • http://www.facebook.com/brittany.m.weddle Brittany Marie Weddle

      I’m the same way although I tend to carry a small memo pad with me at all times just in case.

  • Cayris

    Now if only there was a template for confidence.

  • makayla young

    Thanks so much, this will help me a lot with my newest book i’m writing. I’m not an outlining person but i’m willing to give it a shot, i hope this goes well :D ….. now all i need is a title >.<

  • http://www.facebook.com/donnetta.williams Donnetta Williams

    This is exactly what I’ve needed…

  • http://www.facebook.com/brittany.m.weddle Brittany Marie Weddle

    I love these templates. Thanks so much for these and you an bet that I’ll will be trying all of them out.

  • Sonam wangchuk

    Great! These helps me alot to proceed. Thanks :)

  • Stephanie Parker

    I..I downloaded all 6…

  • Brandy

    Thank you for this! It’s just the jump start I needed to find my motivation to delve into the world of writing once again. My goal is to have the perseverance to finish one manuscript within this lifetime. I don’t care how long it takes, I just really need to sit down and actually DO IT. And that’s the truth of the matter. Never once thought about using templates until I started studying to become a teacher. Funny thing.

  • Raj

    This is a great article! Thanks.

  • Mar Lopez

    Thank you!!! I was looking for some info. on doing an outline of my book that I am halfway through, but it ended up a tad short for a Novel. I will get started on working with these outline templates right away. Yes, I am exited about doing it.

  • cgreene1

    These outlines are great! Thanks for the help. I could really use it!

  • Deborah Goschy

    I’m so excited to get started on these sheets! I’ve been looking for something like this but I haven’t found it until now!

  • Heather Jackson

    I love outlines! I’m a screenwriter too, and in TV/film outlines are always part of the process. I never write a script without one, and apply the same process to novels. Thanks for all the outline examples, and I will share with my non-outlining friends.

  • Carol Scott Shute

    I’m interested in compiling my fathers stories from his childhood up until he entered the Service. I’m not sure how to put them all together into a book, but it would be a book of amazing adventures as he was one of 13 children of a Sharecropper in Midwest Missouri, during the Depression.

  • Maya Storm

    I already started writing my novel, but I am going back to my outline today. These tools are very helpful and I wish I had them sooner.

  • ZoeLeigh

    Hi! Thank you, it has been impossible to find a good emplate and i am a beg. beyond belief. I am stuck on what i want to write. I hade my first idea and loved it and still but i cant even figure out what genre it is?.. I always wanted to write a book and my first idea wll be a best seller lol but idk what genre it is to research. I have a disease that crippled me for 4 yrs i was only 22 and still cant leave and do much at all so i always thought even then why not write a book? College english 101 was good aced it but 102 withdrew from my disease which i had to 3 times and owe money so yeah.. i was wondering if you could answer i think it ould be a kind of not theory book but possibly pyscholy and sterotypes with 6 main characters and 6 different stories in one? any suggestions would be great ty Zoe erinzoe13@gmail.com

  • Dave

    this is soooooo awesome. Plus i can fill them in straight away from pdf! Thanks a LOT.

  • Ecah

    I love it!
    Can’t wait to start! :D

  • TobinElliott

    Hey cool Duolit peeps, just to let you know, on the Choose Your Perspective sheet, just below the “Congratulations” in the lower right, you’ve got “writing” spelled as “wrtiing”

  • Trudy Sobocienski

    Do you have testimony from any authors that used these tools that have become our next James Patterson, Nicholas Sparks, Nora Roberts, etc.? I like the tools offered here, and appreciate the feedback, but since its been 2 years since this was offered on the internet, maybe followup of some of the success stories.

  • Mark

    Several questions please…
    –What about an outline for a “Do-It-Yourself” or “How To” non-fiction book? Is it necessary to send one to a publisher? It’s only 30 pages long (which includes 8 charts or lists).
    –Which way to go on the above mentioned book: Self publishing, standard or e-book publishing?
    –Which is easiest to “Get-er-done !”?
    –Is it best to have a book like this published using a “Pen-name” or is that not done nowadays? IF it is, when do I use it, at the beginning of sending out to publishers or after I have received a contract proposal?
    Thank you for the help !
    MARK (not my Pen name)

  • Susulee

    Thanks! Helped me a lot in trying to figure out the main points in my story!!

  • Clive

    hate to be a party pooper but you haven’t actually given us any stories or plots these are just blank sheets of paper! The idea of an outline is that you tell us what the story is about to make writing it easy. – i know how about a novel template 360 blank pages- all you have to do is fill it in.

  • http://debswritingcorner.blogspot.com/ Debra johnson

    I am always changing perspectives , so an outline that reminds me which point of view I’m in as well as the other outlines here are great, thank you. I look forward to seeing where it all leads, check out my blog and I will update it with progress reports.

    Here it is http://debswritingcorner.blogspot.com/ now sure the one attached here will take you there , but now there are two you can check out.

    I usually have 3 stories going at once to keep from getting stalled. Thanks for the help.