Tools to Outline Your Novel: NaNoWriMo Tip #9

By Jason Boog 

No matter what kind of writing you do, a good outline can help you map your work.

While exploring this excellent discussion thread on Reddit, we found five practical tools for plotting your next book. It will help you keep your characters, themes and settings organized, leaving you free to write.

All five examples follow below. This is our eighth NaNoWriMo Tip of the Day. As writers around the country join the writing marathon this month, we will share one piece of advice or writing tool to help you cope with this daunting project.

5 Tools for Outlining Your Book

1. Using Excel for God’s-Eye View of Your Story: “The reason I use Excel is based on a writing principle I discovered years ago.  I call it getting a God’s-Eye View of the story.  I realized that by typing out my outline beats in a normal word processing program it took screen after screen to go through my scenes … if you can see it all (with, say, a satellite) you can make much more effective decisions because you have more of a ‘God’s-Eye View.'”

2. Using Trello To Outline Your Book: “I am using this board to collect and collate my notes and process for a book I am planning. I am able to keep everything in one place, and structure/re-plan in an ad-hoc fashion by moving cards around between lists.”

3. Using Google Docs to Outline: “[A] spreadsheet with three separate sheets. The first is for “Characters and Motivations”, and has a row for each character and fields for their name, their primary motivation or desire in the story, their ultimate fate at the end of the story, and notes. The second sheet is “Character Arcs” and lists the events for each character that are important to their overall arc in the story. The third sheet is ‘Important Events.'”

4. Using WorkFlowy To List Your Book (video embedded above) “an organizational tool that makes life easier. It can help you organize personal to-dos, collaborate on large team projects, take notes, write research papers, keep a journal, plan a wedding, and much more.”

5. Using the Good Old Fashioned Snowflake Method: If you don’t want to use digital gadgets, try this paper-centered way of plotting a novel.

UPDATE: Many readers urged us to include the Scrivner writing software: “Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents.”