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Outlining Methods

When you see the word "outline" in reference to writing, you either cringe because you can't even believe a writer would want to be so constricted, or you squeal with joy because outlining makes you happy and less stressed.

Whether you're person A or B, these outlining methods will help you write your next WIP. Try a few of these methods out. Maybe you'll find one works better for you than others.

The Three Act Structure

Act One (set-up)

- Beginning

- Inciting Incident

- Second thoughts

- Climax of Act One

Act Two (Confrontation)

- Obstacle

- Obstacle

- Midpoint (a big twist)

- Obstacle

- Disaster

- Crisis

- Climax of Act Two

Act Three (Resolution)

- Climax of Act Three

- Wrap-up

- End

Eight Sequences

Act One

  1. Status Quo & Inciting Incident

  2. Predicament & Lock In

Act Two

3. First Obstacle & Raising the Stakes

4. First Culmination/Midpoint

5. Subplot & Rising Action

6. Main Culmination/End of Act Two

Act Three

7. New Tension & Twist

8. Resolution

Hero's Journey

Act One

- Ordinary World

- Call to Adventure

- Refusal

- Meeting with the Mentor

- Crossing the Threshold

Act Two

- Tests, Allies, Enemies

- Approach to the inmost cave

- Ordeal

- Reward (seizing the sword)

Act Three

- The Road Back

- Resurrection

- Return with Elixir

Mind Map

- Free form of outlining

- Take a blank piece of paper and jot down connections between characters, settings, plots, sub-plots, themes, conflicts

- Helps with writer's block

Note Cards/Index Cards

- Each card is a scene with characters, conflicts, and sub-plots

- Flexibility to rearrange cards in any order you choose

- Can color-code them to get a visual idea of the whole story

- This can follow any structure you choose


- A mostly detailed synopsis of what happens in your story in order

- Can create bullet points instead of actually writing things out

- For people who want to know what to expect and no surprises

- Makes sure the narrative works and no plot holes

Plot Line Method

- A plot: central story or conflict

- B plot: sub plot

- C, D, E plot: other sub plots or story lines


There are plenty more methods out there to choose from if you're more of a plotter. Or, you can combine a few methods to create and structure one that perfectly suits your storytelling. The best part about this, is there is no right or wrong way to structure your story. The choice is ultimately up to you. Talk to some friends, see how they structure their masterpieces.

I hope this helps you like it's helped me for many years! Let me know which one you use :)

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