Though there are countless ways to outline a novel, one way that has become popular among writers is the "Snowflake Method," which is an approach that builds a story by expanding upon a single, simple idea. It can take an hour or two to outline a novel using this method.
- Write one sentence summarizing your novel
Write a single sentence that gives the most basic interpretation of your novel. Think of this as the sentence you would use to pitch your book to a publisher. Keep editing the sentence until it is short but intriguing.
- Turn your sentence into a paragraph
Expand your single sentence into a paragraph consisting of five to seven sentences. Include the beginning, end and major conflicts in your story. Shoot for at least three major conflicts.
- Get to know your characters
Write a one-page description of each character, including their names. Include also paragraphs about their storylines, their motivation and their goals. Write about potential hurdles to the characters achieving their goals as well as their progression as characters.
- Expand your paragraph outline
Take the paragraph outline you have, and turn each of those sentences into its own paragraph.
- Expand your characters
Once you have a full page for all of your important characters, add half-page descriptions for less important characters.
- Expand your outline again
Expand each paragraph from your outline into a full page.
- Add details to your characters
Turn your character descriptions into full blown charts. Include back-stories, birthdays, family, physical traits and habits.
- Split your outline into scenes
Take the outline for your novel, and find out how many scenes you need to make it happen. Make a spreadsheet of these scenes with a short description of each one that includes character point of view and what happens.
- Write a draft
Using your outline and spreadsheet, write your first draft, scene by scene. Refer back to your character charts whenever you are unsure of how a character should behave in a particular scene.