How To Outline Your Fantasy Novel

I like outlines because they save so much time; I’d rather spend a few weeks outlining thoroughly, and then have a final draft without plot weaknesses, then write through blindly and wonder if I’m getting to a point.

I use a modified version of the Snowflake Method to make my outlines. I’ve changed it up to suit myself. Here are my steps:

  1. Write a sentence of the story.
  2. Expand that to a paragraph.
  3. Basic character motivations for 3 to 5 main characters.
  4. Expand the paragraph into a complete summary of sequential events. (I use this instead of going from a paragraph to a page, and then to a four-page summary. I find it easier and faster to line out a simple cause-and-effect for the whole story in one go.)
  5. Character charts for the 3 to 5 main characters.
  6. Make a list of scenes out of step 4. I also like to assign word counts and chapter names here.
  7. Write the book!

After my six steps are done (I work on outlining every day, and I only do a little bit at a time, so I spend a few weeks on each outline), I’ve spent a good deal of time living in the world of the book, and getting to know what the characters and the situations feel like.

Once I start writing, I have plenty of material collected to work from, and my finished first draft is very nearly a completed draft. I’m on about my eighth full-length novel now, and my process is gradually becoming more streamlined.

Because I work a little on outlining every single day, I have a pile of finished outlines in a folder; it’s great to never wonder what I should write next. I know I have three or four projects that I can start any time, and the outline is ready and waiting for me.

I’m learning to trust how I write, and that is a good feeling.

Do what works for you, and happy writing.