Templates for Story Outlining

#DailyWings: Do not be concerned that you lack an official position, but rather concern yourself with the means by which you might become established. Do not be concerned that no one has heard of you, but rather strive to become a person worthy of being known.” -Confucius, Analects 4.14

I’m not big on the realms of religion and philosophy, but we’re studying Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy in one of my summer classes and I came across today’s #DailyWings quote in the Confucius section. During my ROW80 and JuNoWriMo journey so far, I have noticed something. The less I write, the more self-conscious I become and the less focused I am on my work. But the more I write while “in the zone,” the less concerned I am with the prospects of publication, fame and other ridiculous things. Instead, I write for writing’s sake, for portraying the truth genuinely as life portrays it every day for us. I care more about the story and about the characters than anything else at that moment.

I think that’s definitely something I would like to strive for as a writer. It doesn’t matter if I become nationally acclaimed for our bestselling, ground-breaking novel. Well, okay, maybe it does – a little. But what’s more important is that I work hard to get to that point. In the end, all we want to do is write the best darn novel we possibly can. Yet, as we approach the midway point of JuNoWriMo, let’s focus on actually getting the writing done before we focus on quality and bestseller lists, shall we?&

As promised, I have replicated the templates that I used for The T-Project, my current writing project, and have provided them below. The actual outlines are scribbled in my Moleskine notebook and very messy (who’s isn’t?), so I thought I’d recreate them – except using a different story plot. 

The story plot is made up, but I was inspired by the movies, I Dreamed of Africa and The Gods Must be Crazy


*Everyone knows the line, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” Each project has its own process – with a beginning and an end. For Page 1, start out with a vision of where you want your project to be at when it’s completed. The “moon and stars” keep you motivated. Working out themes help you decide what you want your project to be about on a grander scale. 

One of my ROW80 goals is to write character-driven scenes. This is a mini version of the giant relationship bubbles that should focus on Main Character (MC). Readers are with your MC 99 percent of the time, and the people she meets all play a role in her story. This is the time to grind out those roles. 

Everyone is different when it comes to outlining scenes. I’ve tried story maps, bubble maps, Excel charts, and nothing works better for me than this simple list. All scenes orbit around the conflict for this particular story, and so I broke down my outline into pre-conflict scenes and post-conflict scenes. Why? Pre-conflict scenes lead us up to the conflict, whereas post-conflict scenes derive from the effects that the conflict had on the characters. I also list the most significant scenes and, below them, the mini scenes that correspond. 

And here are almost all the events in timeline form! The conflict and climax are starred because they’re super important (duh), and in between major scenes of the story I add a couple of the mini (but still significant!) scenes. Add time points if desired. 

This was just a rough sketch of what these templates would look like filled using a basic story plot. What do you think? What sort of outline tools do you use when planning out your story?

*You may use these templates for your own story planning, but please provide credit if you are going to share on your blogs!

8 responses to “Templates for Story Outlining”

  1. Wow! Your outlining is impeccable. And that timeline looks so awesome. I could never have the patience to do that. :)

  2. M Pax says:

    I love your outlining templates, especially how you included relationships to the MC.

    Yes, write because you love doing it. The rest will come in its time.

  3. Wow! That’s awesome. I love all your different templates, especially the bubbles. I use different ones for each story. Some warrant a detailed outline, others don’t. Sometimes I’m well into the story and then make outlines to see where I want to continue to go. Good job young lady. And I like how you feel good when you write to write, when you’re in your zone. I get that feeling too, when I create dolls or create with words.

  4. Cherie Reich says:

    Wow! You’re outlining is fantastic. I really love your goals with it between the moon and stars. :)

  5. alberta ross says:

    never really done a time line except in my head but I do use connecting bubbles with lones coming out of them – a bit like a sputnik I guess – and different colours – yours are so precise – impressed:)

  6. Laura Parish says:

    Great templates Wendy. I may even steal them and give them a go if that’s alright? :)

    I’m the same. When I get out of my own way and just write, I am far less worried about how well it can sell and how good it is and I’m just proud of the fact that I’m writing. x

  7. Wendy Lu says:

    Cheryl – Thanks so much! :) I’d promised to share my templates on the blog so I dedicated all of yesterday to creating them on Paint!

    M Pax – I appreciate it! I feel like it’s not enough to just have the characters fully fleshed out – the relationships between each other are important too.

    Wendy – Thank you!! I think it all depends on the story you’re writing…each one is different :)

    Alberta – Haha I have to use a time line, otherwise I will get really confused about which events are supposed to happen when! Also it’s important if the time span within the story is long. Thanks for the comment!

    Cherie – It was a bit cheesy but I thought it made sense so I went for it :)

    Laura – I’m glad you like the outlines! Feel free to use them as you wish – if you plan on posting them on your blog, please be sure to add credit! :)

  8. Talli Roland says:

    What wonderful resources, Wendy. Thank you. Over time, I become less self-conscious, too. I love being in the zone!

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