Template: Visually Outline and Plot a Novel

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When getting started writing a novel, it is common to run into the following two issues:

  1. Getting stuck and not knowing how to begin (writer’s block)
  2. Getting lost in the chaos of all of your ideas

This template, which provides a method of visualizing your novel’s structure, solves both issues. It allows you to jump in to any part of your novel, rather than forcing you to start at the beginning, which can help you get started and quickly enter a state of creative flow. Once your ideas start flowing, this template helps you organize them into the bigger picture that is the plot of your novel as a whole.

Click on the image to open an editable version of the template in Lucidchart and expand the sections below to learn more about it.

The first page of this template contains a high-level overview of the novel. The buttons at the top correspond with the 6 multi-scened plot beats of your novel, following the Save the Cat beat sheet. Hold down command + shift and then click on a button to navigate to the corresponding section page.

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Beneath these buttons is a scene-by-scene visual breakdown of your novel that shows how much of the novel each multi-scene beat takes up.

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Each vertical bar represents 5 pages of a 300 page novel, which is a helpful rule of thumb for the length of an average scene. For example, the first (green) section represents the "setup" beat of your novel, and spans approximately 1-10% of the whole. In a 300 page novel, this would take up 30 pages, or 6 5-page scenes.

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It is on the section pages that you can flesh out the scenes of your novel. For example, the first page is for the setup of your novel, which should span the first 1-10% of the content.

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You can use this template to start working on your novel even if you are not sure where to start. Simply navigate to one of the section pages and start brainstorming in the "notes" section.

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Once you have a sense of how you want that section of your novel to go, you can start turning your notes into scene ideas and placing those ideas in the corresponding scene containers.

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This visual novel outline template provides a common way to structure a novel based on the Save the Cat method, created by Jessica Brody and inspired by Blake Snyder's screenwriting method.

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The Save the Cat method breaks down a bestselling novel into 15 plot points, or "beats." About half of these beats are single-scene beats, while the others can span up to 30% of your entire novel.

 



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