Book Outline Template – Jericho Writers
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Book Outline Template: Free Template For Authors

Whether you’re writing a book for the first time, or the thirteenth, there’s a lot to think about. Plotting, character development, pacing, story structure… The list goes on.

So if you’re looking for a clear easy-to-use worksheet which will help you detail the basics of your story, then you’ve come to the right place. It contains all the key elements of a book, and provides prompts to help you decide what you want to include in each section.

Our free book outline template will get you writing in no time!

LM – Book Outline Template

Using A Book Outline Template

Creating A Book Outline

To outline or not to outline. That is the question.

Writers tend to have strong feelings about their writing practices. Some writers create detailed outlines and plan their books in great depth, while others choose to create their plots as they write.

There’s no wrong or right way to do it. The more you know about what works for you the better. That way you can tailor your writing process and schedule in a way that suits you.

If you are someone who likes the idea of creating an intricately detailed outline, staring at that blank page and not knowing where to start can be intimidating.

That’s where our free book outline template comes in. We’ve given you everything you need, all in one place. All you need to do is fill it in, and get started!


What Is A Book Outline?

A book outline contains the basic structure of your novel. It contains plot twists, key developments, and the main beats of your story. It doesn’t include every detail from every page, but it provides a strong overview of the most important parts of your book.

The depth and breadth of your story outline are completely up to you.

Some people choose to jot down a quick 20-word outline on the back of a napkin. Others may spend hours crafting a 10,000-word document. Most people probably fall somewhere in between the two.

Our story outline is there to help you get started and eliminate the stress of plotting.

Once you’ve downloaded it, what you do with it is up to you. Our template covers the key stages of a book, but you can add more, or ignore some of them if you like.

Why Outlining A Story Can Be Useful

As aforementioned, book outlines and detailed planning aren’t for everyone. But if it appeals to you, creating a book outline can be really useful.

Think about those excruciating moments when you experienced the dreaded writer’s block. Suddenly you forget why you’re writing in the first place, and you temporarily convince yourself that you were never very good at it anyway.

What if you could reduce the number of hours spent in that terrible state of block? Well, you can!

Having a book outline means that if you get stuck, you can look back at it and determine which beats you were trying to hit.

That way you can try a new approach, or even skip ahead to different scenes that you listed in your outline and start writing those instead.

Some people find that outlines (and templates) can be creatively stifling. But remember that you can change them at any time! They’re just there as a guide for you, and a reminder of all the key things you want to cover in your story.

Outlines also help you track the development of your characters, and ensure that you don’t forget to implement any details of forthcoming twists or red herrings.

What To Do Before You Start Creating Your Book Outline

When it comes to writing a book template and outlining your story there are a multitude of options available.

Our novel outline guides you on some of the key things you may want to include in your plan, but you don’t have to use the same format we do.

Take our prompts and run with them! You can use our outline as a jumping-off point and rearrange the information in whatever format works for you.

So before you start filling out your outline template, consider how you want to lay out your plan so that it works best for you and your writing style.

(Or, if layout simply isn’t important to you, just go ahead and download the template, and fill it in at your leisure. Done!)

Outline Formats

Here are some of the different outline formats you can use.

Mind Map

If you’re looking for a structure which is easy to use and very adjustable, then a mind map may be the right choice for you. You can add as much or as little detail as you want, and they’re easy to create in documents, on post-its, or on large sheets of paper.

You can colour code certain categories (characters, themes, plot points etc) and really have fun with this visual approach. It highlights the spatial relationships between categories, so you can add arrows connecting them, or even create a different mind map for each protagonist or act.

Beat Sheet

Beat sheets are another great format to use when outlining your story. (If it’s a beat sheet template you’re looking for, try our free Save The Cat beat sheet template.)

They document each key ‘beat’ (the main plot points that create your book’s overall story) and leave you some space to plan out your writing accordingly. Beat sheets are often separated into acts, and include beats such as the midpoint and the climax of the story.

Skeleton Outline

Skeletal outlines are similar to beat sheets, only they’re more concise.

They consist solely of the key plot points, which you then outline briefly, but they don’t include some of the more minor ones. For instance, they may include the inciting incident, but not make any references to the B story.

A Simple Outline

Or, you can simply download our novel outline template, and use the clear structure that it provides. If an easy-to-navigate document or basic list format is all you need, then that’s fine! More than fine, actually, as it will save you some time trying to adjust the format or figure out which structure works best for you.

Once you’ve filled it in, you can do whatever you want. Have fun with it! Print it out and add doodles of your characters. Change the font type and colour. Add pictures, and underline key plot points.

You know more than anyone what works best for you, so just include the details of your outline which are most important to you.

Planning is part of the writing process, so if you change your mind about a plot twist or character arc, you can easily go back to your outline and make some adjustments.

When it comes to actually filling in your outline template, it’s not just the format you choose that matters, but also the details which you choose to prioritise.

Outline Approaches

Here are some of the different approaches you can consider when writing a book template and filling out your outline.


Using a book outline template to detail the overall elements of your story is ideal if you just want to create a handy 2-3 page document that doesn’t overwhelm you with specifics. A

synopsis is a holistic outline that gives an overview of your story’s themes, plot, characters, arcs, and conflicts so that you have everything you need in one place.

Perfect if you want something to guide you as you write, but also like having room for impulsivity.

Character Driven

A character-driven outline still includes the major plot points, but it focuses on character arcs and character development over everything else.

This is an ideal approach if you’re writing a character-driven book, such as a literary fiction novel.

You could even have a colour for each of your characters to record their progression throughout your story.

Plot Driven

A plot-driven outline focuses predominantly on- you guessed it!- plot.

It details the conflicts, rising action, plot twists, subplots, and more while including some information on characters, themes, and so on.

This is ideal for action-heavy genres such as crime fiction, thrillers, and action adventure stories.

If your outline focuses on the plot, it could easily become oversaturated with information, so if that kind of thing overwhelms you, you may want to consider having more than one template.

For example, you could choose to have a story outline for each act, or one for your main plot and another for your B stories. Or, simply use our template to create a chapter outline, and use it to help you plan out the key plot points in each chapter of your book.

Chronological Order

As aforementioned, when you’re filling in your book outline template, there are so many options in terms of formatting and what you include that it can be overwhelming. The most important thing is that you tailor your approach to yourself. Outlines are intended to make the writing process as smooth as possible.

So if you don’t know what to include, just fill in as many sections in our free story outline template as you can. Or, in chronological order, focus on the basics of story structure: key plot points, characters, and themes.

How To Outline Your Story

So, you know what format to use for your outline, and which details you want to include. But how do you actually write it? Using our free story outline template, of course.

An outline can be an invaluable tool while you’re writing a book, so it’s important to ensure it contains all the information you need.

There are three main stages in the outlining process:

  1. Creating your initial premise
  2. Organising your scenes
  3. Editing and adjusting your outline

1. Creating Your Initial Premise

There is a lot to think about when it comes to writing a book, and if you dive into writing your outline without thinking about the big picture details, it won’t be a cohesive resource.

So before you start on the specifics, take some time to think about the aims of your book and its key elements.


A book is not a book without a premise. The premise is the foundation of your novel. It’s the central idea; it’s what your story is about.

You can go over the themes and the overall message later on, but at this first stage, it’s enough to come up with a simple elevator pitch for your novel.

Think about why this is the story that you want to tell. Start with the inciting incident, identify your protagonist(s), and establish the primary obstacle and what your main characters must do to overcome it.

If there’s one thing you take the time to contemplate before you start filling in your book outline, it should be the premise.


Characters are a really important part of your book. They’re what entice the reader the most, and they determine how engaged they’ll be in your book.

Character development and character arcs are things you can explore in more detail once you’ve got the basics down, as first, you need to know who your characters are.

Decide on your protagonist(s) and choose how many you want to have. Think about some of the foil and secondary characters you may include.

It may also help to consider the conventions and tropes of the genre you’re writing in, and use that as a guide to inform you of how many characters you want to have, and what sort of roles they play in your story.


Now it’s time to consider the overall arc and structure of your book.

You don’t need to do this in too much depth, just establish the beginning, middle, and end of your book. Once you have this initial shape, you can fill in the details later.

It may help you to think about it as three acts, or, if you want to be more technical, as the exposition, climax, and denouement.

2. Organising Your Scenes

Now that you’ve established some of the basics, it’s time to start filling in your outline! So get your laptop or pen and paper, and let’s get to work!

Creating Your Scenes

As mentioned, an outline can be as sparse or as intricate as you want. So when it comes to including scenes, decide how much detail you want to include, and go from there.

Book outlines are useful guides, but they’re there to help you. So if you’re using one, remember to add or remove anything you want from the book outline templates you’re working on.

You may decide that you want to outline fifteen or so scenes for each of the three acts, and create a one-sentence summary for each of them, or you could write a few notes on every single chapter you plan to include. Whatever works for you!

If you want to be more concise, you could jot down a few scenes you want to include in each of the three acts.

So, for example, in your first act, you may want your protagonist to visit their hometown, get an important phone call, and get an unfortunate haircut. There isn’t a lot of detail there, but it’s specific, and a great jumping off point.

Think about how your scenes will advance your premise and fit into your narrative arc. It’s also helpful to consider what your scenes will reveal about your characters and their overall arcs.

There are a multitude of approaches available when it comes to outlining your scenes.

You can focus solely on the key plot points, and add the minor scenes later once you start writing your book. You could work through every scene you envision chronologically. Or you could use an approach which combines the two.

Experiment. Have fun! See what works for you.

Building Your Scenes

Depending on how you outline your scenes, you may want to flesh them out more and put them in order. For instance, if you’ve listed ten key scenes, number them and decide which ones will go where.

Depending on the type of story you’re writing, you may want to organise your scenes in relation to time, which is especially helpful if your book has dual timelines or spans several years or even decades.

You could also choose to add a few details besides a plot summary to your brief description of each scene. Again, this depends on the aims you have for both your outline and your book itself.

You may choose to include notes about which character’s point of view the story is being told from in that scene, any character development that occurs, which characters are involved in the scene, subplots, the setting, and the themes which it covers.

This is where you can focus on the details of your book which you’re most eager to cover in your outline.

So if your focus is on the plot, you can focus on keeping track of different timelines, subplots, and plot twists.

If your story is more character-focused, you can track each character throughout your story in your outline, and make notes on their character beats, development, and arcs.

3. Editing And Adjusting Your Outline

Once you’ve filled in your outline, it may be helpful to go through it all and check that your notes are coherent and include the amount of detail you intended.

It may be that once you’ve completed your outline, you notice that one of the subplots isn’t very clear, or you haven’t set up the elements you need to have in place that ensure your plot twist is satisfyingly executed.

One way to check your outline for story gaps is to use a highlighter or a different coloured pen or font and then read through it carefully. Then you can take note of any scenes which need to be tied together but aren’t, any plot holes that you notice, or any scenes which are completely redundant.

If you find that there are gaps in your story, it may be useful to go back to the basics.

Consider how your characters can drive the plot. Their actions may result in complications which can create more scenes, or you could create a small scene depicting their reaction to a major scene which covers a key plot point.

Think about how some of your favourite stories are structured, and use them for inspiration.

Why You Need Our Book Outline Template

Book outline templates are a useful way to get a clear idea of what your book will include, and they help you to create a stronger first draft.

If you have a good structure in place, then it’s easier to go in later and add extra information. Having a good outline will save you time and effort, as you’ll have to do less redrafting and editing later on.

Having an outline is always useful when it comes to starting the mammoth task that is writing a book. It can help you plan out your writing sessions, as you can break things down into chunks, and dedicate each writing session to a certain scene so that you don’t feel overwhelmed.

This is one way you can stay motivated, and as you progress through your book, it’ll be easy to tell when you’ve covered each part of your outline, which is always satisfying.

Hopefully, this will boost your creativity, and lessen the number of times that you experience the dreaded writer’s block.

Ultimately, writing is supposed to be fun, and if having an outline to work from makes it a more enjoyable process, that’s ideal!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Write A Book Without An Outline?

Of course! Novel outlines are by no means essential. No writers write in the exact same way, and that logic applies to the initial planning stages too. For some, having a book outline is really useful, as it gives them a clear structure and a vague sense of the direction their story is headed in. That way, when it comes to actually writing, they can truly immerse themselves in the creative process and have fun, without worrying about their story’s overall arc.

If even the concept of planning and creating a novel outline is enough to immerse you in a state of dread, then clearly it’s not for you!

It may help you to download our outline template so that, if you’re writing and realise you don’t know what the next scene will be, you can refer back to it, look at the headings and prompts, and use them as reminders of where you are in your story so that you can get going again.

Or you could download the outline and put three words in each section. Or maybe you never want to so much as look at an outline in your life! (Though, in which case, I don’t know why you’re reading this.)

The most important thing is to do what works for you. Outlines are intended to be useful, after all.

How Do You Structure A Book Outline?

There are many different structures you can choose from, and book outline examples you can look at, and it’s best to choose whichever one works for you, your book, and your individual writing style. Some outlines focus on plot, others on character, and you can also work chronologically, in scenes, or by focusing on themes.

You can also use well-known plot structures to guide your outline, such as the Save The Cat beat sheet, the snowflake method, or Freytag’s pyramid. Then from there, you ca look at the wide variety of book outlines available, and use a helpful one, such as our own, to guide you.

How Do You Outline A Story Quickly?

If you’re eager to start writing and want to outline your story quickly, then it may help to focus on the basics. Create your characters and their main goals; consider the character beats you want to include; note the main plot points; detail any key obstacles and conflicts; and identify a rough beginning, middle, and end.

If speed is your priority, do some research to decide on the layout you want to use, and then you can go from there.

How Long Should A Book Outline Be?

Your book outline can be as long or as short as you want it to be! This is a tool you’re creating just for you, to make your writing journey as smooth and enjoyable as possible.

So add colours! Include pictures. Get a pinboard and place details of your outline all over it.

Some outlines consist of a few sentences scrawled onto a post-it, while others are ten pages long. It’s likely that yours will be somewhere in between those two examples, but regardless, there is no wrong way to write an outline.

Your outline can be as messy and disorganised, or as neat and colour coordinated as you like. It can very much be a resource that is for your eyes only if you so choose.

Creating Your Novel Outline Template

If you truly consider your needs as a writer and decide upon the details you need so that you can write freely, a plot outline (and any outline templates you use to create it) can be an incredible resource.

Once you’ve established the features that you want to track (character arcs, plot twists, themes etc) you can use the same plan to create everything you write, which gives you more time to focus on the fun things.

So write, draw, and scribble away, and I hope this (and our accompanying book outline template) has been a useful resource for you.