Free fiction writing template to help you outline your novel (Word, PDF, Scrivener, Google Docs, Open Office)

A few years ago I made the Plot Dot (now free on Amazon!) – my simple 8 step outline for writing novels, with the major dramatic twists most stories need to hit. I always wanted a more in-depth plotting outline and cheatsheet, but there’s so many conflicting story structures out there… this week however, I managed to put together a 24 step chapter outline for commercial fiction.

It’s based on a lot of other things, but I’ve looked at other beatsheets or story planning guides and haven’t found one that actually tells you what to do at each stage in your story… So I hope you like it. I made an hour long video walking you through the steps, I’ll share that down below.

You can also download the Word Template; I managed to get it down to 2 pages (so you can print front and back if you want, and so that I can call it a “one page” plot outline.

If you like this graphic and plotting outline, please share it!

Watch the VIDEO

Download the free templates:

NEW: as part of my free fiction writing basics course I made a new video tutorial walking through the 24-chapter novel outline above. I’ve been adding all the video to my YouTube channel so you can watch at your leisure. This is advanced writing craft: click the image below, then subscribe to the channel so you don’t miss updates.

“I’ve been listening to this non-stop. Dude has done his research on story structure.”

“I’m an author and have been studying story structure, narrative arc, and plot points for years….this is a REALLY good template. I can tell you’ve digested and synthesized more vague outlines and converted them into a more comprehensive map of the types of scenes that must happen in between the typical plot points.”

“When I put my story ideas into other outlines they seem to leave me still feeling lost, and confused with what should happen in certain chapters. But this one? I was able to connect the dots from beginning to the complete end. I had to study it for a week straight before I finally was able to really understand how to use this story structure completely.”

“Thank you so much for creating this story outline. I have been looking for a plot structure like this for a long time! It helped me to complete a a story blueprint that I’m so happy with. You don’t understand what this means to me.”

“Man this right here helped me a ton. It cut out most of all the nonsense that the other outlines be giving.”

Ready for the advanced stuff?

I’m working on a totally new guide to the craft of writing with advanced tips and strategies you’ve never even heard of before, and you can preorder it now on Amazon (I’ll even give you a free writing course when it launches!)

In case the files don’t work for you… I’m going to copy the whole thing down below. You can paste it into the word processor of your choice. PS. this is only the basic outline; my downloadable templates are much more refined and include some bonus writing tips.

It’s not pretty this way…. but I hope it’s useful!

The One-Page Novel Plot Outline

ACT I: ORDINARY WORLD (START WITH LACK)

1 Really Bad Day

Ordinary world, empathy, conflict. Show flaw and lack. Want, Problem, Need.

2 Something Peculiar

Something unique or strange happens, but they dismiss it.

3 Grasping at Straws

Trying to regain control of ordinary world but setbacks mount.

  • INCITING INCIDENT (call to adventure)

4 Call to Adventure

Something extraordinarily different happens, they can’t ignore. Major setback.

5 Head in Sand

The new interrupts the old and causes conflict. Reveals dissatisfaction with ordinary.

6 Pull out Rug

Trying to fix ordinary world problems while resisting the lure of the supernatural world.

ACT II: 1ST PLOT POINT (point of no return)

7 Enemies & Allies

Explore new world; meet characters, find their place and and role. Introduce all main characters.

8 Games & Trials

Struggle to belong. Frustration and doubt. Trials and challenges. Promise of premise.

9 Earning Respect

Small victory as lead proves capable. Fun and games. Begrudging acceptance.

  • 1ST PINCH POINT (first battle)

10 Forces of Evil

Stakes are raised, antagonists revealed.

11 Problem Revealed

Surprise problem or situation. Demanding answers.

12 Discovery & Ultimatum

New information, vulnerable share. In or out?

  • MIDPOINT (victim to warrior)

13 Mirror Stage

Self-realization or a discovery. Victim to Warrior.

14 Plan of Attack

Plan of action to thwart antagonist’s forces or overcome main problem.

15 Crucial Role

Trusted with an important task.

  • 2ND PINCH POINT (second battle)

16 Second Battle

They execute the plan, and come in direct conflict with antagonist’s forces.

17 Surprise Failure

The plan goes horribly wrong, faulty information or assumption. Consequences.

18 Shocking Revelation

The antagonist’s full plan/true identity is revealed. Stakes are raised. Guilt and anger.

ACT III: 2ND PLOT POINT (dark night of soul)

19 Giving Up

Lead loses confidence; the forces are too great. What they want is unattainable.

20 Pep Talk

Encouragement from ally. Vulnerable share, inclusion. What’s at stake; choice.

21 Seizing the Sword

Deliberate choice to continue, even if slim chance of success.

  • FINAL BATTLE (triumph-knowledge)

22 Ultimate Defeat

Triumph of Villain. All hope is lost. Confront fatal flaw.

23 Unexpected Victory

Secret weapon or ability, deep resolve, new understanding, unlikely ally. Remove glass shard. Sacrifice.

24 Bittersweet Reflection

Temporary victory. Innocents saved. How far they’ve come.

  • REBIRTH (return to ordinary word)

25 Death of Self

From ambition to service. Death of former self. Acknowledgment ceremony.

Optional: Hints of future challenges or antagonist lives.

UPDATE: Plotting is a good start but it isn’t everything; you also need to create suspense and conflict in your book to keep readers turning pages. I’ve created an online course on with advance writing tips, sharing everything I know about writing books that sell (I’ve sold about 50,000 so far).

I really want to help writers so I’ve discounted it by 91% – you can get the whole course for just $17 with this link. If you want to be a full-time writer, this is the magic bullet that will solve all your problems.

About Derek Murphy

Hey there! I'm a philosophy dropout and book cover designer with a PhD in Literature. After spending a decade as a starving artist, I vowed to create the life of freedom my restless spirit demands. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write young adult fantasy novels and do a few editorial critiques to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles. FREE GUIDE: Book Marketing is Dead.

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