BRILLIANT! Positively BRILLIANT. Most comprehensive outline I’ve ever seen anywhere. Thank you Derek!
A few years ago I made the Plot Dot (now free on Amazon!) – my simple 8-point novel writing template, with the major dramatic twists most stories need to hit. I always wanted a more in-depth book outline and plotting cheatsheet, but there’s so many conflicting story structures out there it was hard to sort out the specifics. Last year however, I managed to put together a 24 chapter template 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).
PS. Scroll down to find the download links!
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 Writing Template
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.
Dramatic turning points
One of the most interesting and unique parts of the writing template are the red lines for the “A” story and the “B” story – that deal with the types of conflict and drama your protagonist might be facing at each major turning point.
These are the 8 points in the Plot Dot so get familiar with them first, they are the spokes that hold everything together.
Every scene needs drama and conflict – there’s a scene checklist below – but the story will deepen and evolve depending on which external or internal threats and conflicts are the most pressing at any given time.
Watch the video
The sound is a little off on this one I think… I have another version on YouTube.
“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.”
Download the free writing templates:
- MS Word novel outlining template
- Download the printable PDF
- Google Docs outlining template
- Novel writing template for Scrivener
- Novel writing template for Open Office
- Plottr templates (NEW!)
If you need help with the whole writing process, here’s a huge post:
Story reveals & plot twists
One of the biggest mistakes new writers make is having backstory infodumps at the beginning. Conflict and suspense are caused by the lack of information, which means you need to be raising questions without giving answers.
I made a handy chart for when to reveal crucial information; it’s a response to the questions the characters are seeking. Basically, never give info for free – it has to be asked for first (noticed the lack) and resisted (difficult to find) before the reveal will be meaningful.
You keep what’s important private and hidden until it is forced out of you. I made a clever little graphic for when you should be revealing what type of information, depending on what type of questions your protagonist is asking.
In the beginning, they’ll be asking
- “What is going on?” then,
- “Who is doing this” or “Who am I?” and finally
- “Why is all this happening” or
- “why am I willing to sacrifice everything for this…”
– you don’t get to the big reveals or why’s or critical, full backstory flashback until very late in the book, often in the middle of the final battle scene (that’s a whole thing on its own but I have a video about that too).
Fiction scene checklist & common writing mistakes
Plotting is important, but even when you have the right stuff in the right place, it doesn’t mean your story will be any good. The fastest and easiest way to resolve that is to use this scene checklist, which includes the 3 types of conflict you should include.
And then check these out:
- 25 Self-Editing Tips for Indie Authors (and 8 amateur writing mistakes)
- The 6 signs of weak writing (how to tell if your book sucks)
You might not need them until later during edits and revisions – get the first draft out before you polish. But, well, it’s much easier to avoid common signs of weak and amateur writing than it is to fix it or replace it later.
NEW: as part of my Bestseller Blueprint course I made a new video tutorial walking through the 24-chapter novel outline above. I’ve also been adding new videos to my YouTube channel (up to 3 million views!) 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.”
“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?
The writing templates are 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 wrote a book with advance writing tips, sharing everything I know about writing books that sell (I’ve sold about 50,000 so far).
But it’s a bit tedious and heavy. If you’re ready to dig deeper and enjoy a historical, magically-based theme to help develop your writing, check out BookCraft.
If you want something cleaner and faster, I also put together a video course called “the Bestseller Blueprint.” It’s on sale for just $37 (usually $197). And I’m giving away two bonus courses, with some more advanced tips for writing fiction and nonfiction books.
If you’re looking for more direct feedback and a deep developmental critique of your writing, there are a few more spots left to work one-on-one with me. Happy writing!
I’m a philosophy dropout with a PhD in Literature. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write fantasy novels to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles.