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:
- MS Word novel outlining template
- Download the printable PDF
- Google Docs outlining template
- Novel writing template for Scrivener
- Novel writing template for Open Office
NEW: as part of my fiction writing basics course I made a new video tutorial walking through the 24-chapter novel outline above. I’ve also been adding new video 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.”
“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?
if you’re ready to dig deeper and enjoy a historical, magically-based theme to help develop your writing, check out my latest book.
You should also check out the free videos that walk you through the basics, over on www.writethemagic.com.
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 2021: 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).
The “Bestseller Blueprint” was $197 originally, but I really want to help more writers, so I’ve discounted it to just $37 for a limited time. 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!