So, you’ve been thinking about starting a novel—brainstorming, daydreaming about the storyline and underlying themes, imagining the voices of the characters. While a book’s roots sprout differently in every author’s brain, the step after the conceptualizing has flourished is one of the most important and difficult.

It’s time to organize those daydreams, and put that story down on paper, in the form of an outline.

Whether you’re just getting started on your first novel or you’re planning your tenth, beginning a novel is a daunting task. We’ve written out some helpful tips to get your novel out of the clutter in your mind and onto the paper in just one month.

Remember that “story mountain,” you were taught as a child in English class?

It went a little something like this:


This is a very easy and simple way to design your outline. Now, make a goal for yourself: You will have your whole outline done in 30 days. Print out this schedule and these tips, and keep them somewhere you can see, every day, to encourage time spent working on your outline.


Week One

Write down:

– Your protagonist and antagonist (if there is one)
– Characters and their relationships (try drawing a snowflake map of connections)
– Setting – where is this taking place?
– End goal – what do you want the final outcome to be?

Figure out your characters, setting, basic story line, conflict/climax and what you want the resolution to be. Then, set word count goals for yourself for the day and/or the week. Try our model above, or if you’re looking for more of a challenge, increase each week by an extra 500 or 1000 words.

Next, write a one-sentence summary of your novel. It’s your “ten-second selling point.” This sentence will also be very important in your book proposal later on!


Week Two

Expand your weekly word count goal: 3,500 words, 500 words per day. Also, take your one-sentence summary of your novel, and expand it into a summary paragraph. This will force you to prioritize your events and will help keep you on track.


Week Three
Increase Your Word Count

Increase your weekly word count goal to 5,600 words, about 800 words per day. During this week, you should also take each sentence in your summary paragraph and expand it to a paragraph of its own. This will create a very short, rough outline of your novel.


Week Four
Let the Words Flow Freely

Expand your weekly word count goal to 7,000 words, around 1,000 words per day.By this point, your story should be moving along fairly quickly. You’re already over 16,000 words in, AND you have a solid outline! The writing process can definitely be stressful at times, and while there are word count goals for each day/week, just let the words flow freely onto the page and check the word count later. You may even surprise yourself!

And if you’re feeling lost or stuck, try a few of these tips to get the creative juices flowing: 

  • Pick up a book if you’re feeling lost—it could inspire you to take your story to a new place or encourage creativity from a new perspective.
  • Only stop for the day when you know what you want to happen next. Plan it out on your outline. Once you feel comfortable at the end of a scene and you have an idea of what is coming next, take a break.
  • UNPLUG. Turn off the TV, cell phones, etc. Let your mind wander.
  • Take advantage of spare moments. Write down anything that comes to mind, rather than writing it online.