The outline becomes our road map for the novel. Picture of a road map, a pen and pencil, and a mug of tea resting on top

Every novel begins with a spark—an idea that will be the foundation for the entire story. But once that idea is ignited, a lot of grunt work needs to be done to craft it into a novel. At the start of a new writing journey, the path to a finished book is long and daunting one.

And we all know, writing a book is no easy task.

Sarah and I try to make the process of writing a book together as painless as possible. For us, especially as collaborative authors, the planning phase of a new novel is critical. We don’t have the luxury of putting pen to paper and seeing where our story takes us. With two people working together, we need a roadmap. An outline.

In simple terms, the outline of a novel details the events of your book. It allows you to hash out those pesky plot problems early on, map out your characters motivations realistically, and control the flow. Not to mention, your book gets written faster.

Sarah and I use a three-step process. First, we come up with the general idea—a short synopsis that sums up our characters plight with some basic character motivations. Then comes the outlining stage where we get together and tease out the finer plot points to give a general outline of the book (usually a multi-hour ordeal involving copious amounts of tea). This lists all the main events that occur, the dominoes that have to fall throughout the course of the novel, and the character development that needs to happen.

But the work doesn’t stop there.

With a robust road map (usually 3-4 pages), we turn the outline into chapter plans. These detail all the major (and minor) points that need to happen over the course of a chapter, and are about half a page in length.

This might seem like a lot of time and effort before even writing the first word of our story. But it is invaluable to Sarah and I. It puts us both on the same page—we’re under no illusions as to where the book is going. And it allows us to write our books fast.

In other words, the extra effort is worth it. Totally worth it.

How do you go about planning a novel? Let us know in the comments below!



I took some time off work this week to hang out with our new puppy!

Meet Reilly.

He’s cute, fluffy, and almost 8 weeks old.