Formal Outline Technique

Formal Outline Technique

Use this if:

  • You like having fine, granular control and want to plan many aspects of your story.
  • You like to, or you excel in thinking in a linear way.
  • Your story does not rely too much on a “ticking time bomb” or time-based aspect.


Start with the three main parts of any story: Beginning, Middle, End.
 photo Example of Basic Outline_zpskfjukzj1.jpg

Expand below these three main points with subpoints like Characters, Locations, Major Events, etc.
 photo Example of Outline_zpsdjh1ogra.jpg

Then, expand below these subpoints with sub-subpoints, narrowing the focus on finer details.

Expand below the points until you’re satisfied with the planning.
 photo Example of Complex Outline_zpszinsde68.jpg

This type of outline will expand more in length than width as you add more details.

This might not be the best method if:

You don’t like to think in a linear way. (Try mindmaps)

You’re tackling multiple characters or epic stories. (Try the Timeline method)

You want something quick, with main points you can refer to easily. (Try the Query-Start method)

Writing tools I highly recommend if you want to do it by hand.

Erasable Ink Colored Pens. These are more advanced than the gritty-eraser type from the 80s and 90s. Use the different colors to color-code categories like Characters, Themes, etc.