6 Steps to Compiling Your Novel's Three-Act Outline
Chapter 2 “Creating a Plot” – Section 2 “Compiling a Three-Act Outline”
With Links to Supplementary Material
Part 1 of 2 (Link to Part 2)
Now that you have a Plot Premise, I'm sure that you have all kinds of ideas for the things you want to happen in your story—which you probably have written down in your Writing Journal. Well, today we are going to begin to organize those thoughts into groups and begin our Plot Outline by establishing a Three-Act Structure.
Step 1: Open a new word document entitled “Story Outline”
Now that we have so many pieces of your Outline ready to go, it is finally time (if you haven't done so already) to compile a Master Outline/Resource Booklet, by which you will be writing the entirety of your novel. The goal of this document is to make sure that you have as little down time, writing blocks, and aimless story wandering as possible.
Step 2: Write down your Plot Premise.
This is your thesis statement—it should be the first thing you look at every time you begin working on your story, so that you never forget the basic story that you wish to tell.
Step 3: Write down your Timeline.
This is the device that I use more than anything else when I am actually writing. Your Timeline will be what gives you the logic and basis by which your entire world runs.
Along with the Timeline, these will be another resource that you will use as a basis for your protagonist's journey, and how they react/are reacted to by every landscape, people group, and environment in your created world.
Step 5: Use the Three-Act Outline Template and fill in the blanks.
You have probably noticed that everything up to now has been a recap and compilation of previous articles. The Three-Act Template is the real addition here. I've done some research, compiled plot structure ideas, looked at several different theories on the Three-Act system, and have created a fill-in-the-blank outline. Just open the above link, fill out the outline, and then save it to your Story Outline document.
Step 6: Be prepared for changes and adaptions as your writing progresses.
Remember that you will come across contradictions, plot-holes, and other complications as you actually begin to write your story. This is to be expected; the Outline only exists to guide you from one plot-point to another so that you can be sure that you have a complete story, are not writing aimlessly, and are less likely to encounter writer's block. Feel free to change, adapt, and play with your Outline as the need arises, or as you think of better ideas that will lead to a more dynamic story.
A concluding note: as I said earlier, we are using concrete structure for two reasons: to give you boundaries by which you can enhance your creativity, and to create a method by which anyone can write a novel. But, you should also know that a convention of writing is to break the rules and the structure. However, to break any rule efficiently and not seem like an amateur, you have to know the rule so that when you break it, the audience knows that it was done with artful intent. Therefore, I encourage you to write your first draft completely within the realm of plot structure, and then break, in your subsequent drafts, only structure that would lead to a better novel.
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