Are you a writer? An author? A NaNoWriMo-er, perhaps? As you might know, there are many ways of outlining your story: from good old post-it-notes, Scrivener, The 3 Act Structure, the Hero’s Journey template, or even, *GASP* not planning at all. But today, I’m going to talk about one of the easiest, most organized methods out there: the very same one used by J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series.
Now, some of you might have seen this image:
This, folks, is the outline of chapters 13-24 of Order of The Phoenix, handwritten by Rowling herself.
Although it seems messy, that’s not the case. Each column describes the progression of time, main plots and subplots throughout every chapter. For example, in Chapter 21, how does the Cho/Ginny Romance subplot progress? Well, based on the chart, we know that by this stage Harry is on a ‘Valentine’s date with Cho.‘ And ‘H (Harry) is miserable‘
For a better look at this system, I’ve re-created it as a blank printable template:
Here you can record a handful of your story-in-progress’s chapter outlines. The forms to fill out are, in order:
• The chapter (e.g. Chapter 5)
• The date/time it takes place in (e.g. December)
• A possible title for this chapter (e.g. ‘Rita Returns’ from Rowling’s)
• The main plot (recording the overall actions of the main character)
• And spaces for three individual sub-plots and how they grow during the chapters, regardless of the main character being aware or not. (e.g. Rowling’s ‘Hagrid and Grawp’ subplot, which Harry is not aware of until later on)
A note on sub-plotting: more than three sub-plots can be in a story. For the purpose of the printable, I’ve only provided boxes for three.
Confused about subplots? A blog post about them will be added soon.
Overall, I think this method of outlining is simple, yet very effective. Perfect for last-minute NaNoWriMo plotting, as you can write your ideas as short or long as you want, and still have a clear idea as to where your story is heading. So thank you, J.K. Rowling, for unintentionally helping a new generation of novelists!