Outlining a Novel From Start to Finish

The 20 Novels Project


  • “Inciting incident: What brings the reader into the story? This is important because, if the inciting incident has nothing to do with the ending, it feels irrelevant.
  • First Plot Point: This is the initial turning point of the story. Sometimes it’s a twist, and sometimes not, but it pulls the main character into reaction model. He or she has something to fight for or against.
  • Second Plot Point: Some people call this the midpoint. It’s when the main character officially enters battle mode. The story has unfolded such that what the main character believed throughout the first half of the story has irrevocably changed that character’s mindset or understanding of the stakes.
  • Third Plot Point: In many novels, the third plot point (or second, if you’re using the midpoint terminology) follows a bleak period for the protagonist. He or she feels defeated and exhausted. Then something happens to reel her back into the game. It’s often his desire to protect someone else or to save something he holds sacred.
  • Climax: Call it the final battle. The protagonist and antagonist meet for the last (and sometimes the first) time to duke it out. The reader knows the stakes in their entirety and understands what weapons or tools both characters are bringing to the battle.”