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Creative writing planner

Novel Plan Template

Starting a new novel can be an exciting but daunting experience. It’s the beginning of the creative process—where your mind is overflowing with ideas, inspiration, and plans.

This template will help you organize everything in one place so you can begin writing with confidence. You’ll brainstorm ideas, collect inspiration, research your topic, dream up unique characters and create an outline for your story. At the end you’ll have a solid foundation and reference that will speed up the entire writing process.

  • Brainstorm ideas
  • Collect inspiration
  • Organize visually
  • Share with others
  • Gather feedback

How to use this template

Whether you’re writing a novel or a screenplay, follow this step-by-step guide to learn the modern process of planning a novel in Milanote, a free tool used by top creatives.

1. Open the Novel Plan template

The Novel Plan template is the central hub for your project. It includes the key parts of your creative process: Your ideas, research, inspiration, outline and, character profiles. There are also checklists for your workflow so you have everything in one easy-to-access place.

Create a new board for your novel.

Create a new board

Drag a board out from the toolbar. Give it a name, then double-click to open it.

Choose the Novel Plan template.

Choose a template

Each new board gives you the options to start with a beautiful template. Find the Photoshoot Plan template, then choose “Use this template”.

2. Open the Research template

Whether you’re writing a sci-fi thriller or historical fiction, research is a crucial step in the early writing process. It’s a springboard for new ideas and can add substance and authenticity to your story. As author Robert McKee says “when you do enough research, the story almost writes itself. Lines of development spring loose and you’ll have choices galore.”

Open the Research board in your Novel Plan.

Choose the Research template.

Choose a template

Each new board gives you the option to start with a template. Find the Research template, then choose “Use this template”.

3. Start your research

Wikipedia, blogs, and news websites are a goldmine for researchers. It’s here you’ll find historical events and records, data, and opinions about your topic. Video and movie clips can help you understand a mood or feeling in a way that words sometimes can’t. Collect everything in your research board so you can reference it through the writing process.

Add a note to capture interesting facts.

Drag a note card onto your board

Start typing then use the formatting tools in the left hand toolbar.

Use the built-in image library.

Use the built-in image library

Search over 500,000 beautiful photos powered by Unsplash then drag images straight onto your board.

4. Open the Brainstorming template

You have an idea for a story. It’s just a spark at the moment, but you can’t stop thinking about it. Now is the time to harness your creative energy and turn your idea into something real. And brainstorming is the perfect technique for the job.

Brainstorming is a classic creative technique for generating new ideas quickly. You can use it to dream up new characters, settings, or even explore themes you want to include in your book.

Open the Brainstorming board in your Novel Plan.

Choose the Brainstorming template.

Choose a template

Each new board gives you the option to start with a template. Find the Brainstorming template, then choose “Use this template”.

5. Run a brainstorming session

Start by writing the central concept for your project in the middle of the board. Next, spend 5 minutes adding ideas related to your concept.

Think about different parts of your story, locations, characters, or even the history of your topic. Explore every thread until you fill the board. Finish by sorting the best ideas into groups. This gives you a strong foundation for your novel.

Add a note for each idea.

Drag a note card onto your board

Start typing then use the formatting tools in the left hand toolbar.

Upload images from your computer.

Upload a file or document

Click the “Upload file” button or just drag a file onto your board. You can add images, logos, documents, videos, audio and much more.

6. Open the moodboard template

During brainstorming, you imagined the different parts of your story. It’s time to start collecting inspiration with a moodboard (or “inspiration” board). It’s a technique used by designers, filmmakers, and photographers but works just as well for creative writing.

Moodboards can help you visualize any aspect of your project. You can use them to figure out how a character or location could look. Or they could be centered around the era or the emotion you want to capture. You can create a moodboard for each of these separately or mix them all into one board. There are no strict rules.

Open the Moodboard in your Novel Plan.

Choose the Novel Moodboard template.

Choose a template

Each new board gives you the options to start with a beautiful template. Find the Novel Moodboard template, then choose “Use this template”.

7. Add inspiring images & references

Drag in images from your computer and drop them onto the image placeholders on your moodboard. Then, use the built-in image library to add inspirational references. Finally, move and crop your images to get the layout you need.

Drag files from your computer.

Upload a file or document

Click the “Upload file” button or just drag a file onto your board. You can add images, logos, documents, videos, audio and much more.

Use the built-in image library.

Use the built-in image library

Search over 500,000 beautiful photos powered by Unsplash then drag images straight onto your board.

Crop images

Double-click an image and press edit to crop or rotate it.

8. Open the Outline template

A novel outline is often described as a roadmap or blueprint for your story. It helps you see the big picture and plan the sequence of scenes, characters, and ideas that will become your novel. It’s a simple, flexible technique to help all types of writers stay organized. Think of it as the modern, digital equivalent to the corkboard or wall of sticky notes, but much easier to manage.

Open the Outline in your Novel Plan.

Choose the Outline template.

Choose a template

Each new board gives you the option to start with a beautiful template. Find the Outline template, then choose “Use this template”.

9. Fill in the Outline template

Start by laying out the major scenes or events you know so far. These might be the key turning points, locations, or plot twists. Next, add a sentence or a short paragraph for each scene. Think about what’s being communicated in this scene, the location, and the characters involved.

Finally, collect visual references that will help bring it to life. While imagery probably won’t make an appearance in your novel, this is a great technique for kickstarting new ideas. Experiment by adding images or movie clips that relate to your scenes.

Add a note to describe the plot points.

Drag a note card onto your board

Start typing then use the formatting tools in the left hand toolbar.

Upload files from your computer.

Upload a file or document

Click the “Upload file” button or just drag a file onto your board. You can add images, logos, documents, videos, audio and much more.

10. Open the Character template

One of the most integral parts of any story is crafting relatable and vivid characters. As writer Ernest Hemingway said, “When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.”

The character profile is a popular technique for developing genuine personas for your story. It will help to shape a narrative as well as provide a handy reference point for their personality traits, backstory, goals, flaws, and challenges.

Open the Character board in your Novel Plan.

Choose the Character Profile template.

Choose a template

Each new board gives you the option to start with a beautiful template. Find the Character Profile template, then choose “Use this template”.

11. Fill in the Character template

Just like people, characters are made up of their past experiences, goals, and aspirations. Craft a backstory to help make them more believable. Next, give them quirks and flaws. Your character should come from an authentic place. That means that the character probably has some contradictions that make them a little out of the ordinary. If a character is too simplistic, it can feel cliched.

Finally, find some visual references. Even if you’re writing a novel, images and inspiration can help bring your character to life.

Add notes to describe your character.

Drag a note card onto your board

Start typing then use the formatting tools in the left hand toolbar.

Add reference images from the built-in library.

Use the built-in image library

Search over 500,000 beautiful photos powered by Unsplash then drag images straight onto your board.

You’re done!

Hopefully, this template has helped you stay organized while building a solid foundation for your novel. Remember, creativity and inspiration are constantly evolving so come back and add to it when inspiration strikes. If you’re just starting a new story, use the Novel Plan template below to get set up in minutes.

Start planning your novel

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Start planning your novel

Milanote is where creative professionals organize their most important work.

Story Planner’s easy-to-follow steps help writers plan novels, screenplays and more.

Writing is easier when you have a plan. We take you through each stage of the planning process to help you create a better story.

How Story Planner can help you

We offer a range of story plans to suit your writing style, whether you like a fast, easy planning method, or more detailed story structure.

We look at planning methods so you don’t have to. We’ve selected the very best ways to plan a story and many popular methods used by successful writers.

Our plans can help with more than just plots. We can help you understand your characters, define your story setting, and understand why you write.

Story Planner Helper will guide you to choose the right plan. We have plans for every stage of the writing journey.

INTERESTED IN JOINING A WRITING GROUP?

WriterLink is Story Planner’s sister site. It helps writers meet new friends for support and feedback on their journey to getting published. It lists groups, courses and services to help writers improve their skills.

It took J.K Rowling five years to outline the plots for her Harry Potter books – she used detailed spreadsheets and notes.

66% of writers plan their novels.

The majority of agents ask writers to send a one or two page story outline or synopsis.

“A pantser” is the word used to describe someone who writes without any planning. They write “by the seat of their pants.”

Story structure was described by Aristotle in his “Poetics” in 335 BC. The Dramatic Structure he described is at the heart of many modern writing plans.

Features

  • Choose from a vast range of templates.
  • Easy A-B-C steps to help plan story structure.
  • Save, edit and export your plans.
  • Try popular planning methods like the “Snowflake Method” and “Save the Cat”.
  • Keep all your ideas saved in one place. Add to and develop them when inspiration strikes.
  • Try Story Planner Novel Launcher to take you from idea to a book outline in 6 simple stages.

Plan a better story

Have a story in mind but don’t know where to start? Story Planner Helper can point you in the right direction.

Here’s what Story Planner members say

“Story Planner is a godsend. A novel that I’ve been planning for a total of three years finally has a beginning, middle and end. I’m actually ready to write now, THANK YOU!”

“The site is really useful. Having so many options in one place is brilliant. I’m going to use it to plan my novel for National Novel writing Month.”

“I find Story Planner very motivating. For anyone starting a new writing project Story Planner is a wonderful resource.”

Story Planner – A Free Printable To Develop Your Creative Story

There are two basic ways to create a story. The first is to sit down and just start writing a story, throwing your ideas onto a page and hoping it becomes a developed adventure. The other way involves a lot of planning and diving into your adventure before you actually start putting your story down on paper. This resource is an easy story planner to help pull all your ideas together if you choose option #2 for your creative writing.

>> DOWNLOAD THIS STORY PLANNER

This story planner will help you think a lot about all the aspects of the story you are going to write. It will challenge you to think in depth about your character, your setting, the problems and solutions, and the events along the way. It’s a great way to flesh out ideas and throw yourself into the adventure so you can envision the people, places, and struggles when you go to share them with others.

Included in the 13 pages of My Story Planner:

  • Main Character: Physical Appearance, Personality, Their Family, Hobbies, Habits, Occupation.
  • Supporting Character Details
  • Additional Characters
  • The Story: Genre, Point of View, The Plot
  • Location/Setting
  • The Crisis
  • Outline of Events
  • The Solution
  • Final Thoughts: The Ending, The Title, Your Reader

Each topic has a bunch of questions to help you think about something you might not have considered before. You don’t have to answer every single question – just use them to get your thinking going! Do as much detail as possible to make it easier to bring your story to life!

You can use this for more than a novel, too. What about a video game? Most of the great ones have a terrific story to give you a goal to work towards. Or a movie? You can use this planner for that as well. Think outside the box!

Need something to get the creative juices going? Check out this list of creative story starters.