For those who outline their scenes, what's your process?

As the title says, I’m curious how people outline scene by scene.
What’s your process?
What elements do you include in your plan?
Any tips?

I’ve always planned around specific events/beats, trying to get my characters there. I’ve never planned scene by scene before but I want to give it a try.

Reason: I’m going to rewrite this book from scratch and I’d like to be more efficient at it. I don’t want to take a whole freaking year again. I want to plan the details and stick to a writing routine to finish the draft in a timely manner without deviating from the plan for a change.

So I guess it’s an experiment for me.


Normally when I outline, it is by chapter…sometimes.

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While waiting for responses, I’m going to gather up some info from various sources and start making notes here.

  1. Scene purpose.
    It’s important to the main story because…
  2. What does it reveal and what it hides? Which questions it asks and which it answers.
  3. Conflicts.
    What is the push and pull of the scene. Who’s triumphant and who’s the loser by the end.
  4. Motivations.
    What the characters in the scene want and do they achieve it?
  5. Stakes
    What could happen if they fail?
  6. Logistics
    Where. When. Who’s in it. How do they get there. POV.
  7. What changed?
    If nothing changed then the scene either is incomplete or it doesn’t need to exist.
  8. Goal status.
    Are we closer or further away?

I’ve never outlined a scene before, but it sounds like a really good idea, and would save a lot of time in the writing process. There seem to be some good articles online for it:

Also Sarra Cannon on YouTube did a five-part series on how to write scenes on her channel. I haven’t watched them yet so I don’t know if she outlines them first, but she’s usually pretty helpful.

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I’ve seen this author’s blog recommended and their scene chart.

Update. Okay, I’ve spoken too soon. This is a pretty simple chart. Not that it’s bad, I’m used to a lot more I guess. :joy:

I already use a giant spreadsheet that I do for written scenes to keep track of the madness. I haven’t tried to use it for planning but it makes sense and I’m already used to the process.

So I’m going to look into how I can use my spreadsheet in a simplified/focused way to help me plan the scenes.

But this list of resources is pretty cool

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Set point A, set point B, let characters go wild during the scene trying to get from A to B!!


I rarely plan actions scene by scene. Mostly, for myself, it’s the feeling, the emotions, and what exactly is meant to be revealed per chapter. I prefer to have the freedom to still explore just how I reach those goals.

That’s how I’ve always done it too, but honestly, I’m tired of the side effect of flexibility and that it takes me so long to finish a book. Because I keep changing it. I just wish I could plan it properly from the start so I’d stop this endless cycle of rewrites.

I can’t expect different results if I keep doing the same thing. So I want to give complete scene planning a try.

I got started on it, but I’m not 100% confident in the plan yet.

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I spend a week outlining each chapter and a week writing it. First, I play the scene in my head and write it down in my notebook kind of like a screenplay with a few stage directions and with whatever comes into my mind. Then I sit down and I really, really think hard about every single beat. I number each beat and re-write the scene again in a formal outline format. It’s during this stage that I write the dialogue. Once I finish the outline, I sit down and write out the scene beat by beat. I use this process to write the whole book. Once I get to the end I put my draft up next to a blank document and rewrite everything word by word.

I should mention that I use the above process when I’ve already produced several drafts. For the first few drafts I write a lot more freely. When I’m buckling down and trying to produce something that’s pushing into final draft territory, I use this method because it’s extremely meticulous. When I’m figuring out the beats I’m also re-reading the previous drafts and figuring out what to use in the new draft and what to cut out.

Before I do any of this though I outline the entire story start to finish and I usually follow a specific method. John Truby’s 22 steps to Organic Storytelling is my favorite method of storytelling. But I’ve used Save the Cat before for shorter projects like novellas and short stories.

I’m an architect!


I haven’t heard of John Truby yet. I’ll check him out. Thanks.

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