Outlining Your Novel: The Micro Outline

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As I delved deeper into the world of writing, I realized I’d been trying to build a house without the proper tools, and that’s why I was failing.

One of the things I struggled with (and still do sometimes) is hitting the right points in my chapters.

I didn’t understand the differences between a scene and a chapter. I used scenes for the mere purposes of action breaks, location changes, and to show the passing of time in my story. Then I came across a blog series by K.M. Weiland that explored in detail the elements of a scene versus a chapter.

The blog opened my eyes to the fact that scenes served a greater purpose than the ones I ascribed.

It’s Weiland’s breakdown that inspired my Micro Outlining.

You may have read about my Macro Outline where I plot the "big picture" elements of my story, noting my beats and connecting scenes. Well, my Micro Outline zooms in to break down my plot scene by scene, grouped in chapters.

With my Micro Outline, I focus on including all the elements I need to bolster the impact of each scene and smooth out the bumps of my first draft.

During this process, you’ll be able to determine, too, if your Macro Outline makes sense as you’ve outlined it.

Note: You can either do your Micro Outline before you start drafting or as part of your revision process.


My Micro Outline Structure

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At the start of my Micro Outline document, I include a section to get my mind focused on the purpose of the book. The reasons why this book exists.

By the closing pages I should have accomplished all these goals, and if I didn’t, then I know I’ve missed some key points.

Click image for beat source.

Click image for beat source.

Before you start your outlining process, you would have determined your structure. My plot structure of choice is the 3 Act which I split into four parts:

  • Act 1

  • Act 2a

  • Act 2b

  • Act 3

Depending on the source you consult you’ll find different names for the beats, and some note more than others.

It can be overwhelming and confusing. Choose the structure and version of that structure you’re most comfortable with. Learn about the beats and what they entail and be mindful of these guideposts as you outline.

I note my beats on the second page of my Micro Outline as a reminder.

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Whereas I used my Macro Outline for the entirety of my writing and revision process, my Micro Outline, for my current WIP. didn’t come together until Draft 2.

For Draft 1 I used my Macro Outline to get things down on the page. Then after a break from my manuscript, I read through and created my Micro Outline.

Here’s where I started to nail down critical elements for character and plot development, foreshadowing, etc. before I began second draft rewrites.

You can, however, create a Micro Outline before you start drafting, which I plan to do with my next project. Nothing is set in stone, do what feels best for your writing.


At the top of each scene, I include headers that cover the essential elements I need to consider when outlining. 

You can find detailed explanations of each of these in K.M. Weiland's "How to Structure Scenes in Your Story" blog series.


Even if you’re a die hard panster and creating a detailed outline cuts your vibe, I would recommend you do a simpler version of this Micro Outline and flesh out the scene elements.

If you have any questions about my Micro Outline, hop into the comments below.

Until next time, may the words forever be in your favor!

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