How to write a fantasy novel, Part Two – Outlines

In case you missed the beginning of this series, you can click here.

Okay, so you’ve come up with a brilliant, original idea for your fantasy novel.  Now what?

I found through trial and error the next thing to do is to create some sort of an outline.  Now, now, stop your groaning.  I’m not a plotter, but I’ve found this step to be really important.  It can be as simple or as elaborate as you want to make it, but the important thing is you make one.  I made the mistake of writing my first and second fantasy stories without an outline and there were plot holes all over the place.  The outlines I do now are not fancy or long; in fact, they are quite simple, but they include the essentials:  idea, plot points, main characters, setting, etc.  I personally like to do brief outlines for each chapter, that way I have some sort of idea of where I’m going in my story and I can plan my plot climaxes.

So here is what my outline looks like.  I’m making it up as I go so please bear with me.


 Idea:  A powerful magical teen must somehow figure out how to become non-magical so he can save his world from the evil emperor whom he later discovers is his father.

Hamblet Adams:  16-year-old male main character
Pearly Whites:  main character’s best friend; female shapeshifter
Squeaky Willows:  the village idiot and town gossip
Hopshoggle:  forest-dwelling mage and teacher
Cornelius Krunk:  Emperor


These four characters live in Figswillow, an eastern coastal town on the floating Desmond Isles.

Plot outline:

As punishment for their endless practical jokes at school, teen magician Hamblet and his best friend, Pearly, are ordered to work in the town’s archival library after school to catalog thousands of books and parchments the Emperor confiscated in his latest travels.  While working late one night, Squeaky appears at the library with a book for Hamblet, but it’s not just any book. It’s the Emperor’s secret diary, and in it are his plans to destroy magic.  Hamblet finds out the only way for the emperor to destroy magic is to destroy its source…Desmond Isles, and more importantly, the powerful magician whose very essence feeds the magic of the isles.  Determined to stop the emperor and save the Isles, Hamblet, Pearly, Squeaky and Hopshoggle embark on a journey that takes them to magical places where they meet fantastic creatures – and ruthless villains.  Along the way, they discover allies in peculiar places, courage they didn’t know they had, and a hidden destiny that changes everything.


 Ok, so this is a very, very basic outline. Like I said, you can do this for each chapter as well as for each character.  I also make extensive timelines so I know what’s going on when. I also create maps that give me a basic idea of where my characters are and what my world looks like.  The maps don’t have to be perfect, but they should be legible enough for you to place your characters.

So, these are my tips on How to write fantasy, Part 2.  In Part 3, I’ll take a look at character development and give you a few tips I learned the hard way through…duh duh duh…rejections.

13 thoughts on “How to write a fantasy novel, Part Two – Outlines

  1. Excellent advice and a great post, Jenny – thanks so much for sharing important information for our writing and publishing journeys; so much appreciated (and I’m a ‘plotter’, lol) …. 🙂


  2. Perhaps the reason my first fantasy story was such a disaster is that I did not plan it out at all. It started as a dream I’d had when I was sixteen which stayed with me for several decades before I seriously considered what would come next. I think if I were to go back to it, I would have to decide what was still important to progress the story and plot it out before re-working it. Thanks for the advice! 🙂


  3. Love your tips! Outlines are very important to me. I have to find some sort of weird balance between free thought and outlining, but if I don’t do it, I will certainly not be creating the mystery and the impact in each chapter. Outlines also help me think out the action in terms of, would my character really do say and do this? Just my thoughts. We all have to find out what works best for us.


    1. I completely agree. Not everyone writes the same way but it’s nice to know the options exist. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. What sort of stories do you write?


      1. Hi Jenny, I am working in the Young Adult Urban Fantasy genre. Currently I have two series in the works…one them is nearly done. You’ve frequented my book’s blog a time or two, Shiloh’s Secret. I am hoping to get the book finished up by August. We’ll see! Life can get in the way of our goals at times but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t set them and do everything we can to make them happen. ;0)

        I love your blog!


  4. I’m a pantser, too . . . but I like to go back and fill in an outline afterwards to make sure it all makes sense . . . if that makes any sense, lol. Thanks for sharing–your blog is a great resource!


  5. I’m a bit more of a “pantser”. For ‘Trinity’ I wrote down the 12 major plot points and joined the dots as I wrote. It’s nice that our plotting/writing methods are as individual as our books!


    1. I agree. For the most part, I’m not a plotter. I tend to let my characters take me where they want, but I do need a hint of structure so they don’t make me wander far. Otherwise my novels would be 300,000 words long. 🙂


    1. I wrote this outline in about 20 minutes, Clare. I think if you have a clear idea in your head of where you want your story to go, you can write it down very fast. The great thing about outlines is they don’t have to be perfect. All they need to do is give you a basis, a starting point so you keep focus. In my current novel, In the Shadow of the Dragon King, I wrote paragraphs for all 32 chapters. Some were very simple only one or two sentences, i.e. “David and Charlotte meet Slavandria and David learns why he was kidnapped.” By doing this, I can sort of stay on track and not let my characters take me off on wild tangents (which they still do, but with a brief outline, I can reel them in and keep focus).

      I also find seeing my idea and plot in writing makes the story ‘real’. It’s tangible. It’s workable. I can tell whether it’s interesting. When the idea is in your head, it always sounds different than seeing it on paper. I find seeing it in print makes the creative process all that more exhilarating because now I can see it, I can feel it.


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