How to Use Index Cards to Write a Novel Outline

By Stuart Brown

Everyone has plans to write the great American novel. In fact, most researchers believe that everyone has at least one great story inside them. However, you may be wondering, then if everyone has a great story, how can they get the story out?

The key to getting the story out is to organize your thoughts with an outline and get busy writing. Sounds easy, right? It can be. If you use the handy-dandy index card system to write your novel outline. In fact, if you use this easy-to-follow plan, you will be able to quickly and efficiently organize those thoughts and get that great American novel out of your head and into paper!

But, why note cards and not paper, you may be wondering. Here’s why:

– They are incredibly small and easy to carry around. In fact, you can easily plop them in your purse or bag and write down your ideas as you think of them.

– They are easy to discard. If you change your mind about an idea , you can throw it away without having to throw away the entire paper.

– They are easy to organize and sort.

– They come in various sizes to fit your precise needs.

Now, that you know why they are so great. You may be wondering how to plan out a novel using them.

Here’s how:

1. Figure out what you would like to accomplish with your novel and write specific questions on each note card. For instance:

– How many chapters will you have?
– What will be your plot and setting?
– What type of characters and scenes will you have?
– Will you choose fiction or nonfiction?
– What tone will it be?

2. Next, start evaluating your ideas further by taking 10 more note cards and writing answers to each idea you come up with. That is, put one story ideas at the top of each card.

3. Third, go through each note card and place a star by the ones with the most potential while crossing off the ones that won’t work. When you come an idea that won’t work, throw it away.

4. Then, go through the cards and choose the idea that has the most potential.

5. Once you’ve decided, take 10-20 more cards and create chapter headings for the winning idea. Write down how you want the novel to be organized. For each new thought, place it on a separate note card.

Congratulations! You now have a working outline that you can use to write your novel. See, that wasn’t so bad at all. All it took was a little brainstorming and organization. Now, take those cards and get that novel out of your head and onto paper.

About the author

For More Novel Writing Resources. Visit Also find information about Grants for Writers and if you are feeling Creative and Fancy Yourself as a Poet, How to Write A Sonnet from


One response to “How to Use Index Cards to Write a Novel Outline

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