Outlining Your Kidlit Novel

Connect with me: Facebook . Twitter . Instagram Visit ABMS.BLOG Join The Writers’ Society Become a Member and Get Access to More (or follow me for free but get less) RedBubble Bookshop.org Find ABMS on Podbean Let's talk about objects and how they can enhance your writing! Creating objects can help bring your characters off the page and help to create stories for them. Look at the objects you have nearby. You probably have at least one of the following: a family heirloom photos of family, friends, holidays, festivals, and vacations posters and or other images hanging on your walls special clothes for special occasions books ornaments everyday useful things like mugs or silverware Every item has a history-including that plastic fork you have yet to throw out. They help paint a story of their surroundings. Wherever you can create an object in your writing, you build the world out a little more. Here's a few ways to use objects in literature: as a plot device: sometimes the plot can revolve around finding or destroying an object (see Lord of the Rings) to represent a character: sometimes, personal items say more about the character than the character's actions. Think of the wands in Harry Potter and how crooked Bellatrix's is. as a symbol representing something larger than itself: for this the most famous example I could think of is the green light in The Great Gatsby, and how it represents Gatsby's hopes, dreams, and his connection to Daisy. as a clue: maybe you're writing a mystery or detective fiction. Objects can be used to reveal all sorts of significant things. Channel your inner Sherlock and consider how people use objects every day to really drive this home. to foreshadow something: sometimes a gun hanging on the wall will come up later. to trigger a memory or flashback: sometimes things just look too familiar and they spark something within us. as a device connecting characters' separate stories: maybe your object, magical or otherwise, has been around for significant moments in history, sitting in the corner and lifelessly observing things as life happens around it. Objects are useful because characters can find them, lose them, receive them, gift them, steal or have them stolen, search for them, treasure them, neglect them, lock them up, and even destroy them or toss them aside. And the symbolism of their actions can add to your story. Now for the exercise: Pick an object in your home that has some meaning for you. Study it for a moment and describe it in as much detail as you can. Now construct a scene around it. Was the object stolen or found? Was it a gift? Was it inherited? Make sure the object triggers a significant event for your character (or you, if you're writing about yourself). Let the object help them make a decision, understand something that happened, or turn their life in a different direction.
  1. Objects
  2. Fairy Tales
  3. Mind Mapping
  4. An Interview with Carly Heath
  5. Twisting Your Genre

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It doesn’t matter what age you write for, writers will always debate whether it’s better to be a plotter or a pantser. A plotter is someone who outlines their novel completely before beginning to write it (sometimes overly so); a pantser is someone who “writes by the seat of their pants,” completely winging their novel.

Personally, I like a bit of both. A general outline is a great place to start so that as I begin to write by the seat of my pants, I have some kind of direction.

I consider the following while I begin exploring a new work.

  • What is the average day in the life of the main character? How can I make it busy?
  • What does the main character want and what needs to happen for them to achieve their goal?
  • What, according to the main character, is the worst possible outcome?
  • What would keep them from answering the call to adventure?
  • What or who will get in the way of their goal?
  • How much time do they have?
  • What does total loss look like and who or what remains afterwards?

After answering these questions, it’s easier to draft an outline of a story.

A great resource for outlining your novel, whether in depth or lightly, is the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet from Save The Cat!.

Project Title:

Logline/Simple Pitch:


  1. Opening Image: Set the mood, tone, and scope of the story.
  2. Theme: a secondary character poses a question/statement that is the theme of the piece (can be a challenge to the main character)
  3. Set-Up: introduce characters who are involved with your main plot and character tics to be echoes later in the story.
  4. Catalyst: the life changing event that shatters the main characters average day.
  5. Debate: your main character makes a choice; the point of no return.
  6. Act II: the playing field has changed, the rules that the main character thought they were playing by are out the window and adjustments must be made.
  7. Secondary plot: something that distracts us from the main plot and eases tension.
  8. Fun & Games: the heart of the story.
  9. Midpoint: the threshold between the first and second half of the story. Fun and games are over now.
  10. Bad Guys Close In: the villains send in their worst and the main character’s plan and supports begin to unravel.
  11. All Is Lost: no hope can be found here, this is often a false defeat.
  12. Black Moment: the main character has lost everything and makes a second choice.
  13. Act III: The main and secondary plots collide to form the solution.
  14. Finale: The bad guys are defeated in ascending order until the last one is toppled.
  15. Final Image: the opposite of the opening image, showing how much has changed.

Originally published on July 8, 2021 @ 12:00 pm


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Published by J. M. Tuckerman

J.M.Tuckerman is a neurodivergent writer with a big education. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, an MA in Writing, and a BA in Writing Arts (specializing in Creative Writing, New Media Writing, and Publication; concentrating in New Media Production), which she somehow managed to earn despite her three very loud and large dogs. Jessica was lucky enough to intern at Quirk Books and Picador, USA while earning her master’s degrees. Her service dog, Ringo, is very proud of all that she has accomplished and hopes to be on a back cover of a published book with her very soon. An avid reader, writer, and lover of young adult and middle-grade literature, Jessica’s bookshelf is overflowing with hardbacks, paperbacks, and a million half-filled notebooks. She is a proud fur-mommy to two lab/st-bernard littermates, a retriever-mix service dog, and one orange little hobgoblin cat, all of whom have made very audible appearances on the Booked All Night podcast.

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