Outlining Your Kidlit Novel

An Interview with Lisa Frenkel Riddiough All By My Shelf

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  1. An Interview with Lisa Frenkel Riddiough
  2. An Interview with Hayley Krischer
  3. An Interview with Soman Chainani
  4. An Interview with Jessica Vitalis
  5. An Interview with Michelle Mason

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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

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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