While I prefer the no-outline approach to writing, I do understand the appeal of having worksheets to help plan things out. Here are some of the ones I’ve found that I could see myself using for plot development:
The Eight C’s of Plotting (PDF file)
Plot Chart Worksheet (below)
As you can probably tell from the type of worksheets I like, the three-act structure of a story is one I am fond of, although there are few stories that truly follow a three-act skeleton.
To me, the three-act structure is exactly that – a skeleton. A three-act outline gives you the bare essentials needed for a novel; it gives you the foundation.
A lot of amateur writers get stuck in the three-act mindset, believing that novels must follow a three-act structure in order to be successful. The reality, however, is that most successful stories are far more complex than the basic three-act structure allows.
One of the main reasons I typically don’t use worksheets when I write is the complexity of my plot-lines. I enjoy stories that have multiple plot-lines working at once, and it can be difficult to plan out multiple plot-lines using the three-act worksheets I’ve showcased here.
That said, writers who prefer linear plot-lines will find a lot of use in these worksheets. One easy way to increase the complexity of a story is to use a three-act structure within a three-act structure. In other words, the first arc of the story would have three acts contained within it, the second arc of the story would have three acts within it, and the third and final arc of the story would have another three acts within it.
There are as many ways to outline the plot for a story as there are writers. The three-act structure of a plot-line provides a foundation. It’s a good idea to master the three-act structure before delving into more complex plot-lines.