Hannah Cao

English poet, novelist
Based in Dresden, Germany

Twitter ︎︎︎


︎IARA Press


Drafting      The Pham Girls

Drafting     I Hope I’m On My Way Somewhere

Soon           As Long As We’re Here     

2021            Cafe at 46 Old Street

2019            Seashore


Hannah Cao

English poet, novelist
Based in Dresden, Germany

Twitter ︎︎︎

IARA Press


2021        Cafe at 46 Old Street
2019        Seashore

Google Sheets Template:
Novel outline

I recently shared my outlining system that I used for my novel The Pham Girls on Twitter. I write my novels on Scrivener and use the Outline view there as well, but of course not everybody uses Scrivener. I am someone who needs a quick overview; it makes my brain feel so organised. Thus, this Google Sheets outline was born.

Who is this template for?

  • Pantsers who don’t want to write out a whole outline and just need a quick overview of their story, touchstones to help keep them on course through a first draft
  • Outliners and other types of plotters who want a roadmap to help them pin their story down
  • Outliners and other types of plotters who need to get their thoughts down quick
  • Writers who tend to get lost in the middle of the story or end up going off on tangents in their story
  • Writers who forget where they were supposed to be going with their story
  • Writers in a writer’s block because they are stuck in a certain scene
  • Beginning writers who haven’t gotten comfortable with plot, story rhythm, or genre tropes yet
  • Writers in the revision stages who are so familiar with their story at this point that they aren’t sure if it will feel complete or well-structured or well-paced to readers

The column titles include:

  • Section (Act I, Act II, Act III)
  • Chapter (Chapter 1, Chapter 2,…)
  • POV/Characters (Which point-of-view is used for this chapter, which characters are in this chapter?)
  • Timeline (when is this event happening in the plot, the past or present day?)
  • Where? (where is this chapter happening?)
  • Day/Time/Weather (details for atmosphere)
  • Descriptions (quick note of what happens)
  • Character’s initial emotions (by the start of the chapter)
  • Character’s later emotions (by the end of the chapter)
  • Goal/Reveal (what is the goal of this chapter, what are you revealing to the reader here?)
  • Quotes (if you come up with random quotes while outlining)
  • Notes (if you need to add something after, what you have to research or change, or other notes)

A tip:

The “Comment” and “Note” features on Google Sheet are so helpful, as they will not clutter the view, but will be indicated with a tiny coloured corner marking in the cells that you choose to comment on! You can open them up and read them when hovering over them and you don’t have to navigate outside of the file just to write down the notes.

︎Copy The Outline Template

Click on File, then Make a copy. Then you’ll be able to use it yourself. You just need a Google account.

What I like to do is download the file as a PDF when it’s done and then drop it into Scrivener or my desktop so I don’t have to switch around between my web browser and Scrivener.

I hope this was helpful, I’m always open to requests for more templates or tips!