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Grab my ✨FREE✨ Outlining Essentials Notion Pack!


Click the image above to instantly receive my Outlining Essentials Notion Pack!


Don't have Notion yet? Download it for free here!


No matter if it's your first novel or your tenth, each story has unique parts that make it different from the last. Having a system to help organize your thoughts and break the large idea into smaller, more manageable chunks can make the process go more smoothly.


Plus, as someone who leans more "pantser" than "plotter", I find this outlining pack to be extremely flexible. You can pick and choose what you want to use and delete what you don't love. If you're familiar with Notion's platform, you can also edit this to include filters that best suit your story. This pack is a jumping-off point to build the outlining system of your dreams.


If you're unfamiliar with how to outline a novel, or if you want a more in-depth explanation of what the pack includes, keep reading. Have additional questions? Send me a note via my Contact page, or shoot me a DM on TikTok!


What's a "Beat Sheet" anyway? And who's Blake Synder?

This outlining method is based off of Blake Synder's Beat Sheet system, which he describes in detail in his famous novel Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need. But I'm writing a novel? Yes, but the storytelling essentials can transcend medium -- in other words, a good story is a good story, regardless of if it's a movie, a television show, a novel, a comic book or some futuristic medium directly transported into our consciousness. And, as his book explains, many of the most famous stories in history are built with this framework.


So, does that mean every storyteller in history used his method? Not exactly.


Don't think of the story beats as rigid rules you need to adhere to to make your book publishable. Instead, think of them as general guidelines. In the end, they're basically outlining the following story:


A character has a goal. They can't achieve their goal yet because of something or someone. They must go on a journey to achieve said goal. The journey is difficult and they learn lessons. Things get harder. They may want to give up, but they persevere. In the end, they either achieve what they set out to do, or they achieve something better along the way.

Sound familiar? That's because many stories naturally follow this path, because watching a character want something, work to get it and face trials along the way is interesting to most people. Of course, no one is stopping you from writing something that strays completely from this, although my hunch is your story probably already fit into this concept.


That still leaves us with the question: What is a "Beat Sheet"?


A beat sheet is outlining your story based on the major plot points that we see in Save the Cat. Those are (loosely):


ACT ONE

  • Opening Image: Sets the tone, mood, type, and scope of the project. A “before” snapshot. Opposite of the final image.

  • Theme Stated: Secondary character poses a question or statement to the main character that is the theme of the movie.

  • Set-up: Introduce or hint at every character in A story. Must grab the reader's attention.

  • Catalyst: Life-changing event.

  • Debate: The main character must make a decision as to whether he or she should go on the journey.

ACT TWO

  • Break into Two: Act two begins—leaves the “thesis world” behind and enters the “antithesis world” of act two. Journey begins.

  • B-Story: The “love” story traditionally, but actually where the discussion about the theme is found.

  • Fun and Games: The heart of the movie, trailer moments, and “promise of the premise.”

  • Midpoint: The dividing line between the two halves of the movie. The “fun and games” end and the “stakes are raised.”

  • Bad guys close in: Both internally and externally, the pressure is applied.

  • All is lost: The “fake defeat” and the place where the “whiff of death” is found.

  • Dark Night of the Soul: The “why hast thou forsaken me, Lord?” moment. The lowest point for the hero who has lost all hope.

ACT THREE

  • Break into Three: The A Story and B story collide and reveal a solution.

  • Finale: The synthesis of two worlds, applying what the hero has learned to the old world—resulting in the hero choosing a new path/world.

  • Final Image: Opposite of the “opening image” to prove that a dramatic change has occurred.

These major plot points are the "beats" of your story. Each beat may consist of multiple scenes and can vary in length.


How can Outlining Essentials help me outline?

My hope is that my Outlining Essentials Notion Pack will help you better visualize the Save the Cat framework to organize your story idea. This pack will take you from idea to writing individual scenes. Read through the following highlights to see what all this pack has to offer, or click through the list below to jump to what interests you:


1. The Dashboard:

When you download the pack, you will land on this dashboard. This dashboard will give you an overview of how each piece of the pack works and provide a central hub to switch between boards.


2. The Beat Sheet - Broken Out:

This view will show you at a glance all of the beats to your story. You can use it to see your major plot points and ensure the flow of your story makes sense at a birds-eye view. Complete with a description for each section that reminds you of which plot point to include, this view is user-friendly regardless of your familiarity with outlining.


3. Scenes, By Beat:

Click on any section to dive deeper into that section. You can take notes, organize research and more inside each card. You can also begin to write out different scenes that appear within the different beats.


4. Access Scene Cards in the Overview:

With the Scene Cards, write out each scene with the ability to label by Character, Setting and Status. Take it a step further by creating your own custom filters to scenes such as Point-of-View, Style, Time Period -- anything that makes your story, make sense.


5. Track your progress:

Drag and drop beats through the progress view as you work through outlining or drafting your story.


6. Track Progress, By Scene:

Similarly, you can also track your progress by scene card. Regardless of if you write in chronological order, or by POV or another system unique to you, you can organize your scenes easily to keep track of where you are in your story.


7. View Scenes, By Beat, At-a-Glance:

You can also view scenes by beat, filtering out characters, setting or other variables. This allows you to better understand what's happening where. It also helps to ensure that characters and plot points are being covered adequately over the length of your novel.


8. All Scenes, At-a-Glance:

View all scenes at once to better understand your editing flow once you're ready. Filters make it simple to make sweeping changes by singling out places where characters, settings or other changes appear.


Ready to outline and get started on your story?

Sign up for my newsletter to get a link to instantly download a copy of this template to your Notion dashboard. I can't wait to read all of your stories soon <3



 

Rosalyn Ransaw is a children's author based in Columbus, OH. She graduated from Columbia University with a B.A. in Political Science. At her day job, she is a Digital Marketing Manager focused on all things social media and paid advertising.


When not writing, she loves to cry watching romantic comedies, eat her weight in buffalo chicken dip and claim her best friend's dog as her own.


SMOKE & MIRRORS is her debut novel.




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