Free Novel or Series Outline Template Inspired by J.K. Rowling

I just participated on a Salt Lake Comic Con Writers Retreat panel called Planning and Outlining Your Novel and Finding Time to Write. Here’s an outlining tool that has worked awesomely for me, probably because I created it so it’s all about how my brain works. Who knows, it might be your thing, too. Worth a try!

I created this worksheet after I was inspired by J.K. Rowling’s handwritten diagram for Harry Potter.

Here’s a preview before you download:

Screenshot of Series Plot Template by Cindy Grigg

My experience is that outlining is most useful if it’s fluid, allowing you to still create as you write the actual novel. To me, that spells ‘spreadsheet’ not ‘word processor’, because it’s so simple to add things in, take things out, and move them around. Plus this spreadsheet is more visual for me. I have used this to plot out my two speculative fiction series: HULDUSNOOPS and THE SALT SHEEN PARADOX.


 Free Novel or Series Outline Template by Cindy Grigg

Note: Instructions are included on the white tab near the bottom center of the spreadsheet.

Most writers have access to a spreadsheet. No specialty software required. This should work for Excel, Calc (OpenOffice and LibreOffice, etc) and others but let me know if it doesn’t open for you.

Hope you find it useful. If you do, please consider:


19 thoughts on “Free Novel or Series Outline Template Inspired by J.K. Rowling

  1. cup112278

    Thanks CIidy! This is very similar to the outline that I have created for myself on Scrivener…I like how you have the plot summary at the top. Really appreciate you sharing it, thanks! 🙂


  2. Writer's Carnival

    That is really a cool link!!
    And that you made it free for others is a very kind gesture that we’re sure many writers will benefit from.
    Thank you!!

    On a side note- How was SLC ComicCon? Heard Stan Lee, Danny Glover, and Kevin Sorbo were there?


    1. cindygrigg

      I see that I missed this comment somehow! I appreciate you visiting this link, and ComicCon was really awesome. I was also pretty excited about Peter Beagle who wrote The Last Unicorn and loved listening to him speak. 🙂


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  4. Gabby

    This looks awesome, I’m going to try to use it. c: Thanks for making it and also making it free to use! If you could, or if anyone around could, maybe make a video on how to use it cause it does look a bit confusing. Thanks again.


  5. erictsatt


    Thank you very much for posting this outline. I’m constantly scouring the internet for new plotting methods for novels and am just curious if you have a sample that you could provide your readers so they can have an idea of what a plotted novel should look like, even if it is just a chapter or two.


    1. cindygrigg

      Hi Eric, that’s a great suggestion. I do have some examples and should add one in to this download. I’ll be working on it and will post to this thread when I update it in the next couple days. Thanks for being interested!


  6. cindygrigg

    Hey, thank you for following up! I thought I had posted a second response to this thread, so I apologize that somehow I did not let you know my decision to not post an example after all. I realized that the examples I had would more likely confuse even more because the plot lines time jump in a very non-traditional way. I sat down to fill the spreadsheet out about a story we all know well instead, but realized that this would unfortunately take more time than I can dedicate right now. I wish I could because I can see how it would help! If I ever do that I will definitely post a link to this thread. I actually have moved in another direction for outlining and am refining a longer, non-spreadsheet outline/worldbuilding/characterbuilding template I created (it’s 60 pages long! So far it’s working even better for me than the grid/spreadsheet did. I’m hoping to post it sometime later this year. I just left the spreadsheet one up as an idea for other writers until then. 🙂


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    1. cindygrigg

      Drew, what a nice shout out! Some day I would like to develop that template further but I’m glad you found the concept useful! I know I have. Enjoying your blog! 🙂


  8. Amanda

    Hi Cindy,

    I’m trying out an outline for the first time (I have tried writing fiction without an outline in the past). Originally, this was supposed to be a one-novel project, but as I have been working, I have realized that it might be a little too much for one novel. In fact, I think I have found a way to turn this into a trilogy. Obviously, I need to know how this all pans out as far as the big picture is concerned. My question is: should I be preparing a detailed outline for all 3 novels now, before I have started to write Book 1? Or would you say that it’s sufficient to have a decent idea where it’s all going, and some/all of the major events that will take place, and just have a detailed outline for Book 1? I’m sure it’s all dependent upon the writer, but as I’m new to the Outline Camp, I thought I’d check to see if there is a prevailing opinion on the matter.




    1. Cindy Grigg

      Hi, Amanda! Sorry for the delay and I had the same thing happen with my current series. It started as a short story and now I’ve outlined 5 books! So, the short answer is, at the end of the day you can get to where you want to be either way. But I’ve found that having an outline makes it more fun to get there. So my vote is, yes, do an outline, and especially for a series, if you are publishing that series book by book. You don’t want to realize awesomeness could have been threaded through if you had approached Book 1 differently. For me, that means having a chapter by chapter overview for all books in the series. I believe the subconscious works on that as well, once it’s set down, so I see it as enhancing not restricting creativity. Plus, I expect the outline to change. It’s not set in stone if I do get an idea. So that’s my two cents, and thanks for stopping by!


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