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Use a Spreadsheet to Outline Your Novel

Learn how author Michael J. Martinez used a spreadsheet to plot out his novel MJ-12: Inception and how you can utilize this technology for yourself.
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An example spreadsheet novel outline.

If you prefer to write from a detailed outline, an ideal organizational tool may be hiding in plain sight on your computer. View a full-sized version of the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet author Michael J. Martinez used to plot out his novel MJ-12: Inception (as explained in the article "Chart It Out" in the October 2016 issue of Writer's Digest), and consider creating one for your own work-in-progress.

MJ-12: Inception

MJ-12: Inception by Michael J. Martinez

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Right-click and choose "Save Target As" to download MJ-12 Inception Outline formatted for Microsoft Excel.

[Note: The link above will allow you to download most of the spreadsheet used to outline MJ-12: Inception—though not the whole thing. (Spoilers are no fun, after all.) If you compare it to the novel itself, you'll find the final product deviates from the outline in a number of ways, large and small; that's all part of the writing process.]

Looking for a blank version to make your own spreadsheet outline?

Right-click and choose "Save Target As" to download a blank Novel Outline Template here.

Writers often look upon outlines with fear and trembling. But when properly understood and correctly used, the outline is one of the most powerful weapons in a writer's arsenal.

Writers often look upon outlines with fear and trembling. But when properly understood and correctly used, the outline is one of the most powerful weapons in a writer's arsenal.

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