Skip to main content

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.
Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 2.21.45 PM

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

IndieBound | Bookshop | Amazon
[WD uses affiliate links.]

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.

Click to continue.

How To Write and Research a Local History Book

How To Write and Research a Local History Book

Let award-winning writer Jennifer Boresz Engelking help you uncover local mysteries and put the puzzle pieces together when writing and researching a local history book.

From Script

Vulnerability as an Asset (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script magazine, exclusive interviews with Netflix’s acclaimed mini-series “Keep Breathing” creators Martin Gero and Brendan Gall, and BounceTV’s “Johnson” creator and star Deji LaRay.

Michael J. Seidlinger: On Asking Questions in Horror

Michael J. Seidlinger: On Asking Questions in Horror

Author Michael J. Seidlinger discusses the writing process of his new literary horror novel, Anybody Home?

10 Tips for Building a Realistic and Vibrant Fictional World

10 Tips for Building a Realistic and Vibrant Fictional World

World-building of any kind can seem like a daunting task. Here, author Nalini Singh shares 10 tips for building a realistic and vibrant fictional world.

Adalyn Grace: On Writing for Escape

Adalyn Grace: On Writing for Escape

New York Times bestselling author Adalyn Grace discusses combining her favorite genres into her new YA fantasy novel, Belladonna.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Our September/October Cover Reveal, a Competition Deadline Reminder, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce our September/October 2022 cover, a competition deadline reminder, and more!

Writing Nonfiction History vs. Historical Fiction

Writing Nonfiction History vs. Historical Fiction

Author John Cameron discusses how nonfiction history and historical fiction are more similar than they are different.

Bob Eckstein | Publishing Survival Tips

Top 10+ Survival Tips for Publishing

Poignant advice from some of the funniest people in publishing.

Zac Bissonnette: On the Passionate Community of Mystery Lovers

Zac Bissonnette: On the Passionate Community of Mystery Lovers

New York Times bestselling author Zac Bissonnette discusses the process of writing his new cozy mystery, A Killing in Costumes.