How To Outline: Part Two: Save the Cat Writes a Novel Beat Sheet

Today's post is the second in my blog series about outlining. If you want to know about the basics, make sure to go back and read last week's post. Today I will inform you on popular outlining methods. Make sure to take notes when you find something interesting, because it may inspire your own outlining process.

Save the Cat Writes a Novel Beat Sheet

If you are an author, most likely you have heard of the how-to novel, Save The Cat. This fantastic book covers a very famous "beat sheet" that divides your story into parts, more complex than a climax, resolution, etc. You can divide your outline into 15 beats, and go from there. 

"Beats" have to do with the form and structure of your story. It starts with the opening image, then Theme Stated, Setup, and so on. Later we find the beats named "Fun and Games," "Dark Night of Soul" and "Finale." Many published novels follow this setup. 

A specific example of one of the beats is the "Fun and Games" beat. This covers about 30% of your novel, and is close to the middle. In this section, your character has just settled into a new environment , has been thrown into change, or something similar. They may have met a few new characters along the way. Now they are doing new things. Maybe they love the situation, maybe they hate it. Essentially, you want this sections to have fun twists and turns, before the character realizes the gravity of the situation, and what she/he must do or go through. 

Learn more about the beat sheet by reading this blog post. 

If you want to learn even more and dive into the world of Save the Cat Writes a Novel, buy the book!

How Can I (Actually) Plot With It? 

To plot with this beat sheet, write 15 subheadings, each labeled with the name of the beat. If you want to, write how many words this section of your story is anticipated to be. After you do this, this is what it should look like. 

Opening Image (1k Words)
Theme Stated (2k Words)
Setup (4k Words) 

Keep going with the rest of the beats, writing what each word count should be. (Note, the word counts in this example don't have to be followed. Depending on your total word goal, you should be able to guess how long you want it to be. 

After this, start writing your actual ideas for each beat, using bullet points. 
Opening Image (1k Words)
  • -----------------------------
  • -----------------------------
Theme Stated (2k Words)
  • ----------------------------
  • ---------------------------
Setup (4k Words) 
  • --------------------------
  • -------------------------

Use as many bullet points as you need, because this will benefit you in the long run. For each beat, mine usually range from 5-15. Don't be afraid to explain things in detail. If you feel the need to explain things in a more detailed way, you might lean more closer to a method called "Fast Drafting." With about 15k-20k words, you explain every scene in detail but not all that much detail. Personally, I think that Fast Drafting is not a great method. After you write those 15k-20k words, you are going to go back and expand. Why should there be a fast draft? Regardless, if you think this may work for you, go for it!

Doing all of these bullet points is hard, so you have to remember to take your time. My first round of bullet points took me about a week. What do I mean by rounds? I will now explain. 

The next step I am about to illustrate is optional, but it will help you plot your novel and further embrace your story. Erase all of the beat names, which will leave MANY bullet points in a row, unorganized. 

Now you will divide all of these bullet points into chapters and sections, depending on how you want your book to work. Think about your genre and age group. Are you going to be writing shorter chapters or longer ones? Do you have more than one point of view? Estimate your average word count for each bullet point, then string a few together to make a chapter!


There are a lot of different ways to outline with the Save The Cat method, this is just mine. However, I find this method to be very useful and I hope it helps you on your outlining journey. Outlining is largely a skill you develop after doing it several times. My outlining process is always evolving to fit my current projects and writing style. Yours should too! 

One last thing before you go. I think this post will be very helpful to other writers, and it would be awesome if you could share it with other people. 😊 Have a good day! 


  1. This "second part" was very useful and informative for me. I really enjoyed reading it. After reading this article, I tried to remember some of the novels that I had read and to see if the outlines of those novels fit with what you said in this article. Interestingly, I found that many of those novels exactly used the techniques and ideas that you had described in your article. From now on, I will read novels with what I have learned from you about outlining techniques in my mind, and this would help me enjoy much more from reading a novel. Thank you for sharing these nice ideas and concepts.

    1. You're welcome! I'm glad you are looking at novel structure in a new way :)


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