5 Outline Template Samples: Everything You Need To Know 5 Outline Template Samples: Everything You Need To Know

5 Outline Template Samples

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Staring at a blank page can be terrifying. It’s no surprise then that even great writers report suffering from this fear of the blank page or screen. There are many ways to overcome the dread of facing an empty page. You can be a brilliant writer, write a bunch of junk until you can dig out the hidden treasures, or know where you are going before you sit down to write. Knowing where you going before you start is a method everyone can benefit from, and a great outline template can help you make a good outline.

Whether you start with one in the beginning or must reorganize in the end, an outline is the basis of all good writing. We believe starting out with an outline template keeps you on track and in better shape along the way.

What Is An Outline Template?

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An outline template is a writer’s roadmap: a map to get you from a great idea to a wonderfully written product. The map or outline is an organizational tool for writing anything from recipes to novels. It gives a structure to your ideas and the content of the writing itself. The actual writing is made easier to craft and easier for the reader to follow.

Imagine if a cake recipe was written out of order with the ingredient list after the instructions and the other contents added randomly. It would probably not result in a happy birthday cake that actually tastes good.

With a recipe, we can pretty much figure out the order, number of servings, ingredients, and step-by-step instructions. But what if the writer was assigned an argumentative essay for school or needed to figure out the plot for their first graphic novel? That’s when an outline template would come in handy.

An outline template gives expert advice on how to organize an essay or a love sonnet or a motorcycle maintenance textbook. It takes some of the fear out of the blank page and focuses the writer on completing each part of the project before putting it all together. It gives the writer a time-out to think about what they want to say, how they want to say it and figure out the order that works best.

It’s a little like a cheat sheet—a way to work out all the details and experiment with ideas, concepts, content, and order before ever writing a word. And it’s all within a formula designed to foster room for creative freedom.

For example, the template for an argumentative essay would give guidelines on the purpose of each paragraph down to the sentence. The first paragraph, or introduction, would include a flashy sentence to hook the reader, a summary of the topic, and the argument’s thesis.

The next section would detail the writer’s arguments and give evidence backing them up. This would be followed by a section detailing and refuting counter-arguments. Finally, the conclusion would circle back to the thesis statement and explain why the writer’s argument is best. The template organizes the planning process so the writer can focus more on the contents. Having this outline template on hand saves the writer many panicky moments of wondering how to say what they want to say and get to the business of writing it.

Is There A Need For Outline Templates?

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Writers can complete outlines themselves, but why reinvent the wheel? Using an outline template saves time and shapes writing to make it better. It’s a great teaching device and way to learn. Teachers from grade school to university often use outline templates to guide young writers to feel more confident with writing essays, letters, or any other writing project. Outline templates improve the quality of the writing teachers read, leading to higher grades for the students.

Outline templates can help with book-length projects too. It can also be a way to jump-start the process for more advanced writers when they are facing writer’s block or feel stuck. It provides a  definitive starting point. You might not know all the elements or plot points but you can begin filling them in and in the process discover where to go next.

Creative writers use them to make sure they are writing towards their planned ending and hitting all the plot or character posts they need to hit along the way. There are as many outline templates for this as there are ways of organizing writing, and outlines can easily be created by writers themselves.

Create An Outline Template

Traditional Outline

The traditional outline template taught in elementary school for research papers uses Roman numerals, the alphabet, and numbers to organize information into main groups and subgroups.

For example, an introductory paragraph might be outlined as follows:

I. Introductory paragraph

For example, an introductory paragraph might be outlined as follows:
I. Introductory paragraph
A. Hook
B. Bridging sentences introducing topic.
1. Connecting hook to topic.
2. Connecting topic to thesis
C. Thesis

Synopsis Outline

This outline is a good way to help a writer keep the story on track. It is not only for the organization of ideas but also helps with creation of the story itself. If you can’t summarize what you are saying, then you need to figure that out before moving forward. If you can summarize each chapter or section, then you have a wonderful way to break out the key elements or emotional moments and write them.

For the synopsis outline, the writer keeps only the most important information that moves the story forward, the bones of the story, and then hangs the details off of these bones later.

An example of this outline might start with a sheet of paper numbered 1-5. The writer would then write a short description of five plot points, arguments or character moments that absolutely must be included in the project. This helps clear away less important details which can be added in later as necessary. In the case of a story plot, the writer can easily move these five important points around to see how changing things might improve the story.

Three-Act Structure

Dramatic writing has always relied on a structure involving three or five acts. This classic structure helps make sure the pacing of the play or movie is engaging and the ending satisfying. Novelists and other fiction writers also employ this structure to keep readers turning pages until the end of the story.

The three-act structure includes Setting the Stage in Act 1, The Struggle in Act 2, and The Resolution in Act 3. Like the story itself, each of the acts should have their own beginning, middle, and end. Here’s an example of an Act 1 outline of a three-act structure outline template:

Act 1—Setting the Stage
A. Beginning
1. Introduction
2. Inciting incident
3. Immediate reaction
B. Middle
1. Reaction
2. Action
3. Consequence
C. End
1. Pressure
2. Turning point
3. Plans made

The Hero’s Journey

Another popular organizational pattern for stories, particularly stories with heroes, is the archetypal hero’s journey. It is specific but helps writers who are exploring a character and want to examine their motivations. Like the three-act structure, there are three basic parts of the hero’s journey.

Part one—The hero is called to action but refuses.
A. Call to action
B. Refusal

Part two—The hero finds motivation and overcomes a series of obstacles.
A. Motivation
B. Obstacle 1
1. Difficulty
2. Hero wins
C. Obstacle 2
1. Difficulty
2. Hero wins
D Obstacle 3
1. Difficulty
2. Hero win

Part three—The hero wins victory and goes back to their old life, slightly improved.
A. Fights evil
B. Defeats evil
C. Goes home a hero

Cyclical Outline

Not all stories or essays follow a linear structure. Some pieces of writing follow the seasons of the year or of life itself. Cyclical outline templates are fun to create and complete because they organize thoughts with the idea of coming around to the beginning again.

A writer may choose to use the Chinese Zodiac as a structure for their story. This zodiac is based on a twelve-year cycle of the path of the planet Jupiter.

Each year gets its own animal character. The animals are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. An outline template may be set up like a pie with 12 slices with space in each pie piece used for a plot point or character information.


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Using an outline template is entertaining and helps to conquer the fear of the dreaded blank page. It leads to a better organization of ideas the writer already has and can help create new ones. Outline templates can be found through simple web browser searches and can be used as is or be modified by the writer for their particular project or style.

Writers should experiment with different types of outlines for their project to see which one best fits their needs. Regardless of the type of template, completing outlines may seem like extra work when writing, but in the end can make your writing time more efficient. They can help you avoid wild tangents and writing pages destined to be discarded and balled up for the trash.

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