Writing your first novel can be more daunting in life than actually putting pen to paper or finger to keyboard. The untouched page is a frank sign of how much work there is to do.
In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott explains the writer’s dilemma:
You are desperate to communicate, to edify and entertain…to make real or imagined events come alive. But you cannot will this to happen. It is a matter of persistence and faith and hard work. So you might as well just go ahead and get started.
Yet getting started is easier once you’ve done some initial prep work on your story; its structure, characters, and how on earth you’re going to get this thing out of your head.
That’s where these free novel-writing templates and worksheets prove handy.
This worksheet from Evernote is a simple way to outline the main characters, plot themes, events, and conflicts within your story. By teasing them out of your mind and onto a worksheet like this, you’ll be able to plot the broad story arc.
Remember to keep your descriptions specific and concise. This isn’t meant to be an entire plot description.
If you’re an Evernote fan, there are plenty of other Evernote templates you can use. But if you don’t use Evernote, this worksheet can easily be replicated in other programs, or on a sheet of paper.
This straightforward worksheet from The Novel Factory helps you to pad out your main characters. You’ll find yourself adding to, and referring back to this info, time and again as your character develops.
If you’re looking for a more linear approach to plan your novel, this spreadsheet from EA Deverell is especially useful. This customizable resource allows you to break down and describe each of your scenes so that you have a concrete plot before you start writing.
To start using this spreadsheet, open it up, click File then Make a Copy.
The Freytag method of planning out your novel sits somewhere between vague and extremely detailed. If that sounds like the approach you’d like to take, complete this worksheet from Duolit.
The model covers all essentials, without going overboard on planning. From the introduction of characters, through to rising action, and to the final resolution of your story.
This PDF from The Writers Craft will help you to flesh out important scenes before writing them out in your first draft.
With this worksheet, you’ll paint a detailed picture of an individual scene from your main character’s viewpoints. You’ll explore the sights, sounds, and smells of the situation to develop a vivid idea of what it is that you need to portray.
Writer’s Digest has a number of useful writing worksheets aimed at helping writers pen the first draft in 30 days. One of the most useful of these templates is the At-a-Glance Outline. This worksheet helps you to fill in any gaps and plot holes in your story before you come across them in the middle of your draft.
Working your way through this worksheet may be difficult at first, but when it comes to writing your novel, it’ll make things a whole lot easier.
This simple flowchart from Duolit will help you to figure out what perspective and tense you’ll be writing in. This is an often overlooked part of writing a novel, so having this pinned down early on will give you a good advantage.
Another template from Evernote, this chapter and scene breakdown can easily be replicated in whichever program you prefer to use. Once you’ve planned out your novel in more detail, quickly creating a breakdown like this is useful for easy reference.
This will save you time searching through your notes when you’re in the writing “flow”.
Another great worksheet from Writer’s Digest is their Climax Sketch PDF. This is where you will plan out the climax of your novel, “the point where the protagonist faces the conflict directly, with his goal on the line”.
It’s important you get this part of your story right, so spend some time on this to make it compelling.
Technically, it’s not a template or a worksheet, but given that figuring out how to end your novel will be one of the biggest challenges you face, this infographic is extremely valuable.
By knowing about the different ways in which you can draw your story to a close, you may well be able to improve your writing and introduce more interesting plot twists and character development than you might have otherwise.
There are plenty of programs for creative writers, but Scrivener is arguably one of the best. Case in point: this seriously detailed Scrivener template for outlining and structuring your novel covers everything you could imagine.
From character arcs, premises, abbreviated outlines, and character details, to props, areas for worldbuilding, planning out a series, and more.
If you’re using Scrivener (30-day free trial available) to write your novel, this free template is certainly worth checking out.
Other Scrivener templates you might want to try are:
These five free Microsoft Word book templates from DIY Book Formats (email registration required) are of high quality. And what’s more, they’ll save you tons of time wrestling with document formatting when you could be writing.
Each template includes paragraph and header styling, a cover page, footers, and page numbers, and comes in PDF, DOC, DOCX, and INDD (InDesign) filetypes.
For Google Docs Users: The DOC and DOCX files included in this collection can also be uploaded and used on Google Docs. You may have to slightly tweak line spacing, etc. but most of the formatting is retained.
By the time you’ve worked through a few of the worksheets included in this article, you’ll be in a much better position to finally put pen to paper and become the writer you always wanted to be.
And who knows? After a few rounds of edits, you may even be ready to finally publish your ebook, and get your story printed so you can enjoy the pride that comes with having a physical copy of your work in hand.