How to Outline Your Novel With A Bulletin Board

How To Outline Your Novel With a Bulletin Board Part 1

For those of you who follow my ramblings you already know that I’ve actually finished my first draft of the first book I’ve ever written. For those of you who are just now finding out, I’m as surprised as you!

As a way to say congratulations, my husband helped me put together a large bulletin board in my “office” (a little nook inside of our bedroom). I know, I know, a bulletin board? what a dull way to celebrate! But honestly, I was excited! lol

I wrote before in my “8 Steps to Writing a Novel” blog post that it is important to plan out your books before you begin your first draft. I did do this (I promise! lol), but I did it in the form of a word document and then printed out some work sheets, filled them out and stuck them in a binder. When it came time to sit down and type out that first draft I never once thought to pull up any of those word documents or even pull out any of my worksheets. Which, as I’m sure you can guess, has left me with a mess of a first draft.

So, my husband and I put our heads together and we came up with a solution that will hopefully help me in the revising and editing process and will be a life saver with future books down the road.

photo 1

I call it my Outlining Bulletin Board! Catchy title don’t you think? (I’m open for other suggestions). It’s not very pretty at the moment but I promise it gets better. On a side note, beware, cork board tiles are not cut exactly cut the same way as the other and if your wall is not exactly straight things are going to get a bit wonky.

Using a bulletin board to help you outline a book is not a new concept but for the life of me I could not find a Google image that showed a good example for me to work off of. I literally spent all weekend trying to figure out how to accomplish this and how I wanted to map it out with the space and cork-board tiles I had to work with.

I’ll break down the process for you in case you would like to make one of your own.

Materials Needed

  • A space on your wall
  • 4 – 12×12 Cork board tiles 4pack  (Ours came from Office Depot $13.49 but I’m sure you can find them for a cheaper price)
  • Nails/hammer (or you can use the 3mm adhesive strips that comes in the pack)
  • Edging Tape (You can use duct tape, washi tape, or be like my husband and use Electrical tape lol)
  • Alphabet Stickers (because I like labels)
  • Colorful Scrapbook Paper (because I like pretty things)
  • Push Pins (I just buy the clear ones from the dollar store)

Step 1: Select your wall space and clear it of any decor and/or nails

Step 2: Map out the size and shape you would like your bulletin board to be and place cork board tiles accordingly. (I chose a 3ft by 4 ft arrangement)

Step 3: Next is the hard part. Figuring out how to make the way you like to outline fit onto the board you just created. (this took me a whole day to figure out…)

Right now I’m liking a combo outlining method I’ve mashed together. I’ve taken elements of the index card method, the 3 act method, a plotting method and a chapter by chapter timeline method. It sounds like overkill and it probably is but for now it’s what seems to be working for me. I’ll go into further detail about this in my next post.

Step 4: Label and decorate your board as you see fit.

As you can see I’ve got the label part down but I have yet to transfer my word document outlines and worksheets onto it. I have a feeling this is what I will be working on for the next few days.

Here is the fruit of our labors: It’s a beauty isn’t she? I have high hopes of her pulling me out of this mess of a first draft! lol

photo 2

I used 3 packs of the 12×12 cork boards which came out to a 3ft x 4ft board. I lined the edges with black electrical tape (If you use this tape make sure you don’t stretch it is as you put it on because it will shrink back to it’s original length over time lol so very frustrating!). I then mapped out the structure of my outline. The first column is labeled “Details”. This will be where I will put my ideas for a Title, the Setting of the book, and a place to pin photos of people who resemble the major and minor characters. Column 2 is labeled “Act I” This is where I will lay out the first 10 chapters of my book. The 3rd column is labeled “Act II” and it houses chapters 11-20. The fourth column is labeled “Act III” and it houses chapters 21-30. (I will explain how I use columns 2-4 in my next blog post.) At the bottom of my board I have a nail in each column that holds a clipboard. The clipboards hold my Master “To-Do” List, Daily “To-Do” List and Event Tracker. (You can find more explanations on these in my “6 Steps To Be A More Productive Writer“) The 4th clipboard will hold my Blog Schedule. I’m currently looking for a blog schedule printable that fits my needs. If you have any you like and would like to share let me know :-).

I’m a very detailed person but all the details will go to waste if I don’t remember to find and look at what I’ve taken the time to gather. So, since I’m also a very visual person I’m hoping that having my outline bulletin board right in front of my face every time I sit down at my desk will make my creative process flow better.

Do you have a bulletin board or space in your house where you lay out the outline of your book? 

Does it help or hinder you in the writing process?

To read the next article on this subject click here

“How to Outline Your Novel With a Bulletin Board- Part 2”


Published by Darla G. Denton, Writer

I am a Contemporary Romance Writer for Curvy women and the men who love them.

17 thoughts on “How to Outline Your Novel With A Bulletin Board

  1. This is fabulous idea! Managing the information in a large project like a novel is one of the biggest challenges, and after writing seven different novels, I am still looking for a visual way to do it! Pin boards have to be the answer (I usually end up with hundreds of index cards scattered all over my study floor which is not exactly a long term solution as they tend to get kicked under the furniture!) Conclusion – I obviously NEED one of these! Genius!
    On another note, I’m looking for a good plog planner too! I think I am going to have to make my own – will keep you posted! Best Wishes, EF


  2. This is very interesting. I have a white board, which I use, mostly for brainstorming. Right now, it has the GMC of most of my major characters, plus some new ones that I added (or added to) after I finished my first draft.

    I use Scrivener to write my book, and I’m trying to keep everything there. Another writer did a Use Case on Scrivener — she has a 5 or 7-book series and she has an individual Scriv file for each book, then a Master Scriv file (which she refers to as her Series Bible). Given that I have more books planned using a lot of the same characters, I think I’m going to try the series bible thing.

    So how does Scriv relate to the cork board? It has it’s own cork board feature. Each “scene” (which is typically how the sub-docs break up in each Scriv file) has room for a summary, where I put a brief synopsis of the scene. Then you can put all of your scenes on the cork board, rearrange at will, and they magically get rearranged in your Binder (the File Manager-type thing on the left side of your window where everything is listed). I swear it’s brilliant.

    Still, I like to be hands-on (my husband, however, is completely paperless), so this idea might work, although with my white board (no more room in my office for cork board), I may have to resort to drawn lines and stickie notes. Thanks for posting this! (And kudos to your husband for helping!)


    1. I have yet to use Scrivener but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it.

      So far, with this first book, I’ve learned that I very rarely open up my computer files while writing which has led me to produce a mess of a 1st draft. Im hoping that a hands on version of my outlining method will keep me on track.


  3. Not all writers, of course, like to work in the same way. I could not write a single chapter if I did not outline the whole story first. I want to know who did what and what happens next and if the whole thing holds my interest. My MS Word outline is enough to guide me. I rely on it. I just bought a bulletin board today. I don’t want it to outline my novel. I’ve already done that. I want it for inspiration. I’d rather look at a related and inspiring image than a blank wall. I use calendars in the same way. My novel deals in part with Arabian horses so I have two calendars of Arabians in my tiny writing space; one on the refrigerator and one on the wall above my monitor. The great thing about bulletin boards is that they’re flexible and adaptable. Finished the chapter? Fine. Time for a new image to inspire you on the next chapter.


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