Dawn Brookes Publishing

Publishing Topics by author Dawn Brookes

Tag: books

Writing a Great Book Outline

Writing a Great Book Outline and Writing to Target

I have recently finished my very first debut novel so don’t consider myself an expert on this but I was greatly helped by using a system for writing the book. This system kept me to time and was just what I needed. The system I used I have adapted from one I learned from a course on Udemy called Reverse Engineer Riveting Fiction

The first thing I need to say is that I did veer off but not hugely and you will see what I mean when I explain it.


Obviously before you can develop a plan there needs to be a story in your head. My story evolved but I had the basics of the plot before I started writing.

I had a main character (initially it was 2), sub-characters important to the plot, a scene (set on a cruise ship), a theme – murder mystery (initially thriller but turned out to be cosy as I don’t do graphic), a beginning, a middle and an end (I had two in mind).

Word Count

The next thing was to decide on a rough word count. There is some debate over words needed but in general they are as follows:

Word Counts are not written in stone

Depending on what you read there are different opinions on how long a book should be so I have gathered a few together but they are just guides. Publishers will have minimum and maximum word counts for different books and generally frown on shorter novels and those that are too long.

  • Novel 40,000 words or over (generally 60,000 for mystery, 90,000+ for non-series novel). Some authors and publishers recommend 50,000+ with a maximum of 120,000 but Harry Potter and the order of the Phoenix is over 250,000 words!
  • Young Adult 40,000 to 80,000 words
  • Biography & general non-fiction 50,000 to 120,000 words
  • Memoir & self-help 40,000 to 90,000 words
  • Novella 17,500 to 39,999
  • Novellette 7,500 to 17,499
  • Chapter books for children start at 16,000
  • Short story under 7,500
  • Flash fiction 500 to 1,000 words
  • Children’s picture books 400 to 800 words (some of mine are 1,200)

Splitting the Story

Splitting the word count to write the book

In my case I opted for 56,000 words (it has ended up being nearer the 60,000). As this was my first novel and I wanted to keep to time, I decided to aim for the same number of words per chapter using a table system.

The book had to have a beginning, a middle and an end and I wanted tension to build until the climax so this had to be factored in.

The grid or table includes the number of chapters split into one quarter for the beginning, one half for the middle and one quarter for the end. These quarters are then divided into 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and so on, depending on how long the book will be and how many chapters you want to include.

So for example for a 60,000 word book using a 6 grid system 6 x 4 or 24 chapters.

60,000/24 = 2,500 words per chapter (guide only, can be flexible)

There would need to be 6 chapters in section 1, 12 in section 2 and 6 in section 3

In this example there will need to be at least 24 chapters of 2,500 words each split into sections.

I outlined each of the chapters with points that would be included in each, building on the story and adding tension as the story developed. By the halfway stage the tension was building and by three quarters it was higher with no resolution in sight. The final quarter then built on that tension but arrived at resolution.

Writing in this way kept me to time 

I used 56,000 with the 5 grid system 5 x 4 or 20 chapters 

56,000/20 = 2,800 words per chapter.

Writing the outline for each of those chapters helped me meet the target of writing the 2,800 per day. I didn’t stick to 20 chapters and have ended up with over 30 but that didn’t matter. The system helped me write the required number of words per day because I knew what I wanted to include in each of those grids.

Writing at a slower pace or writing more words

If you want to write at a slower pace you can write half the amount per day e.g. 1,400

If you want to write a much higher word count you will want to choose a higher number of grids resulting in more chapters. For example:

9 grid system 9 x 4 = 36

100,000/36 = 2,778 (give or take) words per day or half if you want to write slower


This is a system that has helped me and I hope that it helps you. If you want to learn more about this system check out Reverse Engineer Riveting Fiction by Geoff Shaw where he explains it much better and outlines plot building within the system.

Cosy Mysteries










Looking for that last minute Christmas Present?

Books always well received at Christmas!

I don’t know about you but I am always happy to receive books at Christmas time. In fact I am happy to receive books at anytime of year! Although my ‘to read’ list is forever growing and I have a stack of books waiting to be read on my bookshelves both physical and digital, I still can’t resist adding more. I have almost worked my way through the physical ones and have enjoyed a new cosy mystery series this year.

Classic books as well?

There are a large number of classics that I still have to read – I have just about finished all of Charles Dickens’ works and long ago read the complete works of Oscar Wilde. I managed to work my way through War and Peace a few years ago and it was worth the effort. C.S. Lewis is another favourite and the Narnia Chronicles can be read at any age. I have also enjoyed reading John Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress in spite of the old fashioned language. I have of course read Jane Austen’s collections – who wouldn’t love these. George Eliot is next on my list although I did read Middlemarch some years ago, and I want to finish the works of Elizabeth Gaskell as she is a favourite of mine. The list is endless but it is an enjoyable journey.

New Books?

I tend to read more non-fiction than fiction but do enjoy a good ‘escape’ book too and light chick lit always goes down a treat. Other books on the fiction side – I have to say that I am a fan of Stella Rimington and Dee Henderson and have recently enjoyed Debbie Young’s new series.

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    In the biographies section I am working my way through nursing memoirs other than my own as I enjoyed writing mine so much. It brought back so many memories and these come to life in books by other nurse and medical authors.

    I also bought a couple of tennis biographies this year that I have yet to read so I am looking forward to copying up after Christmas lunch with a good book!

    I have only mentioned a few genres but there are so many more that I could mention, there is something for everyone in books and reading is very good for the brain.

    Investment Books

    If you are thinking about investing for your future there are a number of interesting books to take a look at. I have written a few around property investment and there are other useful books on the subject for those who want to put their money into the property market.

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      There are also other ways to invest. There is the stock market and for those with a strong constitution and speculative money there is the whole new world of cryptocurrencies – the most well-know being Bitcoin.


      I hope this small list helps a little, they are just my ramblings really and later on today I will remember many more books that I have loved or would love to read. If you’re really stuck there are always the old faithfuls like the Guinnes Book of Records and the diet books that we will all be needing come the New Year!

      This will be my last blog post before Christmas so I wish you all a very happy Christmas! If you read this post all the way to the bottom there is a fun happy Christmas video.

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              You can take a look at the Amazon bestsellers in books here.