Every writer has their own unique process – but for most, that process involves some level of planning. In response to Grist user requests, we are excited to release our new Novel Planning Template, just in time for this year’s NaNoWriMo. 50,000 words in 30 days never seemed more achievable!

The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.

Agatha Christie

Planning looks different for everyone. Some writers might not consider their method to be planning because it is “only” a series of high-level bullet points or short notes on post-its. Whether your method utilizes post-its, mind maps, or spreadsheets, they are all a form of planning.

We designed our Novel Planning Template for writers who want to go broad and deep in their planning. You may be participating in a writing challenge such as NaNoWriMo or the 3-Day Novel or writing independently. Regardless of why you are writing, our Novel Planning Template will help provide you with the clarity you need, enabling you to envision your story before you start writing that first draft.

Why writers love our novel planning template

We designed it with features to help you stay focused on your end goal without getting sidetracked by messy, hard-to-understand spreadsheets!


  • Word Count – keep track of your total progress or drill down to the chapter and scene!
  • Dashboards – get different views of your novel structure
  • Status – stay focused on the areas that need your attention by defining what stage of completion the scene is in, from draft to final.
  • Customizable – you can make changes to the template to better match your needs.

How to use Grist’s novel planning template

We built our writing template to be flexible, letting you choose your starting point – characters, scenes, or chapters. Whatever works for your writing workflow. And if you are confused, our Novel Planning Template is designed with a helpful built-in tutorial. Located at the lower left of your workspace, access it at any time with just a click!

Getting started

Each section works in unison with the others. If starting in Scenes, you can begin with as little as some thoughts in the notes area and a character. When you type in the character name, it auto-populates to the Character section, where you can flesh out that character, its archetype, story arc, and more. Any new characters you add to the Character section will auto-populate into a drop-down that you can use when adding characters to the Scenes section.

Use the novel planning template to track characters in scenes.
Keep track of which characters are in which scenes.

The Chapters page automatically calculates word counts at the chapter and novel level. Assign a number to your chapters, and a title if you wish. Clicking on a chapter brings up its scenes on the right.

Keep track of your chapter word counts at a glance.
The novel planning template automatically sums word counts for the chapter and novel based on scene word counts.

Once you start defining your scenes and the order in which these scenes take place within your chapters, the Outline View section comes to life and becomes your best friend. The Outline page of our Novel Planning Template gives you the power to step back and get a bird’s eye view. Here you can visualize any flow and pacing issues and uncover any plot holes before they become a problem. Using the Outline as a guide, you can resolve these issues by returning to your Scenes or Chapters to re-sort or add more detail. And our Research and Notes section lets you add details you want to remember later. The Novel Planning Template simplifies the planning process so you can focus more of your time where it is needed – writing the book!

Outline view gives you the full picture of your novel.
Outline view lists scenes in the right order.

We hope you love this new addition to our template gallery. If you have any feedback on improvements or additions, please reach out!

You can fail only if you stop writing

Ray Bradbury

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