Getting From Idea to Plot Outline

R.L. Stine

Lesson time 8:53 min

Once you have an idea you love, Bob believes you should map out your plot using his preferred method: the outline.

R.L. Stine
Teaches Writing for Young Audiences
The Goosebumps author teaches you how to generate ideas, outline a plot, and hook young readers from the first page.
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Let's talk a little bit about how you get to the point of developing your outline, how you go from idea to outline. I did a "Goosebumps" book that people don't mention that much, but it's actually one of my favorites. It's called "Attack of the Mutant". And it's about a boy who is a comic book fan, and there's a superhero that he really likes named "The Masked Mutant". And one day he's reading the comic book and he finds that he's in it, he's a character in the comic book. And he can't believe what's going on here. Why is he a character in the comic book? And he goes-- the comic book is printed, is made in his hometown. And so he works up his courage, and he takes the bus to the comic book company. And when he walks in, he walks through this light beam that's red, blue, and yellow, and it zaps him. And he's in the comic book, he's in a comic book world, and he's suddenly the sidekick to this hero that he's read about. And now here he is, trapped in another world, which is really exciting to him, but horrifying, and he's in horrible danger. How could this happen to him? And this story just started-- I love comic books, especially when I was a kid-- and I was just thinking about comic books. I hadn't done a "Goosebumps" about comic books. And I had the title, "Attack of the Mutant". And I just-- the very first thing I thought was, what if you're reading something and you find that you're in it? That was the start, so I write that down. And then I had some scenes of what the superhero would be like, what his powers would be, or what he would look like. And so I wrote that down. That was next. And then I had to figure out a villain. Who was the arch enemy? Who was the villain here? And I wrote that down, and I'm just thinking, thinking. No story yet, no story at all. Just trying to get these basic ideas, figuring out what's the conflict here? And then I had to figure, before I even started to outline, how do I get the boy out of the jam? What's the ending here? And so I had like a couple of pages written, just a couple of pages of ideas. And then I go to the outline, and then I start to write. I have basic scenes. I have a basic idea of the story. And I have what the characters are basically. And then I can really start to plot it. The outline is usually 15 to 20 pages long, and it's very complete because I know the more complete I make the outline, the easier it will be when I start to write the book. And so I spend at least a week on the outline making sure the story makes sense, making sure that I track the characters all the way through, making sure I have good chapter endings, making sure the surprises are there, that there's a good middle, the middle of the book doesn't sag. I go over and over the outline. The hardest thing, when you sit down to write a book, is the plot, is making it hang together, is make it interesting all the way through. And an outline allows you to see what you have and to know where you're...

Take the fear out of writing

Award-winning novelist R.L. Stine wrote jokes and funny stories for 20 years before he switched gears and became a horror-writing legend. Since then, the author of the Goosebumps and Fear Street series has sold more than 400 million copies. In his first-ever online writing class, Bob takes the fear out of crafting fiction. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, you’ll learn new ways to conquer writer’s block, develop plots, and build nail-biting suspense that will thrill young readers.


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R.L. Stine is so funny. I think I was sold when I saw him waddle across the doorway in the trailer. His masterclass takes the fear out of writing and replaces it with fun. I'm fired up to enjoy myself, and I'm sure that's when the writing will be at its best!

Awesome MasterClass!! Mr. Stine gives you a lot of helpful tips for writing scary stories and for young audiences. The lessons are always exiting, and Mr. Stine strikes the perfect balance of information, motivation and fun. Absolutely recommended!!

That was the greatest writing masterclass, I`ve ever taken in my life. Thank you, thank you and thank you again.

R.L. Stine is an unexpectedly funny guy and a wonderful teacher, loved the class!


Gabe S.

Mr. Stine, did you ever get your briefcase fixed? Is it still leaking papers everywhere?

James B.

I find this lesson very helpful because outlining, in my opinion, is very important.

Margaret M.

It was interesting to hear that Bob finds outlining hard, "not fun." It's clear that it really pays off in his books! I recall reading an interview with Nora Roberts (another super-productive author). She doesn't outline, just writes straight through. I guess I haven't yet found the method that works for me.

Noah P.

Wow, I never realized just how long he spent on an outline. I only spend a day on an outline when doing mystery novellas. Now I will have to try it his way and do a really fleshed out storyline. Thanks!

A fellow student

OMFG!!! A Dear Friend purchased the All Access for me to improve at Poker but I CANNOT BELIEVE I AM LEARNING FROM R.L. Stein 😍😍😍😍😮😮😮

Marcela M.

Like this lesson, the process of where ideas are found, where to recognize

Vickie K.

Outlining is my nemesis. Yes, it gives me a sense of direction and yet it also take from me the random discoveries and paths that lead to untold riches. Maybe, just maybe, I've been doing it wrong. I'm going to give this extended, in-depth outlining a whirl and see where the ride takes me.

Alec B.

Outlining has always been a double-edged sword - at least, for me. If I try and take my jotted-down ideas and formulate a basic outline, all sense of wonder and discovery is ripped clean out of what I'm writing and makes it feel like I'm writing a research essay for grade school. More often than not, that dampens my mood and can often stop me from pursuing the writing venture I'd begun all the way to the end. On the other hand my thoughts are very disorderly, like leafs cast about on a windswept plain. If I write without the outline and just let the "heat-of-the-moment" thoughts take me wherever I please; what I write often ends up being total gibberish. I wish there was some in-between method, but I've not found anything thus-far. Either which way, this was some good insight into a different way of constructing a plot outline from the way I had been going about it before. I'll give it a shot. Who knows? Maybe it'll be more effective from the way I'd been going about it.


I've been outlining, but something didn't seem right. As I watched the lesson, I realized that I have been too busy with all these ideas in my head that the basics were pushed to the side. I was overwhelmed, but now I know what I need to do.

Bethany C.

Outlining is something that I've never really been that into. I've always felt that good writer just sits down and starts to write. I look forward to experimenting with outlining! I feel that having an outline before I begin writing will help with writers block.