How to Outline Your Novel with Trello

Every so often, I get a novel idea for a story (pun intended), but I always seem to get stuck at the same point: planning. It seems that I have a ton of ideas just floating around in my head, but I can never seem to build a good outline. Today, I'd like to introduce you to an amazing tool that gives you the flexibility you need to plan out your story.

Most people know Trello as a project management tool. And that's it's original purpose. But it has so much more potential. According to its website, it can be used to organize anything, and that includes a novel.

Let's get started. Basically, Trello is divided into boards. Here's an example board I made up.

Each of these boards can hold one or more lists.

Each list is made up of individual cards.

The beauty of Trello is that you can make a list for each category, for instance: Main Characters, Supporting Characters, Settings, Conflicts, etc. Then, you can have a card for each one of those characters or conflicts.

Now let's take a closer look at the cards. If you click on one of them, it opens a window with more information that is contained in that card.

Here, you can add a description of your character, attach pictures, or give yourself reminders.

For a richer introduction to Trello, check out this awesome article by the Trello team.

The most important requirement to using Trello is to get creative, and explore. When I first started using Trello, it took a while before I figured out how to use it. But I would encourage you to just give it a try. Maybe it's just what you need to get that book done.

If you've found Trello to be useful in outlining, be sure to let me know in the comments below!


  1. I'm going to have to give this a try. It looks great for storing away the "novel ideas", and even better, keeping backstories and less important characters all managed nicely. BTW Hobbit hole!!!

  2. Writers,

    I've been using Trello for a few years now, including a rather large personal life to-do list/goal planning board. But that's beside the point. Trello is GREAT for writers! Just be careful that you don't fall prey to "analysis paralysis", that is spending more time planning how to write than actually writing :)

    Trello is very powerful, but it can be even more so. IF you're using the Chrome browser, there are extensions available for Trello's online presence that really amps it up! NOTE: These do NOT work on the desktop or phone apps!!!

    1) Swimlanes for Trello (

    This extension allows you to take large boards (you know the ones that stretch from here to yonder across your monitor and beyond?) and break them into sections stacked vertically called lanes. Each lane can be a mini-board of it's own, allowing you to really put a LOT of purpose into your boards. Awesome.

    2. Next Step for Trello (

    Do you use Trello lists within your cards? This extension lets you display the next item or even the entire list on the FACE of the card...AND lets you check off the items without having to even open the card. So flipping useful! A real time saver.

    3. Add Cards to Trello (

    For anyone who has random glorious thoughts slap you in the head when you're browsing on your 'puter...this is the answer. It's best described as a web clipper, much like OneNote's or Evernote's. It lets you pick the board and the list in which to deposit whatever gem of inspiration you find.

    These are my favorites, though there are many more in the Chrome Store. Be aware that these will also work in Opera and (I believe) in Vivaldi, and I've been told that any browser based on Chromium (of which there are many) can use extensions from the Chrome store. I have no idea if Firefox or other browser types have ports of these extensions, but hey if you don't like Chrome, install it JUST FOR TRELLO. It's worth it!

    Yours, K. B. Tidwell

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