I'm not a planner by trade. In fact I often consider my best stories the ones that happened spontaneously from witnessing something strange rather than by crafting meticulous notes and character sketches centered on complex themes. That being said, I have learned over the years that this attack fails oh so miserably when writing a novel.
At least for me.
My attempts while subscribing to the helter skelter method resulted in me gathering dozens of scene fragments and partial blurbs to somehow Frankenstein them together into a barely-there narrative that never saw the light of day. So if you're like me, clinging to the 'it just happens' writing methodology, I traveled the blogs and gathered (in my humble opinion) the best novel outlining ideas as well as my own tacked onto the end. I hope it helps. Take deep breaths...and outline away!
wikiHow Video - A more visual and free-flowing approach
The Full Outline Strategy - A set of pdf's that will leave no stone unturned
Index Card Outline - Effectively use index cards to map out your idea (easily shuffled and manipulated)
iPad Index Card App - For the more technologically inclined who want an online experience
The Guardian's 30 Days to a Novel Worksheets - If you want to move quickly through the process, these worksheets are for you
The Nighttime Novelist - More Worksheets and Downloads to help you on your way
And then there' s my little old method that combines the handiness of a worksheet with the free form of empty spaces. I made the document in Word, inserting post-it text boxes and giving myself nine spaces to move my story from beginning to end. (The Word document is downloadable next to the image if you'd like.)
Good luck! And share your tips and tricks!
Writing has always been an escape, a passion, and a friend. And I love the fact that in my free time and through my career I can help others discover their voice, too.