Friday, December 31, 2010

More on plot outlines

I use the narrative plot outline to jump from scene to scene, to bring out the basic story but without the dialog or details I'll insert in the actual writing of my novel. Since I've already written out several pages of the book, my outline includes those scenes and some notes for planned scenes.

Though this is a partial outline that I have to finish in the days ahead, I learned a lot from it. I could see where I needed to bring in more about one of the characters I've mentioned but not had a scene with. I need him to be on the page earlier. I also need to introduce another character who, although not apparently a key player, will provide the key to action later on.

I can see where I've been thin on info my reader will need, and I can see where I have already thought through some issues pretty thoroughly.

The outline gives me sort of a birds-eye view of my story. From there I can see where I need more peaks and valleys for excitement, and where I need to slow the action to pick up on a side issue I'm dealing with.

So forget any phobias about outlining you may have picked up in grade school and give yourself that aerial view of your novel. It's not a horrible administrative-type task--it's just another way to tell your story to yourself before you embellish it for the reading public.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Outlines and other planning issues

I finally broke down a while back and spent a whole day doing a narrative plot outline for my book. I got about two-thirds of the way through my story, and have yet to finish that outline, but it still helps an amazing amount.

For those of you who haven't been exposed to what this outline is, it's not like those horrible topical outlines we had to do in grade school (did you have to do that?). I once had a science teacher who outlined the whole book, day by day, on the black board. What do you think I learned in her class? I learned that Tommy S. could make his belly bulge out like a pregnant lady. That's about it.

A narrative plot outline is writing up a summary of the story in present tense. I will give you an example or two from mine, but I am not claiming I'm an expert. This is just the way that works for me.

The opening of the outline for my latest book reads: "Cody Caulfield, recovering alcoholic and attorney to losers, find herself with a case that's turning messy. She and her faithful sidekick Janet Engles watch petty criminal Nate Diggerson walk out of the courtroom a free man, thanks to their efforts. But his freedom is short lived."

Later on, I have a section that reads "On the phone Montgomery states that he and his boss had no need to do in Nate, because they've already retrieved anything of value he'd taken. Montgomery warns Cody to butt out or alcoholism won't be her only health problem."

What I learned from writing the plot outline is fodder for another post.