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.

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