How I Outline: Plot

Welcome to part one of my “How I outline series”!
Over the next three week leading up to NaNoWriMo and I will posting the method I use for outlining. I will cover the three major areas of my outlining method; plot, characters and world building. At the end of this series I will include a post showing how I collect everything into a scrivener document.
This week we are going to focus on plot, and I use a blending of a few different methods. Starting off I use Randy Ingermanson’s snowflake method. If you are not familiar with the Snowflake method, you can check out Randy’s site by clicking HERE.
The first step is to write a short sentence describing your book. The sentence includes a description of the protagonist and their major conflict.
Here is an example of my sentence for my high fantasy novel Bonded:
A teen girl must protect her family while helping to stop a war with ancient magic.
And here is the sentence for my NaNoWriMo project this year:
Brother and sister must defeat the monster lurking in an abandoned asylum.
A couple of this to notice is that first of all there are no character names. Right now we only need a basic idea of who are heroes are. The second is I was very broad with the description of the conflicts. Like with the characters we only need a vague idea of what our conflict is going to be.
The next step is to expand that one sentence into a paragraph. The point here is to have your beginning, three conflicts, and the resolution. I like to think of this like the description you add to the back of the book. I am still working in broad strokes at this point, so I don’t worry about too much detail.
After my paragraph I jump into character outlines, before moving on to the synopsis. Now I will begin filling out some of the details of my plot, getting more specific with what happens in the story. This step is particularly useful for anyone planning to traditional publish. Agents will request a one page synopsis when you are querying.
When I first started using the snowflake method I had no idea how to write a synopsis. That was why I was so excited when I discovered Susan Dennard’s website. She has an amazing blog post about writing a synopsis and it made the process so easy. You can click HERE to check out her post.
With the synopsis in hand, I work on fleshing out my characters a little more and building up my world. Then I take all the information I have gathered, and begin to make a four or five page draft of my novel. The draft is a through outline of the story that not only covers the main plot, but any subplots as well. It gives me a good overview of the plot, and allows me to spot any plot holes before I begin writing.
The finally step is to take my draft, and break it down into scenes. I will read through the draft and make index cards for each scene. I identify who the POV charcter is, and where the scene is taking place, before placing each scene into a chapter.
So this is a basic overview of how I develop my plot Next week I will be focusing on how I develop my characters. If you want to check that out don’t forget to follow me here on the blog. You can also follow me on both Twitter (@_andreajcline) and instagram (@andreajcline) to be notified of when I post the next part.
Until then, see you next time!

2 thoughts on “How I Outline: Plot

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