Writing A Good Plot Outline

Great houses start with blueprints, and so do great Novels. Learn about writing a good plot outline for you story.

You were just hit with a great idea for a novel. You're inspired, energized, psyched, and can't wait to start writing. STOP! Back away from the keyboard. Have I got your attention? Good. The first thing any writer should do before starting any serious writing is to craft a plot outline. A good outline is like a blueprint of your story. The same way an architect would never start building a house without first knowing where he was going, neither should a writer start building his story without fist knowing where its going.

Your outline can be detailed - with scene descriptions and dialouge, or brief - with only a few lines describing the main action in each scene. Which ever method you choose, its best to rework it roughly three times. The first draft isn't expected to be perfect; Its purpose is to give you the main shape of the story - letting you know what you need to get from point A to point B. Start this outline by writing the beginning scene, the end scene, and all other major scenes you already envision. This will give you an idea of what other scenes you need. Fill in these extra scenes until you think you have a fairly well fleshed out story. Try to write a set amount of scenes each day, and never stop when you've run out of ideas. Stop in the middle of an idea so you don't start "cold" the next day. The time this draft will take varies considerably from person to person, and depends on how detailed you are and how long the book you're writing is. For some it might take only days, while, for others, it might take weeks. When you do finish this draft, then put it aside for a few days to give it a "cooling off" period. When you think you can look at it objectively, then take it out again, and start revising.

Start the second draft by taking out a pen and coffee, and reading through what you've written. Jot down any thoughts you have, and ask yourself these questions: Do the scenes switch easily from one to the other, creating a continuous piece? Are all the scenes in the correct order? Is the pacing right - should a scene maybe be added, or deleted? Try to look for a central "theme" in your work - the main point it's making or story it's telling. This isn't necessarily a moral, just a central "idea". Once you get down to your story's true "core" you'll be able to better see what needs to be reworked. In a good novel, every scene some how relates to the main "core. Any scenes that don't relate need to be either cut out or reworked so that they do. Take your time with this stage, reworking the outline until everything seems to fall into place. When you think you're finished, put it aside again - this time longer than the first.

When you take out your outline for the final draft, and read through it again, you will probably find only minor changes that need to be done. A scene added, or maybe just reworked. If you aren't sure about something, like the beginning or ending, then experiment with it and see what else you can come up with. Remember though, that even your best draft of an outline probably won't remain completely unchanged throughout the whole novel. Just as Architects get ideas as they build, so will you as a writer. As long as you have a blueprint, you can experiment with these changes without damaging the structure.

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