Novel Plot Outlining

I’ve been hacking away at my novel/s, and have found myself stumbling over the same problem again and again; Plot Outline.

In the past, I have usually sat down and just hammered out my stories, having a vague idea of where I want to go with the plot, who the characters are, how many of them there are, and how the novel will finish.  So far I’ve written 5 or 6 first drafts in this manner, but they need a lot of work to get to the publication stage. 

Where the wheels fall off the wagon is when the the story deviates, or starts to sound disjointed, or scattered, and some of the characters are too lifeless, too cut and paste. 

And this is particularly evident when I’m editing.  All the plot potholes are suddenly revealed, and I end up starting to re-write the whole thing from scratch… not fun, and I usually struggle to keep going. 

So I have all these unfinished (yet brilliant!) stories piling up, and I’m starting new ones which will no doubt end up on the unfinished pile in basically the same state as all the others.  What I’ve been looking for is a plot structure device which is simple to remember and use, and is the correct shaped skeleton to hang the flesh of the story on.  I had come up with one of my own, which was OK-ish, but the other night I stumbled across this link, and all the ducks lined up:  http://www.screenplaymastery.com/structure.htm

Using this structure while I’m outlining has so far proved worthwhile.  The story stays on track, and I’m able to go slightly off kilter while following an interesting idea, story plot twist, without compromising the whole novel like I’d done in the past… especially like the time I was halfway through a novel and realised that I’d changed the focus away from the lead character and his message, to the story of one of the bit players who was a real ‘go getter’ and his much more interesting life 🙂

So, if you’re a fellow Scribbler, and struggle with outlining, then I can’t recommend this site highly enough.  And if you do use it, let me know how you went.

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