Plotting Out the Novel

Plotting a novel is an endeavor in and of itself. In the past, I have not done much detailed plotting before starting to write. For most of my previous works I had a good idea for the concept, characters, and ending, but left most of the details fairly mutable, without a detailed outline or a very specific plan.

This approach worked very well when I was writing for the sake of writing, allowing a certain element of mutability to enter the stories and often serving to enhance the original concepts, but it also has its pitfalls. It is harder to maintain a consistent tone and flow of narrative when the story is defined only in vaguest terms at the onset of writing. And while most published novels go through significant changes between the first draft and the version that sees print, building an outline during writing may result in lack of focus unless the writer is exceedingly careful. Furthermore, writing without a well-defined outline lends itself to very linear type of writing, in which a scene has to be written in the order it would appear in the narrative. This may result in particularly powerful scenes envisioned early during the writing process to die before the writer has a chance to write them, since they may not have any relevance to the continuously evolving plot.

So, for my current project, I am going to do something different. This time, I expect to write out a reasonably detailed outline, along with specific notes on characters, novel universe, philosophies followed by the major factions, and the points I would like to make (which may warrant another post at a later point in time). It should help me with keeping the novel tight and focused, and hopefully will aid in creating compelling, consistent universe and characters. Moreover, it should help with weaving several major narrative plotlines into one cohesive whole.

This also points to another thing I will attempt – writing out of order. In the past, I have sometimes written the endings of my previous novels early in the writing process, but wrote the rest of the novel in linear order. Here, I will attempt to write scenes out of sequence, as long as they fit into the overarching novel outline. This should not tie me to linear flow of narrative, and would allow me greater freedom on what section to write at any given time, no matter where it falls in the novel.

With this in mind, I officially designate today as the first day of this new process – Day One of outline, scene writing, novel plotting, and what not. While I will not begin counting my daily word minimums until the basic outline is complete, I will still attempt to write scenes for their eventual inclusion in the novel, and will make best faith effort to deliver at least reasonable word counts every day. And as I have more of this novel written, snippets will follow for your reading enjoyment. What’s not to like?

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  1. Sounds like you do the same as me. It can be a pain plotting everything ahead of time, I’ve junked novels because I overdid plots.

    • I know what you mean – I am finding it a challenge to plot out this one and to write within a determined framework rather than my customary free-form style. But at least it should, hopefully, help to avoid plot holes… Well, one can hope, right? 🙂

      • Works for me…

        If you look at First Strike, I had a vague idea of how the story would go and tightened it up as I went along. I think it worked.

        It depends on the story, of course. I didn’t have a proper plot for TCTRT and paid for it.


  2. Incidently, could you leave a link to my site on your blog?


  1. Graveyard Empire – new (?) novel announcement | alexshalenko

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