Outlining Nosetalgia, or How Experience Isn’t Your Friend
There are many, many ways to outline a book. I should know. I co-wrote The Plot Thickens: 21 Ways to Plot Your Novel. Speaking from experience, with over two dozen books written (see my Amazon author page here), each book is different. It stands to reason, outlining each book is different as well. Outlining Nosetalgia, my current work in progress, presented challenges.
Outlining book six, Nosetalgia, of the Rory Harper mystery series, was more difficult than I imagined. Why? I know the characters well. I’ve foreshadowed events, my character has grown, and I knew the events that have to happen. So, what’s the problem, Cheryl? (or should I say Noel, as I write my mysteries under the pen name Noel Cash).
I had too many plots. Two important events have to happen to close out this stage of Rory’s life. But, I had two subplots that threatened to overtake the main plots. How could I juggle them all in <45,000 words?
Enter the trusty yellow legal pad.
My outlining friend. When all else fails, I fall back on handwriting my plot, starting with mind mapping. Put the name of your main character in the center and surround him/her with the events and other characters. Draw lots of arrows and notes. Stuff started to make sense.
I ditched one of the subplots and reduced the other.
Then I pulled out a detailed list of the Hero’s Journey and started filling in the blanks.
I next used another favorite plotting device—index cards. I took each plot and subplot, broke them down by what needs to happen with each, and put them in chronological order. Using a different color for each plot or subplot, I transferred the plot points then arranged all the cards sequentially, from the inciting incident to the last scene. The picture above show the thirty-four cards/events that make up the story. (The legal pad displays my mind map. Under it are seven pages of further plotting, including the Hero’s Journey).
If you’re curious on how a story starts, that’s my process. At least for this book. Mileage will vary.