At this point, now that I feel confident about my characters, storyworld, and the backstories of each, I'm ready to plot out my story. I've shared before that I'm a hybrid author. In all honesty, I write my books mostly by the seat of my pants, but I'm also a planner, so I like to make lots of plans as to how that seat-of-the-pantsing will go. I make a list of scenes. Then I'll write those scenes. Unexpected things will happen as I'm seat-of-the-pantsing, and I'll have to tweak my list of scenes. Then I'll go through my manuscript, write out each scene on a 3 x 5 card, then storyboard it to fix the problem places.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Right now I need to create a loose plot outline. I need to have a plan for the end of this book. A plan that's going to work. Over the years, I've done this in many ways. Here is the process I'm using for Onyx Eyes.
I had wanted Onyx Eyes and it's sequels to be 20-chapter books. But as I studied the chapters I'd already written, I noticed that my second turning point—also known as the "Break into act two" part of the story or the "Set off on a Noble Quest"—had happened at the end of chapter six. So if I was going to follow a mathematically perfect three-at structure, I would need to have 24 chapters in this book.
Hmm . . .
Honestly, that's realistic for me. I write long. Better to give myself room in case I need it. ;-)
So I opened Microsoft Excel and created this little worksheet. It's really no different from my other plotting charts I've used before, but this time I put in 24 chapters, a prologue, and an epilogue. (Don't know if I'm going to want an epilogue or not...)
I also added some of the three-act structure elements to help me as I plot. Here's what mine looks like. If you've like to print out your own copy, click here.
Then I fill it in.
This process takes me quite a while. Usually I can do it in a day, but it sometimes takes longer. If I get stuck, I tend to think through the problem spots while driving or doing chores, or (the magical "good idea" place for all writers) while in the shower. ;-)
Honestly, I might not be able to fill in an idea for every chapter at this point, especially those chapters in parts three and four. But I'll try. If things change later, that's okay. The point is to give myself a map to follow.
If you're trying to sell your book to a traditional publisher, you'll need to write a synopsis and perhaps create a book proposal. If that's my plan, this outline would help me with all that. I'm going to talk about writing a synopsis and creating a book proposal in a couple weeks.
Warning: there WILL be spoilers here. :-)
PART ONE: Glasderry
1 - Setup (Hero in his ordinary world, not yet living his dream) - (DRAKE POV) - Drake, a Grounder knight, has been engaged to Princess AyannaRynn for years, but when a royal contingent from the enemy Aerial kingdom comes to court, the Grounder king annouces that his daughter will marry the pompous Aerial prince SuelAlefric. Drake is furious. Later he visits Ayanna, but neither of them know what to do.
2 - Turning Point #1: Opportunity - (DRAKE POV) - That night, Princess Ayanna goes missing. Drake is accused, and the Grounder king gives him five days to find her or take the blame. Drake confronts the king about his promise to allow Drake and Ayanna to marry. The king says that peace is more important than promises made years ago. Drake starts his investigation. Clues lead to the Aerials, but Drake cannot go undercover in Aerial territory without wings, and he is not a strong enough stonecaster to know such magic.
3 - Stage II: New Situation - (DRAKE POV) - Drake goes to visit Tulak, the Old One who took him in after his mother abandoned him as a child. Drake asks what spell might give him wings. Tulak says that only using onyx to bond with a winged creature could accomplish such a thing, but that is the darkest of magic and forbidden. Drake considers Tulak's warning, but his mind is made up. He would do anything to find the princess.
4 - (DRAKE POV) - Drake climbs a mountain and enters the cave of a dragon named Tagboth. He performs a spell that enables him to bond with the dragon. The spell is quite painful and requires the use of his True Name.
5 - (DRAKE POV) - Drake learns to fly with his new wings. He takes the mask of Prince Suel's Aerial servant. Whenever Tagboth speaks to Drake, he uses his True Name. Drake tells him to stop. It can be dangerous if anyone should overhear it. The dragon is unsympathetic. Drake stole his wings, after all.
6 - Turning Point #2: Change of Plans - (DRAKE POV) - Travels with Prince Suel back to the Aerial kingdom. He leans that the Aerials put her in a human home as a changeling and brought the human here as a slave.
PART TWO: Idaho
7 - Stage III: Progress - (DRAKE POV) - Drake finds a male changeling in a human home, masked as a teenage boy named Quinn. Drake arrests the fairy, creates a mask of Quinn, then takes the teenage boy's place. He learns that the neighbor girl went missing a few weeks ago. He asks questions of any human he can find, trying to discover information about the missing girl, who he believes is Princess Ayanna. Quinn's sister Kaitlyn doesn't seem to like her brother at all.
8 - (DRAKE POV) - Drake goes to school as Quinn and continues his investigation of the missing girl, questioning anyone he can. Kaitlyn confronts him, angry that he is "harassing her friends." Drake begins to experience pain from the magical bond he shares with the dragon.
9 - (KAITLYN POV) - Kaitlyn sets up some old video baby monitors, putting one in her room and the other in Quinn's. If he's doing drugs, she's going to catch him in the act. That night she hears him talking to the lizard. Then the lizard talks back! The lizard can talk? It calls Quinn a different name. Quinn takes off his shirt, and Kaitlyn sees him stretch out . . . his wings.
10 - (DRAKE POV) - Drake learns to use a computer and seeks information about the missing girl. He follows a lead across town, but just as he finds a clue, he is attacked by Aerials and wounded.
11 - (KAITLYN POV) - Kaitlyn researches fairies—because that's what has taken her brother, right? When he finally comes home, she goes into his room to confront him. But he is bleeding badly. She helps him. Then she tells him she knows he has wings and that he's a fairy. She also knows his fairy name, and that means he has to do what she wants. And she wants him to help her find her brother.
12 - Turning Point #3: Point of No Return - (DRAKE POV) - The human girl knows his name! This is all Tagboth's fault. Drake has no choice to obey her. He tells her about Princess Ayanna and the fairy changelings and pleads his case. His mission is important. In the end, she wins. Back to Belfaylinn they go to find the real Quinn.
That's all I have so far. I'll keep working on it. :-)