Friday, 6 December 2013

Initial plot outline - System Error: In Your Favour

Original plot ideas

What is the best way to capture the plot outline for a new novel? Do you mind map, use chart outlines, make copious notes about your characters and story, or just wing it?

On this blog posting I just wanted to share with you my initial plot outline for System Error: In Your Favour that I created a few months before starting work on my novel and explore a couple of other ways that it could have been done.

Different flavours

Credit: jdurham

Mind Map/Story Outline

Mind Maps seem to be one of the most common ways for author's to plan out their novels and there were many search results when I started looking at author's examples on-line. Mind Maps have the advantage of letting you dump all of your ideas down on paper first, before the idea is lost, then giving you an easy way to reorganise and order the ideas into a novel that hopefully makes some sense.

I now use a free Mind Map service called MindMeister to drag around ideas for the next novel.

Step Outlines

Other authors seem to write just a short outline of each chapter in their novel, along with a couple of notes about what happens in that section of the novel. More information on step outlines can be found here:

How to create a plot in 8 steps

I came across various structures and theories on the best way to document your plot outline. This was a really interesting approach described by Glen C. Strathy on his website. I like the idea of having a more structured approach to planning my next book and will definitely try this approach out:

Detailed planning

Some plans are amazingly detailed. JK Rowling famously created a very detailed plan laid out for her books before she started to write the Harry Potter series in earnest. The charts she drew up were incredibly detailed, and charted the course of each character over the entire series of books.

My rambling planning approach

Having looked at a couple of formal techniques for planning the outline of a novel I now realise that my outline was just a very loose overview of the whole novel, written pretty much immediately after the idea came to me. 

The notes I made didn't really follow any of the approaches that I read about on the internet and therefore I was probably quite lucky that the plot had as much cohesion as it did.

However, stored for posterity are the exact notes I made for my first novel shortly after first thinking of the concept.
"Bank error in your favour?
Couple get good luck, big windfall from bank competition. However, bank didn't run any competition and is furious about someone getting it's money.
couple investigated by police and randomly customs, accusations made if how they pulled off the scam. Friends are divided on believing them, as they are I. T types 
However, answer isn't as simple as that. Bank had new it systems that may have taken decisions into own hands and become an ethical generator, helping people who needed it most. 
As no one believes the computer capable of this though what will happen to the computers lucky victims? what will the banks ethical thinking computer do as it sees it's employer trying to undo its good deeds?"