A friend of mine is in the same situation I am–stuck on a book–and she said what she really needed was an outline. So I revamped my old synopsis-writing outline, and now I’m thinking maybe I should try that on Nita again–believe me, I’ve outlined Nita’s discovery draft several times already–and maybe apply it to Anna, Nadine, and Alice. And since I’ve been neglecting Argh … do you want to write an outline? (I saw Frozen last night for the first time and the earworms are constant.)
Please remember, YOU ANALYZE AFTER THE DISCOVERY DRAFT, NOT BEFORE. Thank you.
OUTLINING FOR PLOT
Please note, I do this after the Discovery Draft is done or at least almost done.
1. Who’s your protagonist?
2. What is her/his/their goal? (Must be specific and concrete, external, not internal.)
3. Who’s your antagonist?
4. What is her/his/ their goal? (Must be specific and concrete, external, not internal.)
First Turning Point: CONFLICT STARTS, STABLE WORLD DESTROYED. What happens to the protagonist that destroys/interrupts the protagonist’s stable world and spurs her/him/them into action? (Doesn’t have to be a good stability, just something that the protagonist was coping with, and then THIS happens and propels her/him/them into the conflict/story.)
First Act (Leave this blank for now.)
Second Turning Point: STAKES RISE, CONFLICT GETS WORSE. An event/action that changes everything for the protagonist, points the story in a new direction. Also arcs character for protagonist, increases motivation for protagonist and antagonist.
Second Act (Leave this blank for now.)
Mid Turning Point: POINT OF NO RETURN. An event/action that changes everything for the protagonist again, this time radically, and points the story in a new direction. Arcs character for protagonist to the point where even if she/he/they tried to go back to where they were at the beginning, they couldn’t, they’ve changed too much, increases motivation for protagonist and antagonist.
Third Act: (Leave blank for now.)
Crisis Turning Point: EVERYTHING IS LOST. An event/action that is so devastating to the protagonist it should be a defeat, except that the protagonist cannot quit. Points the story in a new direction and arcs character for protagonist (trial by fire), increases motivation for protagonist and antagonist.
Fourth Act (Leave this blank for now.)
Climax Turning Point: FINAL BATTLE, aka Obligatory Scene. Protagonist and antagonist meet to settle conflict once and for all.
Denouement: NEW STABLE WORLD, Not the same stable world as in the beginning. Not an epilogue and no babies; just a short sigh space at the end to reassure the reader that everything is settled for the protagonist and answered.
Now go back and write a one paragraph summary for the acts, which are the big blocks of content between the turning points. Each act description should begin “The protagonist does this,” probably in reaction to the turning point. Acts should almost be stories on their own since the turning points change the story, turning it in a new direction. Sometimes helpful: Title each act.
Now go back and read the outline from the beginning, smoothing it out into a two-page synopsis (or not, if you don’t need a synopsis). There’s your story map. Feel free to change it.
Divide your manuscript into four documents, ending in turning points (except for the first one which begins and ends with turning points and the last one which ends with the denouement), labeling them [Title] Act One, etc. (Example Nita Act One, Nita Act Two, Nita Act Three, Nita Act Four.).
For escalation purposes, each act doc should get shorter ao that the turning points come closer together and your pacing speeds up. Also, each turning point should be more dire, increasing the pressure on the protagonist and antagonist, raising the stakes. (I use roughly 33K/28K/24K/15K, but those are really rough numbers.)
Key thing to remember: The protagonist is always the subject of the first sentence in each of the ten parts of the synopsis.