This post is too long…again. But it should finish explaining how I turn an outline into a finished draft. I hope. If you still have questions, let me know. But here goes!
When I start a book, I do pretty detailed plot points. I didn’t always. I used to stick to the basics of what had to happen to move the story, but now, when I think of a chapter or scene, I scribble down whatever comes to mind, and the more I scribble, the more things I think of. That way, when I read my notes, I just need to bring them to life.
Every book starts with a hook. For Wolf’s Bane, I show Reece racing to her mom’s house. Her mom remarried after Reece’s father died and had two children with her new husband. Eugene’s proud that he has a son, but Jenny reminds him of his mother. He doesn’t like his mother, so whenever he’s had too much to drink, he likes to smack Jenny. Reece, who teaches martial arts, rushes to prevent that.
However, Wolf’s Bane isn’t a literary novel. It’s urban fantasy, so Reece’s family isn’t the main plot. When she jumps out of the car to rescue Jenny, she sees a woman sitting on a porch stoop. The woman raises her face to the sky and howls before she runs away. Later, after Reece has sent Eugene to the kitchen and gotten her brother and sister to bed, when she starts to her SUV, a werewolf attacks a young man on the street corner. The man seems doomed until a gargoyle plummets from the sky to rescue him. He kills the werewolf, and it shifts back to the woman Reece had seen earlier. Plot point 1.
Now, that’s all plot point 1 is, a summary of what happens in that chapter. But I’d already decided that I was aiming for 80,000 words for this book. As it happened, I ended up with 30 plots points, and the novel ended up being 364 pages and almost 91,000 words. But at the time, when I finished figuring out my 30 plot points, I figured I needed 2,600 words for each plot point, or about 10 -12 pages. Each point might involve a few different scenes. For my latest romance, I plotted forty plot points for 70,000 words. Why? Because I knew I wanted shorter, punchier scenes and chapters, only about 7 pages each. How do I make one plot point into 7 to 12 pages? By bringing the scene to life.
In Wolf’s Bane, I’d already shown that Reece is attached to her step-brother and step-sister. If they call, she’s there. Why? Why does she care? How much of an age difference is there between them and her? How does she feel about her mother now? Why does her mother tolerate Eugene’s drinking? And how does her mother feel about Reece popping in to protect Joseph and Jenny? What was Reece’s father like? And what does Reece do now that he’s gone and she lives on her own?
Plot point 2: This is still set-up. Usually, the entire first fourth of my books are set-up. This scene takes place a month later. Reece is back at her mom’s house, and when she leaves, the man who was attacked gets off the bus at the corner and starts toward her. Moon light hits him, and he starts to change. He attacks Reece, and again, the gargoyle comes. This time, he saves her, but his wing’s hurt in the battle. She drives him to her condo, and he notices that she’s been scratched. The wolf’s paw mark makes a tattoo-like stain close to her heart. A sign that she’s a witch.
Again, this plot point only summarizes what happens in this scene or chapter. I have to add details to bring the scene to life. What did Reece do when she watched the man shift into a werewolf? How did she feel? How did she feel when the wolf attacked her? When the gargoyle came to help her? Does she believe him when he tells her she’s a witch? How will she cope with that? What does it mean? etc. Question after question to bring the characters and actions to life. Anyway, that’s what I do–scene after scene.
For me, once I get the plot points, I can concentrate on “seeing” what’s happening, what each character is doing, what the setting looks like. I can “hear” the characters, listen to the grunts and shuffling of the battles. That’s how my outline becomes a draft.
Now, a quick note: I divide my stories into fourths, and that helps me keep my plot points on track. The hook is extra–something to grab the reader. So here’s how I start:
- Hook: Reece races to her mother’s house to protect Jenny from Eugene.
- Plot Point 1: Reece sees a werewolf attack a man and a gargoyle save him
- Plot Point 3: The man shifts and attacks Reece. The gargoyle saves her and she learns she’s a witch.
I know I want 80,000 words, and I’ve decided I can reach that with 30 plot points. That means that I want my first turning point to come at the end of chapter 7 or 8, at the end of the first fourth of the book. Reece knows she’s a witch, but she has no idea what that means or how to awaken her magic until the end of the book’s set-up (the first 7 or 8 chapters). Also, a rogue werewolf tries to kill her, so she’s been targeted for some reason and doesn’t know why. At the first turning point, an owl brings her a moonstone necklace to awaken her magic and she teams up with the gargoyles who protect Bay City to fight the rogues.
The second turning point comes at the middle of the story. Wedge Durrow and his werewolf pack join Reece and Damian to fight the rogues, and they have an idea who the rogues are. Hecate, a powerful witch, joins them, too.
The third turning point hits at the three-quarters point of the book, and the fourth quarter of the book leads to the final, big battle and resolution. It ties up all the subplots, etc. For plot points and structure, I highly recommend: http://storyfix.com/story-structure-dummies. The point is, once you have your hook, first plot points, three turning points, and the end of your book, all you have to do is fill in more plot points from A to Z. And then, all you have to do is bring each of those plot points to life. Good luck and happy writing!
2 thoughts on “Outline to Finished Draft”
I get it! I guess what tripped me up before was plot points- I thought it was just the major turning points, but it sounds like you create one for each chapter or scene? I love reading your process- and the example helps to fill it in. I’m ready to do some outlining today and can’t wait to try this! Thank you, Judy!
I try to write a plot point for each chapter. It gives me something to start with. Good luck with your outline.