The Plot Outline
Ok! So you just had a super intense brainwave and believe it would make a great story. You have the inspiration, the energy and the excitement and cant wait to go ahead and write it! Great!
Now STOP and back off from the pen paper or keyboard. Diving into your writing headfirst works for the very very few, what you need is a plot outline. Without a plot outline, writing a story is like building a house with no blueprints to follow. A plot outline is your blueprint, the skeleton to provide the basic support for everything going on in your novel.
Now making a plot outline is very easy, you just need to put the time in. The amount of detail you put into your outline does not matter, it can be detailed with full scene descriptions or just a couple of lines stating the basic route. As I said, it is the skeleton; the flesh can come later, most likely in your second draft. It is always best to make a minimum of two drafts of all your plot outlines, you may think of things you can add or take away.
Now the golden rule when writing any story is to know the beginning and the end. This is the same when writing a plot outline and these should be the first two things you put down. If you dont know the beginning of your story, how will you even start writing your brilliant idea? If you dont know the end how will you know your there and finish your masterpiece?
Once you have those two done, write any scenes you have in your head onto the plan, they dont need to line up or connect and most likely wont. Now that this is done, you will probably see more scenes you need to put in, so write them down. This is the simplest way to do it, add random scenes you know you want, then see what you need to link them together. Continue to fill out these extra scenes until you think you have a well fleshed story.
Writing a plot outline can take days, weeks or just hours, it all depends on how much time you put in and how detailed you want it. If you take more than one day to write it or take a break, make sure you do not stop when you have run out of ideas, always stop during an idea. If you stop during an idea, you will know exactly where to start next time you come to work on it. A rolling start is heaps easier than trying to start by thinking up new stuff.
Now once you complete your draft, you will most likely still be excited about writing it. But you should not just rush on, because it is still not finished, you need a second draft. You may likely think that you dont need a second draft of it, but you do. Many stories fail because they lacked a revised plan, there are a lot of things that you can put into a plan and not realise the possible consequences.
If it is the case that you dont think you need a second draft, it is time to have a cooling off period. Dont do anything; leave it alone over night, a few days, maybe even weeks. Leave it until you know you can take a serious approach to looking it over, otherwise attempting a revision wont work.
The Second Draft
So youve left it to cool down a little and now think you can give it a serious revision, excellent. To start, go slow, make a tea, get a pen and paper and look over your plan, jot down any thoughts and ideas you may have on it. Ask yourself some questions about it: Do the scenes flow into each other easily, creating a continuous piece? Are they in the right order? Does the pace seem ok or do you need to add or remove a scene?
Try to identify the main theme to your story, the main story it is telling. This isnt really a necessary thing; you just need to get a basic idea of your core route or topic. All good stories have all the scenes relating in some way to the main core route. If you can see any outstanding scenes that dont really tie in or aid the main plot, you should consider removing them or altering them to better suite. It is most likely that when you are writing you will find scenes that dont quite fit and need to be changed or removed.
Take your time with altering the plan, changing things until it all falls into place and everything seems accurately connected and fluent.
One Last Thing:
You are probably getting a little frustrated by now and just want to start writing your book, and by all means you can if you wish, this section is optional but will benefit you if you choose to do it, but not necessary if you do not.
What I recommend is leaving it overnight or a couple of hours, that way you can have one last look before you start writing and will have rested from working on the plan, having new energy to put into writing it. This last stage really allows you to do the little touch ups, little details here and there that you can see. If you realize you are unsure on something, like the beginning or end, dont be afraid to experiment with something different.
If your story started with bank robbers getting off a train, but you decide that start may be too boring, then you can easily choose another way. Maybe they arrive by car? Or tunnels under the bank? Now that you have your blueprint, you can alter things without changing the structure; many architects design buildings and then find easier or better ways to make the building when on site. Youre on site when you start writing.