Feedback on a Novel Outline

Image 6-8-17 at 10.43 AM

Good morning, guys. Well, I am tying my hand at writing a novel. I’ve been taking an online Master’s class on Writing A Novel with James Patterson… yep, that James Patterson. His class is really inspiring with each class assigning us additional work to create better understanding and practical application. In the latest class James requires that we start working on the outline of our novel. Now, his idea of an outline is not the old numbers and bullets style, but writing scenes without polish. Writing 1,000 words a day – telling the story. It will be re-written many times over before it is ready to write in novel form. He has spent as much as four months writing an outline of a novel… the outline is of vital importance for him. So much so that he says “You should be able to sale a good outline to the publisher.” Wow, that is big.

The idea behind sending this to friends is to get your honest (but kind) opinion of the outline. Does it make you want to read more? If so, we may be on the right track. If not, it may need a serious re-think. In the reply to this blog section please give me your kind opinion about this – does it make you want to know more? Suggestions are welcome. Thanks guys for your time. Sorry about the length of this… you know how preachers are????

An added bonus for me is that my grandson, Noah is helping me with this project. He is giving me story line advice, a younger, fresh worldview and someone to brainstorm with about the twist and turns of the story. His consultation is of great value.

The below link will allow you to see the outline in original format.

Draft (Composite) – Plot Synopsis

Grace and Peace


4 Responses

  1. Great start, Steve! Yes, I am hooked and want to read more. The only objection I have is to the use of the words, “cool” and “hot”. They don’t seem to fit with the characters and jump out at me in protest. Write On! Joyce

  2. Steve,

    I think that’s great that you’re embarking on writing a novel. I hope you are getting lots of good advice and direction from your master class. I recently took Hans Zimmer’s master class on film composing, and it was full of great insights that I’ll use as I continue to pursue scoring my first film.

    As a fellow writer, I have also written a number of screenplays and have them out to producers, directors, filmmakers, etc., for consideration. As you know, I love the creative process and would rather write stories or compose and play music more than anything.

    What you are calling your synopsis is more like a logline that we use in screenwriting. What’s important is that you can condense what your story is about in one or two sentences. That’s it, no more. By doing so, you have more of a handle on what your story is actually about, and it will help you as you begin to outline the various places your story will go. I think you’ve done a fine job with capturing what your story is about in your opening paragraph.

    Under that, as you have written ONE, TWO, etc., that looks like you are sketching out actual chapters in the book. I would be confused if you are calling the writing under these headings part of your synopsis. In screenwriting, a synopsis is usually no more than one page. It isn’t designed to tell every detail of the story but, rather, who the protagonist is, his/her struggle/goal, main characters, antagonist, plot, subplots, twists and turns, your main character’s character arc as he/she achieves (or doesn’t achieve) his/her goal and, finally, the resolution. A synopsis doesn’t usually contain dialogue. If that is not your intent to include the chapter writings as part of your synopsis, please excuse me. You may just be writing some of this up as part of your outline.

    Now, back to your original request! Yes, I would strongly advise writing an outline that hits on all of these points. Some writers write in a stream of consciousness fashion and hope that by the end of their writing, they will end up with something worthwhile that keeps a reader’s attention. Admittedly, I’ve written this way before without really knowing where I was going with the story. To me, it’s a more difficult process because I’ve found myself doing a lot of rewriting that way and even changing direction with subplots in my rewrite. Not that it’s a bad way to go; it just takes more time (at least on my part), and it is sort of like choosing a random location to travel without a road map.

    My preferred method these days is to start with condensing what my story is about in one or two sentences, and then beginning to outline the points I mentioned above. I’m beginning a new writing project as we speak and, although I have down what my story is about in one sentence, I have yet to outline what the beats will be along the way. To me, this takes more time to clearly think through where I want the story to go and what will keep the reader’s attention. Once I have that outline, I can begin to flesh it out with the creative writing that will give the story momentum and be pleasurable (hopefully) to read. And, speaking of momentum, always write with the thought of moving the story forward. Don’t waste words, either prose or dialogue, that don’t contribute to progressing the story. Make each scene count. Make the reader want to turn the page.

    Two books that I’ve read and found very helpful were written not by teachers or writers, but by a literary agent named Noah Lukeman. One is called “The Plot Thickens (8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life)”, and the other is called “The First Five Pages.” I think you would find them very useful. You can order them through Amazon.

    I’m really looking forward to seeing what you come up with. Based on what you’ve written so far, I would be interested to read more. If I can be of any help along your writing journey, please let me know.

    Best of luck!

    • Tom,
      Thank you so much for your response. As you may (or may not) know, I have always been in awe of your literary skills, and you as a person of intellect, compassion and strike up the band raw talent. You are simply just an amazing person whom I admire greatly. No smoke, just personal feelings.

      The synopsis statement was just that first paragraph. And, I might add, it is actually more fluid than that at this point… just a Native American Marine Captain who has joined the Secret Service, special operations division, with the mission to run live scenarios on new and different ways to kill POTUS. For the moment this is the synopsis.

      The ONE and TWO are points (scenes) in the outline… as Patterson defines outline. He has us read his 27 page outline which consists of eighty-four points/categories/scenes. He is requiring that we get down in the mud with the characters in the outline phase to find out about them, build the characters, add the flaws, twist and turns and move the action forward. I do realize this outline will be re-writen may times as it develops – already happened several times. Your above paragraph beginning with the mention of your new project sounds just like what Patterson would say and what I am seeking to capture.

      I do thank you for your advice and your continued friendship. Say “hello” to your family for me… sure do miss you guys (and that UNC tee I would see on Sunday mornings). Wow, the good ole days.

      Grace and Peace

      I am ordering the two suggested books on Amazon.

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