First, let's talk about Write It Now, the program where I do most of my outline and background work. That's the picture today. I have actually put two different ways to work up at the same time. I only use the story board view (the one with all the little boxes) when I have to move scenes around (rather than chapters). With chapters, it's easier just to grab and move them around in the list view on the left and add scenes with the scene editor at each chapter.
I have also adopted the chapter list to show other things. You'll see a basic timeline there with things called DAY 3 and such. This makes it far easier to glance at the list and make calculations for when events (and news the events reaching other places) can happen.
This is a picture of the character area. You can see all kinds of different tabs there like description, personality, etc. This is such a fun program to work with that it makes me want to go back and play with it more.
Okay, so what am I doing with it?
Putting together the steps of a storyline is fascinating work for me. If I want this incident to happen in the future, then what do I need to do at some earlier point? How will character a react to actions of character b? How can things be misunderstood and so get worse before they get better?\
What can go wrong?
Oh yes, it's always important to find out what can go wrong, isn't it?
I am in the midst of plotting out a public event for one of the MCs during which things go very wrong. It's the new prince's first real public appearance. He's figured out that he has to do well or he'll not like what happens later because the Queen (his grandmother) is not happy with his behavior. He's going to do his best, but that doesn't mean other things are not going to go wrong. Others want him to fail in small and big ways.
Prince Zuki is about to learn that life is not all adoration and fun for a prince. He's been raised away from court by a doting (slightly, well, blonde) mother who is not heir because she's just too self-absorbed. Her brother died in battle without any children of his own. The queen has to either make this prince work or start looking outside her own blood line to those related to the king. She's not happy with that idea. Zuki is going to work, whether he wants it or not.
Zuki has another problem, but it's not apparent at first. There are hints, but it'll be a long ways in before that one's fully revealed.
I love plotting books. Really. Sitting here and going 'okay, little hint here' is good. Then working along and coming up with something else . . . oh, go back about three or four chapters and make a note to mention X. Start the buildup.
This story is complex. All the different POV characters mean multiple timelines, too. Where is X when this happens? How long will it take Fatim to get to Kish from the temple? What sort of understanding can he and Sefu come to with their sudden positions as companions to the Prince?
How are they going to get the prince to work with them when the boy (who is younger than either Sefu or Fatim) is resistant to be told he has to do anything at all. The Queen can threaten him, but they have little they can hold over him . . . except, they can make him feel very much alone, even in their company. Oh, now that might work. If he wants to pull rank and give orders, they can get to the point where they ignore him.
And the Queen wants them to get the boy in hand. Unless they really mistreat the boy, she's not going to give in to any complaints from the prince. He had better figure out very fast who he wants for his friends.
There, have a nice little emotional subplot going about trust. I think this might mean the chapter I am working on with the public appearance and problems needs more of a buildup as well. That's okay, actually. I have been thinking Fatim and Sefu don't have enough chapters yet. Now I can build some around this emotional trust situation and bring in more information about the servants who arrived with the prince, since they are problems all in their own right.
So there I am, building up depth, intricate problems, a little piece at a time. For each 'I can add this in' there is often a 'go back and start it earlier' bit to work in as well. This is why outlines work so well for me and why, quite honestly, it can take me far longer to write the outline than the entire book.
This is also why I didn't get enough of the Water/Stone/Light outline done to write the book for NaNo in November. That's okay since I had plenty of other things to write during that time, and it worked out well. This has given me more time to look at the storyline and make some important decisions.
For one thing, I realized I needed a storyline that takes place on the front lines of the battle. Otherwise the ending was not going to work at all, coming as a sort of deus ex machina. Even if some of the characters ended up at the battle scene, it would be far into the novel and with too little buildup of what is happening there.
So three chapters out of the first fifteen are now devoted to two characters involved in the battle. I don't want a lot covering that area of the story, but enough to remind people of why the king is not at the palace and why this is important. It's working so far, but I have to remove myself from the main storyline in order to do it, which is a bit more difficult since I am enjoying that part so much. And yes, that means I need to find reasons to 'enjoy' this part as well, even though the type of storyline is different. I've done that by introducing a new character. He's a young, but highly placed, priest of water, who has just volunteered for a dangerous job.
The only link between the two sections of the story will be in messages arriving, some pointing out what appears to be a minor annoying problem back at the palace. It is, of course, far more than it first appears to be, but by the time word gets here to the battle . . . well, things will have changed drastically. In fact, things will have changed drastically for both sides.
I have a larger than usual number of POV characters, some making only a couple appearances. I don't usually write that way, but in this case, it is important to spread the story out so little clues can be brought in for the bigger picture -- without having someone tell someone else about some little, inconsequential (by itself) piece. Later, after the first draft, I might find that I can combine some pieces. We'll see.
I have 16 chapters outlined and notes on a few more. I have the first third of the novel in place, more or less, so no matter what I can begin this on January 1, even if I am still writing the rest of the outline. Again, not how I normally work, but we'll see how it goes. I might surprise myself and get the rest of the work outlined before then.
However long the work takes doesn't bother me. The time is not as important as getting what you want, both from the outline and from the story itself when it's written. This will go well.