Wednesday, November 10, 2010


After creating a preliminary list of my characters’ inner and outer quests, I decided that a simple breakdown of each act would be the most useful. Making this too detailed would waste time since plots tend to morph quite a bit as the story develops. So I stuck to a brief outline that includes the inciting incident that sends the characters on their quest in Act 1, the main crisis points in Act 2, and the denouement and setup for the next volume in Act 3. Here, with the spoilers removed, is a very rough plot breakdown for Crucible of War.

Act 1: Beginning the Quest

  • Battle of Trenton and return to camp.
  • Encounters between Carleton and Elizabeth, Andrews and Blue Sky
Act 2: Crisis Points
1. Battle of Princeton
  • Elizabeth returns to New York.
  • Washington and army block British at Princeton, then withdraw to Morristown.
2. Build-up to New Campaign
New York
  • Elizabeth and Tess renew relationship with Howe and his officers.
  • Pieter returns to NY to court Elizabeth.
  • Reconstituting the army and planning campaign 1777.
  • Carleton rebuilds his Rangers from renegades.
  • Red Fox and/or Spotted Pony return to the Shawnee to seek reinforcements.
  • Carleton decides to refit several of his merchantmen in France as warships to engage in the naval war.
New York
  • Complications with Pieter and Howe.
  • Elizabeth carries intelligence to Congress, meeting with John Adams and others.
  • Progress of negotiations with France and Spain.
3. 1st Crisis and Turning Point
  • Pieter learns the truth.
4. 2nd Turning Point—Campaign 1777
  • Red Fox and/or Spotted Pony return to Morristown with a mixed party from the tribes.
  • Battles of Bennington, Brandywine, Germantown.
  • Elizabeth’s covert activities increasingly put her in danger.
  • Elizabeth learns her parents and Abby are returning to Boston.
5. Main Crisis and Turning Point—Saratoga
  • Carleton and his Rangers join General Gates at Saratoga.
  • Americans defeat Burgoyne, ending the British quest to split the colonies along the Hudson.
Act 3—Denouement
  • Tess leaves for Boston to prepare for the Howards’ return.
  • Howe prepares to move against Philadelphia.
  • Andrews and Blue Sky face a painful decision
  • Carleton and Elizabeth take leave of each other and Elizabeth returns to NY.
  • Setup for vol. 5.
As you can see, this is very sketchy, but for now I don’t want anything more detailed. All I need is something to help me keep the overall sequence of events straight. BTW, I did remove a number of important details in order to avoid spilling some major plot points, especially the ending. For now you’ll just have to guess what those might be! All I can say is that they involve Carleton and Elizabeth’s relationship and also Andrews and Blue Sky. There are yet more major changes in their lives coming up.

Right now I’m focusing on getting all my notes and existing scenes in correct chronological order. Things are kinda scattered, and it’ll be a lot easier to move forward after I sort everything out. Once that’s done, I’ll start fleshing out the sections of notes into full-fledged scenes and create transitions. I can’t wait until I have the rough draft finished! This process is like trying to extract your brain through a pinhole in your forehead with tweezers! For me the real fun begins when I have something I can edit. But it’s going to be a while yet before I get to that point, so I’d better get to it!


  1. That's a helpful outline. I may try to adapt this format to plotting my next novel.

  2. Lori,

    I've found it very useful to outline it as a 3-act drama, with Act 1 taking up about 1/4 of the action; Act 2, 1/2; and Act 3 about 1/4. I think Act 2 is the hardest part for most writers, and it's easy to end up with a sagging middle. But I'm seeing now that if you establish your crisis/turning points before jumping into the actual writing, then it becomes so much easier to keep it on track and keep the tension high. Of course...for us SOTP plotters, things tend to morph once we're in the process!!

  3. And just as a side note...why, for pity's sake, did my Wednesday post show up two days early?????