Well, it's the end of another November 1st, and so far, things are going swimmingly. I wrote a nice little chunk of words today, and I still feel good about where story is going.
In the absence of reader comments (le sigh!) I went for romance option number 4. I'm glad I brainstormed a few different scenarios instead of just going with the first thing that came into my head. That's a habit I'm trying to get into.
I did indeed come up with a workable outline. It's not deeply developed in terms of scene-by-scene planning, but it carries the story from beginning to end and covers the major points of conflict. I've also got a pretty good volume of supporting notes about the setting and backstory and so on, but I need to develop this further--particularly matters of setting. The magical aspect of the story is especially weak right now. I think the characters and the overall structure of the plot are the strong points.
This story was really easy to plot; I was amazed. I'm not sure if it's because I've gotten better at plotting, or if I've gotten better at coming up with plot-friendly concepts, or if I just got lucky with this particular idea.
I have been studying plot. In addition to James Scott Bell's book, which I reviewed earlier, I went through a book called Blockbuster Plots: Pure & Simple, by Martha Alderson. This is a slightly schlocky book, very focused on a particular method for charting scene-by-scene action and overall plot arc. The book is partly an advertisement for plotting templates that you can also purchase. I think the ideas on scenes would be more applicable to a first edit than in planning a first draft; indeed, the first step of her method is "make a list of all your scenes." Hmm. But one concept of hers that did stick with me is the idea of scenes that take place "above the line" and "below the line" (named for where you would draw these scenes on the ascending line of the overall plot). "Above the line" scenes are those where the antagonist is in power, and focus is on conflict. "Below the line" scenes are those where the protagonist is in power, resting, or reflecting. There may (and should) still be conflict in below-the-line scenes, but it's more about internal issues. I liked this idea, and I'm trying to consciously move above and below the line as I go along. This makes a nice rhythm, and ensures that the quiet, personal parts of the plot don't get left out (a problem I've struggled with before, especially in last year's NaNo).
But I think the overall concept for this story does lend itself to easy plotting. The original idea came from a short story I wrote about a lonely outlaw airship pilot taking in a little girl who was about to be sold into slavery. There are plenty of inherently dramatic aspects here: if he's an outlaw, then who are his enemies? Why is he a lonely outlaw? Where are the little girl's parents? Why is she being shipped to an uncertain fate in the hands of a smuggler? Also, airships! Slavery! Gasp! Wow! There is definitely drama in this world.