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Plotting and Outlining My Novel ‘Night of Thieves’, by Jeff Nelson

Over the coming months I will be writing my first novel manuscript, provisionally titled ‘Night of Thieves’.

The novel is set against the backdrop of the French Riviera in the early nineteen sixties, a period when the jet-set flocked to the Riviera’s sun drenched beaches and picturesque towns.

The story follows a man whose enviable lifestyle has been financed by a string of jewel thefts that hadn’t until recently attracted the attention of the Surete (French Police).

The novel opens with him restless and longing for excitement, and quickly moves to a glamorous party in Cannes announcing a new film to be shot on location on the Riviera. He meets and is immediately attracted to the film’s young actress who is wearing a rare and valuable diamond necklace that will be featured in the new film.

Challenges arise for him when his Fence (a buyer of stolen goods) has a buyer for the necklace and wants him to steal it and when his former protégé returns to the Riviera with her eye on the necklace.

Can he resist the temptation that the necklace offers, does he even want to? – And what of the French Police who’ll be looking at him should the necklace go missing. But the necklace also has a history and a violent background to contend with.

Night of Thieves is a story I’ve been pondering and plotting for a little while now and actually came about from plotting out a background story for another novel I was considering set in contemporary times! – So aspiring writers be careful that you don’t spend too much time working on back-stories for the characters and plot or you’ll never get started on the actual writing.

But now it’s time for me to consolidate my plot ideas into a reasonably coherent outline and from there the build of each chapter upon chapter…, but first the outline.

My outline grew and grew and became many pages long and was in many parts filled with questions and possible answers to particular plot points – if I did this what would happen next, how would the characters resolve this problem, get out of this situation etc…

I then found out about the synopsis, a generally 2-3 page outline of your novel submitted to potential publishers, and started to write one and failed – I ended up with 11 pages (they were double spaced however!), but what I did achieve is to finally shape those pages and pages of plot points, questions and semi coherent scrawling from my initial outlining into a reasonably coherent story and I now have a story outline, despite being 11 pages long from start to finish and in chapter order that I can work with.

The next stage will be consolidating those 11 pages into 2 pages for potential publishers and others that may be interested in the novel (but at least they can be single spaced!).

I’ve also began the start of the initial few chapters … but more on that in the next post.

Stay tuned….


Jeff Nelson bio page

B is for Burglar: A Kinsey Millhone mysteryThe Unreliable Life of Harry the Valet: The Great Victorian Jewel ThiefThe Fall of Lucas KendrickCary Grant: The Gentleman's Collection (Houseboat / Indiscreet / That Touch of Mink / To Catch a Thief) (4 Movie Boxset) Confessions of a Master Jewel ThiefStealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art HeistsThe French Riviera: A Literary Guide for Travellers

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. kenrob2037 #

    Hi Jeff,

    Rob here from Sydney. I am doing a novel titled Painted for the course, but I have another underway and the main character is a gambler. She spends some of her time in Monaco at the casino. That’s just up the road from where your work is set.

    While mine is contemporary we may be able to have some useful chats about that part of the world. I’ve done a bit of research. Climate, attraction, languages, localised information and such.

    Getting your outline down to pages can be tricky. I’m at three and aiming for two. As Steve has suggested, just do the plot summary of each chapter. Little detail as possible. You might look at this as the action points, as such.

    Best of luck and I look forward to talking with you.



    March 25, 2012
  2. Jeff Nelson #

    Hi Rob,

    Thanks for the post.

    I like the sound of your gambler novel set in Monaco and would be interested to hear more on that one.

    One of the issues with setting my novel in the 1960’s is sourcing historical information for that time period. I’m lucky in one way in that so many of the places, buildings, hotels etc… have been around for many years and are very well known, be it the Carlton Hotel in Cannes or the Hotel de Paris in Monaco. Of course a problem is finding information as to how they were at the exact time period I’ve set my novel in. Sources I’ve found helpful are travel guides [including looking on ebay for old travel guides or magazine articles), official websites for example from the Carlton or the Eden Roc in Cap Ferrat, and coffee table books from photographers who were active during that period (including Slim Aarons and Edward Quinn).

    I also have to be careful in getting my facts and timing right, for example the main charcter will own a Riva Aquarama motorboat which was first built in 1963, a Ferrari California that produced in the late 50’s and into the early 60’s. I’m thinking of linking the novel in to the Cannes Film Festival as well so I’ll need to research the ’63 festival.

    But it’s a time period I love, so the research is fun. Speaking of the time period I was just watching Hitchcock’s North by Northwest on TV this afternoon – what a great film, costumes, wit, settings and Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint.

    All the best with Painted.


    March 25, 2012
  3. writeronline #

    Hi Jeff
    I love writing and reading crime and thrillers so look forward to reading the finished product. It sounds like an interesting concept and having spent some time in that part of the world in 2010 I can understand the attraction.
    Good luck with the progress of your novel.
    I look forward to following your progress.
    All the best

    March 25, 2012

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