Lydap posted this 9-point outlining scheme over in mid-grade awhile back (2006, I think?), and it has completely changed the way I brainstorm and outline my books. It is sooooo helpful!
I hope no one minds that I've copied and pasted it here -- if so, feel free to do what you need to do with this post :eeyore
9 Steps for Plotting Fiction
Start with a piece of paper. It should be large enough to write on.
8.5 x 11 is perfect. Draw two parallel lines both vertically and
horizontally across the page, creating 9 comparable boxes, as if you
were starting a game of tic-tac-toe. These boxes represent chapters,
scenes, or sections, depending upon your book's intended length.
Number the boxes, starting from the upper left: 1, 2, 3.
Next row, starting from the left: 4, 5, 6.
Last row: 7, 8, 9.
Title each box…
1 Triggering event
First thing's first. What happens? Why have you bothered to write a
book, and more importantly, why should a reader invest time flipping
through its pages. Your triggering event is the answer to those
questions, so make it a good one. Also, don't make the reader wait
very long for it. First page, first paragraph, first sentence.
These are good spots for a triggering event.
Generally, books succeed or fail on the strength of their characters
more so than on the strength of their plots. The second box is where
you explore what makes your protagonist tick. No, this isn't an
excuse for drawn out exposition, history, or back story. If your
triggering event is captivating, the reader will discover enough
about the protagonist in Box Two simply by reading how he or she
reacts to the event.
3 First major turning point
By now, your plot is picking up steam, and because of Box Two, the
reader is invested in the ride. Time to throw a curve ball. This
turning point can be either a positive event for your protagonist,
or a negative one, but it should lay the groundwork for the negative
turning point in the sixth square. There is a reason these boxes are
touching one another; they interrelate. For example, Box Three may
introduce the motivation of the antagonist, which then justifies the
events in the sixth square.
You've earned some time to fill the reader in on important data.
Since this box touches the first square, here's where you shed some
light on that triggering event. Since it also touches Box Seven, you
get to foreshadow your pro-tagonist's darkest hour. Box Four often
reveals a relationship, character flaw, or personal history that
contributes to the dark times in ahead.
5 Connect the dots
Here is where many plots fall apart. Box Five represents the
trickiest part of fiction and since Box Five is the center of the
book it must connect to all the squares around it. Kind of like the
nucleus at the center of a bomb, Box Five should tick systematically
upon elements introduced in Box Two and Four. And like the calm
before the storm, the fifth square should give the false impression
of resolution before heading like a freight train to Box Six. Most
importantly, it needs to provide foreshadowing for the protagonist's
revelation in Box Eight. That's a lot for a little box to do, but
focus on efficient prose to get it right. Your plot depends upon it.
6 Negative turning point
Here's where that bomb explodes and all (word censored) breaks loose. Good
thing you laid the groundwork in Box Three. Good thing, too, that
Box Nine will deliver some just desserts.
7 Antagonist wins
The protagonist is defeated here, and the antagonist apparently
wins. How the protagonist deals with the darkest hour of defeat
depend upon the traits and/or story developed in Box Four, which
leads to his or her revelation in the next square.
Of course! The protagonist's revelation turns the tide. Here is
where the protagonist connects the dots and overcomes the obstacles
of Boxes Six and Seven via the device introduced in Box Five.
9 Protagonist wins
The negative turning point in Box Six is rectified while the
character's resolve from Box Eight is brought into full bloom.
Congratulations! Another great tale told greatly.