Can anyone suggest short-cuts or helpful hints to learning sentence order in Dutch? I'm a strong novice.
There's no single trick to learn the correct word order, but obviously making a lot of practice is key.
1) Keep always in mind the general order: subject | finite verb | (object) | T | M | P | other verbs or verb particles, this must become your mantra;
2) if something is put in front of the sentence, subject and finite verb are inverted: "het is mooi weer vandaag" -- "vandaag is het mooi weer";
3) subclauses: when a part of the sentence is a subclause (e.g. it's introduced by "dat" or a similar conjunction), the finite verb goes to the end too: "hij is blij omdat zijn dochter heel slim is".
4) if a subclause is put in front of the sentence, subject and finite verb in the main clause get inverted as usual (see 2): "omdat zijn dochter heel slim is, is hij blij";
5) unlike english, you can't put adverbs between subject and verb: "I never read newspapers" -- "ik lees nooit kranten";
and so on... there are many other tips, and I'd suggest to take a look around on dutchgrammar.com to get started with it. Good luck!
However, you say you're a strong novice, so here comes a more direct explanation.
Dutch mainly has the SVO and the VSO (often used for questions) word order, but also the OVS one.
Examples of these (shamelessly copied from Wikipedia) :
• SVO: De koe at gras - The cow ate grass
• VSO: At de koe gras? - Ate the cow grass?
• OVS: Gras at de koe - Grass ate the cow
The OVS order is mainly used to indicate extra stress on the object; in the examples I showed, you see that the stress is on grass. The cow didn't eat ice cream, hay, or anything like that: it ate grass.
Theoretically you could use SVO and VSO to indicate stress as well, but people will notice that much less fast, thus it doesn't really give the wished effect (if you wanted to).
Dutch also has V2 word order, which means that the finite verb• comes second in the sentence after the first part of the sentence (constituent). That is whence the name of the term V2 word order comes. In the case of Dutch, I'm going to be lazy and say that regarding the V2 word order, it is used in the cases like in the nice article Wikipedia has about this exact subject.
I suggest you read the article - it has a very clean and straightforward explanation, especially the 'examples' part.
The Dutch language also reverts back to VF (verb final) word order in embedded clauses (= certain, 'closed off' pieces of a sentence. Bit unclear description, but it's my try).
• In Dutch it's called the 'persoonsvorm'; because person and number are connected; for example, you can't say 'de man springen' - which translates indirectly to 'the man are springing' -, so you have to say 'de man springt' (the man springs). And so you also can say 'de mannen springen' (the men are springing), but not 'de mannen springt' (the men springs).