Coloring inside of the outlines

After hitting a pretty depressing lowpoint in my confidence with my plotting skills, and particularly the plot of LUCKY TOWN, I think I made some breakthroughs yesterday. Instead of jumping in and starting the book, waiting to see where it takes me, I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around the whole plot and get it solid and outlines before I start the next draft. This is not normally how I work with a new book, but this is not really a new book. The plot, for the most part, is the same as SCARS, just different. If that makes any sense.

So after sketching out the three main tentpole events in the story, I’ve been scribbling down questions and backstories and notes in a freewriting style in my little black notebook and I’m starting to make progress. I think I know everything about this plot that I need to. There’s still more developing and fine-tuning to be done before I can even start outlining, let alone writing, but I’m getting the hang of it.

I’ve also found a middle ground between the first-person PI character I really want to write and the police warrant detective I think is more marketable. I’m making Dallas Ellington a freelance bounty hunter. When the story opens he’s raiding a house looking for a junkie who skipped bail and instead finds Steve Voss, his old TV co-star who he hasn’t seen since the show ended twenty years ago. During the raid, Voss pulls a gun and Ellington kills him in self-defense. The police are convinced Ellington knew Voss was going to be there and murdered him so Ellington has to find out what Voss was really doing in Detroit, which of course brings up all sorts of nasty skeletons, secrets, and feuds.

This gets the story off to a much faster start than SCARS and provides more opportunity for actual detective work and conflict than SCARS, which was pretty much Dallas running around town trying to find Steve.

We’ll see how that all works out in practice though.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a whole bunch of writers better than me, check out the Summer Issue of DEMOLITION, now live. It’s real keen.