Struggling with a new plot outline

As I peck away at this blog entry, three books are out – BIG MOTHER 40, RENDER HARMLESS and CHERUBS 2. I’m under contract for a fourth that has the working title of INNER LOOK and it should be out late this year or early next.

In the can, so to speak, are full drafts of five more in the Josh Haman series – MOSCOW AIRLIFT, THE KURILE WEDGE INCIDENT, FORGOTTEN POWS and FLIGHT OF THE PAWNEE. Some of these need work and others are ready, with another run through to go to a publisher.

Yet, there another one I want to write this summer has the working title of MANPADS that is the acronym for man portable air defense system. These are surface–to-air missiles fired from the shoulder. Think Stinger, Redeye and Russian made missiles with the code names Grail, Gremlin, Gimlet and Grinch. If you are in an airplane or helicopter in range of one of these small missiles and don’t have the right countermeasures, you’re going to take a hit and probably crash.

The first step is creating what I call the story line. This document lays out the plot and summarizes the lives of the key characters in about five thousand words. Next step is expanding it into a scene-by-scene outline of the story. Once that is done, I can start writing the actual manuscript.

I’ve tried taking shortcuts and each time I don’t like the outcome. The lesson is the follow the process that I know works.

About halfway into the story line, everything came to a screeching halt. The plot had boxed me – the writer – in a corner because where it was, there was no plausible way the main characters could continue in the story.

Back to the drawing board. One of the things I do is that before I start hacking away at the document, I save it and create another version. This way I have something to go back to see where the plot has been.

It this point, I don’t think overall main players will change, but the plot has to be simplified. That’s going to take some work. I don’t think my vision for the novel will change much because in many ways it is a warning on the danger MANPADS pose to the flying public and unwillingness of the government to be real about the threats to our lives.   That won’t change, but it looks like how the book lays out will.

Strangely enough, for me figuring out the story line is the hardest part. One it is done, I know the outline of the character’s background and its then up to me to tell the story through their eyes.   Getting to that next step is hard and that’s where I’m struggling. Stay tuned.

Marc Liebman

July 2015