Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Writer's Bug

No matter how many books you've written, whenever you sit down to write a new book you feel the same challenge - how do you shape this story into a book people are going to love. Cassandra Clare.

Spring, and I'd just gotten word my second novel had been accepted for publication. There would be a ton of work to do - editing, fixing, rewriting and rearranging. There is the give...and the take. That is, the editor gives you marching orders and you take them.  Sorry, Marci. Kidding.

Police careers have a fairly predictable trajectory. Getting hired is harder than one might think, even though the applicant pool has shrunk a bit. Little things that would not hinder job prospects in some fields are fatal when the employer intends to allow the person to carry a gun on duty. Once that considerable hurdle is cleared, the Academy looms.

Most new hires arrive at the Academy door with a mixture of anticipation, anxiety and, well...fear. It usually turns out for the best, although the stress can be overwhelming. The challenge of mentally preparing men and women to be officers is at least as important as the skill-building and physical training they endure. 

Field training is no picnic. Imagine if someone watched you like a hawk, day in and day out, for every second of your work day. Their critical eye evaluates how the new officer dresses, talks, moves. Even the wrong body language and facial expression are critiqued and corrected. Sixteen weeks of intense scrutiny. Oh boy. I had written about what that looks like to an experienced officer in The Heart of the Matter. That was the book the publisher had accepted.

Finally, the day a cop solos. Exciting, a little spooky. Everything is new, one can list the calls they went to. Animated discussions of burglary investigations, the experienced officers rolling their eyes. Just wait, kid.

Indeed. At about year five it's gotten to be routine, even a bit mundane. Nights are long (especially in winter, when it is dark when the officer gets up, dark for their whole shift and dark when they go home). The calls sort of blend together. The money is good, but court OT on a day off is a huge pain in the ass. It's a tough time - little things pile up, and many officers look at getting out, either to a different department, or away from the profession altogether. That's where I wanted my character to be.

And that's when things would go badly wrong. But, how?

Drones, guns and constitutionalists. Lawful orders that don't sit very well. Death, despair... Boy meets girl.

A More Perfect Union didn't fall together very easily. Oh, the plot is relatively straightforward (the fun being in the details). But, it had been a while since I'd been at the crucial five year point. The main character was one dimensional, her dialogue lacking in emotional depth. I asked around for help, and got it. More help than I could have hoped for. Pro tip - writers searching for help with a manuscript are wise to find people who are honest. False flattery wastes your time, and betrays your characters. There is going to be that person who will drop everything to help. Maybe a couple of somebodies. Find them, quick.

So, now I have another book for sale. You'll like Cici. She has a heart of gold, but it has deep wounds, some of which haven't really healed. She's tough, she's aware. And she desperately wants to do the right thing when there are so many good reasons to quit. Eventually, the showdown comes, good against a terrible evil.

Does she have it in her?