“Undercover work was never as thrilling as writing a novel!” That’s what I wrote on my author Facebook page recently. So allow me to explain why writing novels beats undercover work.
But first, permit me to mention Ann Godridge. I don’t know Ann and have never met her. She visited my Facebook page to leave a comment on the post I now write about. She said, “That’s the most intriguing post I’ve seen in a long time.” Naturally, that pleased me and I replied, “Well … thank you! I really should write a blog post about it .” Ann answered me and wrote, “Yes please. I’d read it .”
So, here goes and I know there will be at least one person who reads it 🙂
Needless to say I make no effort to equate my real undercover cop experiences with writing a novel. That would be fatuous. The realities of undercover work are spelled out in my book Undercover: Operation Julie – The Inside Story. It’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle. It’s also available in other eBook formats from major online book stores such as Apple iBooks and Barnes & Noble.
They were days of uncertainty and inherent danger. They also involved me adopting a complete new identity and persona. The real me, Steve Bentley, morphed into Steve Jackson, a wheeler-dealer and small time drug dealer. Over time, I became more Jackson than Bentley.
Yet, now as a writer and published author, those experiences hold me in good stead for writing my debut novel. Unsurprisingly, it’s based on an undercover cop namely Steve Regan. Regan isn’t me. He is a fictional character who will inhabit the pages of my book when finally published. All the other characters are also fictional but some are based on real characters I met and knew. Isn’t that what many story-tellers do?
The novel starts with a scene from my memoir. That much is real. Then the following events swerve away from what really did happen into the realms of imagination, my imagination. That is what is so thrilling about writing a novel.
The novelist can make his characters into whatever or who ever he wishes. Good guys, bad guys, a bit of both guys and women too!
He can also devise ways of getting rid of his characters, kill them off if you like.
One of the thrills of writing fiction is the characters can take over. Where is this leading me? is a thought I often have. The answer is I don’t know until I have finished writing that particular scene. When the character has finished with me then I know it’s time to move on.
I am a plotter rather than pantster. For those of you unfamiliar with literary darling terms, a pantster is a writer who writes by the seat of his pants with little or no planning. I can only do that de minimus. I need a template, a GPS system if you like, to guide me from the beginning through the middle and right on to the end. It may surprise non-writers to learn I already know the ending. I knew it before I started my first re-write.
Yet, it is a real thrill – a roller coaster ride, to see how the plot unfolds. As it’s architect I can change it, add to it and take garbage away any time I see fit. I deliberately use the phrase see how the plot unfolds. I use story-boarding just like screenwriters. It helps me see both the “big picture” and the detailed scenes. For aspiring writers, the app I use is free and is available through Amazon Studios.
Of course one of the greatest thrills is not being bound by reality. When undercover, although I had a free rein to a large degree, there were boundaries both legal and moral. In my fictional world I know no such boundaries.
Ann, I hope you found all of that enlightening and thank you so much for visiting my page and leaving the comments. It prompted this post!
If you are starting out as a writer then I thoroughly recommend checking out ProWritingAid. It is a spell-checker, ‘grammarist’ and editor all rolled into one bundle.
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It’s useful too even if you don’t plan to write a book.
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