Monday, April 1, 2013

The road to becoming an Author

My life has been interesting.

For me, each new day brings a better perspective on where I have been and the things I have accomplished.

I dropped out of high school, yet I graduated college. I stocked shelves in a supermarket, but retired as a sergeant with the largest police department in the United States

Today marks another milestone in my life. I wrote a book called Perfect Pawn.

It has been a long and circuitous journey and I felt that it was only fitting to document the story as my inaugural post.

Like most things, it had humble roots. At the time I was living on New York’s Long Island and was still working for the New York City Police Department. It was post 9/11 and it was a crazy period in my life.

The concept of the book actually started out as a goof.

I had been talking to my wife about writing and explained how I had gotten good at it. To be quite honest, when I was in school I was actually horrible. English was never my strong suit and I didn’t care whether a sentence needed a colon or a semi-colon. Quite frankly, I didn’t know what the difference was anyway.

During the early years of my career I became a bit more skilled in writing reports. I guess I developed a flair for it. A transfer to an investigative unit changed my life and laid the foundation for my writing.

It was the advent of the personal computer. Prior to that all reports were either done with typewriters and copious amounts of “white-out” or handwritten. We had a secretary that would transcribe the handwritten notes into the cutting edge IBM 386 computer and print them out for the case folders.

The problem was, when you had a dozen or so investigators, one secretary doesn’t make for timely turnaround times on revisions. As a result, case closures took much longer. So my partner and I began doing our own.

Back then we had an Assistant Chief who must have gone to St. Mary’s by the Sea parochial school, because everything came back red lettered for revisions and corrections.

It became a game.

My partner and I began to spend more time engaging in what I referred to as Creative Writing 101. Let’s be honest, saying “The witness was interviewed” several times in a report gets old quickly, so we invested in a thesaurus. Soon, the reports came back with fewer and fewer corrections. I spent the remainder of my career in various investigative units where I honed these skills.

Then one night, as my wife and I were talking I explained that writing a story was easy and proceeded to show her. It was a very short story, only about a half dozen pages or so. The premise revolved around a guy who wakes up one morning with a girl in his bed. He goes out for a run and when he comes back the girl is gone, but she left her number. He jumps in the shower and when he comes out he stares at himself in the mirror. He has scars on his chest from a recent shooting and he is suddenly flooded with memories. After shaking them from his mind he goes out to the kitchen to get coffee and the front page of the paper shows a photo of his former high school girlfriend who has been killed.

Several years later I had retired and we moved to Illinois. One day my wife was talking to someone about this incredible book she had read but couldn’t remember the ending.

It was the short story that I had written.

I still wasn’t convinced it was anything more than her being nice and the idea languished. Finally, in the summer of 2012, a decade after I had first put pen to paper, I caved in to my loving wife's demands for "closure" to the story and began to write.

The original story had been lost to time and two moves. So I took the original premise and began to rework it. I started with the prologue. I figured if I couldn’t get that part right, no one would be interested.

In the beginning it was hard. I mean how do you write a book?

Once upon a time” and “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” had already been done.

I had always been a voracious reader from an early age. By the time I was in my teens I already had my own “library” of about a hundred books. One thing I had always possessed was an ability to “see” the books as if watching a movie. I took the characters and scenes and literally created the world in my mind.

I sat down and asked the basic question: “What happened to her?”

From this premise a story developed, characters took shape and a plot evolved. I decided to let the story take me where it wanted to go. I had thoughts, ideas, opinions, but I didn’t stay anchored to them. The story came to life in my mind and I just wrote what I watched.

One hundred and fifteen thousand words later, I wrote the final line of my book and allowed myself to bask for a moment.

That was yesterday, this is today.

Now comes the really tough part, editing and polishing it and starting to submit it to agents.

So there you have it. I hope you bookmark the page and stay for the journey.

Follow me on twitter: @Andrew_G_Nelson