Someone once said, “Write what you know,” to which most authors of my acquaintance say, “Hogwash!” or worse.
But… why not write what you know? Or rather, expound on something you know a little about.
At my job, I read a trade magazine’s article about pharmaceutical crimes (of which there are many). Because I found the article interesting, and the topic fascinating, before I knew it I’d done quite a bit of research. Hmm… If I found the topic interesting, maybe others would too.
And so Diversion was born, a story about a man who once played fast and loose with the law as a trafficker dealing in prescription drugs, who’s working off his sentence by sharing his criminal knowledge with the good guys. While the story is fictional, many of the situations are very, very real, such as pill mills, drug diversion, shipment hijackings, and drug shortages. In some instances, I had to apply truth with a light hand—some facts are, quite frankly, unbelievable, even to someone who deals with them daily.
The research provided the added benefit of teaching me more about my job, and stories I read on my off hours keep me up to date and informed in the office. Now, I don’t work for a narcotics bureau, and I’m not in the business of crime fighting, but by picking up a familiar thread and following it to the source, I discovered a whole new world to write about.
Are you a teacher? What if you found a textbook, and inside you found these scrawled words: “Help me!” Your education background, knowing the inner workings of the school system, could prove a valuable starting point. How did the message get in the book? Who wrote it? Why do they need help? Where is the book from? And so on.
I have friends from a variety of jobs, and all have amusing tales of their employment, so although I’m in wholehearted agreement that you don’t have to write what you know, I say, why not start there?
Here’s a real special treat from Eden, especially for fans of her bestselling Diversion Series!
Bonus Scene from the Diversion series
I’m Eden Winters, author of the Diversion series, stories revolving around a drug trafficker who’s turning his life around working for the good guys at the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau’s Department of Diversion Prevention and Control. At the time that I wrote Diversion, the first book in the series, I only intended to write one novel, but my protagonist, Lucky Lucklighter, had other ideas. Diversion was soon joined by Collusion and Corruption, and I’ve begun work on Manipulation, the next part of the story. .
While Lucky has made many enemies over the years, he’s constantly at odds with a co-worker, Keith, who has no actual face time in Diversion, and a few cameo appearances in the sequel, Collusion. In honor of Corruption’s publication on October 1, 2013, I give you a deleted scene that explains how they first came to antagonize each other.
Lucky sat behind his desk, chafing at the newness of an unfamiliar uniform. His cube offered a good view of the elevator, and he watched the morning rush scuttling down the hall like a damned bunch of vermin. He hated the uniform, hated the job, and hated his coworkers—but he hated prison more. After a week on the outside, he decided he never wanted to go back—ever.
A rookie plunked a box down on the desk next to his. “Oh hell, don’t they screen applicants at all anymore?”
Lucky rolled his eyes upward, taking in the sneer on his new cube-mate’s face. He said nothing. The piece of shit wasn’t worth the breath.
“You mean I went through four years of college to have to work with trash?” the guy taunted.
Lucky jumped from his chair, hands balled into fists. He bit his tongue, weighing the cost of teaching the asshole a lesson.
The arrogant jerk raked his eyes over Lucky, pausing at waist level. “Where’s your sidearm?” he asked, before breaking into a mocking grin. “Oh, that’s right, you’re a two-bit dope dealer; they don’t trust you to carry a gun.”
One second they stood a few feet apart, the next, Lucky flung the guy against the cube wall, knocking the partition loose. The wall fell, the asshole tumbled to the floor. Lucky snatched the prick by the collar, fist pulled back to fly.
“Excuse me, Lucky, might I have a word?” Walter Smith stood in what had once been the cubicle doorway. He glared down at the man on the floor. “Keith, I believe I told you to report for vehicle assignment.”
“Yes, sir!” Keith retorted. Walter turned his back and Keith mouthed, “Bye-bye. Sucked working with you,” to Lucky.
Resisting the urge to teach Keith a lesson not soon forgotten, Lucky trudged down the hall after his boss, for however long his new job lasted. No doubt he’d soon be viewing the world through bars again. Damn it. He hadn’t even lasted a month on the outside. He shuffled into the boss’s office, head held high. If he was going down, he’d go down swinging.
“Close the door, please,” Walter requested, “and have a seat.”
Oh shit. Closed doors meant bad things in Lucky’s world. He didn’t mean to be forceful; the door slammed with an ominous bang anyway. Oh well, nothing to be done about it now. Keeping his eyes on the floor, Lucky sank onto a chair in front of Walter’s desk. Slowly he raised his eyes, finding mounds of papers, several manila folders, and an open bag of potato chips on the desk. The huge man who held Lucky’s fate in his hands suddenly appeared more human, scowl fading. Walter released a sigh. “Lucky, whatever am I going to do with you?”
“Not send me back to prison, I hope.” In hindsight, Lucky reckoned he should’ve tried a little harder not to let loser Keith jerk his chain.
“No. I’m not.”
The knot of worry in Lucky’s gut eased a bit. Although he no longer lived in the lap of luxury he’d enjoyed with his wealthy lover, his apartment wasn’t too bad, and certainly beat a cell.
“I want you to understand something,” Walter said, in the kind way he had of making Lucky feel scolded without the benefit of an actual scolding. In the months of their negotiations, he’d done the same to Lucky many times, without actually condemning Lucky or seeming to look down on him for his less-than-stellar past. “The men and women working outside my door applied for positions with the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau. Some have a background in law enforcement, others came from other agencies. Regardless of their qualifications, they have one thing in common: they wanted to work here. If they don’t take pride in their jobs they won’t last long. Many won’t. The stress levels here are astronomical, and therefore I take care of my people. They’re valuable to me.”
“And I’m an ungrateful son of a bitch who got dumped on you, and I’m not like them.” Oh yeah. Lucky saw the handwriting on the wall. It said, “Welcome back to prison, bay-bee!”
“No, you’re not,” Walter agreed. He steepled his fingers, elbows resting on his desk “Since I hired Keith two days after you and I reached an agreement, I’ll use him as an example. I reviewed twenty-four resumes and conducted twelve interviews to fill his position. Although Keith came fresh from college and lacked practical knowledge, he above the other candidates possessed technical expertise the team lacked. You see, I’m not hiring individuals, I’m building a team. While four others interviewed stronger, the team needed Keith most.”
“Why am I here then? ‘The team’ certainly doesn’t want me.” Some days Lucky actually believed he’d be better off in prison, job-wise, but he wouldn’t trade the little freedom he had for anything.
“As good of a team as I built, they lacked something. They learned from textbooks and from time on the street, but they’d never gotten an inside view, couldn’t fully appreciate why anyone would live a life of crime.” He fixed Lucky with an intense gaze. Lucky wanted to squirm, but refused. He’d not let this man catch him sweating. “You didn’t grow up saying, ‘I want to break the law when I grow up’, did you?”
“Then you’ve witnessed first-hand what turns normally law-abiding people from the law. When I first pitched the idea of adding a convicted drug trafficker to the ranks, the brass laughed at me. It took some convincing, and make no mistake, this is a trial, but I stand by my belief that you have a lot to teach us.
“The reason you’re different, Lucky, is you didn’t come to me for a job. Once I received the go ahead to put my plan into action, I reviewed no less than five hundred candidates. I needed someone with inside information, no remaining ties to gangs or those who might sway them, and I needed someone strong enough to withstand the job and the stress it entails. No one else came close to you. You’re here because I want you here.”
He leaned toward Lucky, scrutinizing gaze nearly burning. “While I value my team, I don’t care what Keith or any other individual member says. If the group approaches me, I’ll listen, and no one’s come forward yet. I’m going to give you a test and tell you things today I shouldn’t. If they ever reach my ears, you’ve failed.”
Lucky couldn’t have ripped his attention away if he wanted to.
“If Keith walked out the door tomorrow and never looked back, I’d have a replacement sitting at his desk within the week. If you walk out the door, that’s it. I won’t be given another opportunity to prove whether or not my experiment works. In that sense, he’s expendable, you’re not. Do you understand? Keith was one of twenty-four; you were one of five hundred. Weigh the odds, if you will.”
What the hell? Lucky took a deep breath and slowly released it. Maybe he might not go to prison after all—for the time being. One wrong move and he’d no doubt Walter would cut his losses, losing face or no. “Yes, sir,” Lucky finally replied after Walter cleared his throat.
“I heard Keith teasing you. If I could give you a gun, I would, but my superiors drew the line. The moment I’m able, you’ll be armed. An unarmed field agent is a liability, not an asset.
“Now,” Walter continued, “I understand you boxed while at the corrections center. If you and Keith need to establish a pecking order, I’d suggest you work out your differences in a ring.”
Lucky arrived for work the next day with a bruised cheek. Keith had a black eye and a one arm in a sling, but he never again mentioned Lucky’s lack of a gun.
A quick note from Eden
I love interacting with readers and can’t wait to hang out with everyone at GayRomLit in Atlanta. Hugs, y’all!
Don’t forget to leave a comment to enter to win a copy of Eden’s new release and Third in the Deversion series, Corruption!
There’s an old adage that it takes a village to raise a child. The same holds true of novels.
So many people asked me how to get started as a writer, visualizing hours spent alone, hunched over their keyboard, with little or no contact with the outside world. Then they polish their manuscript for submission to an editor or agent. In the world of e-publishing, that just ain’t so.
Writing agendas are as varied as writers themselves, but here’s the formula that works for me. First, if you’re serious about writing a novel, find yourself a mentor, someone who knows the business and doesn’t mind sharing information and guiding you along. But remember to pay it forward. Once you’re established, you learn as much or more wisdom as you impart by offering a helping hand to other writers.
Second, find yourself some good betas. Yes, they can be friends, as long as those friends will tell you the honest truth and don’t fail to mention errors to spare your feelings, for the reading public who pays for your book will have no such qualms. Even best-selling authors have room to improve, so find betas and editors you work well with, listen to them, and treasure them.
Third. The biggest obstacle I’ve found to being a published author is the idea that you can’t publish. Then don’t aim for an 80,000 words novel on your first commercial writing attempt. Try a short story first. Once you’ve published, you are now a published author and the obstacle is gone.
Fourth takes you back to your mentor. Research, and ask other authors about publishers. Each may offer something different, and what works for one writer may not work for you, or may not specialize in your chosen genre. Do your homework before submitting a manuscript.
Fifth, never stop learning. Always strive to do better.
Sixth, criticism will come. Take what you can learn from and leave the rest. No everyone will love your work, and that’s okay. Many will. But remember, if you have stories in you to tell, ignoring them won’t make them go away.