Author John M. Wills is stopping by Straight From Hel today to talk about how he wrote his suspense novel, Chicago Warriors, Midnight Battles in the Windy City. Before I give the blog over to him, though, let me tell you a bit about John.
John Wills is certainly qualified to write the character Pete Shannon, a Chicago police officer, since John was a Chicago police officer for 12 years and received numerous awards and commendations. After that position, he became an FBI Agent, a career he retired from after 21 years. John has been published in Police & Security News, Vegas Beat, The Rap Sheet, Law Enforcement Technology, and New American Truth, but this is his first novel.
I know John will be open to questions about his work in the police force or as an FBI Agent, but he’ll especially be able to answer questions about his book and how he set about writing it, which is what he’s going to talk about today.
Welcome, John M. Wills.
I first found “Straight From Hel” last year while scouring the internet for advice on how to write a novel. I came across Helen’s blog and found it, as well as all of its many links, to be informative and helpful. I had been writing professionally for several years, mainly articles for law enforcement websites and magazines, but the urge to write my first novel finally became so strong that I could no longer ignore it. Until then I had shrugged it off, thinking that I was not prepared for such a daunting task. I had not had any formal instruction, nor had I researched how to write a book. But the desire to finally tell the story that had been rattling around in my head finally won out.
Where to begin? I had no clue. I was spending a lot of time on the road with my job which gave me time to read. Being a logical thinker, I went to a bookstore to buy a “How-To” tome that would show me the footsteps that I should follow. Of course when I got there and looked at an entire section of books devoted specifically to “writing your first novel,” I was back at square one—too much information. I did some research on the internet. Have you ever Googled “how to write a book?” I found that there were hundreds of titles that purported to explain the process. I finally decided on reading a sampling of a few internet summaries, and then purchased The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing a Novel.
I poured over chapters in “The Guide” that explained abstract ideas such as having the right temperament, creativity, plot engines and developments, characters and settings…I now was more confused than ever. I almost decided to postpone writing my novel until sometime later—except that I had already done that. I finally made a command decision: Just sit down and start writing!
And so that’s what I did. I had no outline, no written plot or characters, but what I did have was a story in mind that I believed people would enjoy reading, and more important, one that I was anxious to write. And so I began…writing…chapter after chapter. Learning as I went along—developing characters, multiple plots, tying and connecting people and places. It was a marvelous experience. I found myself getting so involved with my characters that they became real to me. I agonized over needing to kill one off, feeling guilty about it and trying to think of a way not to kill him. My wife thought that I was crazy, “John, it’s only a book. Get a grip!”
I continued with the process, getting deeper and deeper into wordsmithing like never before. When did I write? Just about every day, but it had to be something that contributed to the story, not just writing for the sake of writing. The time of day was really unimportant; I wrote when I had the time, be it day or night. I wrote at home, in airports and hotel rooms. I even wrote aboard cramped airplanes enroute to jobs. It didn’t matter the time or place. All that mattered was the story. When I was finished with the book I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment, but also sorrow—it was now over.
I discovered that my anxiety about writing my first novel was due in large measure to fretting about the mechanics. What’s the process, how does one begin? Once I convinced myself that the best way to write anything is to simply start putting the words on paper, I was fine. And as the chapters increased in number, so also did my comfort level. When I approached writing as an enjoyable endeavor, rather than a task that needed to be done, the words flowed.
This post may help someone in their quest to write their own novel—I hope that it does. And even though I have completed my first book and have had it published, Chicago Warriors Midnight Battles in the Windy City, I do not consider myself qualified to give advice on the subject. But here’s what I do know… There are thousands of “How To” books written on this topic, and there are countless numbers of people that have written books. Did they all follow the same formula? I think not, and so I’ve decided that the best way to write a novel is to just start writing!
Thank you John!
John will be available today to answer questions, so feel free to join him in the Comments section. Also, he’s going to give away a free e-book of Chicago Warriors, Midnight Battles in the Windy City. All you have to do is leave a comment and you’re entered in the drawing!
3 months ago