Saturday, March 23, 2013

How writing for television is different from writing novels and a Kindle Giveaway with Author John Lansing

I was told at the beginning of my network television career that if I couldn’t collaborate, I shouldn’t become a TV writer. It was good advice.

It all started with the job interview.

You walked into a room full of writer/producers and pitched a minimum of five story ideas, with a beginning, middle, and an end. If you were lucky enough to sell them on one idea, then they added all of their ideas, and hired you to write your/their story. It was already very different from what you pitched. But it was better, they said. You left the office with hope.

After many hours of labor, you walked back into that same room and presented the fleshed out story in a page or two or three. They again gave notes and the story morphed into an even more distant cousin of the idea you first pitched. You smiled, went home, and tried to hit it out of the park.

Now, if they bit on the new improved story, you were hired to write the script.

But… first your outline had to be approved.  And did I mention more notes. Every step of the way. Some of them generated from production, some from the star of the series, and many from the other writer/producers who had new and improved ideas that really made the story pop. Really made it come alive. So they said.

And then, after you sat through an agonizing table read where every pause gave you another bout of indigestion, then and only then, if your outline passed muster, were you awarded the grand prize. A production number and a contract to write a television script. You were happy, your agent was happy, and your significant other was very happy.

After a few celebratory drinks and a sushi dinner you went back to the computer and the real panic set in. Now you had to deliver.

When I was writing a television episode, I always had a concise outline in hand. I needed a strong map because there were times when I had to knock out a script in a heart-thumping week to ten days. There was no time for change. You had to leave your ego at the door.

Many masters to serve. But if the work came to fruition, and your show actually made it into production, you could be sitting in the comfort of your own home, eating pizza and watching something that you wrote on your flat screen television set in your living room.  All in a remarkably short period of time. A type A personality’s dream. Write it, and then see it. And the checks, which were formidable, normally cleared in a timely fashion.

When I made the switch to novels I was able to bring everything I’d learned in the television world into play. It taught me discipline, writing on a schedule, collaboration, and really hammered home the type of characters I enjoyed and wanted to invest my time with as I moved forward. Characters that were interesting enough for me to spend a year of my life with, and again, hopefully keep an audience reading. Only you can tell me if I’ve succeeded.

The joy of writing my first novel was not having to adhere to a formula created by a television Pilot episode. I had total freedom to create a story and to explore the psychology and behavior of not only my primary characters, but also my secondary tier. And I didn’t have to worry about satisfying a star’s ego or writing to commercial breaks.

I was the master of my own fate. There was still collaboration involved, with my publisher, editor, and copy editor, but it seemed much more reasonable. Much more creative. No one was trying to re-invent my wheel. They were only concerned with making my work better.         

“The Devil’s Necktie,” is my first novel. And for the first time in my career, I was doing a high wire act without a net. I was working without an outline. I started with a simple premise – one night of passion for retired Inspector Jack Bertolino sends him on a deadly collision course with his past – and let it fly.

Let me know how I did. I look forward to your thoughts.

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The Devil’s Necktie
John Lansing

Genre: Crime/Thriller

Publisher: Gallery Books, Simon& Schuster/Karen Hunter Publishing

ISBN: 10:1451698348

Number of pages: 384
Word Count: 89,520

Book Description:

A Sizzling thriller for fans of James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell. An exciting tour into the real-life world of cops, crime, and murder. Retired inspector Jack Bertolino had strict rules when dealing with confidential informants. But Mia had the kind of beauty that could make a grown man contemplate leaving his wife, his job, and his kids. After a passionate night together, Mia is found murdered – and Jack is the lead suspect. Facing threats from the LAPD, the 18th Street Angels, and a Columbian drug cartel, Jack delves deeper into the seedy world of drug dealers and murderers and discovers that the top players knew Mia personally. And now Jack is torn between fearing for his life and seeking revenge for his slain lover…either way, the body count will rise.

Book Trailer:

About the Author :

John Lansing started his career as an actor in New York City. He spent a year at the Royale Theatre playing the lead in the Broadway production of “Grease.”

He then landed a co-starring role in George Lucas’ “More American Graffiti,” and guest-starred on numerous television shows.

During his fifteen-year writing career, Lansing wrote and produced “Walker Texas Ranger,” co-wrote two CBS Movies of the Week, and he also co-executive produced the ABC series “Scoundrels.” John’s first book was “Good Cop, Bad Money,” a true crime tome with former NYPD Inspector Glen Morisano.

The Devil’s Necktie is his first novel.

A native of Long Island, John now resides in Los Angeles.

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Momma Bear said...

Fascinating! Life has a way of leading us directly to the path that we belong.. even if we are unsure.. when the opportunity comes our way!

John Lansing said...

Momma Bear, you just nailed it on the head. You have to have an open mind, and when a door opens, step on through. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.
All the best,

John Lansing said...

I would like to thank Wenona for hosting me on her site today and creating an opportunity to showcase "The Devil's Necktie." It was greatly appreciated.
All the best,