Flying without a safety net

Add caption
One of the things I enjoy the most about writing books is that it’s one of the few disciplines in the creative arts where you don’t need to be hired to ply your craft. You don’t need permission from anyone to create a story. You’re a free agent and the only thing that can stop you from writing a novel is a negative inner voice, or a lack of motivation. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not for the feint-of-heart. You have to be compelled to sit at a computer every day and write, but if you do, it can be incredibly gratifying.

I started my journey writing freelance scripts for network television. That was an experience of a different kind. Exhilarating at times, frustrating to the max, but there was a level of instant gratification that kept you pounding the keys. That and a paycheck. If you were lucky enough to win an assignment, you banged out a script and a few months later, you saw the fruits of your labor on TV. It was always a kick to see actors infusing your words with life, and it kept me in the game.

I had a terrific partner, Bruce Cervi, and when we were writing a television script, we always worked with a well-delineated outline. The Executive Producers of the series wouldn’t sign off on a script assignment, until the outline was approved. We would pitch a few ideas and if the Gods were smiling on us, we’d get the nod and go to story. If the powers that be liked the story we were off and running.

An outline was a necessity because there were times when a script, already greenlit and in production, would fall out and we would be called upon to deliver a shooting script in a week. That would have been an impossible feat without a concise outline.

When I started writing books, my world changed radically, and I’d like to think for the better. I had always been attracted to crime novels, detective series. It’s what I read and my bookshelves overflowed with them. I wanted to try my hand at creating my own.

My protagonist, Jack Bertolino, spent twenty-five years of his life putting away drug dealers, killers and thieves. It didn’t make sense that he could retire without suffering any blowback. And so my first book, The Devil’s Necktie, evolved from a very simple premise:  One night of passion for retired Inspector Jack Bertolino threw him on a deadly collision course with his past.

For the first time in my life, I was flying without a safety net. No outline. My characters were dictating the story I was telling. Each day, sitting at my computer, was about discovery. It was frightening at times, but damned exciting when I’d look at my pages at the end of the day and realize I had been taken on an unexpected journey. When the creative juices were flowing like that, a pure exercise in trust, I was reminded why I started writing in the first place.

There’s nothing better.

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” was his first novel. “Blond Cargo” is the next book in the Jack Bertolino series. A native of Long Island, John now resides in Los Angeles.

Catch Up With the Author:   


a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Thanks so much for sharing your experience as a screenwriter and the transition to novelist. Such different worlds!

  2. Thanks for hosting me, Lance. I really appreciate the opportunity. All the best, John


I love to hear from you. So feel free to comment, but keep in mind the basics of blog etiquette — no spam, no profanity, no slander, etc.

Thanks for being an active part of the Writers and Authors community.