When Stars Align (for a writer)

My current wip (work in progress) is a rewrite of a women’s fiction novel that I wrote in 2008 while living in Mexico. At the time it’d been ten years since I’d lived in Michigan, and while I wasn’t planning to stay in Mexico, I also wasn’t planning to return to Michigan. So I set my novel in my hometown of Spring Lake, Michigan.

Cut to ten years later. I’m rewriting this novel for young adult (side note: the original version has a teenage protagonist and several people suggested I try writing YA after reading the manuscript), and that includes eliminating two of the three main characters and adding another teenager. But I’m keeping it in Spring Lake. I was in the high school over the summer for my day job and got permission to stroll the halls and photograph to my heart’s delight. (I now know that while the library is not along an exterior wall, you can see outside because of all the windows. Details like this are important!)

The story begins with a home invasion and the main character being attacked, so the police are present and there are details I should probably make sure are accurate. Here’s where the title of this post comes in. For my day job I’m part of a group called Leadership Connect and one of our requirements is to do a ride-along with a police officer. The morning of the ride-along, I set out my LC notebook in case I wanted to take notes, but then I started wondering what kind of notes I would take when it hit me OMG I CAN DO RESEARCH FOR MY BOOK AND SHE’LL BE TRAPPED IN THE CAR WITH ME FOR TWO HOURS AND CANNOT ESCAPE!

The ride along was totally fun and we got along great. Officer Roels is even planning to buy my books for her daughter!
I swear she’s not terrified. The ride along was totally fun and we got along great. Officer Roels is even planning to buy my books for her daughter!

We toured Grand Haven, chatted with people she knows from her patrols (and saw two GIANT Great Danes), and pulled over three people for speeding. I was super uncomfortable when she was out of the car talking to the speeders, and at one point panicked because I didn’t know what to do if something happened to her, but this is Grand Haven and everything was fine. (And she thought I was a bit silly for worrying like that—because of course I told her.)

But best of all, I told her about my current wip and got clarification on a few points that I wasn’t sure about. It’s going to require a little reworking, but I’d rather my work is accurate than easy. Hooray for research!



About Melanie Hooyenga

Writer. Designer. Jock. Reader. Wife. Puppy-Mama. SCBWI member since 2015.


    • It was fun, and being able to ask her questions was definitely priceless.

      Side note: I was a victim of a hit & run yesterday (I’m fine, it was super minor) and I commented to the cop that I’d been on a ride along the previous Sunday, but that it was much quieter than that.

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