By Dina Santorelli
Anyone can start writing a novel. But anyone can’t finish one. It takes a lot of work, determination, commitment and guts. Every Sunday, I offer writing tips on my blog, Making ‘Baby Grand,’ lessons I learned on the road to publication for my first novel, Baby Grand. But if I were to select five of the most crucial tenets of novel writing—the five “musts” of getting it done—they would be the following:
- You must make time to write. If you’re going to treat this book as a hobby or something you’ll get to “one of these days,” trust me, it’s never going to get written. You need to take your novel off the back burner of your life and make it a focal point, just as you would anything else that’s important to you. Does this mean that you may lose sleep in order to work on your novel? Spend less time with your family? Miss some outings with friends? Yes, yes, and yes. And you should, if working on your novel is important to you. So create a schedule that meets your needs. I wrote 1,000 words a day to finish Baby Grand and am now doing the same as I finish my second novel, In the Red. That works for me, allowing me to feel like I accomplished enough writing for the day while allowing me to spend time with my family. For you, it might be 500 words a day, or maybe just one hour a day. Whatever schedule you create, stick to it. No excuses.
- You must know that it’s going to be hard. Self-doubt will plague you every step of the way. Every. Step. I can’t do this. I’m a horrible writer. What was I thinking? It’s awful, but you have to fight through it and keep in mind that it happens to all of us. No matter how awful you think your writing is or your book is going to be in the end, just keep going anyway. You’ll be glad you did. As I like to say, “Bad writing is better than no writing.” Bad writing you can fix. No writing is just no writing.
- You must believe in your vision and not worry about your audience. I’ve come across people who tell me they’d love to write, but they don’t think anyone would find what they have to say interesting. I ask them if they find it interesting. And if the answer is yes (it always is), I tell them to write it. Because if they write it with passion, I’ll want to read it. If you write about what drives you, what makes you laugh, what’s meaningful to you, that’s what makes compelling reading. And you won’t have to worry about finding an audience. Your audience will find you.
- You must read, read, read. As often as you can. Particularly the genres that you like to write. Reading will expose you to all sorts of styles and opinions, will open your mind and your heart, will make you more knowledgeable, inform your sensibilities and help you find your place in the literary cosmos. In short, it will make you a better writer. Case closed.
- You must never give up. If you want to be a writer — I mean, really want to be a writer — you should never give up. When I advise aspiring writers that they should never quit and never take no for an answer, I always think of my husband — my level-headed, pragmatic husband — who has said, “Dina, be serious, you can believe and believe and believe, but, the truth is, not everyone is going to become a successful novelist.” My answer to that? Well, somebody will. And who’s to say it won’t be him? Or her? Or me?
Dina Santorelli is a freelance writer/editor who has written for many print and online publications, such as Newsday, First for Women and CNNMoney.com. She served as the “with” writer for Good Girls Don’t Get Fat (Harlequin, 2010) and most recently contributed to Bully (Weinstein Books, September 2012), a companion book to the acclaimed film. Dina is the current Executive Editor of Salute and Family magazines for which she has interviewed many celebrities, including James Gandolfini, Tim McGraw, Angela Bassett, Mario Lopez, Gary Sinise and Kevin Bacon. You can follow Dina on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and on her blog. Baby Grand, her first novel, is available on Amazon.
In Albany, New York, the governor’s infant daughter disappears without a trace from her crib at the Executive Mansion. Hours later, newly divorced and down-and-out writer Jamie Carter is abducted from the streets of Manhattan. Jamie is whisked upstate, where she is forced by her captor, Don Bailino, an ex-war hero/successful businessman, to care for the kidnapped child in a plot to delay the execution of mobster Gino Cataldi – the sixth man to be put to death in six years by hardliner Governor Phillip Grand. What prevails is a modern-day thriller about family ties, loyalty, murder, betrayal, and love that’s told in deftly interweaving narratives that follow the police investigation of the missing Baby Grand, the bad guys who took her, and the woman who found the strength to protect her.