Dina’s Blog: For Writers

Cover Reveal!

By |2016-06-20T07:28:34+00:00June 20th, 2016|Baby Bailino, Uncategorized|

BabyBailino_digital_final_FINALI’m so THRILLED to premiere the cover of the sequel to BABY GRAND — BABY BAILINO — coming out this fall! I decided to go with a more literal interpretation for the cover this time around, rather than conceptual, like Baby Grand’s. I’m sooooo happy with it. I think it really captures the flavor of the series. What do you think? Would love to hear your thoughts!

And So It Begins (Again)…

By |2016-06-16T13:27:40+00:00June 16th, 2016|Uncategorized|

Well, after a month of rigorous editing and a thorough proofread, the manuscript for the sequel to Baby Grand is off to be blurbed and copyedited. As of yesterday, I finalized the eBook cover, which will be revealed later this month, and audiobook cover, and then it’s time to have the interior of the print version laid out and designed. So exciting!

As I work on producing this book and preparing for Pub Day in the fall, I am reminded of how much I enjoy the self-publishing process, how much I love making the creative and business decisions that pertain to my book, everything from cover design to price. As an author, it’s so important to invest time and money (as much as you can afford) into your book and treat it like a product, particularly if, like me, you’re not one of these self-published authors who likes to tinker with her books — fixing typos or changing cover designs — once they’re finalized and uploaded. I do everything I can to get things right the first time.

And that means shelling out some dough. I spent about $3,100, when all was said and done, to publish Baby Grand four years ago in all its formats, and it’s looking like it will cost that much or more to produce the sequel. (Note: I made my investment back on the first book and then some — and still going. Fingers crossed that I will do the same with the second, or else the third book — yes, there will be a third book! — might be published on tissue paper.)

As an author, I want my books to look and read a certain way. I want to be proud of them. And I want readers to be proud of them, too. Readers deserve authors — traditionally published, self-published, or otherwise — who put their best foot forward, whether they’re being funded by a major publishing company or a piggy bank.

Drawer Limbo

By |2016-04-25T16:34:46+00:00April 25th, 2016|Uncategorized|

Well, here I am, my sequel sitting in its hypothetical drawer, and me anxiously waiting for a month to go by so I can dig back into it for a thorough edit. It’s like waiting for Christmas to come. Or maybe a route canal, I’m not sure which. New ideas keep flooding my mind during this downtime, and I’m doing all I can to try and remain detached from other intriguing creative ideas I have (jotting them down, of course, in case they turn out to be something) in order to focus on the upcoming task. When I emerged from my Drawer Limbo the first time, with Baby Grand, I was ready to breezily edit the book, but found myself miserably stuck on the first page for an entire day. It wasn’t pretty. Hopefully, I’ll be able edit this time around with ease (she says with a Homer Simpson-style d’oh!). I think I did a thorough first draft, but who knows? I guess I’ll find out May 1. Bring on the Novocaine! What have you been up to this month?

Time to Stick my Sequel in a Drawer

By |2016-04-05T11:01:01+00:00April 5th, 2016|Uncategorized, Writing Process, Writing Tips|

Well, it took a year and a half (the same amount of time it took me to write the first book, coincidentally) but I’ve finally finished writing the sequel to Baby Grand. Woo hoo! Cue confetti!

What’s the next step? Stick the manuscript in a drawer (yes, I’m showing my age), or, perhaps, on the back burner of my life, and refrain from looking at it for at least a month. Why? It’s important to get some distance from your work, and that’s something that only time can achieve. Even when I write feature articles, I can go an hour or even an overnight between reads. Time has a way of revealing all kinds of typos and issues. My students at Hofstra University always hear me say that just because you can write “The End” on a manuscript and upload it to Amazon the same day doesn’t mean that you should. Like my mother-in-law’s chili, manuscripts need to marinate a bit for maximum flavor.

So, a month from now, I’ll go through a round of editing, and I’ll have a better idea of where things stand, because I’m sure there will be more to work through (there always is), but for the moment I am breathing a sigh of relief and giving myself a little pat on the back. My book may not yet be ready for prime time, but the first step of the publishing process is completed, and that certainly is worth celebrating. Yay, me! 🙂

Can’t Turn It Off

By |2016-03-23T20:42:52+00:00March 23rd, 2016|Uncategorized, Writing Process|

If you’re anything like me, you spend much of your time listening to characters talk inside your head. Particularly when I’m winding down a novel, as I am now, I find that the chatter is constant. When I’m driving or I’m in the shower or I’m just lying in bed, their voices get louder, their circumstances more vivid. I can’t turn it off. (Not that I’d want to, really, but sometimes a girl has to sleep.) Jodi Picoult calls writing “successful schizophrenia.” I would tend to agree, at least about the schizophrenia part, for sure. But successful? For me, it depends on the day. How about you?

I Gave Up Facebook for Lent & Found Me

By |2016-03-20T07:47:47+00:00March 20th, 2016|Inspiration, Uncategorized, Writing Process, Writing Tips|

It was a spur of the moment decision. On February 9, the day before Ash Wednesday, I decided to give up social media (excluding WordPress and any postings I do for work) for Lent. I did it for lots of reasons, chief among them being I wanted to finish writing the sequel to Baby Grand, a project I started back in December 2014. I knew I was spending too much time on social media, but I just didn’t know how much. It was a lot. At first, I was perplexed by all the oodles of free time I didn’t know I had, but soon I found new activities to fill the void, as if I were a starfish whose amputated limbs were regenerating: I wrote quite a bit (the sequel is nearly completed, and I also found time for other writing, including this essay that appears in today’s Newsday) and charged through my daily to-do lists like nobody’s business. I also found myself calmer, serene. Turns out, while I was busy scrolling through posts, my thumb double-tapping images almost absently, I had been missing out on a lot of something that was important to me: me.

 

Spring Cleaning: It’s for Novels, Too

By |2016-03-09T12:02:17+00:00March 9th, 2016|Uncategorized, Writing Process|

I’m working with a client on her first novel — something I love to do, watching someone take the plunge and free the words within her soul — and we discussed the importance of letting our stories unfold. I think many first-time writers tend to want to tell the reader everything there is to know about what their characters see, how they feel, and what they did, are doing, and will do. The problem is that when we do all those things, our books can become weighed down. They can become cluttered with too much background info — called an “information dump” — or idle observations or thoughts that have nothing to do with the story you’re trying to tell. With all this extra and extraneous knowledge, readers can become confused, and we authors can lose focus and wind up dancing around what our books are really about. The story and characterization can get lost in the shuffle.

Whether we’re working on our first chapter or our last, we need to always let our characters and events drive the story. If Character A is taking the bus to work, readers don’t need to know about every fast food place she passes, exactly what radio stations she is surfing through, or what she thinks at every moment of her trip. Be selective in what you tell the reader. Think: Is this important? to the plot? to the character? Does this observation convey something that is relevant or interesting? If not, chances are you can probably delete it.

As the weather outside turns delightful (today, it’s picture-perfect in New York), make it your mission to rid your books of all those cluttering details. Closets aren’t the only thing that can use a good spring cleaning.

Be a Badass

By |2016-03-04T18:23:37+00:00March 4th, 2016|Uncategorized, Writing Process|

We talk a lot on this blog about just doing it — getting that novel written, setting aside time and energy to sit at your computer and peck at that keyboard until your fingers blister. It looks easy — you know, just type words and stuff — but anyone who’s tried to write a book knows that it’s damn tough. Kind of like parenting: You forget how tough it really is until you take the plunge again.

Raising Men Cover FinalRecently, I had the honor of collaborating on a parenting book with former Navy SEAL Eric Davis titled Raising Men: Lessons Navy SEALs Learned from Their Training and Taught to Their Sons (St. Martin’s Press, May 2016). The collaboration was everything I always hope a collaboration to be — fun, interesting, and challenging, a project that pushes my limits as well as my collaborator’s in order to produce the best book we can. And I think we did that. (And to think, we wrote that puppy in 90 days!)

Eric recently wrote about the experience in a SOFREP blog post in which I had the honor of being called a “badass” (does it get any better than being called a badass by a Navy SEAL, the ultimate badass?). But that’s what you have to be in order to write a book. A badass. A person who doesn’t give up when the going gets tough, when the right words are elusive, when the editing never seems to end. As Eric says: Identify your objective; stalk your target, even when in doubt; collect intel; and convert that action and info into mission success. Whether it takes you 90 days or 9 years. (I added that last part.) He did it. I’ve done it. And you can too. Because you’re a badass. As Eric likes to say: Get some.

Take That Leap

By |2016-02-29T13:57:03+00:00February 29th, 2016|Uncategorized|

From the time I was a child, I thought it would be so cool to celebrate something on February 29. Birthdays, anniversaries — imagine having them roll around every four years or so like the summer or winter Olympics or the presidential election:

I’m 12 leap years old today! (That’s 48 regular years.)

We’ve been married for 10 leap years. (That’s 40 years.)

Alas, it was not meant to be. So, instead, I like to use February 29 as a day to look at my life and ask myself, “Have you taken any leaps in the last four years? In your career? In your personal life?”

My answer to that question is usually yes — or at least I aim for it to be. At the end of December, I took a literal leap when I went ziplining for the first time with my family in Cancun, Mexico, but really when I’m talking about is taking a leap of faith: having the courage to embark on something when you’re not sure how things are going to turn out or how that journey is going to end.

I’ve always believed in challenging myself to do better, be better — a little something I picked up from my mom — and to do that you need to (if I may quote Col. Nathan R. Jessup from A Few Good Men) “roll the dice and take your chances.” If you succeed, your world will have grown and you will have grown right along with it. If you fail, you will have learned a little something from the experience, so that you can try again next time.

A win-win.

A colleague and friend called me this morning to ask my advice about whether or not she should embark on a new project, never having done that particular type of work before. Without hesitation, I answered, “Of course.”

It has been said that every journey begins with a first step. As far as I’m concerned, why not make it a leap?

Have you taken any leaps in the last four years? In your career? In your personal life?

My Writering Hole

By |2016-02-22T17:11:47+00:00February 22nd, 2016|Uncategorized, Writing Process|

I’ve been hammering out the last third of the sequel to Baby Grand for the past few weeks at Panera Bread (which is one of my favorite places to write, not only for the free WiFi, but for the rockin’ Mediterranean Veggie sandwich) and have found myself gravitating toward one particular two-person booth — one that’s close enough to the ice machine for when I’m thirsty and far enough from the front door that I don’t catch pneumonia. I always sit on the same side, so that I can face the restaurant and people-watch. I consider it my spot (God help anyone who sits there!), my home away from home, the place where the words flow as smoothly as the turkey chili. Do you have a writering hole?


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