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Op-Ed: Always Wanted to Write a Book? Get Going Now – and Make This the Summer of You

Sara Hammel, an author who now lives in West Hartford, at one of her first book signings. Courtesy photo

Sara Hammel, a published author and journalist who recently moved to West Hartford, shares some tips about how to get going and some places in town that might provide inspiration.

By Sara Hammel

I’ll never forget the day I got the call from my agent, who kept me on pins and needles for a few seconds before he shared the news: “They love the book, and they want to publish it!”

It was a thrilling and emotional moment. I’d spent years writing novels while working a day job as a journalist before finally snagging a publishing deal with my fourth book, The Underdogs, a mystery for young readers from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Which brings me to one of my most important tips for becoming a published author: Never give up.

There is a saying that everyone has a story, and judging by the number of people who ask me how they can write a book (and get it published), it’s something we think a lot about. But there seems to be a disconnect for many would-be scribes who can see a story in their minds, but can’t quite find the dedication, time or confidence to commit it to paper.

Now that spring is here in West Hartford and the slower-paced roll of summer is on its way, it’s a perfect time to sit down and start writing that book you always knew was inside you.

Wait – what’s that you say? You can’t? Is it because …

You have no time? 

Give this idea some serious thought. I know few people who truly don’t have time to write. When an old friend who is now a New York Times best-selling author many times over got her first book deal, she talked about writing chapters on scraps of paper in the dark while she was running a projector at a conference for her day job. You don’t have to set aside huge chunks of your day. You can write between meetings, get up earlier in the morning or stay up an hour later at night – in other words, write instead of Netflix-ing, napping, or constructing model boats. (That said, if you’re at a point in life where you’re run ragged and don’t have a second to breathe, give yourself a break. Your moment will come, and when it does, you’ll be ready).

You’re not glamorous, connected or talented enough? 

I believe writing is the great equalizer. You don’t have to be pretty, popular, wealthy, or have the world’s most exciting Instagram account. You don’t have to have a college degree or even a computer (a pencil and paper will do). Publishers and agents care about your writing, the story, and the characters you’ve brought to life. Speaking of which, one of the top impediments I see in writers (including myself sometimes) is a crisis of confidence. The path around that is simple: Write. Get your story on the page, and worry about editing and polishing later. As Ernest Hemingway said, “The only kind of writing is rewriting.”

Furthermore, you don’t have to be James Joyce. Some of the worst writers I’ve had the misfortune of reading are millionaires with rabid fan bases because they do one thing very well: They tell a ripping good yarn. Do not get bogged down in flowery language or use 15 fancy adjectives to describe the world’s most colorful sunset. Keep the pace moving and the story in the forefront.

You don’t have a quiet/nice/peaceful/fun place to write?

When I moved to WeHa several months ago, I made sure we lived somewhere close to town. When the walls start closing in at my home office, I take a walk in search of a change of scenery. Among other places, I’ve landed, laptop in tow, at Starbucks or Café Sofia for an almond milk latte, Rizzuto’s or Treva for a cocktail, and Fernridge Park for a healthy dose of nature. I wrote most of my new book Famous Last Words (out May 29) in this town, and I found no shortage of inspiring settings in which to create.

There is only one guarantee in the publishing world: If you don’t write that novel, you’ll never be a published author. So if you think it’s your time and all you’re lacking is motivation, my advice is to get writing.

Here are some helpful links for seeking a publisher when that book is done. Everything you need to start the process can be found online:

You’ll want to start by looking for an agent. Jane Friedman is a respected veteran of the publishing business and has a ton of tips on how to find and approach agents on her website: https://www.janefriedman.com/find-literary-agent/

For those more interested in non-fiction, here’s a good place to start:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/10/nonfiction-book-proposal_n_3569043.html

Fellow writers like to congregate here and swap tips on agents, publishers and book deals: https://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?66315-Newbie-Guide!

Sara Hammel is an author, writing coach and journalist based in West Hartford. Her latest book, Famous Last Words, an inside look at a life following celebrities, can be ordered here. https://www.amazon.com/Famous-Last-Words-Sara-Hammel/dp/0692076735

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