Kristi Belcamino: Five Things I Learned Writing Blessed Are The Dead
To catch a killer, one reporter must risk it all …
San Francisco Bay Area newspaper reporter Gabriella Giovanni spends her days on the crime beat, flitting in and out of other people’s nightmares, yet walking away unscathed. When a little girl disappears on the way to the school bus stop, her quest for justice and a front-page story leads her to a convicted kidnapper, Jack Dean Johnson, who reels her in with promises to reveal his exploits as a serial killer. But Gabriella’s passion for her job quickly spirals into obsession when she begins to suspect the kidnapper may have ties to her own dark past: her sister’s murder.
Risking her life, her job, and everything she holds dear, Gabriella embarks on a quest to find answers and stop a deranged murderer before he strikes again.
* * *
1. I don’t know a comma from a hole in the ground.
After a career as a newspaper reporter, writing sometimes four articles a day, you’d think I’d have even a slight grasp on comma use. Nope.
When I was polishing Blessed are the Dead for publication, part of that process involved the publisher hiring a copyeditor to go over the entire manuscript and marking it all up to hell. Demoralizing.
Especially, when I realized that ninety-nine percent of the copy editor’s changes involved commas. Humiliating.
(Incidentally, I also learned from the copy editor that douche bag is two words and barstool is one.)
2. My first chapter sucked.
And so did the second.
Originally, my first chapter had my character, Gabriella Giovanni, lollygagging around at some Farmer’s Market smelling flowers, talking Italian, and picking out the most primo loaf of sourdough bread.
So eventually I got rid of the entire chapter and began with what once was chapter two. Guess what? That was just as boring.
Now, the first chapter in my book is actually what once was the third chapter—where the action is. Go figure.
Don’t be afraid to vomit those words on the paper just to get yourself into your story because you can always go back and slice and dice like I did.
3. Even though I have a book deal, there’s not much difference between me and every other writer out there busting their butt to get published.
The best thing I have going for me is my perseverance. It’s not about talent. I’m not any more talented than my friends without a book deal. In fact, in many cases, they’ve got heaps more talent than me.
What I’ve got going for me is the desire to work hard, to be stubborn as hell about not giving up, and a smidgen of luck.
For instance, during my path to publication, I’d hear people say things like this: “I’ve queried my top three dream agents and none of them saw the greatness of my writing so I’m just going to give up.”
Every time I heard that, I’d think, well, after I’ve queried about 400 agents, then maybe I’ll consider writing a different book and querying that.
4. Writing a novel takes less time than you think.
I’ve become a member of the Church of One Thousand Words that Brad Parks mentions. To be a parishioner is easy, just write one thousand words a day. Minimum. If you do this, you will have a book in three to four months. Period. It’s that easy. Of course, you might spend another year revising that first draft, but to me, that’s the fun part. Once I realized that writing a book could be broken down in this simple way, I was home free.
Five days a week I make sure I write one thousand words. Most often, I write more, often double that, but when I have those thousands words as my bare minimum, I make progress. I also end my day with a feeling of accomplishment. I made my goal.
5. I don’t know jack shit about writing.
Last but not least, I realized how little I truly know and how much I have to learn and improve. But I’ve learned that this is a healthy attitude to have. The day I think I know it all and give up learning craft or abandon my efforts to be a better writer is the day it all ends.
* * *
Kristi Belcamino is a writer, artist and crime reporter who also bakes a tasty biscotti. Her first novel, “Blessed Are the Dead,” is inspired by her dealings with a serial killer during her life as a Bay Area crime reporter. As an award-winning crime reporter at newspapers in California, she flew over Big Sur in an FA-18 jet with the Blue Angels, raced a Dodge Viper at Laguna Seca, and watched autopsies.