How did you get started as a writer? In today's guest post, Joe Conlon, talks about his experience. Enjoy!
How to Get Started as a Writer
by Joe Conlan
Have you ever made the statement to anyone who would listen, “I’ve always wanted to…" ? I’m pretty sure most of us have on many occasions about a variety of experiences. Sometimes, we even make it happen. Since I was a young adult, I completed that sentence with “write a book.” It might have never happened for me if a simple question from my ex-father-in-law hadn’t given me the kick in the butt I needed. My family was gathered for the celebration of my daughter’s 20th birthday. I had already retired from my day job, the practice of law and had lots of free time on my hands. During conversation, I announced to the room that I had always wanted to write a novel. My ex-father-in-law, in his inimitable way, then inquired, “Well what the hell is keeping you from doing it?” Realizing he had an excellent point, I asked everyone or anyone for suggestions as to what I should write about. My ex-wife recommended murder on a cruise ship. That day I wrote the very first words of Nameless. I honestly believe that if that conversation had not occurred on that day, I would have never discovered what I was truly meant to do in this life.
Plot or not
Just because my mind was set on getting the task accomplished didn’t mean that I had the talent or ability to write a story from beginning to end that people would want to read. I had absolutely no experience or education on the subject of writing fiction. I didn’t know whether I should come up with some form of outline of a plot and list of characters. For that matter, I had no idea how to structure a story. So, rather than think too much, I took the easy way out as I am so often prone to do. I decided to sit at my laptop, start writing and see what happened. Fortunately, my fingers were tapping keys and producing words on the screen.
Feedback from Friends and Family
So, now that I was actually creating a story, I was still faced with the issue-will people want to read it. The solution was fairly simple though far from fool-proof. I chose several family members and close friends who were avid readers, to read the story as I wrote it. I’m sure you’ve figured out for yourself the flaws in such a theory. Could I really trust them to be totally honest? I asked them to be. In fact, I insisted on it. I let them know in no uncertain terms that I didn’t want to waste my time writing trash. Now that all is said and done and even back then, I was pretty sure they were being truthful once I started to get feedback. You can usually tell when the people closest to you are being deceptive. Another pretty good clue was that everyone had the same reaction. I couldn’t write the chapters fast enough for them. Due to their insistence and the motivation that their amazing comments provided, I finished the first draft of Nameless in just over 2 and a half months. It was quite a strange experience. Once I started typing, I never stopped until the final page was written. Of course, I ate and slept. I know this is going to sound crazy. What I mean to say is that it almost seemed as the story wrote itself.
The Next Stephen King
Here I was thinking that I was the next Stephen King. I was able to write an entire novel in such a short period of time that all my friends and family loved. I would be knocking out 8 books a year and watching my stories unfold on the silver screen. Then came the editing process. That’s when the real work started and more importantly, I was brought back down to earth. I hired a reputed editor in New York to read my manuscript. My purpose was two-fold. First, this was a way that I would really find out whether I had written a worthy novel. I also wanted to hear her suggestions about how I could improve the story. At the time, I was half-expecting she would take the six weeks she indicated she needed to analyze the manuscript and come back to me to tell me it was absolutely perfect. After all, I was the next Stephen King. As you can imagine, that wasn’t the case; far from it. Four years later, Nameless was ready for publication.
Working with an Editor
I can’t say that the entire time was spent on work, work, work. I resubmitted the transcript to the editor several times. Each time, she would take at least six weeks, sometimes significantly longer, to get back to me. Then there was a period of almost a year that I put Nameless down and didn’t touch it. That’s another story for another time, if you’re interested. The point being that my inner Stephen King was not yet quite fully developed. It takes a lot of hard work to get a manuscript into the shape required for publication. In the end, it was all well worth it. In a matter of two and a half months, Nameless became the number 1 bestselling thriller ebook in the Amazon UK kindle store and ultimately reached the number 2 spot for books of all genres. Being a self-published author, I have to say that I’m proud of that accomplishment. There’s no question it takes some luck for a book to go viral on Amazon. But, I think it also has to be a story that people want to read, which was my goal in the first place.
Now, I can’t stop writing. Book 2 of the series, When White Fades to Black is just about complete. I’m hoping to release it by either late fall or the very beginning of 2014. For more information about it and Nameless, please visit www.joeconlan.com.
Hiring an editor to help him get started as a writer certainly worked out for Joe - #1 bestseller is an outstanding result. Have you ever worked with an editor? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. And share this post with your friends, using the handy buttons provided.