I’m pleased to introduce Alan Orloff as my first guest blogger. Alan’s debut novel, Diamonds for the Dead, was released in April by Midnight Ink. Be sure to visit his blog: A Million Blogging Monkeys. (Someday I need to ask how he came by that title.)
My Writing Life by Alan Orloff
I’m not sure why or how, but about six years ago the urge to write fiction erupted from somewhere within and slapped me rudely on the face. And, I should say, the urge wasn’t telling me simply to write—it wanted me to get published, too.
An engineer by training, I decided to conduct a “proof of concept” before I started my Great American Novel, just to make sure writing “agreed” with me. First, I wrote a few short stories. I was bold enough to let my wife read them, and, much to my amazement, they didn’t stink. Then I took an adult education class at a local high school. More short stories, still didn’t stink. Next, I enrolled in a writing workshop at a wonderful facility, The Writer’s Center (Bethesda, MD). I wrote some more and I still didn’t stink.
I wasn’t very good, but I didn’t stink.
Best of all, I enjoyed writing. Really enjoyed it (and that’s saying a lot from a guy who hated English classes in high school and college). So I kept at it, writing one novel, then another. I found a critique group and submitted pages and critiqued pages and learned a ton about good writing and bad (this included recognizing similes as smelly as a skunk that’s been run over by a school bus and left by the side of the road for two weeks in ninety-five degree weather). When manuscript number three was finished—really finished—I took the next big step toward publication. Time to query.
I drafted a query letter, revised it, honed it, and polished it until I could see my desperate face reflecting back at me. Then I sent it out. I was sure my manuscript was good, and I was sure my query was solid.
One hundred rejections later, I knew that a good manuscript and a solid query letter didn’t stand a chance, not in a tough marketplace. I needed to get better.
So I wrote some more. And more. And more. Finished a fourth manuscript, revised it until it was very good. Then wrote a dynamite query letter. This time, I attracted (and signed with) an agent. Yay! Then it didn’t sell. Boo! I got the feeling the agent wanted to concentrate on non-fiction, so we parted ways amicably.
But that left me back in Query Heck.
I wrote another manuscript. And worked on it until it sang. Then…well, you know the drill. Concoct a query. Again, I was fortunate to sign with an agent. And this time…this time…SALE!
So here’s my five-pronged strategy for success on the road to publication:
Take classes. How else will you learn what to do?
Get thyself into a critique group. How else will you get feedback on your particular project?
Join a professional writing organization. I belong to MWA (Mystery Writers of America) and ITW (International Thriller Writers).
Read, read, read. Learn from those who’ve gone before you.
Write, write, write and never give up.
A special thanks to Alan for being here today. If you want to know a little more about Alan’s background and how he decided to become a writer (and sample a bit more of his excellent sense of humor), check out his blog post of May 24th: When Did You Know? You’ll enjoy it. I promise.