A Peek Inside the Writing Life

Craft books and novels in progress

What does this “living a writing life” look like in real time?

This week, I’m submitting a partial manuscript to two literary agents I pitched last year at my first Chicago Writers Conference.

Panera writing session

Getting the submission ready includes the following:

  • Knowing and following the guidelines given to me by the agents during my pitch sessions.
  • Ensuring my first 50 pages are formatted and the best they can be at this stage of my development.
  • Preparing a one-page synopsis. This is not an outline, nor is it enticing cover copy. A synopsis has to spell out what happens in the book, including the ending, while revealing the voice and flavor of the novel.
  • Including a well-written query letter along with the manuscript and synopsis.

Once I get that all emailed, I will note it on my submission tracking sheet then dismiss it from my mind and get on with finishing the rest of this draft. It can take months to hear back on submissions, even if they were invited!

Engaging means improving my craft. That makes me chuckle. It used to sound so pretentious to me when I tried to think it let alone say it out loud.

The reality is I do work at the craft. I read, study, ask questions, practice, read some more. I am in the middle of three different books on craft today. They are: Save the Cat, The 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction WritingWriting 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling.

Engaging means reading as much fiction as possible. I’m enchanted by the idea of writing a real world story with hints of magic ala the very talented and successful Sarah Addison Allen.

Craft books and novels in progress

I’m working my way through all of her novels (just finished my third). Plus, she’s recommended a few of her favorite books by other authors, and I’ve tracked one down from an interlibrary loan: I Am One of You Forever by Fred Chappell. Reading this before bed each night.

Playwright Michele Lowe recommends that writers always have more than one idea or project to work on. She’s brilliant so I listen to her. I’m collecting ideas and snippets of scenes for what might be my next book-length project.

I’ve started researching and am in the middle of a fascinating book All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by journalist Rebecca Traister 

The idea that there will be a next book feels like a gift I’ve given myself. Three years ago I wasn’t even sure I could finish one book.

I’m also planning ahead for the fall. I might take a class, go to a conference, or sign up for a retreat. For me,  I need to build in time and space for meeting other writers, talking books, learning from more experienced authors.

My vision of “living the writing life” means engaging in the world of writers and readers on as many levels as possible.

Last week I published a book review on Blogcritics.org and am preparing a list of interview questions for the debut author, Abbey Campbell Cook.

I met an inspiring young writer at a family graduation party in Minnesota a couple of weeks ago. Ellie is 14 and a voracious reader and writer.

We talked under a canopy that provided scant relief from the blazing sun. We commiserated about the difficulty of creating interesting characters and working in solitude.

Last week, I received an email from an old friend who recently joined a writing group. We didn’t discuss writing, just exchanged book recommendations.  But there’s an energy exchange that takes place just knowing she writes!

This week I’m looking forward to a coffee date with a writer I met at a retreat last summer. She recently finished her first novel, and I was honored to get to read the first few chapters. More energy, more writing flow.

And I’m two weeks away from attending my second StoryStudio’s Ragdale Retreat.

A mentor of mine—a talented author and inspiring coach—recently recommended a list of short stories.  She compiled a curated list of stories with craft elements that shine in each. Can’t wait to get started on this!

Engaging means following the careers of other writers and supporting them whenever you can.

I’m eagerly awaiting Jennifer David Hesse’s first novel in July and have been sharing free bookmarks with my friends and family. Be sure to look for Book #1 Midsummer Night’s Mischief (A Wiccan Wheel Mystery). 

Midsummers Night Mischief

Living the writing life means making choices. I spent Sunday afternoon in Panera, wearing ear buds and flip flops (and clothes, I was wearing clothes), brandishing a purple flair marker as I went over what I hope is finally the final draft of my partial manuscript submission.

I could have been poolside with a margarita. And a part of me wanted to be.

Sometimes living the writing life means saying no to things (like hanging out at the pool). Twice this month, I turned down opportunities to write and publish (once for pay, once for a byline).

So I will miss out on those two opportunities. My time is limited. I have a day job and a family. To finish this novel, I have to focus.

Write where you are

Sometimes that means writing in the car, then walking in the nearby park

To make all of this possible, I continue to invest in my health and wellness. That means making room for life. For good food and movement and mindfulness.

All of that makes room for my dreams.

Long walks with a girlfriend or my husband or my son, walking my daughter’s dogs, doing pushups, sharing grilled chicken and an episode of American Pickers with my husband, talking to my mom on the phone, all of this is life.

Social media (will that be the phrase that sounds the death knell for all of humanity?) is both a resource and a drain for a writer. I belong to a few great writing communities online.

The best of these have provided inspiration and opportunity and are worth maintaining. It’s getting sidetracked on dancing puppy tangents that can suck away what little time I’ve carved out to actually write.

It’s also time to update my website, invest in new business cards and an updated author photo.

Deadlines approach for an essay I want to write and a residency application I’m nervous to submit.

Living the writing life means not being afraid to fail.

I know there are more of me out there, closet writers not sure they have talent.

You do. But it’s mostly about the work.

A brilliant author friend said during a recent conversation “if we’d known what was involved in writing a book, we never would have started.”

She’s right. But I’m ridiculously grateful I did.


4 Thoughts on “A Peek Inside the Writing Life

  1. Great post, Suzanne! Thanks again for the shout-out, and good luck with those agents!

  2. Elaine Richards on June 29, 2016 at 3:23 am said:

    So excited for you to finally get those pages sent! Thanks for reminding me of what I might/could be doing if I weren’t, er, ‘otherwise engaged.’

What’s Happening?!

What's happening

What's happening

Anyone else remember this show? Loved the whip-smart sister and scary waitress, Shirley! No reason for the picture, just loved the show and wanted to steal the title. As summer draws to a close (those evil “School is Back in Session” signs plastered all over the neighborhood) it’s time to take stock of projects, goals and dreams.

Lake Michigan - Ft. Sheridan

  1. Excited to be featured on Women Writers, Women’s Books site with my essay “Writing is Just a Day at the Beach.
  2. The second draft of my novel is complete. (Insert celebration emoji here).
  3. A ton of work awaits me in the third draft. (Insert crying emoji here).
  4. Participated in second author event, this time at Open Books.
  5. Attended second writing retreat, this time at Ragdale.
  6. MARRIED OFF MY FIRST-BORN. (Not enough emojis in the world).
  7. On day 26 of healthy eating life-style. (Insert pizza emoji – just kidding, I drank kale, people. I drank kale.)
  8. Interviewed authors, reviewed books, participated in a Revision Support Group, submitted a few essays, submitted a few flash fiction pieces, entered a flash fiction contest . . . there may be more but it’s early and my memory is sketchy.

Liquid Kale


  1. Tentative Writers’ Getaway Weekend planned for 9/12/2015 – No Talking Allowed!
  2. The second round of NYCMidnight’s Flash Fiction contest is coming up on 9/18/2015
  3. I’ll be attending the Chicago Writers Conference on 9/25/2015
  4. Sometime in October, I’ll be featured on Colleen Story’s Writing and Wellness. Excellent advice and resources for writers. Don’t wait, check out the site now.
  5. I will continue attending classes at Story Studio Chicago.
  6. Finalize third draft and evaluate status of the novel.

Ragdale Tea and Writing

So far, I’m on track for my 2015 goals. Nothing happens fast enough, easy enough, enough enough. But anything worth having is worth fighting for – fight on! Write on!

Have you taken stock of your summer so far? Goals? Accomplishments? I’d love to hear your success stories. Make the most of what’s left!




3 Thoughts on “What’s Happening?!

  1. Wow, Suzanne, you’ve been busy! Most impressive– and inspiring!

  2. Atta girl!

If You’re Looking for an Excuse Not to Write…You’ll Find One


IMAG3748It’s the holidays and things are spiraling out of control! The living room is decorated, the rest of the house is not. I have about half my shopping done and nothing wrapped.

But, I’m still writing! I have several posts in the works including the editor’s recommendations on my novel, great writing advice from author and writing coach Mary Carter, updates on projects in the works and other musings. I’m also trying to figure out how to run a giveaway.

Guess what? If you haven’t checked out my audio interview with Chicago-based writer, Dana Norris, you’re missing some great stuff. She was just nominated for a prestigious Pushcart Prize! She’s the real deal. (If you’re new to writing and don’t know a Pushcart from a shopping cart, have no fear…it’s all about the journey. Click on the link and then act impressed whenever you read about a nominee. It’s a big deal!)

                        Pushcart                             shopping cart

If you really want to write, you have to squeeze in the time. Easier said than done but I’m walking the walk. Worked a full day, grocery shopped on the way home, cooked dinner, ate dinner, updated my husband’s resume while watching a little TV, edited a blog post, got in bed by 9:30, then woke up at 4:30 this morning to turn in a guest post and update my website. If you’re looking for an excuse not to write, you’ll find one.

I’m gathering a list of all the websites, classes, books and people that have inspired my writing journey. Check the “Writer’s Resources” section for updates. Hopefully, they’ll inspire you, too!

Now off to the day job.

Comments are closed.