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.
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 Writing, Writing 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.