Pull back the curtain and see how a suspense writer puts the thrills and chills together.


Early Wednesday morning (3 am, to be exact), I saw a request for one of my manuscripts from a publisher.

The manuscript was pretty much ready to go, but since I hadn’t looked at it in years, I couldn’t send it to a publisher without a quick read-through for errors, typos, and other glitches. But as anyone who’s ever spent some time editing knows, reading something with a critical eye is never a quick process.

For the rest of the week, every free moment was spent working on that manuscript. I moved appointments and shuffled freelance assignments in order to give it everything I had. Sleep has definitely been sacrificed, as were my plans to return to kickboxing this week and for The Boy and I to start going on regular date nights.

And while I can’t always put my life on hold to focus on a manuscript this intently, I got to thinking that this is exactly how it should be.

I know everyone who’s ever written or wanted to write says this, but I’ve been writing books since I was five years old. (Back then they were mostly tales of a fish family who lived in terror of a bear that somehow stalked them under the ocean.)

When I was a teenager, writing novels and stories was my main form of entertainment. That and reading. I wasn’t into sports and I wasn’t much for TV.

As a young adult and then a college student, I spent my summers working on manuscripts. I never felt deprived. I LOVED it! Living in my imaginary worlds was where I was the happiest, even though those worlds were usually very dark.

But at some point, things changed. Probably when I started writing for a living. I began to procrastinate, dreading the thought of more hours spent at the computer (although spending those hours writing lengthy emails was never a problem…hmm…).

It got to the point where suddenly my writing was the thing to be sacrificed. I’ve been consumed by relationships, jobs, kickboxing, freelance work, cooking, even gardening…but I can’t remember the last time I truly gave my written world every thing I had.

Clearly it’s healthier to have balance. I can’t spend my life in a bathrobe, consuming endless amounts of caffeine and eating only what’s easy and readily available, peering at my laptop in a darkened room until I can barely focus. But this exercise retaught me what I first learned when I was a kid:

Writing is not just what I do. It’s who I am. And if I hope to succeed at it, it has to occupy a significant portion of my life. It can’t just be pushed into the scraps of time I have left after everything else.

I have a strong suspicion that my manuscript won’t be what this publisher is looking for. It seems much darker than their other books. But that’s okay. In writing, as in life, it’s all about the journey. I’m glad I took the time to focus on what’s important again.

In this case, the exercise was its own reward.

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