Monday, November 18, 2013

Suspense in the Life of a Writer...

All of us here write suspense or mystery.  We love to spin stories that will--hopefully--keep the reader turning the pages, eager to find out what happens next. I can remember telling tales from an early age...riding my horse with friends  back in Minnesota on warm, moonlit summer nights, watching bats swoop through the still air--more shadow than substance.  Perfect inspiration. And, like  campfire ghost stories that became scarier with each telling,  the stories I'd start to tell were enough to scare me.  Eerie, laden with menace, of those creatures that go bump in the night.

Well, I didn't end up trying to write like Stephen King, and in fact I put those thoughts of writing aside when I went to graduate school and then became a clinical dietitian.  Not exactly a suspenseful life.  :)   But then...a lifetime of being an avid reader somehow morphed into a desire to write.  I'd grown up enjoying stories with unexpected twists and turns, with escalating suspense and danger.  Little did I know that the writer's life may not include danger as a matter of course, but it can certainly include a measure of suspense.

When you first made your way into the world after high school or college, did you have a fair idea of what you wanted to be when you grew up?  Many of us end up modifying that first grand plan--we may start one type of career and then end up doing something completely different.  That's true for most writers, too.  We start a career, or perhaps spend years as a wife and mom before the vision of becoming a writer takes hold.  Nora Roberts and Debbie Macomber both talk about following that very course.

But for most writers, the course is not necessarily smooth.  The barriers can seem insurmountable--even the process of simply finishing a first manuscript.  There are countless aspiring authors that may make it to Chapter Three. But finishing three or four hundred pages that actually tell a story in a cohesive way is a truly daunting task.  And then, the suspense begins.  Where do I send this story--which agent would be right for me?  What publisher will give it a chance? Will I get a call today, or tomorrow?  Will an acceptance letter be in my mailbox --or email inbox--today?  Or never?

For a lot of aspiring authors, years can roll by as rejections pile up and the dreams start to fade.  One of my favorite old workshop tapes from writers' conferences was titled something like "I've been writing for five years without a sale. Now what?"  It was given by a group of speakers who went on to become best selling authors.

It takes faith, and determination to keep trying for that first sale...and later, takes courage to try to do something new and different. And the suspense continues.  A nurturing and wonderful editor may retire.  What then?  Will the next one like my work, or not?  A publishing house may fold--or be gobbled up by another house, which can shake up the whole status quo for its authors.  Trends in the market come and go.  The perfect match of a  wonderful editor and publisher can mean great things for an author's future--though what may happen around the next bend is anyone's guess. A poor book cover, poor back cover copy, or poor distribution can help send an author's career into a downward spiral.  There are no long term guarantees in this business--there is no promise of a steady future and a gold watch on the day of retirement. Though now, with the rise of indie publishing, many authors are taking the reins of their careers and finding wonderful new ways to succeed.

But that very level of uncertainty, the suspense of not knowing what will happen in the future, is part of what makes the writing life exciting, and fresh--a chance to work hard, a chance to re-invent one's self, and a chance to seek new horizons. 

Here at the Suspensesisters blog, you'll be seeing some small changes that will keep us fresh and new and interesting as well.  We are so happy that you are here! And we love to hear comments from all of you who stop by.

Wishing everyone a happy and blessed Thanksgiving, and safe travels wherever you might go,

Roxanne Rustand


  1. I really enjoyed this Roxanne. Very interesting. I've noticed many have gone a surprising number of years before publishing their first book. Seems most people would give up by then. i'm glad they don't. Seems there's been author changing on here. Am I right or is it just my memory missing? God bless. Maxie mac262(at)me(dot)com

  2. Thank for your comment! Yes--a lot of authors work at this for a long time before making a first sale. I often think about the wonderful writers who DO give up. If they'd only kept at it, we would all be blessed with more wonderful books to read. But what it sometimes takes, beside a love of writing, is stubborn, absolute persistence, a thick skin, and a willingness to accept criticism. :) And you are right--there have been some changes in the author roster here.
    God bless!

  3. Let's try that again. I wrote a comment and then...poof. First of all, thank you Roxanne for opening our eyes to the life of a writer. Reading about how that life can indeed be perilous before the tale has even been told is eye opening. I am so grateful for all who continue to write because that is what they must do. You all stun me, amaze me, entertain me, and provide me with great mental companionship. :) Thanks for sharing again.

  4. Thank you so much for posting your lovely comment! I feel the same way you do, about all of my own favorite authors--so thankful that they continue to write, and give me such pleasure when I open their books and disappear into a rich, wonderful world.

    Best wishes to you for a wonderful Thanksgiving!