For Readers & Writers

from Susan Dennard

November 21, 2014
Um, so I started watching The Vampire Diaries this week, and I'm OBSESSED. Seriously, guys, I can't stop thinking about it (or the abs), and I swear Stefan and Damon keep appearing in my dreams (and I am NOT complaining).

I'm literally watching an episode while I write this newsletter--that's how deep the addiction goes.

For the Misfits:
Fan Fiction Contest, Starkillers Giveaway, & Comic-Con!

In case you missed it, last week, Jennifer Armentrout announced an AWESOME contest. The winner gets a trip to the 2015 Romantic Times Convention in Dallas--yeah, you read that right. A TRIP TO RT (worth >$2000), which is my most favorite conference of the year. To enter in the contest, you must submit a piece of fan fiction (no longer than 1500 words) set in any book by ME, Jennifer Armentrout, Cora Carmack, Laura Kaye, or Jay Crownover.

Get more on the contest details here. And know that it's INTERNATIONAL!!

In the world of The Starkillers Cycle, Sarah and I are hosting a giveaway for an ARC of her upcoming A Court of Thorns & Roses as well as a Truthwitch sampler! You can learn more about that giveaway here, AND you can read a teaser of the new Starkiller chapters to come!

Finally, for those of you who live in west Michigan, don't forget that I'll be teaching a workshop at the Grand Rapids Comic-Con at 10:20 on 11/22! I'll cover how I write a book + the basics of publication, and then there'll be plenty of time for one-on-one questions and interaction at my signing afterwards. You can see my full schedule here. :)

And always, if you have any questions regarding my books (published, upcoming, or online & free!), then head to the forum to ask!

For the Daydreamers:
Recognizing When To Move On

So, for those of you in the EFD workshop who received this information via email last week, I apologize for the redundancy. But there's a lesson here that I think other authors (aspiring and published alike) can learn from--and that is the art of moving on.

When you've poured your heart and soul into a project, it can be REALLY hard to set it aside and move on to something else. But sometimes letting go is the only smart option, and realizing that you AREN'T a failure--that in reality, you're just practicing good business sense...Well, that's often easier said than done.

I just went through this with my prequel novella, Sightwitch. After months and months of agony trying to find the Right Story, I realized I had to let it go--or rather, adjust my goals and plans surrounding it.

I came to this decision after asking myself 3 questions, and whenever YOU find yourself hitting a wall, you should also run through these questions. It's very possible that the wall you've hit isn't simple writer's block or procrastination--it might be a sign that you need to let go and move on.

Question #1: What are your STORY goals, and will this particular project achieve them?

Sightwitch, I wanted to write a prequel that would entice readers into the Witchlands Series BEFORE Truthwitch came out. Yet every story I crafted wasn't serving that purpose. None of my various drafts were going to draw readers into the world.

After some time away from the project (it's amazing what fresh eyes can do!), I realized that the Sightwitch drafts I'd written were actually pretty good. The problem wasn't that I was telling the Wrong Story, the problem was that I was telling it at the WRONG TIME. No matter how I tell the tale or what events unfold, Sightwitch simply wasn't going to be the right prelude to Truthwitch.

But holy moly, it sure WOULD work as a companion novella 
after Truthwitch is already out.

It's sort of like A Dawn Most Wicked. That's a great story and I'm wildly proud of it, but I don't think readers should start with it. The significance of the stories and the characters mean so, so, so much more when taken in the context of Something Strange & Deadly.

Realizing this was, well...frustrating. For one, I'd spent SO MUCH TIME trying to make this story sing. For two, I'd made all sorts of promises to readers, to my team at Tor, to my agent, and to myself. The last thing I wanted to do was admit "defeat."

But after a few days of really poking at this idea (the idea of doing Sightwitch after Truthwitch), I realized it wasn't defeat at all. Admitting that 2015 isn't the right year for Sightwitch is just plain good sense. And, after talking it over with my agent, she's in total agreement.

Which leads to...

Question #2: What are your CAREER goals? And will this particular project achieve those goals?

My career goal was to enter into the world of self-publishing with Sightwitch. I love the idea of being a hybrid author, and I'd hoped to take that step with my novella.

But there's a big problem with that: self-publishing has changed in the past few months. Majorly.

I mean, it has always been a constantly changing game. What worked to draw in readers a few months ago is guaranteed to not work now--and self-publishers pride themselves on thinking fast and constantly innovating. Lately, though, indie publishing has actually reached a point where even new strategies aren't making a difference. There are, quite simply, too many books out there. More books than there are readers (last I heard, the figure was around 3500 new books PER DAY). As such, trying to stand out as a new self-pubbed author...Well, it's just not feasible anymore.

So, although I still like the idea of self-publishing, now is NOT the time for it. Big changes are afoot, and I need to see where those changes go before I step in. My chances for self-publishing success are MUCH higher if I self-pub the novellas after I have a built-in, waiting audience from Truthwitch.

Question #3: Are you suffering from story burnout?

This is probably the most frustrating piece of the "let it go and move on" puzzle because you have to decide if you're truly burned out or just being lazy/hitting a story wall.

To make this question easier, you should definitely answer it LAST. After all, if questions 1 & 2 are "yes" then #3 probably won't matter--you'll need to move on to a different project anyway.

But, if you decided that you AREN'T suffering from burnout and you just ADORE the story, well...then you might decide that questions 1 & 2 simply don't matter. You want to finish this story no matter what.

With Sightwitch, I was definitely suffering burnout. You see, the latest draft I wrote needs to be rewritten. Not because the story is broken (I'm actually happy with it despite all the holes and flaws) but because Truthwitch has changed so dramatically in revisions that the set-up I'd written into Sightwitch no longer works.

The thought of rewriting Sightiwtch for the bazillionth time is too disheartening to even face right now. I'd rather come back to it in a year--once Truthwitch and book 2 (Windwitch) are finished. Then I'll know things are set in stone and can fit in Sightwitch accordingly.

(Note: this is why I always tell people NOT to write a sequel until they've finished all revisions on the first book. Some seemingly tiny change can have huge consequences, and no one likes to throw out a solid, finished draft.)

So there you have it guys. Those are the questions I asked myself + the answers that went along with them.

And as much as I might feel like this is defeat, I know it's not really. It's just pivoting and taking these latest publishing punches in stride. :)

Now, to finish up the newsletter, here are some links to wrap up your THIRD week of 2014 NaNoWriMo!

photo by Emily Rae Photography

Copyright © 2014
Susan Dennard
All rights reserved.

110 West 40th St., Suite 410
New York, NY 10018

I'm a misfit, a daydreamer, an animal-lover, and a (now gluten-free) cookie-eater.