For Readers & Writers

from Susan Dennard

October 24, 2014
Man, what a week! In a rush to finish Truthwitch, I have done nothing but work for hours on end each day (and night). It's to the point where the characters and names are appearing in my dreams.

Back in undergrad, I would pull these almost-all-nighters and let myself snag 2-3 hours of sleep right before an exam. And WHOA, those dreams were the weirdest things ever. Chemistry formulas or scientific names or genetic combinations...It was like my brain was trying to dump everything I'd memorized back out again.

Do you guys ever have that happen? Or am I just a lunatic?

For the Misfits:
The Spirit-Hunters, 5 Years Later

When I finished writing Strange & Ever After, I was so sad to be ending the trilogy, that I just had to keep going. I didn't write much (only ~12 pages), but I did plot out a full story. It happens 5 years after the events of the Something Strange & Deadly series (so in 1881).

Well, the other day, I came across that Scrivener file (called simply "Oliver's Story") and on a whim, I opened it up and started reading...

Then five minutes later, I started shouting at my computer screen because--to my complete shock--the story was GOOD (especially considering it's a completely unedited first draft). And, to my complete horror, I had literally stopped writing it mid-sentence!

B-but, I sputtered at my dogs, what happens next? Where's the rest of this dang story? WHY DID I STOP MID-SENTENCE?! What will Eleanor DO?

Anyway, I thought I'd share those 13 pages with you. As mentioned, they end rather abruptly (though I did bother to finish the sentence for you all ;)), and unless I doubt I'll write more any time soon (unless you all are just dying for more).

Still, for my very devoted Misfits, I thought you might enjoy these 13 pages--if for no other reason than to see what Eleanor and the gang have been up to lately.

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT IF YOU HAVEN'T FINISHED THE SERIES. Seriously: don't read these pages if you haven't finished Strange & Ever After.

WARNING #2: this is a FIRST DRAFT, so there might be typos or terribly worded sentences ahead. ;)

Again: the new/extra scenes are here. Enjoy! And, 
As always, if you have any questions about Something Strange and Deadly or Truthwitch, you can head over to the forums to ask.

For the Daydreamers:
Whole-A** One Thing instead of Half-A**ing Many

FYI: Monday, I'll have my first NaNoWriMo post, and it includes loads of fun worksheets and printables.:)

Moving on, I got this excellent question in the forum last week, and it happened to come at a time when I was wrestling with the exact issue: 
How do you balance writing and revising two different projects?
I know you’ve mentioned your 1000 words a day goal. Is this also during
the revision process?
Do you tackle revisions (on a different project) while drafting a new book
for the first time or do you completely immerse yourself in the first draft?
Now I've written about this topic before, but that was a while ago. I mean, it was so long ago that I have since forgotten my OWN advice. Clearly this is a lesson that needs revisiting.

I should preface my answer, also, by saying: THIS IS WHAT WORKS FOR ME. I'm sure there are plenty of writers out there who juggle stuff and juggle it well. I'm not one of those people, though I always try to be...and always fail.

So how do I balance writing and revising two different projects? I don't. As a rule, I'm writing/revising on a deadline--and, as a rule, deadlines in publishing are intense. Exhibit A: my current 1 week deadline to revise Truthwitch. As much as I WANT to draft something at the same time, I can't do that and still meet my deadline.

And that answers the next two questions: when I'm revising, I do NOT continue with my 1000 word daily goal. Even if I'm revising on my own (sans deadline), I have to completely immerse myself in a project.

Why? Because I'm a "method writer." I become my characters. I LIVE 
the story, and I find that if I try to stop living the story--even for a few hours a day to work on something else--my writing quality suffers.

As the sage Ron Swanson said on the show Parks and Rec:

"Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing."

This is ESPECIALLY true for me when I'm drafting. If I'm not whole-assing the story, then I create utter crap. Not only will most of what I produce be 100% unusable and wrong, but I will never sink deeply enough into the story to FIND the Right Story.

In fact, this happened to me 2 weeks ago. For those of you with me in the EFD Workshop (or who've been reading this newsletter a while), you'll know that my novella project, Sightwitch, has NOT been going well. I've written hundreds of pages that I've had to throw out because none of it felt RIGHT. Even when I thought I had the Right Story, it all fell apart...and I threw out another hundred pages.

I've outlined, I've brainstormed, I've worked with CPs, and I've screamed many a curse word at the computer screen. But 'twas all to no avail. This story just wasn't coming...

Until earlier this month when I took a last-minute trip to visit family. Because I was away from home (no pets! no cooking! no distractions!), away from the internet (no twitter! no pinterest!), and my family is (no joke) the sort of family that spends all day reading in companionable silence, I had NOTHING TO DO BUT WRITE. For almost an entire week.

And you know what happened? I wrote Sightwitch.

Yeah. I wrote the whole 80-page novella, and it is nothing like my earlier half-assed attempts. I'd spent MONTHS creating nothing of value because--as I realized--my attention wasn't totally on the story. I was worrying about blog posts and newsletter updates, the EFD Workshop and the #YARunsA5K fundraiser, signing events and interviews--all SORTS of things that are part of my job but that were also claiming valuable headspace.

When I was abruptly cut off from it all, I was finally able to fall in love with the characters and find the story's heart. A single week of whole-assing produced what months and months of half-assing hadn't. (And yes, for those of you in the EFD workshop, I WILL be sharing that first draft very soon!)

I learned something REALLY important about myself and my process thanks to this summer of hair-pulling (so perhaps the self-loathing was all worth it): I realized that even the administrative components of my job (email, blogs, events, etc.) distract me from my writing. I can't spend half of the day writing and then half of the day doing promo--it has to be one or the other.

So I'm trying out a new approach: Fridays for admin. No more drafting a newsletter on Thursday and a blog on Sunday. No more answer reader emails or forum questions as soon as they arrive. Instead, I'll block of Fridays to do that stuff. And, if I find I'm actually in the flow, I won't even block off Fridays. I'll just wait until I hit a creative lull.

I hope you guys don't think that's selfish of me, and who knows? Maybe this approach won't be any better, but I'll be sure to keep you posted one way or another. ;)

Now, here are some links to wrap up the week!
See you next week, friends! And as always, if you have any questions about ANYTHING, drop by the forum to ask. Thank you for reading!

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.