For Readers & Writers
from Susan Dennard
M&D Issue #139

June 7, 2019

What's in this heart-to-heart?

Recent Goings On:

This past month has been intense, y’all. So. Much. Travel. From the West Coast to the East, from the Midwest to the UK, I have lost all track of where I am. Or the time zone. Or when the proper meal times.

BUT! Now I am home and I have nothing planned for a few months and it is bliss and I could just make the longest run-on about how happy I am.

All I have to do now is finish the next Witchlands book (no biggie!) aaaaand...go through IVF again (no biggie!). 😅

Seriously, though send me your good thoughts. I'll definitely be needing them.

What I’m Playing

What I’m Reading

For the DenNerds:


Choose Your Own Adventure...Crowdsourced!

On a whim while waiting at LaGuardia last week, I decided to start a little Twitter poll. It would be a bit like a Choose Your Own Adventure, but instead of one person playing, it would be...everyone.

And, I would set it in the world of an old project of mine called The Luminaries. (It’s our world but with monsters and witches, oh my!)

I definitely didn’t expect to get the response I did from “players,” nor the emotions! Wow, you all have Opinions With a Capital O on what the protagonist should do — and I LOVE it.

So if you too are wanting to join in the fun, head here for today’s poll. AND VOTE WISELY! 😉

Oh, and here are some screen caps to catch you up!

P.S. THANK YOU TO ALL THE DEN-NERDS WHO CAME TO THE BOOKCON MEETUP!! Y’all, I cannot even begin to coherently express how much it meant to see all of your faces. I had so much fun chatting and getting to know you better. Thank you!!!

For the Daydreamers:

Reinventing the Car...Every Single Time

I was just in NYC for BookCon, and I was lucky enough to be a panelist on the NaNoWriMo panel (which was epically fun AND educational).

We covered a lot of ground, but one of the things that really struck me was that all of us (5 authors!) were “reformed pantsers.” Not only does this idea tie so neatly into what my last newsletter was about, but it also aligns with something I keep thinking about lately.

In fact, I even said it on the panel:
“Unlike other fields, writers have to reinvent their product every single time we start a new story. My husband is an automotive engineer. When his company designs new car components, they aren’t forced to reinvent a driving machine every time. But...we are.”

Think about it: We, as writers, don’t have a blueprint that we get to follow. Sure, we might have a broad story-shape we’re aspiring toward, but there’s no Step-by-Step Assembly Handbook to walk you through exactly where to place each sentence.

I mean, if only.

Instead, we writers (and other artists!) have to start from scratch every time we start something new. It would be like if car companies were told—for every new car they designed—that they had to create a vehicle able to run on wheels and carry passengers, but they couldn't make it anything like the car they made before. How the choose to power it, how many wheels the car has, how many people it can carry...That's totally on them to figure out from scratch!


It’s laughable to imagine, I know. Because that would be so inefficient and doesn’t make sense in the context of a product like cars.

And yet! It is our reality when it comes to creating story.

Now I should mention that some story genres do have clearer blueprints to work with than others. Adult romance comes to mind, where the usual structure includes two POVs overcoming their differences, a Key Romantic moment at the midpoint, and a final coming together for a HEA (happily ever after) at the end.

However, that’s still so broad. How a writer actually manages to hit those beats can vary so much, and it takes serious skill to come up with new, unique ways to do it every single time.


Seriously: I give major props to authors who have to stick to strict "formulas." It makes it all the harder to tell a story in new, unique ways.

But back to the general problem at hand: reinvention.

Have you noticed how Hollywood keeps remaking old films? Or how the iPhone hasn’t changed that much since its inception? Or how (to my vast annoyance as someone hoping to get a new car soon) the new Subaru Outback looks just like the old Subaru Outback?

There’s less risk if you stick to a tried and true product. The money has been made! The audience clamors for more, so why mess with a good thing?

Well, in the art world, we have to mess with the good thing because the good thing only works one time.

Think of it like this: if I just rewrote the book I gave you last time with only a few sentences tweaked or chapters added, it wouldn’t be a NEW book. It would be a special edition, and 99.9999% of previous readers would feel no need to buy it.

Instead, when I—or any of you—move on to the next book, we have to start anew. New materials, new car-shape, new blueprint.

So all of this is to say, my dear writing friends, that it’s OKAY IF YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU ARE DOING.

You are literally reinventing a car every time you start a new project.

I personally am still in the opening “slog” of the next Witchlands book, and all I can think is, Why is this so hard?

Honestly, it feels like someone handed me a box of Legos and said, “Turn these into a castle-sized castle, but make sure it’s the coolest f**king castle in the world. Oh, and it needs to be structurally sound too! And oh, oh! It also needs to fit in with the aesthetic and style of the previous 4 castles you built in that neighborhood, but you can't repeat anything you’ve already done. GOOD LUCK.”


Writing stories is hard. Each new project will present its own unique challenges, and each new project will require a different approach to solve them.

Be patient with yourself. Trust that, even if you DON’T get the story to be castle- or car-shaped on the first try, unlike engineers or architects, you can rebuild and rearrange in round 2. It ain’t easy, but it’s definitely doable.

Now, take this box of Legos and get started!

Upcoming Events:


No events scheduled for now!

But stay tuned for fun times coming this fall. 😏

Link Roundup:

Since there are a lot of new subscribers lately, I've been linking to past blog posts and newsletters. Happy reading!

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Copyright © 2019
Susan Dennard
All rights reserved.

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I'm a misfit, a daydreamer,
a fangirl, an animal-lover,
a feminist killjoy,
and a gluten-free
cookie-eater. 🐙
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