For Readers & Writers

from Susan Dennard

August 15, 2014
I'm back from France and Germany! (And I'm finally catching up some on the internet, FYI.) I got to visit a really cool medieval castle called Oricourt. It not only had a catapult and a moat, but a medieval toilet (image to the right).

Oh. Yeah. Doesn't get much more authentic than that.

And gosh, there's so much history--I'd forgotten how OLD everything is. An ancient church or castle in every freakin' village. I used to be totally jaded by it (Ugh! Another castle?!), but my eyes were fresher this time. T'was magical.

Even the hotel we stayed in in Germany was from the 1700s (see picture below). Pretty cool, huh?


For the Misfits:
Recent Reads I Loved 

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix. This book releases soon, and I was lucky enough to get an early copy. At first, I'll be honest, I was like: Wtf is this? A pseudo-Ikea catalogue that's also a horror story...? *scratches head* But then I opened up the book, started reading, and--I kid you not--I didn't stop until I'd finished.

It was awesome. Hilarious. Terrifying. Wildly clever. And just plain awesome. I highly recommend. (Especially if you've EVER shopped at an Ikea.)

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. I bought this book purely out of curiosity (it was in Sam's Club, and I know how Big A Deal it is for a book to be picked up by Sam's Club). I started reading it when I got home...and then a few days passed in a blur of Kelsea, Mace, the Fetch, and the Red Queen. IT WAS SO GOOD!!! Like Finnikin of the Rock for adults.

Seriously. If you enjoy fantasy or rich character books, then read The Queen of the Tearling.

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning. Okay, so I read the first book in this series...and then read every other book. Like, I was binging a book a day. These things are CANDY--but, like, nutritious candy that somehow makes you think and feel deeply. That said, this series is most definitely for adults. It's pretty darn graphic in the sex and violence departments. (But also pretty darn awesome. Talk about a strong female character.)

Clariel by Garth Nix. For those of you looking for something more YA and less dark (but still awesome and rich), I suggest Clariel. It's not out just yet (an AWESOME gal lent me her ARC--thank you, Erin!!), but when it is, you'll want to grab it fast. This is the fourth book in the Abhorsen series--though I should warn you: it's a very different tale from Sabriel or Lirael. Since Clariel is set many years before those books, the world is completely different. Plus, as a character, Clariel is quite distinct from others in the Abhorsen family.

Nonetheless, Clariel is an incredible fantasy and fans of the series will LOVE it. (Also, can we discuss how awesome the cover is? I'm obsessed.)

What about you all? What have you read recently and loved? Feel free to share any books in the forum, or if you have any questions about Something Strange and Deadly or Truthwitch, just head over to the forums to ask.

For the Daydreamers:
Editorial Letters

As mentioned in previous issues of the newsletter, since I sold Truthwitch approximately when I began the Misfits & Daydreamers, I am perfectly poised to show you all some behind-the-scenes publishing stuff as it happens.

Well, I just hit the first big "milestone" with this book: I received my first editorial letter.

Now, I should mention that I turned this book into my editor on April 27th. I received her editorial letter on August 7th. That's over a 3-month wait, which is--to be honest--pretty slow...yet hardly unusual. My editor at HarperTeen took 1-2 months to send me her editorial letters, but I've heard of some editors taking up to a year and beyond. :P

So what IS an editorial letter? Well, for one, it's an actual letter. My HarperTeen editor used to actually snail-mail her letter to me on HarperCollins stationary. My new editor sent me the letter as an attached word doc along with the commented/track-changes Truthwitch manuscript.

In these letters, the editor will address Big Picture issues. Places where a character's motivation is unclear or the plot gets wonky. Spots where the world-building is too crude or too complicated. Basically any macro-scale content issues the editor has within the story will be described in the letter.

Sometimes the editor will have other people read and offer feedback too, such as editorial assistants or anyone else the editor might think should weigh (like, if there's a content issue that's potentially controversial and might affect something in sales or marketing).

Sometimes the letters are looonnnng--maybe because the book has a lot of problems or the editor is simply long-winded. Other times, the editorial letters might be short (no problems in the book or perhaps a concise editor).

Every editor will have a different approach to how in-depth his/her feedback is. I've worked with four editors now and they've each been quite varied. One editor was SUPER in-depth and even made an outline of the entire book with comments and solutions for each specific scene (this letter was loooong!). I had another editor who gave me her general reactions to the book, but she offered no solutions or ideas for how to solve the issues (this letter was shorrrrt).

My current letter is just over 6 pages, single spaced. Then, there are another 3 pages tacked onto the end from my UK editor. (In other words, I have 2 separate letters for a total of 9 pages.)

My US editor has divided her comments into three sections: Plot, Character, World-building. She lists her issues with each aspect and then offers ideas/solutions as well. Here's an example of one of my US editor's comments (under the section called "Character"):
Safi makes such a wonderful, brash counterpoint for the controlled Noelle! I love how their friendship balances them both.
I do have some questions about her truthwitch power. How does she know something is true? Does she feel something in her gut, does something tingle, does someone’s aura turn a certain color? When that sailor cleaved, her power sensed wrongness…but how does that work? It’s more than just telling truth from a lie? Let’s be super specific about this so that her power seems fully fleshed out in the book! If everyone wants her because her power is so great and dangerous, then we need to see specifically why that is. Maybe a truthwitch can see into people’s hearts, can see the truth there—and that’s why people don’t like them. Because you can’t hide anything from them.
This is a really good point (how DOES the magic work?), and something I can easily fix. Keep in mind that all suggested changes are not required changes. There are definitely a few changes my editor wants that simply do NOT resonate with me. If, in a few weeks they STILL don't resonate with me, I'll probably call up my editor for a chat. :)

All in all, though, considering that Truthwitch is 160,000 words (600 pages), my editorial letter is pretty dang brief. As such, I'm pretty confident I can tackle it all within ~1 month or less.

Of course, this is only the first editorial letter. Typically, with young adult novels, there will be 2 editorial letters (for big picture issues), followed by line-edits (so prose-level, pacing revisions). Then there are copy-edits (consistency errors, punctuation/grammar errors, historical accuracy errors, etc.) followed by 1-2 sets of Pass Pages.

In other words, the editorial letter #1 is really only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to working with a publisher on your book. :) Lots more steps are in store!

Now, here are some links to wrap up the week:
See you next week, dear readers! And don't forget: 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.