For Readers & Writers

from Susan Dennard

February 10, 2017

What's in this heart-to-heart?


Recent Goings On:

*whispers* The writing is going really well, guys. I don't want to jinx it which is why I'm whispering. But the words are flowing, the ideas are connecting, and I'm excited to sink into my story everyday.

I'll talk more about why I
think this is happening later, but for now...Shhhh...Don't scare away the muse.

For the Mislanders:

Giveaway Winner + Truthwitch Covers Around the World

First things first, I must announce the GIVEAWAY winner!! Thank you to all who entered, and get ready: A SUPER HUGE, SUPER COOL CONTEST is coming this way very, very soon.

And the winner is...
Zandalee Marie!

I'll email you ASAP, Zandalee!

I compiled this graphic a few weeks back and totally forgot to share here. It's all the Truthwitch covers to date! (Or at least that I know of.) How cools is that?

From top left to bottom right, we have covers from Poland, Romania, Turkey, Germany, UK, Russia, UK mass market paperback, and Bulgaria.

I think the UK mass market paperback might be my fave. I mean, that sea fox, though! Then again, I still have covers from Taiwan, Brazil, and Serbia to look forward! Perhaps my favorite will change. 😉

Which is your favorite cover for Truthwitch?

For the Daydreamers:

Postmortems For Your Writing

This post is a continuation of the last newsletter, in which I introduced the importance of analyzing a project postmortem. The reason for this being,
  • How can we improve if we don't look back at what did & did not work?
  • While we often believe our future selves will do better/work harder/have more discipline/etc., rarely does this actually prove true.

I already discussed how we do not live in vacuums. Our creative lives are inevitably affected by everything else happening to us and around us. I made a long, personalized list (that will likely grow) of what I often find interferes with my creative output -- and I challenged you to do the same.

This week, I want to tackle an actual postmortem. I want to ask questions and answer honestly (sans judgement!) about what I think worked and did not work in my last project.

The beast that broke me, Windwitch.

To come up with these questions, I asked my husband (an engineer/program manager) to dig up some old postmortems from past projects he's worked on. I wanted to look at what kinds of questions they asked.

No joke, THE QUESTIONS WERE THE WORST. (Babe, your company really needs to up their game if they want to improve.)

Literally, all they ask after a multimillion dollar project concludes is:
  1. What worked?
  2. What didn't work?
  3. What can we improve?
Really? Really? Questions like that offer no traction -- no specifics to dig into and use for self-analysis. Worse, they give WAY too much room to blame other people/circumstances for mistakes you might've made.

Cue: Susan running to google. A quick search instantly yielded far better options for in-depth project analysis, and I've taken what I found here, expanded on it a LOT, and come up with this postmortem for my fellow writers.

Download a PDF version of this template here.

What Went Well

  1. Off the top of your head, what are you most proud of from the latest project?
  2. What went better than you anticipated? i.e. What was easier than expected?
  3. Were you early or ahead of schedule at any point in the project?
  4. Name three moments from the project that, while happening, made you feel good -- good about the project, good about yourself, whatever. Just name three moments that were positive.
  5. List any challenges that you set for yourself/your writing that you also know you met. These can be as simple as "I finished an entire book!" or as complex as "I wrote a book with no clear villain."
What Did Not Go Well
  1. Off the top of your head, what was the most frustrating part of this project?
  2. Were there any aspects you that thought would be easy but that were ultimately difficult?
  3. Were you behind schedule at any point?
  4. List any challenges that you set for yourself/your writing that you DID NOT MEET.
  5. What recurring issues with the story did people such as your editor, critique partner(s), agent, trusted reader(s) raise with regards to the story?
  6. Rank in order from what went SMOOTHEST to what went WORST:
Idea Generation
Drafting New Words
Spotting Problems to Fix
Fixing Problems/Revising
Taking Criticism
Applying Criticism/Editing
 Staying Motivated
Time Management

Other Questions
  1. Did you end up with the a product you are proud of?
  2. Did you have adequate help to complete the project? i.e. Did you have critique partners, editorial/publishing support, family support, people to brainstorm with, etc.?
  3. Based on the previous questions, were your deadlines realistic for the project?
  4. Why do you think your highest ranked (smoothest) step went well?
  5. Why do you think your lowest rank (worst) step was difficult?

Timeline Recap

Try to recap, as best you can, what the timeline for the project was. When did you begin? What were the deadlines? What progress did you make, when were things difficult, when did you finish a first draft, etc.?
Once you have a timeline, make note of areas where life might have interfered and negatively impacted (or positively impacted!) your creative output.

The purpose of this is to visually SEE, from a more "birds eye view," what worked and what didn't. This also gives a clearer idea of how general life can bleed into our creative life -- and vice versa.
For future projects, I urge you to keep general track of progress, deadlines, emotional noise while the project is unfolding. That way, when it is time for your next postmortem, you’ll already have a timelines to assess and analyze!

That's a lot to assess, I know. But it's also really hard to break apart creativity and recognize what went "wrong" versus what went "right."

My hope is that these questions will help get us all a bit closer to definitive answers -- because only with a clear understanding of the past can we possibly course-correct for the future.

If you want to, you can follow along with me as I fill out the postmortem myself!

Maybe watching ME figure things out will help you. At the very least, you can have a good laugh at my expense. 💕

Also, DO NOT FORGET! Akshaya Raman and I will be doing another live chat next week!

Join us on Thursday, February 16 at 8PM ET with your questions. We'll be discussing techniques to develop romance and other relationships in your fiction.

Tune in here for the coming chat!

Upcoming Events:
Joseph-Beth Booksellers (with Emery Lord!)
Feb. 26, 2017 at 4PM
Cincinnati, OH

Brookline Booksmith (with VE Schwab!)
Feb. 27, 2017 at 7PM
Boston, MA

Books of Wonder (with VE Schwab, Kim Liggett, & Erika Lewis!)
Feb. 28, 2017 at 6PM
New York, NY

Barnes & Noble, Neshaminy Mall (with Elise Kova!)
March 1, 2017 at 6PM
Bensalem, PA

One More Page (with Jodi Meadows!)
March 2, 2017 at 7PM
Arlington, VA


Thanks for reading, dear friends, and I'll see you again in 2 weeks!


photo by Emily Rae Photography

Copyright © 2017
Susan Dennard
All rights reserved.

110 West 40th St., Suite 2201
New York, NY 10018

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