For Readers & Writers

from Susan Dennard

August 1, 2014
Phew. I survived July. I wasn't sure I would with all the stuff going on...

And in totally cool (but completely irrelevant news), I got bumped to the advanced tap class at my dance studio! I was in the beginner class, but my teacher decided I was ready to move on and up! Woohoo! Shuffle, hop, stomps--here I come! (I basically want to be these guys when I grow up.)

Anyway, I'll be off in Germany and France next week, so no newsletter. Just a heads up. :)

For the Misfits:
June & July Musical Inspiration:

As mentioned, July (and June) was kinda nuts. As such, it's been ages since I shared my current musical writing jams! So here we go (there's lots to catch up on).

The Pompeii soundtrack by Clinton Shore. WHOA. Oh my gosh, EVERY composition on this movie score is incredible. Starting with the opening music and all the way to the end--GAH. Just bring the epic, guys.
  • Pompeii Opening -- Slow build, epic finish. Just wait for that 1:04 mark...
  • My Gods -- A lot of awesome energy in a short, intense piece. I actually have this on my jogging playlist, and I jam to this for exciting fight or chase scenes.
  • I Won't Leave You -- This piece is slower and soft. It's perfect for all your romantic, super emotional scenes. Cue the tears.
Two Steps From Hell's latest creative endeavor, Colin Frake on Fire Mountain, is incredible. I was actually really disappointed by their album Miracles, but Colin Frake more than makes up for it. Now, I have NOT read the book that goes along with this--though I plan to. For now, I'm just obsessed with the music.
  • Nightwood -- I think this is my favorite piece on the album. I'm not sure what about it I love so much, but it just really resonates with my current WIP, Sightwitch.
  • Colin Frake -- You can actually watch the orchestra perform this one! So cool. As for the music itself...Well, you don't get more "classic high fantasy" than this. Also, can we discuss the awesome that is the 1:31 mark.
  • Gore's Theme -- I just love this music. So much FEELING in it. This is another piece I'll listen to on repeat for romance scenes.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 by John Powell. I have been frothing at the mouth for this soundtrack ever since I heard there was going to be a second movie. The first How to Train Your Dragon movie score ranks as one of my all time favorites...and now I can happily say the sequel's score does too.
  • Dragon Racing -- Here we have all the classic themes from the first movie, and ungh!!! My heart just soars hearing it.
  • Stoick's Ship -- This is a quiet theme, and something about the gentle opening just...whoa! There go the heartstrings! This is another piece I'll use for romantic scenes.
  • Flying with Mother -- I love the energy and vibe of this piece. Joy! Family and friends! Celebration!! This is one of those songs I'll listen to when I'm wrapping up a novel and everyone's rejoicing/relaxed. ;)
In addition to those movie scores, I have a few standalone pieces I'm obsessed with (like, these have been on repeat for the last month):
  • Sand by Nathan Lanier -- I LOVE the way the percussion comes in (at the 0:44 mark). It gives it such an intense, epic, slow-build vibe. I can just see wild magic being spun during this piece.
  • Autobots Reunite by Steve Jablonsky -- I adore the Transformers movie scores (the first one is ranked side-by-side with How to Train Your Dragon). It should, therefore, be no surprise that I LOVE THIS PIECE. Oh my gosh, I can just imagine my heroines walking in slow-mo with their blades out and the wind flying...Or maybe an epic montage while my heroines assemble their team and weapons...
  • Born to Conquer by PhReyMusic -- This is the ultimate in Villain Theme. Can't you just see the bad guy assembling his army of nasties?
So that's what I've been jamming to/writing to during June and July! What about you all? Feel free to share in the forum, or if you have any questions about Something Strange and Deadly orTruthwitch, just head over to the forums to ask.
For the Daydreamers:
Learning to Pivot

As I keep mentioning (sorry for the broken record effect!), things have been pretty busy and stressful for me lately. In the Evolution of a First Draft Workshop I'm currently running, I actually wrote a long lesson about the "power of the pivot"--something that helped me deal with my stress. I thought I'd share the basics with y'all too.

If you’ve ever read about startups or entrepreneurs, then you’ve come across the word pivot. Here’s the Wikipedia definition:

A pivot is a “structured course correction designed to test a new fundamental hypothesis about the product, strategy, and engine of growth.”

Basically, in the business world, if a plan isn’t working, you STOP FOLLOWING THAT PLAN. You reevaluate and adjust your course according to what you find.

It’s a simple concept, yet somehow I forgot it even existed until a week ago when, in a fit of stress and self-loathing, I cried into the phone at my agent: “I don’t think I’ll be able to meet our self-publishing plan, Jo! For one, the story I’m writing doesn’t feel like part 1 in a novella trilogy, but rather Act 1 in a duology. And for two, I’ve been so slow thanks to my health problems, that I’m not sure I’ll have a novella ready for an October pub date! I’m so sorry! I know I’ve never let you down before and I’ve always followed through and--”

“Okay, okay,” she interrupted in her usual soothing tones (she's the best agent in the world). “You’re being crazy, Susan, and please don’t take this the wrong way, but maybe some of these health issues are linked to stress. Or at the very least, you’re probably exacerbating the problem with your self-induced stress and work-load.

“But all we have to do to deal with this is to make a new plan. We’ll shoot for a winter pub date, and if you’re ready sooner than that, then great! And we’ll plan on a 2-novella duology, but if you decide you need a 3rd, then we can always publish that later. Sound good? Will that take some of the stress off your shoulders?”

I just sat there with my ear to the phone, my eyes shuttering and my mouth gaping. DUH. Just make a new plan! Jeez, Sooz! It was so stupidly obvious, and I didn’t know why I hadn’t thought of it already. It was like having a hundred pounds taken off my shoulders--I instantly felt lighter.

I mean, I reevaluate and pivot in my stories all the time (thank you cookie scenes and headlights outlining!), yet here I was being completely stubborn and intractable when it came to my own work plans and goals.

“Yes,” I finally answered her, “that sounds great. And, wow, I do have a lot less stress now.”

I got off the phone, sat down with goals and my work calendar, and remapped my future. I still wanted to meet my mission statement, but I didn't have to use my old plan to do it. In fact, I wrote a new plan under the assumption that my health was going to continue to be a problem, that my work-pace was going to continue to be slow...and it was ALL OKAY. In fact, I could still meet all my mission statement goals--just in a different way!

Suddenly everything seemed manageable, even if I was slow, and a lot of the stress that had been bogging me down was gone. Poof.

So in the future, whenever I’m not getting the results I want or I feel like my personal trajectory is totally off course--or if I’m just plain too stressed to write!--then I’ll evaluate and change course.

In other words, I'll pivot. :)

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! (And don't forget, I'll be out of town from 8/4-8/13.)

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.