For Readers & Writers

from Susan Dennard

April 4, 2014
I'm in Seattle right now. YAY! I've never been. :) Because I'm away, it'll be a few days before I answer more forum questions. (Also, if you aren't aware, I answer some questions directly in the forum, so they never make it into the newsletter or onto my blog.)

Unrelated, I had the stomach flu last weekend and ended up in the hospital after puking myself into dehydration. I do NOT recommend, though I will say it's cool to have had the experience. ;) Now I know what death feels like (yes, I exaggerate...though at the time, I truly thought I must be dying) and I also know how it feels to have an IV. That IV experience will definitely end up in Starkillers somewhere. Still, I highly urge you to avoid the stomach flu + dehydration at all costs.

 For the Misfits:
Awesome Recent Reads
Because of my unexpected and FORCED vacation from the 1-2 punch combo of flu-dehydration, I was able to binge read for a few days--something I haven't done in years...But also something that my creative well desperately needed. Reading several books back to back gave me a tons of fodder for my own work, and it was BRILLIANT.

So if you're looking for some books to pick up or your curious what books inspire ME, I shall direct you to...
  • The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart -- I am a HUGE Mary Stewart fan, yet somehow I'd never read this one! She's a very famous gothic mystery writer that always has some deliciously tense romance thrown in. I highly recommend this twisty tale! Also, you just gotta love those old-school covers...
  • The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart -- This is the first in Mary Stewarts historical fantasy series (and, as far as I know, her only books to stray from the gothic mystery genre). It's a first-person accounting of Merlin's life and the King Arthur myth. As per most of Stewart's writing, the setting is SO rich and the plot deliciously twisty. It is long though...and slow at times. Still, I loved every second.
  • The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley -- This was an old favorite that I sort of wish I hadn't re-read. It was...disappointing. The writing and world were BEAUTIFUL and EPIC, just like I remembered, but it turns out the hero and heroine really have no personality...and definitely no character arcs. But hey, I still enjoyed the read.
  • Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier -- I love Marillier's adult books, and this was the first decidedly YA novel I've read from her. Like most of her books, the world was beautifully evoked--magical and dark and tangible on the page. Unlike her other books, the romance was more on the tame/sweet side (presumably because of the YA audience). Still, it was a great read.
  • Quatrain by Sharon Shinn -- This is actually a collection of novellas, each tale set in a different world from Shinn's various series. It was a really nice read, though my favorite was the first story (angel romance = automatic swoon).
And there you have it folks! Those are the books that I read and enjoyed enough to recommend. :) As always, if you have any questions about Something Strange and Deadly or Truthwitch, just head over to the forums to ask.

For the Daydreamers:
Endurance When Writing a Novel
So, quickly: Camp NaNoWriMo IS GOING ON!! The forum we have for the event is up and running and we're sharing our daily goals as well as meeting up for sprints. Stop by if you're partaking in the epicness that is Camp NaNo!

And, the First Five Pages Workshop will open to entries tomorrow (4/5) at noon ET!! I'm a regular mentor on there (meaning I critique 1 person's work each week, every week, every workshop). Be sure to enter if you're interested in getting a thorough, helpful critique. :)

Alrighty, let's move onto a question from the Daydreamer forum now:

I am a fairly new writer and I wanted to try my hand at writing a novel. I’ve really only written stuff that’s about 2K max and I’m finding it kind of intimidating to have to write so much (60K+). Because of this, I feel like my “endurance” is pretty weak and I find myself wanting to quit and work on something else. In addition, I am a pretty slow writer, which doesn’t help with the endurance thing. Any advice on this?

(Note: I'm just gonna go ahead and apologize for all the personal links ahead. I feel like the endurance problem could be speaking to a number of different issues that I've addressed before, and I want to make sure have everything on the subject and can get to the root of your problem!)

Endurance will ALWAYS be something you have to work on. But creative endurance is no different from endurance in any sport--the more you work at it, the better you get. Scientists say that willpower is like a muscle, and so much of endurance is simply 
willing yourself to keep going even when you don't want to.

So that's the first step I recommend taking: practice! One of the most beneficial returns that I gained from organizing my creative life around my Productivity Pyramid was that I increased my writing endurance and creative willpower. The amount of time I can stay focused + the amount of drive I can push into any work session has doubled. Quadrupled even. I practice every single day, and so my writing/focus muscles are constantly getting bigger.

Honestly, I cannot urge you enough to try some (if not all) of the pyramid. Ritual, routine, and rhythm are especially helpful for increasing that endurance muscle, while record can really help you stay motivated.

BUT! Before I send you off to analyze your productivity habits, I want to make sure that you’re actually dealing with an endurance problem. It might be that your desire to quit isn’t stemming from a willpower dearth but a lack of passion for your idea. If you think that might be the case, I urge you to check out my posts here (about writing constipation), here (about maintaining passion), and here (about magical cookie scenes!).

Another culprit for your ughhhh feeling might be a FRAB (fear-related artistic block). Writer’s block is definitely a “thing”, and it can crop up in unexpected ways. To know if fear is your issue, I’m going to send you to my FRAB to Fab series. :)
The last cause I can conjure for your quitting-urge is that your story idea might not be LARGE enough for a full book. I’ve definitely done this before—jumped into a shiny new idea (a.k.a. SNI) only to discover several chapters in that my idea isn’t big enough to sustain an entire novel.
Consider that a novel is upwards of 60,000 words (all of the SS&D series have been ~90K; Truthwitch is currently 140K). That’s a LOT of story, so you need multiple characters with rich, 3D histories and personalities. You need multiple plots—external and internal—that all weave together and interact. You need a vivid setting that can both help and hinder your main characters. And you need stakes—big stakes—that can propel a character for 300 pages and also keep a reader invested. That’s a lot to ask from a single idea!

If you think this might be your problem (a shiny idea that isn't big enough), take some time away from drafting to focus on outlining and planning. Try reading my series on planning or I highly recommend K.M. Weiland's book, Outlining Your Novel. Even if your a "pantser" normally, I think a bit of planning might go a long way if this is your problem.

So I hope that helps some. If not, feel free to let me know and I'll try again. And don't forget: if anyone has a writing-related question, 
you can ask me in this forum!

Now, to wrap up the Daydreamer's section, here are the best writing-related articles I read this week: Okay, I'm off to have some famous Seattle coffee with my sister! On Monday I have an AWESOME GIVEAWAY coming (a signed advanced copy of Frozen by Erin Bowman!!!), so stay tuned for that!

Again, thank you for signing up for the Misfits & Daydreamers. See you next week, my dears!

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.