For Readers & Writers

from Susan Dennard

July 17, 2015

San Diego Comic-Con was AMAZING, guys. I had so much fun, met so many new wonderful people, hung out with many old, dear friends too, and spotted more than a few celebrities.

Also, Outlander panel. 'Nuff said.


Oh, and I finally boarded the Instagram train!!! Follow me here!! 
For the Misfits:
Chicago Signing & #Witchlanders
(Note: the image to the right is the poster back, as designed by the lovely Erin Bowman. It's gorgeous, isn't it?? YOU KNOW YOU WANT ITTTT...)

First order of business: UPCOMING EVENT ALERT!
  • What: A signing! All 3 Something Strange & Deadly books will be available +  Truthwitch posters! + I'll be giving away 1 ARC of Truthwitch!
  • Where: Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, IL
  • When: 7PM on August 4th! I'll chat before hand, and then we'll get to the signing!! 
Second order of business: The#Witchlanders team members have been announced and the clans are getting to know each other! Two things about this:
  • If you didn't get on the team this go-around, don't worry! Each clan will be welcoming 1-2 new members every month until Truthwitch hits stores! So you still have a chance. Just let us know you're interested by tweeting Truthwitch-related stuff with the @Truthwitch handle & #Witchlanders hashtag! :)
  • If you're not on the team, please don't be upset with me, @Truthwitch, or my team at Tor & New Leaf. We had 450 people apply, and because of time and money constraints, we could only afford 60 members (for now). I'm sorry about that -- I really, truly am. There is currently something in the works that'll make it up to you all -- I promise. 

For the Daydreamers:
Plotting Tips & Tricks
Someone recently emailed me for some advice on plotting -- specifically:
How do I plot? And how do I deepen plots?

This isn't an easy question to answer, and obviously, what works for me won't work for everyone (or even most people). But since I'm a glutton for writing-punishment, I'll take a stab.

First off: HOW I PLOT. If you haven't read my plotting/planning series on my blog, then start there. That really will tell you everything you need to know about my personal method.

Next: check out my post on planning a series. It might help you all as well -- especially any of you with larger-scope books (such as epic fantasy or space opera) and/or full series.

Those posts are, quite simply, how I plot a novel -- be it the third book in a series or the first in something new. 
Everything in those posts is the same today -- I rely on spiral-bound notebooks, I stream-of-consciousness scribble out ALL my ideas, I mind-map, and things get messy. :)

In fact, they get REALLY messy, and I can have a hell of a time keeping track of all the various subplots, character arcs, etc. Here you can see me trying to figure out how three points of view will overlap in Windwitch (I've blurred out spoiler-y stuff!):


Here's the thing: I'll make lists like the above outline A LOT. Like, every few pages in my spiral-bound notebook, I'll make another loose skeleton of scenes. With 4 main POV characters, this is the only way I can make sure every plot lines up, intersects, and fits together.

BUT, because the story is constantly changing and some new, unexpected ideas will send everything shooting in a new direction, I'm also CONSTANTLY reevaluate individual plot-lines like this (look familiar?):


The above is a single characters various scenes. I write down everything already written as well as ideas for scenes to come. Then I go back through with an erasable pen and try to number it into a logical order.

Plus, because the story is constantly evolving and changing based on emotional dominoes, I have to reevaluate the trajectory and how all those stories overlap/connect every 2-3 new scenes. So for example, here's a later version of the first image. I'm trying to figure out how two POVs overlap (if you look closely, you'll see some similarities + major differences between this scene list and the first one):


So yeah. Lots of lists and looking at scenes from above. Lots of changing directions and squinting ahead without zooming in too close. Since things never go as planned, I don't like to outline too deeply. It's best for me to have a vague sense of direction and follow it as long as it still feel "right."

Now, moving on to HOW I DEEPEN PLOTS.

So...bad news: I don't know how I do this. I mean, I know on the surface what I do -- I look at character and I deepen consequences -- but the mechanics of that...Phew! I can't even begin to break it down!

All I can really say is that, after I have a first (or thirtieth) draft, if I'm still trying to deepen things, then I 1) TAKE A BREAK. A few weeks gives me awesome clarity and much-needed objectivism.

Then, I'll 2)
make sure every emotional domino is falling as it should, 3) each character is acting true to character, 4) the consequences from bad stuff are comparably BAD/agonizing for the character, and 5) characters are 3D with rich backstories.

Example: one of my favorite authors of all time is Michael Crichton. Complex science + high-intensity action + thriller elements? YES, PLEASE. I will devour (and re-devour) his books any day.

But, for all the plot complexities and intricate scientific details, I would never call his books particular deep. Why? Because the characters are never too deeply developed, and their choices/actions are very much plot-driven.

Now let's look at Andy Weir's The Martian. It's also c
omplex science + high-intensity action + thriller elements, and yet that book MADE ME CRY. Like, legit sob from my relief and happiness and deep, deep joy at the end. Why? Because I cared so much about the characters that, when the end was reached, I was as happy/broken/moved as they were. I knew their histories, I knew why this story mattered to them personally, and I saw how every action/choice was character-driven.

And THAT makes a deeper read -- at least for me. :)

What do you all think? How do you deepen plot? I'd love to hear your answer in the forum, if you have a chance. :D

AAAND, Just so you all know: I'm going out of town for a week with NO INTERNET starting next Friday (7/24-8/2). I'll have my phone, so I'll probably tweet some, and I'll definitely Instagram (um, I'm clearly already hooked), but emails and the like will go unread for at least a week. Plus, my newsletter won't get updated again until early August. Hopefully when I return from my trip, I'll have a finished (or almost finished) book 2! :D

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, a fangirl, an animal-lover, and a (now gluten-free) cookie-eater.