August 18, 2017
What's in this heart-to-heart?
Recent Goings On:
Because it feels wrong to self-promote or get excited about book stuff in the current global, political, getting-worse-everyday climate, I wanted to do something to counteract my own self-promo that's coming below.
So I shared this post
on instagram. Every like that it gets by the end of today (midnight ET) is a dollar I'll donate to Islamic Relief USA
. Yes, this could add up fast for me, but as my dad would always tell me, what's the point of having money if you don't spend it on others?
Please, be sure to like the post! And if you want to know more about this incredible charity (who I've worked with in the past! They are amazing
!!), then head here
For the Mislanders:
AND Cover Reveal!
A lot of you know what's coming -- what project I"m about to announce.
You've guessed it because it's been up on Amazon for two months now (whoops) and I've had a Pinterest board of it for three years. The project I'm talking about is, of course, Sightwitch.
SO WHAT IS IT?
Sightwitch is a 250 page Witchlands tale that will release in hardcover on January 23, 2018*. It's about Ryber. It's about Kullen. It's about when they met, and the story serves as a set-up to Bloodwitch as well as an expansion of the Witchlands world.
Basically, all those questions you had at the end of Windwitch? A LOT of them get answered in Sightwitch. You might not catch them all, but they're there. I mean, y'all know me: I love to hide all the keys in plain sight. 😉 But Sightwitch really does fill in huge gaps in the world and in the reader's awareness of what's going on.
I'm so excited for this story. As I talk about below, I started working on it 2014, and everything was just wrong-wrong-wrong. But now? NOW? Oh, the story was finally there and I just love Ryber and Kullen.
Seriously, I can't wait to share this book with you all.
BUT WHAT ABOUT BLOODWITCH, SUSAN? WE WANT THAT NEXT!
I know, I know. 🙈 And I'm afraid it's not coming out until early 2019. While this was not my decision, I do understand why the sales team made it. Publishing is a business; they have schedules to adhere to; and because Windwitch was so late, everyone got behind. That was MY fault, and to regain all the time we lost (because of ME!), the team has had to push Bloodwitch back to early 2019
I'm really sorry. I really, really am.
But hey, I'll make it up to you by showing you the Sightwitch cover. Right now. Right here.
And for the record: this is exclusive. You all are the ONLY people seeing this, and I ask that you please don't share online. You can talk about seeing it and brag to you friends that YOU got an early look, but please don't post it anywhere.
Cool? Cool. Let's do this. 🎉🎉🎉🎉
I honestly didn't think the cover designer could top the Windwitch design, but he did. Each new cover seems to get exponentially better than the one before.
And like, what I love even more about this design is that it is SO perfect for the story! Every single element that you see here is actually in the book. It's freaking fantastic. I am seriously the luckiest author ever.
What do you all think?
Oh, and because it would be remiss of me not to provide the obligatory links for preorder, here you go. Buy the book if you so desire, but know that I still love you even if you don't. 💗
*1/23/17 is the US release date. I don't know yet about UK or other countries!
For the Daydreamers:
Never Abandon a Project Forever
I want to tell you a story about Sightwitch. It's a long story, so hunker in.
It's also a story that perfectly displays everything I've learned about writing in the past 3 years -- and why I now know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I should never ever abandon a project entirely. Some projects simply need to be set aside for a few months...or a few decades before they're ready to be written.
This tale begins in the spring of 2014.
As I've mentioned in newsletters before, I was at a crossroads in my career prior to the release of Truthwitch. I really, really needed Truthwitch to succeed -- or at least succeed enough so that I could keep my name. (Otherwise, I was going to need to change my name to ever sell another book again. It's better to be an unknown debut than an author with a bad sales record.)
I decided to take a page from the adult romance world and publish a prequel novella. My thought was that it would whet readers' appetites and help build hype for Truthwitch.
I also wanted to take a page from the self-publishing world and publish this prequel novella on my own -- and then offer it for a very low price point. Again, the hope was that it would draw readers in. (If you ever want to learn about self-promotion and how to build hype, look to the indie world. They know what they're doing and are constantly finding news way to do it.)
So that was my plan: write a prequel novella about Ryber and Kullen, two characters I adore and who have huge impacts on the overall arc of the Witchlands. I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo 2014, I read a thousand books on self-publishing and attended many a workshop, and I was ready to go!
ADDITIONALLY, because I just can't ever seem to help it, I decided to offer an exclusive few aspiring authors (which quickly became 120 people 😂) the ability to watch me create Sightwitch. I called it "Write A Book With Sooz" and I shared not only my rough draft scenes as I wrote them but ALSO wrote up lessons and explanations of what I was doing.
Spoiler alert: I failed miserably. At all of it. The writing, the Camp NaNo, the workshopping, the self-publishing. Fail, fail, fail, fail.
In hindsight, I can see where things went go awry. But at the time, all I knew was that I couldn't make the story work. False start after false start after false start -- NOTHING I wrote about Ryber and Kullen felt right.
From April of 2014 until the end of October 2014, I tried to make this prequel work. Instead of working on the next book in the series, Windwitch, I was working on this. I wrote a hundred different versions. I tried Ryber's POV, I tried Kullen's. I tried a serialized edition. I tried starting en media res, I tried starting slow. I tried with X backstory and Y backstory and just about everything in between.
Nothing. Worked. My anxiety was through the roof. If I couldn't make this work, then my career was toast.
Seriously, I feel sick thinking back on that time in my life. *shudders*
I think you can see how this stress and failure only paved the way for more stress and failure with Windwitch. Because yes, Sightwitch in 2014 was only the START of 2 more years of awful, awful suckage and the inability to find the Right Story.
And as if that wasn't bad enough, recall: I was showing people my failure. It was on display for the workshop group -- and I don't think I even showed them ALL of it. It was just too embarrassing having to share all my false starts and failed attempts with 120 people. Plus, it took so much time. So I think I ended up only sharing ~1/3. (Forgive me, please, for my dishonesty.)
But you know what the worst of it all was? The self-loathing. I see myself as productive, hard-working, and disciplined. To have no product at the end of month 1...then month 2...then 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 -- it clashed against everything I'd ever believed about myself.
Did it matter that I was writing words every single day? Nope. All I saw was my inability to make this story work and to create a finished product.
And of course, that cycle continued for another 2 years with Windwitch.
After Windwitch was finally done (last September), I realized Bloodwitch would likely be bumped back. We were all just too far behind thanks to my heaps and heaps of failure. I felt awful -- for my team at Tor Teen who'd worked so hard to get that book out. And also for my readers, who were now going to have to wait because I sucked so bad.
So I started toying in the back of my mind with Sightwitch again. Just a few nudges here in there. I'd always loved the setting of that story and I still adored the characters. Huh, I wondered. Maybe...just maybe...
I planted the seed. Then I turned to promoting Windwitch, running the street team, touring, and even dabbling a bit in Bloodwitch.
Then, in February of this year, my editor brought up Sightwitch. "Remember that novella you tried to write? Any chance...maybe...we could get that now? To tide readers over?"
"Hmmm," I answered. My fear, of course, was that I would agree and then let Tor Teen down AGAIN. Not to mention, any time gained by bumping Bloodwitch would be lost if I also had to tackle Sightwitch. "Maybe," I said at last. "Big maybe."
Because she's awesome (and Tor Teen is awesome), she was like, "Cool. Keep me posted."
Fast forward three months. I brainstormed -- but gently. As if I was trying to calm a skittish dog and didn't want to make direct eye contact. I dabbled a bit on my whiteboard and in my notebooks, but nothing too serious. Then May came, and whoa. Guys. GUYS. GUUUYYSSS.
The idea was there. It took me a few false starts -- each only a few pages -- before I wrote the opening that exists today.
And oh my gosh, I had been so wrong about EVERYTHING! Oh, the setting and backstories and characters weren't so different from 2014, but the format was! It wasn't meant to be 3rd person, but rather 1st! And there wasn't supposed to be a romance in there (what had I been thinking?), but rather Ryber's amazing solo journey with Kullen smushed in along the way.
Oh, and that normal chapter-by-chapter approach? Naw. This needed to be told as found footage -- diary entries and documents from Ryber's world. Illustrations and poems and snippets of textbooks that populate the Witchlands.
Perhaps most important of all, the story wasn't meant to be told as a prequel. Sure, the events in Sightwitch happen prior to Truthwitch, but what happens in Sightwitch is all information that is KEY to Bloodwitch. In fact, there are some pretty major spoilers in there if you read it before book 1. 😂
It only took me a whopping 3 years to figure all this out. 3 years of gestation that I now realize all my ideas need. (I said the same thing about Windwitch, didn't I? 2 years into working on it, and the ideas finally came.)
So May came, and I started working solely on Sightwitch. Beginnings of sequels are always my kryptonite, and I had quite a few stop-go-stop-go moments as I teased out the plot and really got to know my characters.
But I felt good about the book. Like really good.
By end of June, I had ~32K written. It was, at this point, that my editor said, "It'd be great if you could get me the manuscript by the end of next week."
Without hesitation, I said, "Let's go." Then I immediately signed up for Camp NaNoWrimo. AGAIN.
Now recall: I'm not a fast writer, but I threw every hour of the next 7 days into that manuscript. And a LOT of you followed along with me on the #sprintingdaydreamers hashtag as well as my instastories!
I wrote 20K in the next 4 days and clocked in at 52K total for the tale. Then, I revised the whole project in 3 days after that.
It was awesome.
Actually, it was glorious. The story was there. The twists, the turns, the character growth and desperate desire -- all the beats that had so horribly eluded me for 3 years ago were now there for the writing. Oh gosh, it was such a needed confidence boost after the epic fail of Windwitch AND of Sightwitch 1.0.
My failure from Camp NaNo in 2014 was now a success story!
Guys, can you believe it? It still doesn't feel quite real to me...but I did it! Somehow, I wrote a project (that I'm proud of!) from start to finish in a reasonable amount of time and without missing a single deadline.
So this is why I emphasize and will continue to emphasize that YOU SHOULD NEVER GIVE UP ON A STORY.
If you find yourself stuck or writing in circles, then set the project aside. Ideas need time. Your subconscious needs time (mine needs a LOT of it!).
I will never make the same mistake I made with Sightwitch 1.0 & Windwitch of trying to "just get words down" so I can reach the end of the day feeling like I did word. I know now what it feels like when a story hasn't simmered long enough. I know how to recognize that resistance and sense of blugh-this-all-feels-wrong.
Sure, you can fix things later...but only if what you first wrote down was the Right Story.
And no, this doesn't mean if words don't just burst forth then you haven't found the Right Story. Writing is still work; it still demands time and discipline. But when you just can't see what happens next and you feel like each scene is flagging worse than the one that came before, then take a pause. Work on something else entirely for as long as deadlines will allow.
I suspect, given enough bake time, your subconscious WILL find the answers -- and they likely won't be what you expected at all. In fact, I wager they'll be a lot better.
October 21, 2017
Grand Rapids, MI
As always, here are some links for your weekend! Thank you for reading!