Copy
For Readers & Writers
from Susan Dennard
M&D Issue #141


June 19, 2019


What's in this heart-to-heart?


Recent Goings On:


I'm back in the IVF slog. I am very, very anxiously awaiting an update on Monday. Keep everything crossed for me, friends.

All this waiting (and constant 2-hour drives to the only fertility doctor around) makes creative focus extremely difficult, but as I mentioned earlier this year, as long as I get in my 2 hours a day, then I make progress. Slowly, but surely.

(Also, I keep tweaking the look of the newsletter lately. Pardon my dust while I figure out how exactly I want it to look.)

What I'm Playing:

What I'm Reading:



For the DenNerds:

 

Come see me at GenCon!

 

I'll be at GenCon in two weeks!

The gamer geek in me is SO EXCITED. I've never been, and I'm delighted that I get to go as both an author and uber fangirl.

My goal is to buy a million dice sets, as many dorky t-shirts as I can find, and ALL the dungeon master paraphernalia I absolutely do not need.

FOR THE RECORD, every event at GenCon is ticketed! THIS INCLUDES MY SIGNING. You can get tickets for it here.

Here's where to find me:



For the Daydreamers:


Treat Your Writing Like a Job


If you write, you are a writer.

Period.

There are, however, some elements that distinguish a professional writer from an amateur -- and no, it isn't merely that one gets paid.

And look: I feel I should preface this post by saying there is no wrong reason to write. In fact, I'd argue that hobby writers (who write purely for pleasure) actually derive greater joy from their work than the pros.

Or perhaps I should say, they derive fewer pains and less agony from it. (No deadlines or income dependence + writing purely for love allows = a creative freedom that is almost impossible to otherwise capture.)

But many of us are compelled to write because we are compelled to SHARE, meaning at some point, we leave behind pure hobby-writing and instead take on the title of "aspiring author."

In other words, we seek publication of some kind -- and any time that word "publishing" is on the table (be it self- or traditional-) then the competition is high.

I mean, high.

And look, you can complain all you want about how bad books get published. I won't deny that there are varying degrees of quality out there, but the reality is that for every book you don't enjoy, there were thousands of others that were submitted to agents and publishers that never made it. Some were good. Some were terrible. Some were REALLY good, yet for whatever reason, they were set aside.

I have talked so much about the role of luck in publishing. I won't bore you with another lecture on it. Just remember that in order to HAVE that good luck, you need to have a good product -- the best product you can make it.

And in order to do that, you have to treat your writing like a professional. Which means:

  1. You have to show up and do the work.
  2. You have to train and improve your craft.
  3. You have to finish something.
Show Up & Do the Work

One of the most frustrating things that I (and all authors) here from people is, "Oh, I plan to write a book one day."

As if it's just so easy to write a book. 

Whenever someone says that, though I know right away that they probably never will "write a book one day." Why? Because if you want to write a book, you'll do it now.

Yes, I understand people have day jobs and families. I'm not saying you need to FINISH A book now. All I'm saying is that there is a vast difference between the person who says, "I plan to write a book one day" and the person who says, "I am currently writing a book."

The latter person is actually making an effort. Now. Because really, there's absolutely no reason to wait.
 
There is a person in my life who once asked me, "How do you get it done?" He has had this one idea (nonfiction) that he has been claiming for literal years he'll write. But he has yet to actually type a word...

And honestly, I doubt he ever will.

His simple question reveals more than he realizes. Why? Because writing is just like any other job.

And you "get it done" just like you get any other job done: you show up and you do the work.

And look: I'm not saying you need to write every day.

In fact, I am a loud advocate of not writing every day if that doesn't jibe with your creative style.

What I AM saying is that you have to work every day. That might be new words on a page or might just be brainstorming...or it might be writing a synopsis for an agent. The point is that you put in some amount of time -- NO MATTER HOW SMALL -- toward the act of writing.

Just like I discussed back in February when I was deep in the throes of grief and book release mania, I still showed up at my desk every day and focused on the next Witchlands. And right now, despite the rollercoaster of hormones and anxiety, I still allot at least 2 hours a day.

You might allot less (or more). There is no wrong amount. The point is you just have to do it.

Show up. Do the work. Treat it like a job because it is one.
Train & Improve Your Craft

One of the most frustrating things that I (and all authors) here from people is, "Oh, I plan to write a book one day."

OH WAIT. I think just said that...?

Yep, yep I did.

And my response is usually:
 


What else can you say, really, when you hear someone so flippantly dismiss your own hard work? Because for real: IT IS NOT THAT EASY TO JUST WRITE A BOOK.

I mean, no one walks around saying, "Oh, I'll become a brain surgeon one day." (Unless they are still in school, of course, in which case: go for it.) Yet all the time people walk around saying, "Oh, I'll write a book one day."

Writing is a career, and like most careers, it requires training. Extensive training.

Sure, there is such a thing as raw talent, but even raw talent will only take you so far. (There is actually a LOT of research on this subject. I highly recommend the book GRIT by Angela Duckworth for more.)
 
I said this before on Twitter and received some pushback, but I stand by it and will repeat for newcomers.

Writing a lot ≠ improving your craft

Writing a lot does improve your endurance, but it doesn't teach you the intricacies of plot or worldbuilding or thoughtful representation. You're just getting better at writing more words. (And also getting better at finding your unique voice.) This is important, but it's only a part of the equation.

Think of it like a long distance runner.

Sure, you can slowly add more and more distance to your runs. And your ability to run for sustained periods will undeniably improve. But if that's all you're doing, you're never going to reach a competitive level.

Runners who compete add in all sorts of other workouts to improve their body beyond just endurance. I don't know what those workouts are because running is actual torture for me, but I've seen them with their coaches at the gym doing...something that ain't just circling the track.

Of course, if you're reading this newsletter, then you likely take your craft seriously already. You are clearly invested in learning more and taking your toolbox to the next level.

BUT, if you need more resources on learning, I'll direct you to a post I recently did on just that.
Finish Something

I know this might seem obvious, but it is actually pretty important. To be a true professional, you must finish a project.

It's so easy to fall into the trap of talking about our books more than we actually work on them.

But how are you going to published if you don't have a finished book? How are you going to polish it until it shines, if it isn't first done?

I'm guilty of this all the time! I have so many half-finished (or even almost finished!) books on my hard drive, but ughhhhhh. FINISHING IS HARD.

But you know what works really well for finishing a book?

Showing up and doing the work.

And yu know what else works really well for finishing a book?

Learning about craft, so you have the confidence to know where your story needs to go.

If you're still struggling to finish though, I have one more suggestion: Accountability. Find yourself a writer's group (online is a great place to look!). Sign up for NaNoWriMo (or Camp NaNo is still going on!). Find a critique partner who can both push your craft and cheer you on (while you do the same for them!).

When other people are waiting for you to finish -- when other people are trying to finish as well! -- it can really motivate YOU to also get it done.
And that my friends, is what it takes to become a pro. It's what it takes to remain a pro, too.

Like the brain surgeon, you don't just show up for one surgery and never go in again -- you write one book. Then another. Then another and another, right up until (hopefully) the day you die.

And like a long distance runner, you never stop training. You constantly learn more and push your craft to the next level. If you don't...well, trust me: we all know authors like that. The ones where you're like, What happened? I used to love their books.

Don't slip backwards. Don't get complacent. And don't just talk about writing -- actually get it done.

Write. Study. Finish. Repeat.
 


Upcoming Events:

 

GenCon
Full schedule above!
August 1-4, 2019
Indianapolis, IN
Thank you for reading! I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

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Copyright © 2019
Susan Dennard
All rights reserved.


110 West 40th St.
Suite 2201
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I'm a misfit, a daydreamer,
a fangirl, an animal-lover,
a feminist killjoy,
and a gluten-free
cookie-eater. 🐙
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