Guest Post: Susan Dennard Gets Messy

Writing Song of the Day: “A Beautiful Mess” by Jason Mraz

Today we welcome Susan Dennard, author of the 2012 debut,  Something Strange & Deadly.  This week the WOA girls are all promoting this awesome debut novel. And of course, giving YOU a chance to read the novel before it’s release date. So, read on and find out about Susan’s writing process!


My writing process is…well…messy.

Initially, I spew out complete and utter drivel, my fingers flying over the keyboard faster than my brain can even process. And then, after about 3-4 weeks of this, I crash. I’m usually halfway or three quarters of the way finished with the first draft when I  hit this metldown-point, and I’ve usually just reached the notorious MY-BOOK-IS-TOTAL-CRAP stage.

Yep. Sounds silly, but it’s true. I spend the next few days alternating between despair (This book is so, so, so bad needs a complete rewrite. WAAAAAH!) and determination (A rewrite never killed anyone, right? You can do it, Sooz! YOU CAN DO IT.).

Ultimately, determination wins (helped along iby its close frenemy: The Deadline). I print out the whole book, get my writing tools out, and then read the ENTIRE thing in one sitting. Actually, if you want a detailed look at how I revise, you can head here.

This reading/planning stage usually takes a few days. Once I’ve got the Book I Actually Wrote solidly analyzed and thePerfect Book (a.k.a. the Story I Actually Want To Tell) all figured out, I dig into rewriting.

Rewriting is a HUGE part of my process. As I talk about here, I don’t always know the whole story. I know the main plot, but I uncover all those delicious subplots and side threads while I’m writing the first draft (or second…or third…). I know the ending (roughly), but I have NO CLUE how all the subplots and side threads will weave together into a SMASH-BANG ending packed full of resonance.

For example, when I was writing the sequel to Something Strange & Deadly (titled A Darkness Strange & Lovely), I wrote the first two thirds of the book in 3 weeks. I spent the next few weeks revising (and researching in Paris!)…and then I reached the end of my revised two thirds and stopped again. I revised those first two thirds AGAIN…only to peter out and stop AGAIN.

My problem was that I had no idea how to get my character from Point A to Point B. I’d sold the book based on a synopsis, and it was easy enough to say, “Eleanor goes with the Spirit-Hunters into the Parisian catacombs.” But actually GETTING her there? Actually giving her a plausible reason to take that as the next step–and more importantly, to have her do so while keeping the tension and excitement high?

As I said here, I rewrote the beginning a few times…then revised it…then attempted an ending (that was TERRIBLE)…and then re-wrote said ending two more times.
Finally–FINALLY–I settled on an ending that was The One. It came out in a flurry of words that were mostly usable since I finally KNEW what needed to happen –since I was finally writing the Perfect Book.

I turned in A Darkness Strange & Lovely on December 15–a little less than 5 months after starting.  It went through two critique partners and my agent before I handed it over to my editor, and by golly, I’m PROUD of what I wrote!

The moral of the story is that ultimately, my “writing” process involves a heck of a lot of “rewriting” because I’m not a particularly good writer…but boy am I one helluva a good REwriter. 😉

So don’t despair when your own writing seems bad–you can always, ALWAYS revise it to perfection. DREAM BIG AND NEVER GIVE UP!


Susan’s Bio:


Susan is a reader, writer, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She used to be a marine biologist, but now she writes novels. And not novels about fish either, but novels about kick-butt heroines and swoon-worthy rogues (she really likes swoon-worthy rogues). She lives in Germany with her French husband and Irish setter, and you can learn more about her crazy thoughts and crippling cookie-addiction on twitterfacebook, or Goodreads. Her debut, Something Strange and Deadly, will be available from HarperCollins in July of 2012, and you will never believe how happy this makes her!



Check out Holly’s review.


Here’s Erinn’s review.


AND here’s an interview Kat had with Susan about what happens AFTER you get published.


Tomorrow’s your last chance! Be sure to check out Alicia’s blog for her post and to enter for your turn with this amazing ARC 😀 AND of course, don’t forget to sign up below!!! 


P.S.: If you can’t see the sign up thingy, click on Read More and then it pops up 🙂 Thanks!


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