Issue #149 View in browser
March 13, 2020

I have changed newsletter providers, friends! So the layout looks a bit different...But hopefully deliverability will be better. The cost certainly will.

Mailchimp had become prohibitively expensive for me. As much as I appreciate the Ko-fis people buy me each month, it only covers about 5% of the monthly costs. 🙈

I've now switched to Mailerlite, and while hardly cheap, it should save me ~$100/month. And that's not nothing. 😉

But PLEASE! If you find any issue with this new provider or new look/layout, please let me know!

In other news, the world seems to be falling apart. I won't lie: I'm getting worried about covid-19. And frankly, you all should be too.

Don't wait until you have symptoms to start being careful. The transmission window for the virus can happen well before symptoms begin.

Don't think, "Oh, I'm healthy, so I'm safe." Healthy people are the biggest problem right now, passing the virus to high risk people...without even realization they're doing it.

We have to come together (figuratively! Definitely not literally.) and take action. We don't have a large enough healthcare system to deal with an onslaught of cases (no one does). Just look at Italy.

So what can you do?

  • Wash your hands frequently. For at least 20 seconds. And don't forget to clean your phone often too!!
  • Wipe down/clean surfaces. Especially if you work somewhere with others or frequently come into contact with others.
  • Don't touch the face! That is how the disease spreads. It is on our hands, we touch our nose/mouth, and bam! Infected.
  • Practice social distancing. I know it sounds silly, but need aim for 6-10 ft between yourself and others. This virus is highly contagious.
  • If you feel sick, stay home. Don't go to urgent care or a doctor, where you might spread the virus more. Instead, call first and let them give you instructions. Don't go to work either (if you can manage that).

It is better to overreact than under. If you feel silly doing it, then it's the right thing to do.

Stay safe, friends. 💚

What I'm Playing

What I'm Reading

What I'm Listening To

For the DenNerds:
Witchlands Teaser + Release Date!

I know many of you are wondering when the heck Iseult's book releases, and I promised on Twitter I would share today.

So....drum roll!

🥁 🥁 🥁🥁

🥁 🥁 🥁

🥁 🥁 

🥁 

 🎉 February 16, 2021 🎉


Yes, I know that's a long ways off. Yes, I know you were hoping to have it sooner. Trust me: I was hoping you would have it sooner too. But there were both business factors and life factors that went into the decision to delay an entire year.

I'm sorry to make you wait! In the meantime, consider reading Sightwitch (if you haven't yet) or any of my other books.

And as always, thank you for your patience and your enthusiasm!! It's readers that keep me motivated to keep writing, even as morning sickness extends way beyond the morning. 🥴 And even as the novel coronavirus sends me into a daily anxiety tailspin.

So truly: thank you, DenNerds and Witchlanders. You're awesome.

For the Daydreamers:
Fast Drafting: What, Why, & How

Today, I am DELIGHTED to have Lindsay Eager here to talk about fast drafting.

I just took her 80/20 course in January and loved it. Truly. It helped me really unlock some of my hold-ups and lean into the idea of just writing. What followed was a glorious three weeks in which I wrote 40,000 words and—GASP—they were actually good.

Needless to say, I was thrilled when Lindsay accepted my invitation to write for the newsletter. And I waas SUPER thrilled when she offered a special extra download just for Daydreamers!! (You can find that at the end!)


A little about Lindsay: She was born and raised just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah and lives surrounded by mountains with her husband and two wild daughters. She is the author of Hour of the Bees, Race to the Bottom of the Sea, and The Bigfoot Files—as well as countless ghostwritten projects.

Now, take it away Lindsay!

In 2009, I wrote my first novel all the way to the end.

There had been plenty of false starts before then—I would outline and world-build extensively, making family trees and maps of mountain passes and menus of fantasy banquets for sections that had not yet been written—and then I’d get three chapters into the actual book, and lose steam.

The road behind me was littered with abandoned projects, gravestones of characters I’d created and killed just as soon, and dashed hopes and dreams of ever finishing a book, let alone publishing one, started to stack up in the gutters.

But in 2009, I started writing a book (an awful book, a terrible book about a depressed college student who stopped going to class so she could stare out her bedroom window and pretend she was in a garden with a tiny fairy that only she could hear). And this time? I finished it.

It is a very special thing whenever a writer gets to the end, and as soon as I typed the final words, I could feel the power surging through me, the sense of accomplishment, the glowing pride—I immediately wanted to do it again.

From beginning to end, that seventy-thousand word draft took me about three weeks.
In 2010, I did it again—another book (because I had never heard of revision and knew nothing about publication and was SHOCKED when my first book was unwanted by every contest I’d entered it into), and this time I finished a first draft, about ninety-thousand words, in two weeks.

My next novel, fifty-thousand words, done in two weeks, and I rewrote it about every six weeks from 2011-2013 before finally shelving it in June of 2013.

The next writing project I undertook was HOUR OF THE BEES, the book that would go on to become my debut, and I finished that first draft in about ten days.

Since then, I’ve written thirty-eight books. Twenty-six of those I wrote in 2019 alone. That’s a book every two weeks (I don’t recommend this, by the way; I was ghostwriting for romance authors and the high churn was necessary to earn the income I needed to keep my family afloat).

That is… a lot of books in not very much time.

Those who know me know that I write fast—but there’s often an assumption that because I write fast, A) I must not be writing anything good, B) I must not be thoughtfully revising, or C) I must be writing the same book over and over.

Not true.

What I do, I call a fast draft, and its quality varies based on lots of things—how ready I am to write the book, how excited I am, how confident I’m feeling in myself as a writer, and how many interruptions from real life I can expect during my drafting phase.

When I fast draft, I am aiming to blast through the story as quickly as possible—I don’t pause to fix plot holes, I don’t stop to correct misspelled words, I don’t think. Whatever is in my brain comes out onto the page—sort of a combination of stream-of-consciousness (but much more focused) and brainstorming (but, again, much more focused). I start at the beginning of the book, and I don’t stop until I get to the end. If there are holes or gaps in what I know, I skip them or write in placeholders. If there is research required, again, a placeholder goes in, and I charge forward.

I want to get the shape of the book, a rendering, an idea of where the lights and shadows fall, the rough parts, the parts where I need to pay attention to detail.

To use another metaphor—I want to shuffle through the dark forest without a flashlight, feeling my way past the tumble-down branches and fallen trees, crossing the stream, rocks underfoot—and once I get through to the other side, I can draw a map.

The result is a draft that is often unreadable by anyone but me—but it’s a draft that has not lingered on any one plot problem or snarly piece of prose. It’s a draft that moved from my brain to paper in an efficient and timely manner, and the feeling when I print out the first draft and start preparing to revise? Best feeling in the world.

This is how I’ve always worked best.

And I’ve definitely had people who have implored me to slow down, take my time, pace myself—but this advice never helps me.

The reason I fast draft is not because I’m trying to rush or because I have loaded up my schedule and need to hurry to stay on deadline—it’s because this is how my brain thinks best.
Why does the fast draft help?
Because for me, the longer I linger over word choice and plot points, the less likely I am to ever get started.

For me, the longer I take to get my outline just right, the more I realize I’m procrastinating because I’m afraid of making a mistake.

For me, the quicker I can push through a draft, the better bird’s eye view of the whole book I can get—the easier it is for me to see the forest, instead of the trees and leaves and individual lines of bark.
Fast drafting is not about doing sloppy work so I can check off “DONE” on my to-do list (as satisfying as that is!). It’s about laying down a foundation of what I know so I can easily highlight what I don’t know and begin to work towards a version of the book that is strong, readable, sharable.

If I hover over a sentence, trying to get it just right the first time I’m writing it, I get anxious. If I get anxious, I stop having fun. If I stop having fun, I don’t want to work—and then I’m at a dead end.
Except let’s not only use the word “fun,” because while writing books is my dream job, it is not always fun. Sometimes it’s draining, sometimes it’s gut-wrenching, sometimes it’s heart-breaking.
So let’s use the word “fulfilling” instead, because even when it’s not actively sunshine and daisies, when I’m doing it right, it feels like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. It feels like I’m the luckiest person in the world.

If I fast draft, I am writing faster than the anxiety. I am charging forward before my thoughts have time to decide on whether I wrote something good or bad. You think that was cliché or trite? Too late! I’m already on the next sentence! Take it up with Future Lindsay during revisions, byeeeeee!
Want to know what fast drafting looks like for me?

Because for the unprepared, fast drafting can seem like trying to place a greasy octopus inside a plastic container—all the tentacles flailing with real muscle, pushing back.

That’s totally how it feels sometimes. Embrace.

I start with a brainstorm. Sometimes the brainstorm is enough to be an outline. Sometimes I need an outline, too, before I start. Sometimes my outlines are very meaty, chapter-by-chapter affairs. Sometimes they are a simple string of plot points that I will hit during the draft—and I wish I had a better measurement to know when I require what kind of outline, but it just depends on the project. Some books have been cooking on the backburner of my brain for many years, and so they’re jumping to be written. Sometimes, I get an idea and within three days I’m already drafting it, because it’s on fire and even though there are lots of components I don’t know or understand yet, I’ll figure it out as I go.

I never uncover everything at the beginning. I never outline every detail, or brainstorm every solution to every plot problem—and I don’t even try. A brainstorm or an outline or any sort of pre-writing work is, for me, a chance to look for doors—entrances into the parts of the story. I want a door at the beginning, so I can start writing. I want a door at the beginning of every scene, so I can find my way in and through. I need a back door at the very end, so I know where to exit the story—once I have as many doors lined up as I can, I’m ready to go.

When I say my fast drafts are messy, I mean they are MESSY. I don’t stop to correct things. Spelling errors, typos, bad sentences, it doesn’t matter—all of this is going to be repaired in a rewrite anyway, and so I leave it. Sometimes it looks like this:

(Warning: MESSY! I pulled this directly from a fast draft and did not edit it AT ALL!)

“A moot point,” the voices told her. “You will be. You will be the first of the new house of NAME. You will continue the house of NAME and the MAGIC THING will be yours.” A flurry of snow hit agaisn the cathedral window –inp rotest, Red thought.

)Here, too, she needs to say, “IUpstairs, at this very minute, my people are recovering from their /regrouping from their Notget ecelebration—food and wine, I thought it was okay to let them celebrate

“These are your court. They are not your people. Where are your people?”

Red stammered. I—

“You have no people,” the voices went on.(something here about how she parties all the time and gievs out her glitter drug and so they are useless to the king dom

If I make a bigger mistake, like I suddenly work out halfway through the draft that I need to change a major plot point, I don’t go back. I make a note to myself right there in the text, and then I keep going. Sometimes that looks like this:

And the LADY herself had a trio of wasps that were harassing her special—probably due to her smelly perfume (earlier make sure I mention that her perfume smells like dead, drowned violets, or something awful and floral and old lady)—and when she swatted at them, they charged at her, flying straight down the front of her dress where it dippedin a low sparkling valley.

When I’m writing, I inevitably get stuck—it happens, even when you’ve prepared as much as you possibly can! When that happens, I talk through my draft to myself until I find my way out (or, resigned, put in another placeholder). That sometimes looks like this:

(Ughhhhhh not the best work tonight, Lindsay. Very sloppy. There is really nothing here that is decent. Blast! But okay. Let's keep going with this chapter. So she would remember this feeling, she's in the same spot. She can hear/outside in hear the night darkening and she the circus night, and that means that her show is getting closer. Outside my wagon I hear the boys shuffle--luna comes in. No, first, she has to pray. I am lookingotu the window and wondering how many prayers I've given just like this, in this position. Even under my pillow now is still that same family photo, the pictureo ffive year old me in the scarf, staring at hte camera wondering what my crim eis, to be covered up like this like an outlaw. I hear the shuffleing of/what am I going to do? I can't get in that cage again.

I write as fast as I can. Sometimes my brain is faster than my hands, but rarely—I tend to write upwards of 10k a day when I’m fast drafting. I want the story out of me. Surgically, if possible—and if not, then I’ll type it out until it’s excised, on the page, where I can make sense of it.

I take breaks, of course—about every hour, I stand up and stretch and walk around, and every few hours I take a true break and leave my keyboard somewhere safe while I reset. I have two kids and am a stay-at-home-mom, too (whatever that means!) so I am constantly interrupted by someone who needs me. The motion is forward, always. Thinking through the writing. Hands on keyboard, brain in waterfall mode—everything trickles down and onto the page during a fast draft. The answer to everything is yes.

In 2019, when I was a one-woman writing machine, I had quite a few people ask me if I would consider doing an online course about my fast drafting process, and at the end of the year, I finally put together a curriculum. 80/20: The Fast Draft Method went live with a beta session in January 2020, and I’m excited to announce the next session will begin on April 7 of this year!

Why 80/20? Because my goal, with all my lectures, exercises, and Q&A videos, is to get my students to write a draft of a book much, much faster than they usually would. If the writing process is made up of five phases—idea, brainstorming, outlining, drafting, and revision—then I want to help my students get 80% of that work done in 20% of the time.

There are lots of secrets I’m sharing in the course: different ways to look at outlining, what to do when you feel doubts, how to compartmentalize so you can draft with a clear head, working with the subconscious to bring forth the very best gifts for your story.

But I wanted to leave you with two little teasers from my course. First, one of my secrets. And second, something a little more practical.

The secret to fast drafting? Trust.

Trusting yourself to come up with the right answers when you need to.

Trusting yourself to tell a good, compelling story—or at least, to write down the bones of something fantastic.

Trusting that the words you’re writing are enough. Trusting that when it’s time to revise, you will make it stronger.

Trusting that you’ll make it all the way to the end, and then you’ll do it again.

See, so much of the words we use when talking about first drafts are cruel and in bad faith: shitty first drafts, it’s all just garbage, all of this will be thrown out later, just get something down on the page.

What if, instead of thinking of your words as if they are garbage just because they haven’t been revised, you trust that they are good?

What if, instead of giving yourself permission to write garbage, you give yourself permission to write something amazing?

It’s a slight adjustment, but if you can switch your mindset and believe that everything you write has a purpose, everything you write is a gift from your brain and therefore a precious jewel (even if you do end up cutting it in revision later), it makes the prospect of a fast draft an adventure, a dive into the best parts of your brain, instead of a dumpster dive.

“Just get something down on the page.” Yes, but also—get the story YOU WANT TO WRITE down on the page. Don’t censor yourself. Let the words exist on paper before you decide whether they’re worthy or not. Unleash your brain. Let the wild story out.

The other teaser from my course is a downloadable training calendar. Have you ever heard of Couch to 5K? It’s this brilliant running program that trains you, day by day, to go from couch to running a 5K. By increasing your running time just a little bit every week, you build up endurance, and by the end of the nine weeks, you’re prepared to run an entire 5K.

Well, one of the biggest questions I get is “how can I up my word count?” And the truth is that I’ve always been a fast typist, always been blessed with good wrist health, and always had a pretty high daily word count.

But there are ways to increase your word count so that number is going higher and higher—but without hurting yourself or burning out.

Behold, the Couch to 5K-a-Day program! Meant to bring you from 1,000 words a day up to 5,000 words a day in thirty days! If you’re not writing 1,000 words a day, that’s okay! Scale everything down to your target writing goal. If you don’t write every day, that’s great, too! I didn’t account for resting days so you could build them in yourself.

In running, you should never increase your mileage or speed by more than 10% a week—and that’s the principle I’ve stuck to here. Small increases and shifts in how you’re writing, so you can work your way up to a word count that will let you efficiently fast draft your story.

Above all, fast drafting is a celebration of story. It’s not a shortcut. It’s not something you do in place of revision, and it’s not a lazy, devil-may-care ambivalent way to write a book, deciding to just dump every errant thought and make your future self clean it all up—it’s a way of exorcising a story from your brain as quickly as possible, so as to capture all the lightning and magic and avoid the anxiety that comes from lingering over word choice and plot holes.

I love writing more than just about anything, even when I get it horribly, dreadfully wrong. (And I do! Often!) Fast drafting allows me to keep the highs of storytelling while dodging most of the puddles of doubt—and if you’d like to learn more of my fast drafting secrets, the course begins April 7th.

Sign-ups are open now.

Thank you so much for ALL this good info, Lindsay. I love how you're a cheerleader for aspiring authors but also sharing lots of useful, applicable tips.

And that's not all she has for us, gang! Lindsay has made an EXCLUSIVE calendar of her Couch to 5K method just for Daydreamers! Be sure to access that by clicking the button below.

And of course, sign-ups are happening for this next round of 80/20, so don't miss that!

Like I said before, it really helped me overcome some of my hang-ups—particularly how much I cling to my outlines and plotting methods. I also really found her tips on writing while being a caretaker especially helpful.

Download the Couch to 5K calendar! 🗓
Upcoming Events:

I have nothing planned right now, but stay tuned!

Buy me a Ko-Fi! ☕️
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Thank you for reading! Have a fabulous weekend, friends!
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Susan Dennard
110 West 40th St.
Suite 2201
New York, NY 10018

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