Black Friday Book Magic

Susan DeFDetailed Assessment, fiction, Professional Review, Writing ConsultationLeave a Comment

When I was younger, we used to celebrate the day after Thanksgiving as “Buy Nothing Day”–a protest against the mindless consumerism of the Christmas season.

These days, I do my best to practice conscious consumerism, purchasing secondhand whenever possible, and from ethical companies when it’s not–and though I don’t believe conscious consumerism will save the world (if only it were that simple!), I’ve come to see that every time we spend money, we really are investing in something, whether we realize it or not.

That’s why I’ve decided to make it easy for you to invest in yourself as a writer this year, by dropping the price on my First 50 consults.

These consults include:

  • A detailed assessment form designed to get to the heart of your vision for your book, as well as your publishing goals for it
  • A professional review of the first 50 pages of that book
  • Feedback on those first 50 pages from the point of view of a publishing pro
  • Recommendations for the next steps to take in order to make your vision for your book, and your publishing goals for it, a reality

More to the point: This assessment will give you a sense for if your project is ready to pitch, and if not, what you’ll need to address in revision before you do.

The price on these consults is usually $299, but from now until next Monday, Nov. 28, I’m dropping that price to $199.

Why I’m doing this

>>What with inflation and all, I know money is tight for a lot of us right now, so it seemed fitting to drop these consults back to my 2019 price (don’t you wish we could drop EVERYTHING back to 2019 prices?).

>> In the last few years, my business has taken off, to the point where I’m increasingly booked out, at a price point that reflects the in-depth work I do for my editing and coaching clients. These First 50 consults are a way for me to help more writers than I otherwise could, at a significantly lower price point.

>> For the past six months or so, I’ve been challenging myself to do new things, and yeah…I never in a million years thought I’d offer a Black Friday sale. =)

Who this service is for

>> Anyone planning on pitching their book to agents and editors in 2023

>>Anyone nearing the end of a draft of their WIP who could use some professional feedback on it

>>Anyone who needs a swift kick in the pants to actually get themselves to finish their current draft (you can book the consult for whatever date next year works for you…)

>>Anyone who’s thinking of working with me on a longer project in 2023 (these consults are a great way to see what it’s like to work with me)

>>Anyone looking for a gift for a writer friend that truly says, “I believe in you and want you to succeed.” (Yes, you can purchase one for a friend!).

I’ll send you another email about this on Friday, and then a final one on Monday, but that’s all you’ll hear from me on this–so if you want to take advantage of this special price, do it! 

You can book your consult for $199 here.

Here’s to better stories for a better world–

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This is Your Brain on Books

Susan DeFcraft, fictionLeave a Comment

We all know that reading helps us gain skills and knowledge, and maybe even become better people (though of course, you can’t believe everything you read in the self-help aisle).

Which is to say, reading helps us grow new synapses, and become brainier. So maybe I shouldn’t be surprised at the degree to which writing has taught me about the way the human brain works.

But sometimes I still am.

In my latest post for Jane Friedman, I shared three key strategies for fiction writers derived from neuroscience. This is the sort of craft post I’m always really happy to share–I think because the sheer amount of advice out there on creative writing can be so overwhelming, and it can be so freeing to learn which bits and pieces of that advice actually have some basis in fact, in terms of the reader’s brain.

But as far as writing goes, there’s another really important brain involved–yours, as the writer.

Creating and maintaining a regular writing practice often involves a whole lot of wrestling with the way your own brain works, and there are a lot of modern realities that just compound this difficulty.

I’ve seen this with my own work, and with my fellow book coaches as well, many of whom are writers.

I just spent last week with a fabulous group of these folks in Santa Barbara, as part of Author Accelerator’s annual Goal-Setting Retreat, and over and over, I heard the same thing: As our businesses have grown, it has become easier to neglect our own creative work.

For my colleagues struggling with this, I shared what I’ve found has really helped me re-establish my creative practice this year: First thing in the week, and first thing in the morning.

That’s a strategy derived from Stick with It: A Scientifically Proven Process for Changing Your Life–For Good by Sean D. Young–specifically, principle “I” of Sean’s acronym SCIENCE, which stands for Important.

Basically, by making writing the first thing you do each week (something you focus on on Monday) and the first thing you do in the day (something you do before you start work) you send a clear message to your brain: Writing is important to me. It’s a priority.

Ideally, I do my creative work before I check email or social media, in keeping with the advice of many a productivity expert to do “one high-value thing” before checking in with these more mindless sorts of tasks.

Of course, not every writer works on the morning shift. Which is why I found myself sending off an email this morning to a client reminding her to switch her phone into airplane mode after work tonight, and to write for a half hour after dinner, no matter her word count. Because the word count is a lot less important than just turning to writing for a bit before she vegs out with social media or TV, or even with a book.

Let’s face it, writing is cognitively demanding work. That’s why it will always be easier to scroll Instagram than it will be to sit there trying to figure out what one character says to the other, or to figure out whether or not your protagonist should realize that her ex is lying to her.

That stuff is hard! But it’s also super rewarding.

And when the story you’ve so painstakingly crafted, by harnessing your brain, lodges itself forever in the brain of another?

Maybe it’s science.

Maybe it’s magic.

Maybe it’s a little of both.

Wherever you are with your writing practice, I’m wishing you all the best with it this week.

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When one door shuts…

Susan DeFfiction, ReflectionsLeave a Comment

Two painted doors face the viewer. The one on the left is red with a tree and the one on the right is blue.

We all know the saying: When one door closes, another one opens.

Last month, I shared that I’d received some tough news from a colleague on my new novel–news that it wasn’t nearly as far along as I’d thought.

Many of you wrote to share your appreciation for my honesty in sharing this, for the vulnerability in it. Some of you wrote to say that it made you feel less alone with your own setbacks, your own crises of faith.

I was glad to hear that, because so often we feel alone in our journey as writers–so often we think that we must be the only ones feeling what we do, when that’s so rarely the case.

This month, I’m happy to say that it feels like a new door has opened up for me. It’s opened up because I’ve returned to a question that I believe is essential to the creative process:

What is it I really like?

Or, put another way:

What is it I really love?

I started making notes for a collection of short stories in 2015, as I was recovering from surgery. Sitting outside during a heat wave–under the influence, I’ll admit, of some good pain meds–I was struck by an idea: What if I wrote some stories made out of just the sorts of things I like to find in stories?

In some ways, it’s a pretty obvious question. I mean, why shouldn’t we write what we like?

But even so, it’s not a question I had ever really asked myself, and it’s not a question any writer I knew had ever asked herself either.

I started by making a list of these things I enjoyed most in fiction, as a reader. Things like:

  • Secret languages and codes
  • Games
  • Magic books
  • Libraries
  • Stories that contained stories, and stories that contained works of art
  • And–contrary to conventional wisdom in fiction–stories that contained dreams (which gave rise to the title of this work-in-progress, Dream Studies)

From there, I brainstormed and made notes for the plots of 12 stories, which I then went on to draft over the next three years–stories that have now been published in places like High Desert JournalCity of Weird, and Buckmxn Journal (one of them is forthcoming from the latter this December).

Then I turned my attention to back to revising my novel. A novel I thought was close to done.

When I received this news on my novel from my editor last month, it felt like a door closing, at least for the time being–closing on the part of my past that novel is set in, and closing on one long period of sustained work I’d just put into it.

But at the same time, it felt like one opening. Because a novel represents such a long, sustained period of focus on one imaginative space that delving back into this quirky collection of short fiction felt like playing hooky.

I’ve revised some of these stories, scrapped others, and now have actually begun drafting some brand new work in the same vein for this collection.

And in actually starting from scratch on a new story, for the first time in years, it’s occurred to me that no matter how creative we may imagine ourselves, it’s not often in life we consciously push ourselves to find our own edge as artists.

That’s what it feels like I’m doing now, in creating new stories for this collection. And in so doing, I’m reminded of how much weirder, smarter, and stranger our stories can be than we ourselves are (at least consciously).

And that is my invitation to you, here at the end of October, as the veil between the worlds grows thin and the shadows of the descending dark play tricks at the edge of consciousness:

  • What do you love to find in your fiction?
  • What questions are you asking in your work?
  • And how might your imaginative work lead you deeper into what you do not know?

Many of us will never know what it is we’re actually capable of–athletically, say, or intellectually. Such is life, as there are only so many different passions we can focus on in one lifetime, and only so many hours in each day.

But my wish for you is what I wish for myself, as a writer: I hope that you challenge yourself to find your edge, and push yourself further into the unknown, in pursuit of what it is you love best.

I wish I’d done this a LOT sooner…

Susan DeFcraft, fiction, ReflectionsLeave a Comment

sign that says "Endure" in yellow capital letters

In my latest post for Jane Friedman, I wrote about the writerly quality of grit, and three ways that it’s critical to getting over the finish line with publishing—which is something I’ve experienced myself recently, in a deeply personal way.

Last week, I sent my novel-in-progress off to my fellow book coach and Julie Artz for a manuscript evaluation. And friends, though it pains me to admit it, when I got her feedback, I went through what I can only characterize as a dark night of the soul.

I’ve worked on this novel FOREVER—for over ten years, on and off. I’ve almost given up on it many times, but at last, I felt like I’d broken through to the novel’s final form, and could finally see the finish line with it.

Julie’s feedback told me otherwise, pointing out structural issues that, as a book coach myself, I felt I really should have seen. But that’s why even book coaches need book coaches, and editors need editors: It can be nearly impossible to read your own work the way a reader will, especially when you’ve been working on it for such a long time.

I had a day or two there when I felt not only like it was time to just give up on this novel, but like maybe everything in my life as a writer up to that point had just been some sort of fluke.

It made me feel crazy, honestly, to think of how much time and energy I had devoted to this business of being a writer, and how little I actually had to show for it.

Fortunately, my husband was here to point out that what I was feeling wasn’t…you know, all that based in reality. Given the fact that I’m an award-winning novelist—that I have a short story collection in progress, from which nearly half of the stories have been published in paying markets—that I’ve written professionally for magazines since I was in my midtwenties—etcetera and so forth.

It’s amazing how easy it is to lose sight of little details like that when a qualified professional tells you that the novel you’ve spent a bizillion hours on isn’t nearly as far along as you thought it was.

After a few days, though, the shock wore off—and the work that Julie was pointing out needed to be done didn’t seem so impossible any more. I began to see ways I could restructure the novel’s opening to address those issues. That was the grit kicking in.

I’ve still decided to turn my attention back to my short story collection, for the time being—in part because this work feels fresher, more in tune with where I am now.

But I know, in time, I’ll return to this novel manuscript. I’ll dig in and do what needs to be done.

Because that’s who I am as a person: Someone who’s serious enough about my work to get qualified feedback on it, and to put that feedback to work in revision.

Someone who cares enough about this whole endeavor of making art, of making meaning, to do what it takes to bring it into the world.

Wherever you are with your work-in-progress, I hope this little confession of mine helps you to feel a little more compassion for yourself in your darker hours, and a little more grit when it comes to sharing your work with others, and doing the work that needs to be done.

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