The Journey of Writing a Novel

The journey of writing a novel is different with every project. Each time you learn something new about your writing style, how you write or something new about the craft in general. With my latest book (a YA southern gothic mystery) I learned some invaluable lessons.

To date I've written eight books. Four are crap. Two are viable, meaning I can possibly do something with them in the future. And only two are publishable (South of Sunshine and current project.) Writing those terrible books was a part of the journey. I learned lots of valuable lessons. I learned I could write a book, what writing in different tenses meant, what POV was, writing with a plot, etc. These are basic concepts of writing, but I'm a self-taught writer so the journey was a bit longer, bumpier for me. It wasn't until I discovered voice that I realized I could actually write something worth publishing.

This latest book, I learned two new things that will change how I write all my future books.

Guys, this was the hardest book I've ever written. Part of it was due in fact that I've never written a mystery before so that in itself was a big learning curve. The biggest part, is the mindset I had going into this project. I laid it all on the line and went for broke. To do so was meant I was going to have to challenge myself like never before. Having outside motivators gave me the intent and focus I needed.

There are many things I did while writing this book that I think are invaluable to understanding who I am as a writer and what it takes to push my writing to the next level. Two things in particular stand out as key elements to what I learned, and I'll apply them to all future books.

It sounds simple, right? I'm sure you're thinking, "I work hard on every novel." I have no doubt that you do. Me too. But working hard is not the same as digging deep. There's something about pushing yourself to try harder, do better and go beyond anything you've ever done before that gives your work that extra edge. That's only scratching the surface at digging deep.

It's really hard to describe what dig deep truly means. Digging deep means not settling for good.  It means when you find something that works in the story (characters, plot, etc.), tell yourself there has to be a better way. Then find it. Keep doing that over and over until you come up with a best way possible to write your story and there's absolutely no other way to improve upon it...then dig deep and find a way to make it better. It means you're going to have to think outside the box. It means you're going to have to tell yourself good isn't good enough.  It means wanting something so bad you'll do whatever it takes to get it. It's exhausting and sometimes feels unattainable but despite the odds you find a way.  When you do, that's when you've dug deep enough.

"Follow your gut" sounds vague, but in actuality it's really simple. It means when you write something and that inner voice inside you speaks up, listen to it. For instance, when you tell yourself, "maybe the reader won't notice this tiny plot hole." Or "maybe the reader won't realize/care that I didn't put much thought into X thing." Or "my critique partner will point out if this is a problem" and then hope they don't.

It's something a lot of writers don't do and the hard truth is, we don't because it means more work. I get it, writing a book is hard. You spend so much time writing, revising, rinse, and repeat. These things seem so tiny and insignificant in the scheme of the book in it's entirety. And why is "following your gut" so important if you're going to have critique partners read it anyway?

Because following your gut from the get go is less work on the back side. It also shows you recognize your weak spots. (If you do, someone else will too.) It helps you write a better story the first time around. Not to say it won't still need tons of work, but it will have a stronger foundation. Following your gut while drafting will be the difference in writing a crappy draft vs. a good draft.  It will save yourself a lot of cutting and rewriting huge portions of your book. But also, following your gut will force you to dig deep, which ultimately will lead to a really well-written book.

How do you follow your gut? We're so used to ignoring our gut feelings, the first thing is recognize when that voice is talking. Acknowledge it. Then do something about it. Fix that tiny plot hole. Expand upon X thing. Don't let that chapter end fall flat. Don't expect someone else (critique partner, agent, editor) to do your job when you knew all along you're were going to have to address that problem at some point.

Every book I hope (and should) learn something new about the writing process or who I am as a writer. It's how writers get better. I always want my next book to be better than the last. If I'm not refining and honing in on my craft each time, then they won't. It's up to us to make that happen.

So what things have you learned while writing your books? Have you ever done something that you were like, "Oh no, I'm not doing that again."?

The Beauty of Being Off Social Media

At the end of December last year I decided to take a social media break to finish working on a manuscript. The original plan, take off for the month of January. I kept the apps on my phone but just logged out of them. And then I logged out of all my accounts on all my browsers so if (which I know was really a matter of when) I picked up my phone to check it, the logged out accounts would be a gentle reminder that no, I wasn't doing social media.

I cannot tell you how many times the first few days I subconsciously picked up my phone to check Facebook or Instagram. It was like a natural instinct to reach for my phone at the most random of times. Usually while I was in the middle of writing, hence why I took a break. The first day was the worst of this habit, which I now realize is an addiction. We already know it's an addiction, but for some reason because there is always someone else who's on there more often than yourself,  you don't think you're addicted.

The next three days off social media I still checked my phone quite often. But by the end of the first week, the habit disappeared. Why? In all honesty I stopped caring, and I didn't feel like I was really missing out on anything. Not to mention my resolve to finish my manuscript before the end of January was pretty strong. I wasn't going to let someone posting their nine hundredth picture of their grandchild deter me.

Here's the thing, January ended, my manuscript had long been complete, and I had zero desire to go back to social media. I became so much more productive in life. I socialized with people I actually cared about. Found the time to pursue a new venture. Finally updated my website. Started working on a new book. And the list goes on. It's been pretty amazing!

So just this week I jumped back on social media. Three plus months I was on break. It's only been two days, and I've posted two or three things. Then last night I noticed I was picking up my phone a bit more often to see if I had gotten any likes or comments. I'm disgusted with myself. You know when you're trying to eat healthy and then you cave and binge on junk food and sweets. Afterwards you feel disappointed in yourself you broke your diet. That's what if feels like getting back on social media. I don't really want to go back. And why do I need it? Yeah, as an author I need to promote myself. And it's nice to be accessible to readers. But I don't want to go back to that lifestyle of feeling constantly obligated to check in. I'd rather live life organically.

So I logged out of all my accounts again and decided that while I may post a pic or two from time to time, social media will be an every once in a while kind of thing. Not my daily life. So if you ever want to get in contact with me, feel free to email me. 💖

South of Sunshine out in paperback! Swag giveaway too.

Hey, y'all!  Paperbacks of South of Sunshine are out April 1st! (But I hear rumor Amazon has them right now.)  Aren't they gorgeous?!

To celebrate I'm giving away signed bookmarks and bookplates. And as a bonus, anyone who posts a review on Amazon or other book retailer, I'll send you one button and post-it notes.

Just email me at dana elmendorf books @ gmail dot com (all together, no spaces.) Be sure to include your name, address, and receipt if you have it.  For bonus swag, send a link to your review.  This giveaway is US only.  Giveaway starts now and goes on the whole month of April.

RT my eBook $1.99 sale and I'll swag you.

Hey, y'all. Thursday 11/3 my eBook will be on sale for $1.99 wherever eBooks are sold. RT my eBook $1.99 sale and I'll swag you!

I'll post the link to tweet right here:
(Be sure to RT, not Quote RT as Quote RTs won't show you've RT'd the sale.)

Here's the details to the Swag Giveaway:
That's all you have to do! This giveaway is for 11/3/16.  US residents only.
Button selected at random.


Pasadena Loves YA! Book Festival

I'm so thrilled to be apart of this fantastic cast of authors at the Pasadena Loves YA book festival. It's this Saturday, September 17th from 12:00 - 4:30pm at the Pasadena Public Library. There will be great book chats, book signings and lots of swag! And the best thing of all, it's FREE! I hope you can join us.

Click here to check out an interview I did with Pasadena teen Haylie Koorn.

For more information on the festival go to

I'm going to be on a panel with these awesome ladies at 3:30, followed by a signing.