Writing with a Coauthor: 6 Smart Strategies

Thinking of cowriting a novel? A lot of folks have done it. Some recent YA examples include Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green and David Levithan, Doon by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon, Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, and my personal favorite, My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

Cowriting can be a blessing…and a curse. On the pro side, you only need to write half a book and you have a built-in brainstorming buddy. On the con side, think of how agonizing it is to write your own first draft, and then imagine having to share that with another human being who is writing an equally agonizing first draft. Or consider having to make compromises when you really, really don’t want to. Sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Avoid disaster with the six strategies below that will help you make cowriting work. Continue reading

How to Write a Fiction Book Proposal

A book proposal is a document most commonly associated with pitching a nonfiction book. It includes information on the content, the author, the market, and the salability of the project. But when it comes to fiction, few agents or editors expect or require book proposals. I certainly don’t, though I have to admit that I am always happy to receive one. A book proposal helps me learn more about an author than a two-sentence bio. It gives me insight into marketing opportunities. And it provides a snapshot of the project that saves me hours of work when I’m preparing to evaluate a project.

Whether or not you need a book proposal, I recommend going through the exercise. Putting together a proposal will help you hone your pitch and get a feel for being the “brand manager” of your book. A proposal makes you think like an editor, a marketer, and a salesperson all at once.

Ready to give it a try? Here are some elements I love to see in a fiction book proposal (and if you’re writing nonfiction, most of these still apply!): Continue reading

Writing Conferences: Get Your Money’s Worth

Can I just say, I can never figure out if it is supposed to be “writers conferences” or “writers’ conferences.” No one seems to use the apostrophe, but aren’t the conferences for/belonging to the writers? These are the things that keep me up at night!

Grammar existentialism aside, let’s talk about writers(‘) conferences. They are incredible places to meet agents, editors, and fellow writers, to work on your craft, and to pitch you book. However, they do tend to come with a price tag. So how can you get your money’s worth?

1. Go with goals. Before your conference begins, write down a list of 5 or 10 realistic goals you want to accomplish. Do you want to finish drafting your novel? Meet a new critique partner? Find an agent? Make an effort to cross each of your goals off during the conference. Continue reading

The 15 Books Every Writer Should Own

Take it from the girl that has five overflowing bookshelves (not counting the ones in my office or the boxes stashed away in friends’ and family members’ basements): You can never have too many books. But if you are an aspiring writer, or even a seasoned one, there are 15 must-have books that will help you take your craft to the next level. Check out the list below, and add your favorites in the comments section.

Reference

1. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary

This is the go-to dictionary for the publishing world.

2. The Chicago Manual of Style Continue reading

Hook, Line, and Sinker: 5 Ways to Create Your Novel Hook

Today’s publishing world is all about the hook. Just take a look at PW’s roundup of recent deals for any given week.

“It’s a modern retelling of Sense and Sensibility.”

“It’s a gender swap of Gone Girl.”

“It’s Jaws meets Catcher in the Rye.” (Okay, that might be interesting. Is the shark a phoney too? Will it cost Holden an arm and a leg to find out?)

Don’t get me wrong…I love a good hook. It can be make or break for a submission. It’s a great way for editors to pitch a book to sales reps and accounts. It helps make a book memorable. It can be the cornerstone of a marketing campaign. But creating the right hook is even more important than having a hook in the first place. Some things, like Jaws and Catcher in the Rye, just don’t go well together (unless you’re as anxious to see Holden Caulfield get eaten as I am). You want your pitch to fit the book, but not seem campy, confusing, or forced. So how do you master the art of the hook?  Continue reading

A Match Made in Literary Heaven: What to Look for in an Editor or Agent

Finding the right editor or agent is a lot like finding The One. You two are going to be spending the rest of your literary lives together, at least for this particular book, so you need to choose wisely. This means no trip to Vegas only to wake up with a hangover and lots of regret the next morning (i.e. don’t settle for just anyone because they promise to get your book published).

You want to find someone who can handle your crazy—because trust me, the editing process involves a lot of crazy—who will celebrate the good reviews with confetti and sparklers and hand you the kleenex when the not-so-good reviews come in too. Someone who cares about your characters, your story, and the message you are trying to share with the world.

So when you’re making the call on who to work with, ask yourself these three simple questions. (Note that we editors ask ourselves these questions too!) If you can say yes to all of them, you have found your match! Continue reading

Chapter 1: How to Write the Most Important Chapter of Your Book

“Chapter 1.” Two magical words that give no indication to the hours upon hours authors spend perfecting those first few pages. Without a captivating opening chapter, writers don’t make it past agents, editors, or readers. Here’s how you can nail writing the beginning of your story.

Make the first line count. I love tense, understated first lines. I love manic, rambling lines full of wildflower prose and turns of phrase I’ve never read before. I love any first line that will make me read it again and think, “Whoa. That’s cool.”

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First Impressions: What Makes or Breaks a Query

I recently had the pleasure of hosting an open call for submissions through the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). In one month, I received over 800 submissions for picture books, middle grade, and YA.

I wanted to make sure I gave each book the proper time and attention, but 800 is a lot! I usually know within a few sentences of the email submission whether or not I am going to keep reading, which means first impressions are absolutely vital. In the end, I only brought about 10 manuscripts before my acquisitions board. For those of you with math skills like mine (meaning I had to use a calculator), that’s just 1.25 percent.

So how do you get into that 1.25 percent? How can you get your query to stand out to an agent, an editor, or a publisher? Well, look no further. I’ve created a handy, five-point system to help you get past the inbox and onto the acquisitions table. Continue reading

Writers Associations: The top groups and how to join

There are dozens of writers groups and associations in genres ranging from children’s books to science fiction. For active members, these organizations can be great ways to connect with writers and industry professionals, enter contests, attend conferences, and more. But how do you know which one is right for you?

I’ve outlined several of the top groups below in the general categories of nonfiction and fiction, as well as genres of children’s books, mystery, romance, and science fiction. You’ll get all the key facts and costs as well as links to membership pages and other pertinent information. And if none of these catch your eye, peruse even more options at the end of the post!

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