chasingthecrazies

Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

MONDAY MUSINGS: The Power of Never Giving Up June 19, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we are at our lowest as writers I think we often wonder if what we are doing has any meaning. If the words we put on the page will ever be read by anyone but us. If the worlds we create, the characters we craft, will matter to any one outside our own small sphere.

 

 

There have been many times in my writing career when I’ve wanted to give up. I’ve looked at a finished manuscript and wondered if those hours, days, months I’ve spent on it were worthless because no one but me would ever know they existed. When I start to feel this way, I go back and look at some of the interviews I’ve done with writers I admire. Remind myself of their struggles and refusal to give up.

 

 

One of the biggest stories of perseverance in the publishing world is that of J.K. Rowling. If you know anything about her, you know that she was a single mother living on welfare, writing in a small coffee shop trying to keep her and her child warm while she chased her dream of creating a story about a young boy who discovers he is a wizard. I often wonder how many times in that early period self-doubt slithered into her head. How many times she looked at that blinking cursor and wondered if she was chasing some crazy unrealistic dream.

 

 

Well, most of you know how her story turned out. Harry Potter is now one of the most influential series in all of literature. It’s spawned movies, licensed merchandise, a series of theme parks, and now even a studio tour in London.

 

 

And that brings me to my point. I recently was lucky enough to go on this tour. I, along with my family, on a soggy, cold June day jumped on a double-decker coach (significantly similar to the Knight Bus, along with a crazy driver) and headed outside of London to the small town of Leavesden. The tour information said the experience would last three and half hours. Three and a half hours? I’ve been on many studio tours in the past and they never lasted more than hour so I was very skeptical. I was wrong. SO WRONG.

 

 

Once inside the main building, I was immediately hit by the enormity of the world the directors and producers had built for this series. The walls were covered in life-size posters of all the major characters. Inside the area where the first line began was a complete replica of Harry’s room under the stairs. And on the wall was this sign…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tears burned the corners of my eyes because it hit me at that moment that NONE of this experience would be possible without the words of J.K. Rowling. Sitting in that cafe she was about to change publishing forever. Her words would introduce the amazing experience of reading to both children and adults. What an incredible legacy to give the world.

 

 

So the next time you want to give up, throw in the towel, stop chasing your own dream, think about that single mother sitting in small cafe and what would have happened if she’d stopped creating. I, for one, believe our world would be a much sadder place without the gift she gave us in Harry Potter.

 

 

You never know, the book you’re writing now could be the next story that changes publishing. Keep working. Keep dreaming. The possibility of creating a new story that influences children’s literature could only be a chapter away!

 

 

Here are a few more amazing pictures from the tour. And if you are ever in London, I HIGHLY encourage you to put a trip to Leavesden on your schedule!

 

 

 

 

(The Cupboard Underneath The Stairs)

 

 

 

(Dumbledore and Snape in the Great Hall)

 

 

 

(The Entrance to Dumbledore’s Office)

 

 

 

(The Invitations to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry)

 

 

 

(Entrance to The Chamber of Secrets)

 

 

 

 

(Full scale model of Hogwarts)

 

FIRST FIVE FRENZY with Kari Sutherland of Bradford Literary Agency June 2, 2017

Filed under: Blog,Publishing,Query,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 6:01 am
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If you’re like me, you toil for hours editing and fine-tuning the first pages of your manuscript. You look at the first lines to make sure they are compelling and tight. You examine the next few paragraphs, hoping your MC’s voice is already taking hold of the reader.

 

The First Five Frenzy is all about getting an agent’s perspective on what works, and what fails, in those first pages of a manuscript. It’s tricky to get the right balance, but I hope by reading each agent’s comments you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that’s requested over and over.

 

Today, I’m proud to share Kari Sutherland’s perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.

 

 

 

Amy: Many writers have the impression that a great first line is imperative to drawing in the reader. How important is a first line to you as an agent?

 

Kari: It’s not the be-all-and-end-all, but it definitely helps set the tone and grab my attention. I always read beyond it, but I’ll be more excited about the submission if the first paragraph or two convey a sense of character, a strong voice, or something about the plot/world that piques my interest. There are times when a writer goes to extremes to make the first sentence sensational (my ex is pointing a gun at me! The house slid into the ocean! Aliens have landed!) when it doesn’t entirely fit the story. I’d rather have the first few lines infused with the persona of a character I want to spend the next 60K words reading about than an explosive beginning for drama’s sake.

 

 

 

Amy: A lot of books open with common things like dreams, eating breakfast, riding in a car, starting at a new school, etc. What are some openings you recommend writers stay away from?

 

Kari: All of the above! There are exceptions to every rule, so I wouldn’t say a book that opens with one of those is not going to be one I ultimately enjoy, but beginning with a dream or waking from one, a mundane conversation or part of a routine (picking out clothes, going for a run, walking to class), or throwing your protagonist into a new school or having him/her watch a new student arrive are all very prosaic routes. In dystopian novels, a selection/choosing ceremony has become the equivalent of starting at a new school for the contemporary genre. It may not stop me from reading on, but the voice will have to work harder to impress me. Another common trope used in the first few pages is the main character looking in a mirror to give us a physical description. I prefer more organic ways of working in those descriptors.

I have been gripped by a dream opening because of stellar, compelling writing and I’ve been bored by more extraordinary and unusual beginnings because the characters, emotions, or descriptions fall flat.

 

 

 

Amy: When you’ve responded to a writer to request a partial or full manuscript, what was it about their first pages that piqued your interest?

 

Kari: Beyond the voice, which is first and foremost for me, and an intriguing concept, I look for the ability of a writer to create a poignant or electrifying moment, to make me feel something, even within the first chapter, whether it’s amusement, empathy, or irritation-by-proxy. The first chapter should have a good balance of dialogue and internalization/description since we often learn more about characters when they interact with others and I should have a sense of the world/character’s life without knowing everything. It’s like a first date—you want to hook me (the reader) with your charm and personality and some fascinating anecdotes, but hold back the more detailed knowledge for later, once we’ve spent more time together. The mystery alone can be tantalizing.

 

 

 

Amy: What are some common mistakes writers make in their first five pages?

 

Kari: Writers sometimes think they need to lay out the whole world up front. In sci-fi/fantasy or dystopian, this can be with in-depth explanations of how things came to be this way, how things work in this society, etc. In contemporary this can manifest with delving into too much backstory of a relationship anytime a new character enters the scene or an over-reliance on physical descriptions rather than showing us personality traits and temperament. Some details should be there to help readers get a feel for the setting, but we don’t need the complete history at the start. Emotionally laden interactions will be much more compelling than a sociology lesson.

 

 

 

Amy: What resonates with you most in those first pages? Voice? Pacing? Unique concept?

 

Kari: Voice. I want to know the person who will be leading me on this journey. Someone snarky and gruff? Someone witty and observant? Someone scarred by the past, but hopeful of the future? Someone unapologetically sunny? Someone fiercely loyal and passionate?

The query can show me whether a concept is unique, but if the voice can’t draw me in, an original idea isn’t going to be enough.

 

 

 

Kari Sutherland joined the Bradford Literary Agency in 2017 after a decade of experience in publishing from the editorial side. While at HarperCollins Children’s Books, she worked with bestselling and critically acclaimed authors on projects such as Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard and the Pretty Little Liars series by Sara Shepard. With her editorial insight and experience with the entire publishing process, Kari is passionate about helping to polish each manuscript and equip her clients for success.

 

For full submission guidelines, please see the Bradford Literary Agency website.

 

QUITE THE QUERY – JoAnna Illingworth and THE BLACK UMBRELLA May 24, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you ask any writer about the process of connecting with their agent (or publisher), the majority will say the most difficult part was querying. Not only the actual process of sending out the letters/emails, but formulating the query itself. In fact, I’ve heard more than a few authors say writing their query took them almost as long as drafting their book!

 

Some people have the talent of being able to summarize their book in a few sentences, but for those who don’t I wanted to provide a resource where writers could learn what works, and what doesn’t, in a query.

 

With that in mind, I’m pleased to share today’s successful query from JoAnna Illingworth. This great query connected her with Uwe Stender of Triada US Literary Agency.

 

 

 

Seventeen-year-old Brolly J. Parker’s favorite shirt is missing. It’s the first day of senior year, it’s pouring rain and she’s running late. Rummaging through her mom’s closet looking for her shirt, Brolly uncovers a strange looking umbrella hidden in an old box. She grabs the umbrella and runs to check her car for the missing shirt. When she opens the umbrella, she’s abruptly torn away from her home and tossed through time, landing on an unfamiliar, rocky shore, the umbrella gone. A stranger approaches, asking if she needs help. Brolly learns the stranger is eighteen-year-old Lord Thomas Westbourne and she’s somehow arrived at his lake castle in the year 1826.

 

Brolly is desperate to go home, but without the missing umbrella she has no idea how to do it. She spends her days pacing the lakeshore and avoiding awkward encounters with Lord Westbourne. Even though they’re close in age, she can’t imagine how they would have anything in common. Thomas remains curious about Brolly, constantly asking her questions about how she got there and where she’s from.

 

Through time and conversation, Brolly beings to develop feelings for the enigmatic Lord. When he finally admits his feelings for her, even after Brolly explains she doesn’t belong in his world, it’s the push she needs to accept how deep her feelings run. And it’s then, after Thomas and Brolly decide to be together, the black umbrella is finally found. In a struggle to make sure Thomas doesn’t open it, the umbrella opens in her hands and she’s instantly transported back home. It’s as if her time at the castle never happened at all.

 

Against the disbelief of her mom, Brolly believes Thomas was real. She also suspects her mom is hiding a secret about the umbrella that will help her find him. Brolly won’t give up until she discovers the truth.

 

 

 

JoAnna Illingworth is from Nashville and is a music marketer by day and a writer by night. For more on JoAnna, follow her on Twitter, Instagram, or Tumblr.

 

 

MONDAY MUSINGS: Celebrating the Big Picture May 8, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the last five years I’ve been working on this little YA book called NOTHING BUT SKY. A year of research. A year of writing. A year of revising and then another two years on submission. To say this manuscript was a labor of love for me is putting it mildly. And while it was a joy to work on the book, it also came with its share of heartache. But today, I don’t want to talk about the negative. I only want to share the positive which is that my book SOLD to the amazing people at Flux!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WOOHOO! Yes, this does call for a little Supernatural boys dance.

 

 

 

 

 

But seriously, even though this has been a crazy process, and I’m over the moon thrilled about the deal, I want this post to focus on something else today: The Big Picture.

 

 

What do I mean? Well, it’s taken a long time, and a bit of perspective, but I learned that I am NOT this one story. For too long I felt like if NOTHING BUT SKY didn’t sell it was the death knell for my writing career. Why was I so doom and gloom about it? Because I’d put my heart and soul into this manuscript. Over a long period time it went through a dozen readers, pages and pages of notes, and more than a few rewrites. I spent hours at my desk poring over every single line in each chapter wondering what I could do to make my voice cleaner. My lines tighter. It was enough to drive myself a bit over the edge.

 

 

But then an incredible thing happened-a new story idea popped into my head. It wasn’t that I was ready to let NOTHING BUT SKY go, but some part of me knew I had more books to write. Characters to create. Stories to weave. I suddenly felt free. Like my friends and family wouldn’t judge me if that one little book of my heart never made it onto the shelves of a major bookstore.

 

 

In that moment I learned I was more than that one idea. Deep down, I understood I was a storyteller. If Grace and Henry’s journey never got into readers hands, that was okay because their story taught me I could make it through the hardest moments of rejection and come out stronger on the other side.

 

 

The moral of the story, I guess, is that I pushed through. That along the way of creating other books, there was something about NOTHING BUT SKY that stayed with me. It allowed me to do one more revision. To try once more. And this time it landed in the hands of the right editor and the right publisher. I worked hard, but I also got lucky. Really lucky.

 

 

So readers, today I want to celebrate, but I also want to remind you that there is a bigger picture. That there IS more than just that one book in you. At your core you are a writer. Your ideas and words mean something. It’s true, there will be heartache and very low moments along the way, but if you’re meant to be a writer you will always come back to the page. No string of rejections can take that away from you. DO NOT GIVE UP. If you are meant to write, then you will WRITE!

 

 

One last note…

 

I’ve been posting to this blog for over five years and there’s never been a moment where I have not felt anything but unconditional love from you guys, my readers. I’ve shared a lot of tough, personal moments and you’ve ALWAYS been around to lift me up. Encourage me to move forward. No words on this earth can express how much that means to my heart. Thank you so much for being here and believing in me.

 

 

xoxo,

 

Amy

 

 

Okay, I can’t resist – a few more celebratory GIFs!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FIRST FIVE FRENZY with Hillary Jacobson of ICM Partners May 5, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re like me, you toil for hours editing and fine-tuning the first pages of your manuscript. You look at the first lines to make sure they are compelling and tight. You examine the next few paragraphs, hoping your MC’s voice is already taking hold of the reader.

 

The First Five Frenzy is all about getting an agent’s perspective on what works, and what fails, in those first pages of a manuscript. It’s tricky to get the right balance, but I hope by reading each agent’s comments you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that’s requested over and over.

 

Today, I’m proud to share Hillary Jacobson’s perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.

 

 

 

 

Amy: Many writers have the impression that a great first line is imperative to drawing in the reader. How important is a first line to you as an agent?

 

 

Hillary: A first line is important because I assume the author has paid the most attention to that line and been very purposeful with it. So when I see a first line that’s grammatically incorrect or not very strong, I’m initially a bit suspicious. However, a first line is never a deal breaker. If the writing gets stronger after that, I’ll still want to request the full.

 

 

 

Amy: A lot of books open with common things like dreams, eating breakfast, riding in a car, starting at a new school, etc. What are some openings you recommend writers stay away from?

 

 

Hillary: I think anything cliché can be made interesting in the right hands. However, if the first word is a character uttering or thinking a curse word…that feels very overdone and like a lazy way to get the reader into a situation.

 

 

 

Amy: When you’ve responded to a writer to request a partial or full manuscript, what was it about their first pages that piqued your interest?

 

 

Hillary: First pages that can immerse me in a whole new world without confusing me always pique my interest. I struggle a lot, especially with fantasy queries, that want to plop you right into a super complicated new world without giving you the tools to make sense of it. The best openings make you comfortable with what you know and what you don’t know.

 

 

 

Amy: What are some common mistakes writers make in their first five pages?

 

 

Hillary: Telling instead of showing, especially with something more high-concept. I’ve noticed that some writers want to explain everything right away when there isn’t a need to. Like in my last answer, I want to be able to understand what’s going on, but I don’t want the information thrown at me in a clunky way.

 

Also, this may seem unimportant, but so many writers neglect to perfect their formatting!! If the font and font size are all over the place and your query looks unprofessional, I’m already skeptical.

 

 

 

Amy: What resonates with you most in those first pages? Voice? Pacing? Unique concept?

 

 

Hillary: Absolutely the voice and strength of the writing. I really try to keep an open mind in regards to concept, so I rely on the voice to clue me in if I should keep reading more. Ultimately, if I feel disappointed when the pages end, I know that I have to request the full!

 

 

 

 

 

Hillary Jacobson of ICM Partners is actively building a list consisting of commercial and literary fiction, YA, as well as narrative non-fiction and memoir. She is especially seeking high-concept YA, upmarket fiction, psychological thrillers and memoirs that read like fiction. A lifelong obsessive reader, she got into the literary game as soon as she could. Prior to working at ICM, she interned at Random House, Janklow & Nesbit and Alloy Entertainment. She is a graduate of Brown University.

 

Interested in subbing to Hillary? Send directly to hjacobson@icmpartners.com with the query and first ten pages in the body of the email.

 

 

 

Monday Musings: Plan A, B, C, D, etc… April 17, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you write your first book your dream is that it will sell. For many writers that dream does not come true. Most move on to writing another book, and then perhaps another, and one more until they finally achieve their dream.

 

 

This path is most common for writers. It’s rare to query and sell a first book. Let me repeat that – IT IS RARE TO QUERY AND SELL A FIRST BOOK. I share this because after one book many writers give up. The reasons for this are too many to list, but I think many give up because they believe one book is all they have in them. And let’s admit it, querying can take a lot out of you. The ups and down of requests and rejections can be a lot to bear at times.

 

 

I’ve been there plenty and I find solace in two things: my friends in the community who remind me day in and day out that I am NOT alone, and the chance to create something fresh. To breathe life into new settings and characters.

 

 

Write something new? You may say that sounds strange. Doesn’t writing a new book mean even more chance for rejection? Of course it does, but it’s also another chance to open new doors. Another shot at connecting with that agent or elusive editor you’ve been dying to work with.  It’s a Plan B, C, or even D when Plan A isn’t panning out the way you hoped it would.

 

 

You commonly hear the advice in many writing and publishing circles that  you should be writing something new while you’re querying or are on sub. This is true for several reasons. First, if you do connect with an agent, they’re going to ask if you’ve written other books. That editor who’s got your sub, might ask what else you have as a possible option book. Second, distracting yourself with a new manuscript helps take your mind off the stress of querying and/or being on submission, plus it forces you to stop refreshing your inbox every ten seconds! And let’s be honest, we are all VERY guilty of this. For me, it might be every five seconds (LOL!)

 

 

After doing this for five years, I’ve come to realize I’m strong enough to endure this business. It’s tough, and the waiting and rejection is incredibly difficult at times, but I do find comfort in having a backup plan. It allows me to focus on the next step, not the roadblocks and dead ends I feel like I’m facing.

 

 

So my advice for writers at any and all stages of the process is think about your next book, and perhaps the book after that. It’s only by moving forward that you can avoid getting stuck in the rut of loathing and self-doubt. And if you’re currently in that rut, it’s okay. Know that while you may not believe it now, you DO have that next book in you. It may not be ready to be written now, but it’s there, bubbling underneath the surface. Give it time to grow and blossom and then get to writing. There are people out their waiting to read your words and you CAN deliver!

 

 

Have a great week and I hope the words come quickly for all of you!

 

 

 

QUITE THE QUERY: Adele Buck and ACTING UP March 29, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you ask any writer about the process of connecting with their agent (or publisher), the majority will say the most difficult part was querying. Not only the actual process of sending out the letters/emails, but formulating the query itself. In fact, I’ve heard more than a few authors say writing their query took them almost as long as drafting their book!

 

Some people have the talent of being able to summarize their book in a few sentences, but for those who don’t I wanted to provide a resource where writers could learn what works, and what doesn’t, in a query.

 

With that in mind, I’m pleased to share today’s successful query from Adele Buck. This great query connected her with her agent, Amy Elizabeth Bishop at Dystel, Goderich, and Bourret.

 

 

 

 

Stage manager CATH DE COURCY has had plenty of time to rehearse hiding her attraction to her best friend, director PAUL MAINWARING, while she oversees all the details of his productions. But when he casts Cath’s college nemesis as the leading lady in their latest play, it might cue a curtain call for both their friendship and their collaboration.

 

In rehearsals, Cath struggles to keep everything (including Paul) on course as the leading lady’s behavior threatens to throw the entire production off kilter. Meanwhile, the diva’s pursuit of Paul and the leading man’s developing friendship with Cath sparks jealousy and ignites an unexpected, passionate kiss between the old friends. But Cath, worried that a more intimate relationship would destroy both their friendship and their professional collaboration, holds Paul off. When two members of the production’s staff get engaged, their positive example helps Paul convince Cath to give a closer relationship a try.

 

Days before the play goes into previews, Cath panics when heated arguments between the engaged couple threaten her belief that people can combine work and romance. The success of Cath and Paul’s love and the production are both riding on Paul’s ability to flip the script and take care of Cath.

 

ACTING UP is an adult contemporary category romance complete at 58,000 words. I used my past real-world experience as an actress and stage manager to bring verisimilitude to the story. Due to its theatrical setting and humor, I believe ACTING UP will appeal to readers who enjoyed books like Lucy Parker’s ACT LIKE IT. A related manuscript (METHOD ACTING [ed note: at the time of querying this book had a different title]) is complete and another (ACTING LESSONS) is in progress.

 

 

 

 

Fun Tidbit:

 

My hosting service had their spam filters jacked up to eleven so Amy’s response was quarantined and I didn’t know it! Luckily, the spam filter did notify her and she called me to ask for the manuscript. I’m not sure every agent would be so persistent though…

 

 

 

 

When not writing, Adele is a librarian at a prestigious law school. Prior to that, she had a short stint as an index editor and over a dozen years in corporate communications and executive relationship management. Even prior to that, she was an actress and stage manager. Returning to writing was like a return to acting for Adele, especially when writing comedic dialogue, which reminds her of successful improv exercises.

 

She holds a theatre degree from Syracuse University and graduate degrees from the University of Maine School of Law and the University of Maryland’s iSchool. A New Hampshire native, Adele Buck has lived in the Washington, D.C. area for almost 20 years with her fantastic husband and the requisite number of neurotic cats. ACTING UP is her first novel. For more on Adele, check out her website or follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

 

 

 
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