Countdown to NaNoWriMo: You Have Permission

The best books start here.

Category: Writer’s Toolbox

T-minus ten days.

In these final days of October, when NaNoWriMo is still just a vague itch, an aspirational notion, a secret should I?, it can be easy to dismiss your own ambitions. To treat the idea of drafting a novel as a fool’s errand, a lark, a waste of time. A self-indulgence, a self-delusion, a set-up for certain failure. To convince yourself you have nothing to say, that no one wants to read your story, that it is hubris to think that you can be a real writer.

Let me take this weight off your mind: 

You have permission.

This permission is a blank check. Write it for whatever amount you’re going to need to carry you through the month of November. Use this permission to justify whatever it is you need to … [more]

The agents of Upstart Crow Literary are hosting an #AskUpstart session next Tuesday, April 9th from 1:00-2:00 pm EST. This is an opportunity to ask us any publishing or book related questions – we’re here to help! In preparation for that, here’s some information about the session.

 

Who’s participating?

Danielle Chiotti, Susan Hawk, Alex Penfold, and Michael Stearns. For more information about each of us, please click the ABOUT link for our bios.

 

What do you represent?

Children’s books of all kinds—young adult, middle grade, picture books, as well as graphic novels, and non-fiction for children and teens. In addition we also rep select cookbooks, adult fiction, and nonfiction. Again, more details and specifics in the About link.

 

Are all four of you open to submissions right now? 

Danielle Chiotti and Susan … [more]

I’m delighted to announce that Upstart Crow Literary will be hosting an #AskUpstart session next Wednesday, Nov 7th from Noon-1:00 pm EST. In preparation for that, here’s some helpful information about the session.

 

Who’s participating?

Danielle Chiotti, Susan Hawk, Alex Penfold, and Michael Stearns. For more information about each of us, please click the ABOUT link for our bios.

 

What do you represent?

Children’s books of all kinds—young adult, middle grade, picture books, as well as graphic novels, and non-fiction for children and teens. In addition we also rep select cookbooks, adult fiction, and nonfiction. Again, more details and specifics in the About link.

 

Are all four of you open to submissions right now? 

Danielle Chiotti and Susan Hawk are open. If you’d like to submit a query to one of us, … [more]

I’m delighted to announce that Upstart Crow Literary will be hosting an #askagent session next Tuesday, Aug 7th from 1:00-2:00 pm EST. In preparation for that, here’s some helpful information about the session.

 

Who’s participating?  

Danielle Chiotti, Susan Hawk, Alex Penfold, and Michael Stearns. For more information about each of us, please click the ABOUT link for our bios.

 

What do you represent?  

Children’s books of all kinds—young adult, middle grade, and picture books, as well as select cookbooks, adult fiction, and nonfiction. Again, more details and specifics in the About link.

 

Are all four of you open to submissions right now? 

Danielle Chiotti and Susan Hawk are open. If you’d like to submit a query to one of us, please click the SUBMISSION link and check our feeds this week, as we’ll be tweeting … [more]

sand_drawingIf you have never participated in the Twitter feed #kidlitchat, you really ought to give it a shot. The discussions are always about smart topics and draw a wide range of commentators—both veterans and newbie writers, editors, agents, and the occasional gibbering weirdo. (I’m looking at you, @chrisrichman.) The tweets ratchet up the Twitter client in a fast and sometimes furious stream, so quick as to be nearly unreadable. Trying to follow the many threads of conversation is like watching three hundred tennis matches held simultaneously on the same court—there’s no way to keep the threads separate, and yet … you try anyway.

Last Tuesday night’s chat was a gem. You can read the transcript here, but the gist of the discussion was this: What qualities make a manuscript middle grade instead of … [more]

TypewriterIn my younger and more vulnerable years, I was given a piece of advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. (And no, it is not to shamelessly rip off The Great Gatsby‘s opening line; that I do all on my own.) The advice was this: Write a thousand words of your work-in-progress each day. No more, no less. Just a cool grand.

Here’s the why of the advice:

  • A thousand words is a fair bit, to be sure. But it’s not so much that you can’t see the end of your target when you sit down to begin. It’s not so much that you can get lost in those thousand words. It’s not so much that you’ll have to set aside hours and hours of your day that really should
[more]

twentyI was fortunate enough last summer to speak with Bruce Coville at an SCBWI event in Orlando. (He’s an amazing speaker—truly amazing—and if you catch word that he is speaking somewhere, by all means go and see him.) Bruce mentioned something he called “The Rule of Twenty.” He doesn’t recall where he picked it up—a business article? a self-help book? a primer on original thinking?—but wherever it came from, I have since relied on it and relied on it often.

What is it? Put most simply, it is this: It is only when one reaches the twentieth or so idea that one starts entering the realm of the truly original idea.

The first five or ten? Those are the obvious ones that the brain goes to along its well-traveled paths. Most people’s heads … [more]

I recently judged a contest for the blog at QueryTracker.net, a great site for writers at the query stage looking for more information about potential agents (and where my client Cole Gibsen first learned about me). I agreed to help out and, seeking something that would be both 1) easy on me and 2) beneficial to writers, I decided to limit the entries to pitches of 25 words or less. To see the winners and more details about the contest, head HERE.

I can already hear many of you groaning. If boiling  down a story into two or three paragraphs for a query is like stubbing your toe, then fitting an entire novel into 25 words is like getting a 50 ton anvil dropped on your cat. You know, if you really like … [more]

(First entry in an occasional series in which we bandy about useful terms for the industry. Want to contribute your own? Please email your entries to podcast@upstartcrowliterary.com. This first is inspired by Michael Pollan’s useful thoughts about food.]

madgeBook-like product. These are high-profile (and high-priced) projects: Books that are purchased by publishers and published but that are not sold to the traditional book audience, or are sold on some appeal that is extra-literary.

They may be books “written” by celebrities (such as the recent deal for Hilary Duff, or Lauren Conrad’s two novels, or Jerry Seinfeld’s Halloween “picture book” from a few years back). Or books that no one outside of the celebrity’s following (mostly non book buyers) would purchase. (Think of Madonna’s The English Roses. Or Glenn Beck’s picture book.)

Such projects … [more]

Little__Brown_and_Company-logo-9849B524CB-seeklogo.comIf you work in publishing in any capacity whatsoever, then you likely have a deep affection for Little, Brown. And not just because they are riding so high these days. Sure, they the publishers of a kind-of-sort-of-somewhat-successful series you may have heard of, but they also have one of the sharpest, most insistently singular lists around. Not just the thrill-a-minute money machines of James Patterson, but also cheerily commercial fare such as Vampirates, literary bestsellers that smart kids love such as The Mysterious Benedict Society, compelling and complex teen fiction about dark stuff in life such as The Hate List and North of Beautiful, and more more more. It’s just a great house with great books, and the people who edit there are pretty fabulous, too.

But this isn’t a … [more]