booksbywomen.orgThe Art of Co-Authoring[caption id=attachment_22677 align=alignright width=300] Lacock Abbey Cloisters[/caption] Writing is usually a solitary process. The author finds a story, fills it with characters and gets to decide who lives and who dies (at least until her editor gets involved). So most people’s response when I tell them that I write books with my sister is surprise: surprise that a creative process can be shared; surprise that we haven’t (yet) fallen out or killed each other. But Liz and I have been writing together now for 6 years, and our third book – the last part of our YA trilogy, The Witch’s Kiss has recently been published by HarperCollins Children’s Books: for us, at least, collaboration has proved entirely positive. It started as a bit of fun. We’ve both written alone since childhood, off and on. But for various reasons neither of us ever got a project to the point where we could send it to someone. In 2012, I was taking some creative writing classes at the local adult education centre. Liz had started working on a novel in her spare time, but with two small children, she was making slow progress. As my confidence in my writing grew, I offered to help her out. We thought it would be a fun project to work on together. And it was: huge amounts of fun. We bounced ideas off each other and the whole thing zipped along faster than we thought possible. Within a year, we had a completed (and revised) novel. We’d finally finished something! And at that point, we started wondering if we could actually do this. Actually get a book traditionally published and into bookshops. Terrified and exhilarated in equal measure, we started to research literary agents, write a synopsis and email out submissions… What followed was a string of rejections. Some instant (within minutes of submitting), most standard, a couple with a few lines of advice. Most disappointing were two rejections following full manuscript requests. But the second of those agencies asked if we’d written anything else. We hadn’t, so we got back to our laptops. Seven months later, in January 2015, we sent our second book out to agents. This time we got three offers of representation and, later that year, a publishing deal. The Witch’s Kiss came out in June 2016, followed by The Witch’s Tears (2017) and The Witch’s Blood (2018). That’s three co-authored books in just over three years, so we do (kind of) have a process now. We start with a detailed outline – we have to both be on the same page (literally) as to what our story is and where it’s going. It helps that neither of us is by inclination a ‘pantser’, and that we’re both flexible: the outline always changes (sometimes quite radically) as we go along. After outlining we break the story down into rough chapters – it’s an easy way of starting to divide up the workload. Again, we’re flexible: we write at different speeds, and sometimes one of us will want to keep going on a particular section. We can be flexible about this because we don’t do what some co-authors do and write alternate chapters as a dual narrative (for an example of this way of working, take a look at Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan). We aim to create one single ‘voice’, and The Witch’s Kiss trilogy is primarily written from the point of view of the main character. After the first draft is done, we edit (and keep editing until we hit our deadline). At this point everything is up for grabs, and we both re-write each other’s work as well as our own. This last stage is repeated through line edits, copy edits and proofs. While drafting we tend not to work in the same room (we might actually kill each other if we had to do that), but from copy edits onwards we spend more time reading through and re-writing together. Technology is of course massively helpful in all this. We use Dropbox so that all our work is accessible to both of us without having to email copies back and forth. We also text, use Skype and Facetime, and can frequently be found bickering about grammar and punctuation on Twitter. So that’s how our co-authoring works. And I think it works for us because we’re so close. Much like the siblings at the heart of our trilogy, we’ve always looked out for each other and loved each other. We can be brutally honest with each other about our writing, and no one ends up hurt – not even when one of us works for days on a chapter which the other one then deletes and re-writes over-night. We have a life-time of shared influences which have resulted in similar interests and compatible writing styles. And the benefits are immense. There’s always someone there to share in joy of good reviews and cauterize the pain of bad reviews. Someone with whom to mull over rejections and thrash out new ideas that might lead to the next publishing deal. Someone who loves the fantasy world you’re absorbed in just as much as you do. Could it work for you too? If you can find someone to write with whom you really trust, and if you’re willing to give up absolute authorial control in return for the benefits of teamwork, then yes. -- Katharine and Elizabeth Corr are sisters and Essex girls transplanted to Surrey. They both studied history at university and worked in London. Then they both stopped working to raise families, not realising that children are far more demanding than clients or bosses. When they both decided to write novels – because fictional people are much easier to deal with than real ones – it was obvious they should do it together. When Katharine’s not writing, she likes playing the harp, learning dead languages and embracing her inner nerd. When Elizabeth’s not writing, she likes sketching, dancing round the kitchen and plotting for more time free of children and cats. They can sometimes be found in one of their local coffee shops, arguing over which character to kill off next. The Witch’s Kiss trilogy is published by HarperCollins. www.corrsisters.com Twitter https://twitter.com/katharinecorr https://twitter.com/lizcorr_writes About THE WITCH'S BLOOD Teenage witch Merry is used to breaking the rules. So when the coven forbids her to rescue her big brother, Leo, she ignores them - with terrifying consequences. As Merry is forced to confront evil from her past and present, loyalties are challenged and friendships pushed to breaking point. And all the time her power is growing... How much is Merry really willing to give up to save the people she loves?1
booksbywomen.orgWalking and Writing: Step By Step, Word By WordI’m going to walk my way to my next novel. When I write it, of course, I will plant my butt in my chair and go head-to-head with the blinking screen of my laptop. But each word I type there will first take shape when I’m putting one foot in front of the other, when I’m in motion. I discovered the power of walking to help me write last year when I set out to walk fifteen miles a week or roughly eight hundred miles for the year. I didn’t make it. At four hundred and twenty miles for the year, I didn’t even come close. Nevertheless, those four hundred and twenty miles established a habit which in turn has fed my writing in ways I never could have predicted. When I set out in 2015, I was inspired by the Cheryl Strayed’s hike along the Pacific Coast Trail (Wild), a small, independent movie called Redwood Highway, and Alex Kates Shulman’s memoir Drinking The Rain. Each story showed a woman who set out alone on a journey that made no promises about what it would deliver. Each woman’s journey put her into direct, unshielded contact with nature, humans, and her own demons. That sounded great to me. After ten years of spending most spare moments at the computer to write and sell my first novel, I was vibrating with pent-up energy and a desire to plunge myself directly into the world with all its solidity, colors, smells, sounds. I wanted to inhabit my body more fully. I wanted contact. But I also needed to focus on the launch of Casualties. I needed to get started on the next project. This was, after all, the work I’d wanted to do since I was a kid and I wasn’t getting any younger. So, I didn’t aim for the wilds of the Sierras, I headed for the neighborhood library, the post office, the dry cleaners or, if no errands needed to be done, I headed down the hill to the cliffs overlooking the Pacific and walked along the edge of the world. For two to four miles at a time, I walked unplugged. No music, no phone, just my old iPod touch for photos and to track my miles. I looked. I eavesdropped. I met people. I met dogs. I learned that pelicans may share a rock with cormorants but rarely gulls, and that the gulls would really rather the pigeons stuck to their own garbage can. I learned that moving through the world one step at a time offers a perspective that just isn’t available any other way. Then, to my delight and surprise, I found that all of this helped me write. Setting a goal for walking actually reinforced the importance of setting a goal for writing. Not making that goal also did. When I started writing Casualties, I often despaired when I didn’t produce a solid page of work after hours of plugging away. When it became clear last year that I wasn’t going to make eight hundred miles, I found I didn’t mind. I was already walking more than I ever would have. Without realizing it, I began to internalize that way of thinking. It began to spill over into my writing. Every step counts. Every word counts. The promise of a walk when the day’s work was done kept me going. Walking unlocked my hips, relieved the pressure on my spine and let me loosen my aching wrists and hands. By the next morning, I was ready again. Walking reminded me how to pay attention. Smells, snatches of conversation, sounds, the feel of the ground beneath my feet -- each step yielded possibility, sometimes material I could use right away. Other times, these glimmers sank into my subconscious where they waited until I needed them. I learned that walking even a small distance was a chance to let go for a while. Yes, writing has been my dream, but even dreams can be heavy to haul around. Writing is great but wanting to “be a writer” triggers anxiety and can set my thoughts spinning in ever-contracting circles. It’s not until I return to my desk that I realize how much better I feel. My thoughts are calmer, my body is happy, and the muddle on the page I’d left has sorted itself out. The year ended. A new one began, bringing with it wild swings of emotion when Casualties was released. The best way I’ve found for navigating is to keep walking, and keep writing. One step, one word at a time. -- Elizabeth Marro is the author of the novel, Casualties, the story of a defense executive who loses her son just when she thought he was safely home from war. Now, she must face the painful truth about her past, her choices, the war, and her son. Selected as a finalist in the 2014 San Diego Book Association Unpublished Novel Contest, Casualties was published in February 2016 by Berkley. Her essays and articles have been featured in the Gloucester Daily Times, The San Diego Reader and LiteraryMama.com. She is a dedicated walker who loves to share what moving across the planet by foot reveals and how it helps her write. You can read about that in her blog. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or at elizabethmarro.com.
booksbywomen.orgA Day in the Life of a Literary AgentWhen I was asked to write this article about a-day-in-the-life of my job, I thought, sure! But once I actually sat down to figure out how to explain it, I realized how complicated it really is. Our simple goal is to work in the best interests of our clients, but this comes with a lot of hidden details. So instead of focusing on one particular day as an agent, I've created a list of responsibilities I feel are the most important to highlight. Hopefully this will give you a better understanding of the life of a literary agent. In a simple list, each day is a combination of the following: a) Clients / Editorial – Most of my time is dedicated to my clients. It is my job to manage their careers to result in the most success. This includes: editorial/story development with new projects and project under contracts (this can take up hours of my week), submission updates with editors, explaining contract negotiations, cover art discussions, getting ready for ARCs, putting together blurb lists, marketing/promotions/event opportunities, publication launches, keeping up on social media and making sure I have promoted all that I can on my end. b) Offers / Contracts / Legal – When an offer comes in, it is time to negotiate the deal terms (this normally includes the advance, territory, rights, payout and royalty). After these are agreed on (can take days), the contract is drafted by the publisher (sometimes takes weeks) and sent to the agent. When this comes in, it is top priority. We read through the contract to make sure all of the language is okay for my client to sign. Negotiations can take up to days to weeks. Rounds are made back and forth with the publisher to make sure you get everything you can for your client. c) Being Organized – To be a good agent you must be organized. Our agency has a database where we keep all of our information up-to-date. It is a great resource for us to find out any information that we may need. For example, let's say we get an email from a film agent who is interested in one of our backlist titles. In order for us to know if we have retained rights, we can look up the property and see if it was ever optioned, for how much, if it is still under contract, etc., so that we can understand how to move forward with this request. As our jobs as agents, when handling hundreds (thousands even!) of clients, contracts and sales – the right information must be at our finger tips at all times. d) Administrative Work - Varies from day-to-day. Scanning contracts, recording in database, saving on the master drive (aka digital filing), putting away books that just came in from the publisher, mailing - sending books out to film agents, foreign agents requests, copies for translation, foreign copies for authors that come from their foreign publisher, etc. e) Talking “story” and titles - Some of my favorite days in the office are when I need to chat with my boss and colleagues about a project I'm working on. Some days I can sit in my boss's office and we can chat story for hours. Titles are another thing. I think it is so important to go out with a project that has a strong title. Sometimes I can kill an entire day brainstorming a title and scribbling all over my legal pad with words, just words, so many words! f) Phone Calls - I love having a talking relationship with my clients. I'm there for them whenever they need to chat. If they are having a hard time with their newest project, if they want to run an idea by me and get my thoughts, or if they just want to catch-up – I'm here! Phone calls are also made to editors and film agents. I sometimes need to hop on the phone with an editor to get information about upcoming promotions, or blurbs, or any updates on their end. For film agents, I make calls to update them on exciting book news. g) Submission / Pitches – Before going out on submission, agents need to put together their editor list.” There are contacts that will immediately pop in your head, but sometimes research is required (or just chatting with your colleagues) to see if there are any new editors to reach out to. Then comes the pitch. Writing a pitch can sometimes take days for me! It needs to be smart, creative, interesting, and intriguing. It is important to try to convey what you see in your clients' projects to editors you are reaching out to. Writing a fantastic pitch is only the beginnings to creating buzz about your newest project on submission. h) Queries / Reading – As of now, I stay very much on top of my query inbox. Maybe this won't be forever because I see myself getting busier every year, but when I read through queries I am quite focused on what I know and must-get-that-tingly-feeling-inside of me that says, “Yes!” Since I must trust my instincts, I need to be very honest with myself when I read queries. If I'm not FEELING it, I need to pass. This is a passion job and I'm sticking to it. I'm lucky to get thirty-minutes of query reading time in my daily day. Overall, my query reading and requested material gets done late-night in bed, on my commute, and on the weekends. Today my day was a combo of a, c, d, f, and g. -- Katie Shea Boutillier works as an Agent and the Rights Associate at the Donald Maass Literary Agency. She focuses on her client list of women’s book club fiction; edgy/dark, realistic/contemporary YA; commercial-scale literary fiction; and celebrity memoir. She looks for projects with the perfect balance of emotion and plot. Katie loves novels that seek big truths, touch on important social issues, and explore unique family dynamics and unlikely friendships. She is a cum laude graduate of Marist College. To query Katie, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org with query, a short synopsis, and the first five pages pasted into the body of the email, no attachments please. Follow her on twitter @AgentShea