Midwifing an Idea into a Novel

kabook225An agent typically works with manuscripts in two different ways.

The first is when an author comes to me with a completed manuscript. If we decide to work together, we’ll spend time revising—focusing on character development, style, and storytelling. It is always exciting to help a writer best achieve his or her vision, and as many of my authors know, the revision process is one of my greatest joys.

The second is when an author comes to me with an idea. There is no manuscript—just the spark of something wonderful inside that curious (and thrilling!) thing known as the Author’s Brain. In that case, it is my job to help the author translate the idea onto the page, and then work with him or her to craft the arc of the story, develop the characters from the ground up, and prepare a proposal that allows an editor to see the same magical thing that I do.

I have been privileged to have many of both experiences since I began agenting. Today, though, I would like to talk about one of the latter experiences—a writer with an idea—that resulted in a fantastic book, Knightly Academy, that hits bookstore shelves today. The author, Violet Haberdasher, approached me with a concept she’d been thinking about for years, and we worked together to turn her dream into a reality.

As anyone who has ever written one knows, crafting a proposal takes a lot of work. There were a lot of times when I asked for “more,” or “less,” or … both. Many e-mails, phone calls, and coffee dates. She worked tirelessly until we both felt that her vision had been captured. And then, once it was “perfect” … we edited some more. It was a collaborative back and forth that (I hope!) was as fulfilling for her as it was for me.

Knightly Academy was sold to Simon and Schuster in 2008, survived the departure of its editor, and has generated a lot of in-house excitement. And today, March 9, 2010, it is at last done and published and out there. I am so incredibly proud of the work the author has done, and feel privileged that I was able to help shepherd this idea into a novel, and this novel into the world.

Our most heartfelt congratulations, Ms. Haberdasher, from all of us here at Upstart Crow.

And remember, writers—every novel has to start somewhere.

  1. Wow! This post caught me off guard! I’ve always heard that fiction writers were never, never, never to approach an agent with anything less than a completed manuscript. Non-fiction, sure, that’s different, but fiction? I have to suspect the author was a known entity to you, otherwise you are totally turning my world upside down!


  2. Thank you for giving an inside look at this process. I only wonder- where did Violet Haberdasher get such a terrific name? The Old Curiosity Shop?


  3. I thought the same thing as Rachel … “Violet Haberdasher” is just about the coolest name I’ve ever heard. The book looks great!


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