Critique partners are like unicorns: impossible to find and most of them are just horses with plastic horns.

This wonderful video by Jenna Moreci describes exactly what I’ve been searching for for the past three months. I’ve joined writers groups, critique websites, and Reddit, and I’m no closer than when I started.

Here are the critique partners I’ve found so far:

The absent CP

This is the CP who seemed really excited – until I replied to their message (equally excited) and got crickets. Did they change their mind? Did they accidentally message the wrong person? Did they die in a tragic alligator accident? Who knows. I don’t. Because they didn’t answer.

The lazy CP 

This is the CP who needs to watch the above video. Three lines of feedback on ten thousand words is not a critique, at least not when I’m doing line edits back. Put some effort into it!

The starting out writer CP

Jenna hits the nail on the head when she says the writing abilities should be at least similar. I don’t mind guiding a new writer, but that just makes me their CP, not the other way around.

And I still have yet to find one! My best CP experience was with a fellow writer, but my current works are not his genre so I’m trying to get someone, anyone, who will help me get my narrative together so these agents can stop telling me they love my book but my narrative needs work! Help! T_T

On writing difficulties.

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I’ve started my next novel, and there are several difficulties I’ve noticed that I haven’t run into before.

1. Writing in first person but not being that person. This is my first first-person novel. Obviously, the main character is not me. However, when I write ‘I’ and then write something that’s not me, it doesn’t feel right. The character was supposed to be prissy. Nope, can’t do it. Had to change her to just be an airhead.

2. Writing in present tense and keeping it that way. I’ve always written in past tense. Always. I keep finding myself using was instead of is and it’s frustrating. It’s like double the editing effort.

3. Seeing the word count makes me sad. Knowing how much left I have to go is disheartening when I feel like I’ve been writing all day / week. Yes, it’s slowly growing, but not enough to make it feel worthwhile, not right now anyway.

Anyone else?

Querying advice you won’t find anywhere else.

It’s finally that time – my manuscript is polished and ready to be sent out. I wrote my hooky query letter, synopsis, author bio, and thought I was ready.

Boy was I wrong.

So let me save you some time and show you what I’ve learned that I haven’t seen on other query advice sites.

1. It takes forever.

It took me over 4 hours to query 15 agents. That’s roughly 20 minutes per agent. I’m using QueryTracker so finding them isn’t the issue. It’s everything else.

2. Pay attention to detail.

Every agency has special submission policies you can find on their website. If you’re using QueryTracker do not just assume they don’t have guidelines if they didn’t post them in their info. Here are some examples:

  • Send only query letter with salutations to agent.
  • Send only query letter to agency but do not mention an agent.
  • Send query letter and 1-2 page synopsis in body of email.
  • Send query letter, 1-2 page synopsis, and first 5/10/50 pages of manuscript in body of email.
  • Send query letter, 1-2 page synopsis, and first 3 chapters of manuscript in body of email.
  • Send query letter, a chapter by chapter synopsis, and the entire manuscript as an attachment.

See what I mean?

3. Subject line matters.

Same thing with email subject. Some want QUERY, QUERY Title of Book, QUERY Name of Agent, etc. Make sure you find this info out before emailing or your query might get immediately trashed.

4. Pick one agent per agency.

Almost every agency has several agents who like different genres. You have to read every agent’s bio in order to find the right fit for your query and only query that person. They don’t like it if you email more than one agent in the same agency, so your best bet is to pick one and go for it (and make sure you keep track). Some agents and agencies specifically list genres they don’t represent. That’s kind of important.

5. You will probably get a heart attack.

Some agents take days while others take months to respond. Some have autoreplies while others have nothing. Basically, you’re in limbo. Every time your phone buzzes with an email for the next month it will make you jump. If you have anxiety, this is going to suck.

6. An agency is not always a publishing company.

There are many agents with individual agencies who sell your manuscript to a publishing company. You can tell because the name is usually the company name (Ex: Sue Moor with Moor Inc.). And that’s ok. Companies like Scholastic do not accept unsolicited manuscripts, so if your next Hunger Games gets an agent it can go anywhere. You don’t need a full representation and publishing company to be successful.

7. Don’t doubt yourself.

It will make you question your manuscript. Even if you’ve been working on it for five years. Stay strong!

8. Don’t forget!

And lastly, don’t forget your contact info! Every query I’ve seen requires three things: genre, word count, and contact info. If you have those, you’re on your way!

Oh boy I can’t wait for my first rejection!

Happy querying!

Everyone Knows You Don’t Discriminate.

Without the context, the title of this blog can be very misconstrued. It will be misconstrued, because it’s not about you. It’s about her, and it’s about me.

“Her” being the main character in my novel. I should, one of these days, write about my novel. Maybe next time. Anyway.

“Her” name is Sky and she’s an 18 year old academy graduate with a crazy ex-boyfriend who loves rock and hates putting away clothes.

Sky also has a girlfriend.

Sky gets very lucky (or very unlucky depending how you look at it) and a jealous person asks her how she scored the deal. The person implies her sleeping with some important people, making a reference to a certain female because “everyone knows you don’t discriminate”.

And there’s your context.

When I wrote that part of the chapter, I wanted to find a way to make references to a non-straight character normal. She wasn’t struggling with her sexuality. There is no open prejudice for it in the world I built. It’s just there.

Therefore, when making a reference to it specifically, I couldn’t say “everyone knows what you like” or “everyone knows you play both sides”. Because that implies she is deviating from the norm.

Except she is.

So I found a way where it meant the opposite of what it would mean today. “Everyone knows you don’t discriminate” doesn’t mean anything wrong. It means that she is more.  

It makes me feel good to create a character who never has to deal with a society that condemns deviation in sexuality.

Demonstrators hold up posters with a picture of Russia's President Vladimir Putin and a pink Union Flag during a protest against Russia's new anti-gay propaganda law, outside Downing Street in central London August 10, 2013. Hundreds of people called for the government to push Russia to repeal the laws, that have attracted international condemnation.   REUTERS/Luke MacGregor (BRITAIN - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY CIVIL UNREST TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Demonstrators hold up posters with a picture of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and a pink Union Flag during a protest against Russia’s new anti-gay propaganda law, outside Downing Street in central London August 10, 2013. Hundreds of people called for the government to push Russia to repeal the laws, that have attracted international condemnation. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor (BRITAIN – Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY CIVIL UNREST TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

When I was growing up in Russia, “gay” did not exist. The concept of being homosexual was not a real thing. There were jokes about men in entertainment being “blue” (a slang term equivalent to being ‘a fruit’) but in all actuality, gay is just not something you could “be” if that makes sense. The idea that a man could love another man or a woman could love another woman and be in a romantic or sexual relationship was nonexistent. In a way, the government still tries to keep it that way and it breaks my heart.

I was 11 when I moved to the United States. When I was 13, I went over the house of a new friend and saw printed pictures on her bedroom wall of Heero and Duo from the anime Gundam Wing. They were kissing. I will never forget seeing that for the first time and the following conversation that changed my life.

Heero_x_Duo_Kiss_by_IkkoYue

Me: Is that two boys?

Her: Yea, it’s Heero and Duo.

Me: But they’re kissing.

Her: Yea, so?

Me: … They can do that?

This is how disconnected my understanding of sexuality was. They can do that? Yes, of course they can do that! Why wouldn’t they be able to do that?

I wasn’t disgusted by it. I wasn’t against it from the get go. I was shocked and confused that two boys could kiss because it seemed so foreign to me as a concept.

Because of this, when people ask me when I knew I wasn’t straight the answer is too complicated for a number. When did I first start being attracted to women or when did I learn what being attracted to women meant? Because those two things are completely different.

I hear it all the time. “If you’re gay you know you’re gay”. But that’s not true. I was since I was 6 but I didn’t know until I was 13 because I didn’t know what it was. Looking back the signs were all there. I would always play the prince instead of the princess. I would wish I was a boy because it would make more sense to me. Looking back, if I knew that homosexuality existed, I would have never felt so broken.

And with the simple words, “They can do that?” the pieces somehow fell into place.

When I dated boys, and I was always in control. Always knowing what to say and what to do.

When I got my first girlfriend, I finally found out what it’s like to be nervous on a date. What it’s like to blush and fumble my words. This is what it must feel like, I thought, to be a boy.

Since then, life has been a whirlpool of emotions. Heartbreak. Homophobia. I’ve encountered it all. And now as I write this I’m happily married with children. Yes, to a man. Because sexuality has never been simple for me. Because of all the words there to describe it: pansexual, omnisexual, bisexual, homoerotic, heteroromantic, etc etc I can’t just take a label and put it on myself because it all feels wrong. So I just go with ‘not straight’. That’s good enough for me.

There’s a lot more to say and I will write about it here and there.

But today, I’m writing about a place where everyone knows I don’t discriminate. And it’s ok.

The beginning of the end

After Googling “I wrote a novel now what” and reading some blog posts, it seems that the first step towards becoming a writer is to establish an online persona. So, here I am!

Of course I haven’t actually written a novel. Not yet, anyway. I’m just covering my bases for when I do finally have the manuscript in my hands. Look at me, a little over halfway into my first book and I’m already thinking about the aftermath.

That’s not true. I have written and self-published a book many years ago, but it was anonymously and while I’m still trickling in sales here and there, it’s not something I want to make public for the world to see. It was raw and unedited and inappropriate and emotional and intense and terrible. It was everything and nothing, and if I ever actually become a known published author this is a skeleton in my closet that should remain hidden.

What is this blog, really? I won’t be writing about TOP TEN WAYS or FIVE STEPS TO. This also isn’t a personal journal (which I have on a different platform). This is a compilation of thoughts and memories, experiences and hopes, the past and the future. So stay a while and listen, the ride is about to begin.