Kat Cho

Writing

I’M GOING TO BE PUBLISHED!

Feb

24, 2018 |

Filed in:

Author Life,Writing

 

You guys, I’m going to be published!

Okay, it’s been a MINUTE since I posted and I’m so sorry about that, but it’s for a GOOD reason. I was busy figuring out my new life in NYC and selling my debut novel, GUMIHO! It will be published with Putnam Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House. You can add it on Goodreads HERE. I promise I’ll write more about my journey and other details soon, but I just wanted to share this exciting news with you!!!

Kat Cho on Twitter

🎉🎉🎉📚SO RIDICULOUSLY EXCITED to share my news with y’all! My #ownvoices #YA #fantasy debut novel #GUMIHO is going to be published with Putnam (@PenguinTeen)! I cannot wait for you all to meet Miyoung & Jihoon and all the K-drama angst! 🦊🇰🇷❤️👺

 

Book Deal & Life Update | Authortube

Hi everyone! Just wanted to check in and let you know what’s going on in my life and why I haven’t been uploading as much lately. The biggest thing is that I got a book deal! If you’re interested I have a link to my Goodreads page below!

 

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My Fallow Periods

Dec

11, 2017 |

Filed in:

community,Writing

I’m back!

tenor.gif

Hello strangers, remember me? I’m the person that’s supposed to keep this blog updated, even though I haven’t posted in MONTHS. I apologize for my LONG absence, but to be fair you can still find me pretty regularly over at Writer’s Block Party! And I have been much better at keeping up my new(ish) Authortube/Booktube vlog over at YouTube.

STILL, this blog was my first love and I’ve been horrible at keeping it updated. Partly because I did want to try out those other formats of connecting with everyone (vlogging is fun but time consuming, y’all!)

Also, because my writing has…not been going well. So, I thought I might talk about fallow periods and the search for motivation and inspiration when you’re a writer or a creator.

According to Cambridge dictionary “fallow” means: Fallow land is not planted with crops, in order to improve the quality of the soil A fallow period of time is one in which very little happens.

But Mirriam-Webster has a girl’s back because this is the first thing that pops up in their definition:

Screen Shot 2017-12-07 at 1.09.48 PM.png

Way to both support and subtweet me Mirriam-Webster!

ANYWAY! You get the gist. It’s a period of time where a writer is not writing. There should be a sub-definition that says “a period of time where a writer questions all their life choices and regrets everything.”

The idea of a fallow period for writers is not new. However, if you look at the origin of the word it’s a time when fields don’t produce crops, but it’s ALSO a time when the fields are regenerating nutrients to be able to grow crops again! This definitely changed my view on the time periods when I couldn’t write and how I would treat them. This idea was first presented to me when a CP sent me this post.

So, instead of just seeing periods of time where I’m not creating as a negative, I see it as a chance to rejuvinate my creative well and to refresh my mind. I try to read all the books I couldn’t concentrate on when I was actively writing or revising. I use it to watch all the shows I’d been missing out on. And I pursue other creative endeavors because I know that when I’m actively writing I can’t do many other creative things at the same time. So, right now that’s being more active on my Instagram

Screen Shot 2017-12-08 at 5.28.11 PM.png

And on my youtube channel!

Still, the idea of most of the things I’m doing is to work toward being able to write again. So I try to find inspiration and motivation in everything I do. I keep journals and lists of ideas as they come to me. And I try to let myself write if I want to, but I don’t set any deadlines and let it just flow naturally. This way, I find that most of the things I end up writing during my fallow periods is very personal and it helps to bring my stories closer to my heart.

What do you guys do during your fallow periods? How do you refill your creative wells?

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My Podcast Debut! (88 Cups of Tea)

May

25, 2017 |

Filed in:

Author Life,Miscellaneous,reading,Writing

Hey guys, I am so excited to share the first ever podcast interview I’ve ever done! It was with 88 Cups of Tea one of my ABSOLUTE FAVES! And I am still pinching myself because I can’t believe I had this amazing experience. It was for their celebratory 88th episode (congratulations Yin and Moonlyn!) and I was one of the lucky listeners picked to interview. Previous episodes of 88 Cups of Tea included interviews with greats like Leigh Bardugo, Jenny Han, Alexandra Bracken, Renee Ahdieh, and V.E. Schwab! So I am so star-struck by this podcast and Yin (the amazing host!)

I’d say definitely check out all the episodes and listen to all 8 amazing listener interviews on this super fun episode (I’m around the 1:37:40 point)

88TH EPISODE: Special Edition Featuring 8 of Our Listeners by 88cupsoftea

Ya’ll. The 88th episode has arrived. Dun dun DUN! Today’s milestone episode is proudly sponsored by Sun Basket and BookCon. It features eight incredible listeners from our 88 Cups of Tea community. I remember when I first launched this podcast, the 88th episode seemed so far fetched.

 

And visit their website for the show notes and their archive of all the episodes: HERE

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The Diversity Conversation pt2: Resources and Links

Mar

24, 2017 |

Filed in:

community,reading,Writing

The Real Reason We Need Diverse Books

Eight kids show Matt de la Pena the the real reason We Need Diverse Books. *mic drop* Visit our Indiegogo campaign to support our mission: http://igg.me/at/diversebooks TRANSCRIPT: Matt de la Peña: So, hey guys. I just wanted to ask you a couple of questions about books. I’m an author, right.

Since there was more interest in my Diversity Conversation post than I expected (and because I do not consider myself an expert on this topic), I thought it might be helpful to provide a more comprehensive list of outside resources. I’ve compiled links to resources for anyone who would like to further their personal education on diversity and the diversity conversation!

I will be updating this with more links as they come to my attention.

***My request to you if you’ve come here to learn more about the diversity conversation in kidlit (especially if you are not part of one, many, or any of these marginalized communities). Please keep an open mind and be ready to be wrong. It’s important to overcome any internal biases that might have been picked up along your life (whether consciously or subconsciously). One of the reasons systemic racism and harmful stereotypes have permeated our world is because we can’t overcome these internal biases because we don’t see how insidious they can really be.***

Also, if you’re here, it’s probably because you want to learn. The BEST way to do that is to follow all the people who wrote these resources in the first place. And to support the authors who are creating diverse content. Buy their books! (Link to my diverse Goodreads books list: HERE)

Basics/Textbook definitions:

systemic/institutional racism

systemic misogyny

internalized sexism,

systemic ableism

how cis/het/straight is presented as the “norm” in our society.

defacto treatment of marginalized

microaggressions that happen daily

Here are resources to learn from about diversity in kidlit:

We Need Diverse Books

Writing in the Margins

American Indians in Children’s Literature

Disability in kidlit

Gay YA

Reading While White

Writing With Color

Minorities in Publishing

Diversity in YA

CBC Diversity

Rich in Color

Malinda Lo’s Guide to LGBT YA

Latinxs in Kidlit

Twitter list of Diverse writers

(it is in NO way comprehensive, but feel free to follow any and all of them!)

Diverse Writers

Okay let’s go more in-depth shall we?

Writing With Color provides Blogs – Recs – Resources

They also provide Writing With Color – Featured Research Guides

Some Marginalized Authors are nice enough to storify conversations and threads:

Violence Against Black Women in Publishing: The Harm Women of Color, Particularly Black Women, Face When Pushing For Diversity (compiled L.L. McKinney)

Justina Ireland on Worldbuilding & Appropriation (by Justina Ireland)

YA: “The Total Experience” Diversity in YA With Beth Revis, C.J. Omolulu, Lydia Kang & Malinda Lo. (compiled by Ava Jae)

How about some videos too?

(Preliminary) What Authors Are Saying About Why We Need Diverse Books

TRANSCRIPT: “We hate each other because we fear each other. And we fear each other because we do not know each other.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. What Authors Are Saying… John Green: Hi. My name’s John Green and we need diverse books.

What Authors Are Saying v2

Uploaded by We Need Diverse Books on 2015-12-03.

Diversity In Young Adult Literature | Leviosa 2016

Join Susan Dennard, Roshani Chokshi, Thao Le, Mark Oshiro, Axie Oh, Janella Angeles, and me (Lily Meade) for an awesome discussion in the Diversity in Young Adult Literature panel. Diversity in YA Fiction is so important to me. I had such a wonderful time. – ↔ open for more!

 

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Writer Mentor Programs: What are they & are they for me?

Mar

20, 2017 |

Filed in:

community,Writing

In honor of Author Mentor Match, I made ANOTHER vlog. I know, I know. You’re thinking, “Kat, can you calm down on these vlogs?” And my answer is “NEVER!” Haha, Just kidding.

Anyway, I wanted to make a video about Mentorship Programs before AMM opens to applications in April. And I tapped into my friends and CPs to give you all some insight!

✍Writer Mentor Programs: What are they & are they for me?

I discuss what mentorship programs are in the writing world and if they might be right for you. Also, I’ m sorry I talk so fast here, there were so many things I wanted to say!

~Full Quotes Below!~

“I think for me mentorship is also a way of growing and tending to the community. The idea that now that I’m part of the community and I want to be involved in reaching out to others who maybe feel more outside of it and pulling them in with me is a huge part of it. it’s not really just about the writing.” – Katy Rose Pool

 

“The world of publishing can be overwhelming, and so much information can only be gleaned from being in the community for years and pushing through many of the steps it takes to get published. We’re all helped along the way by someone, receiving key advice or support from fellow authors/publishing professionals. Through mentorship, more experienced authors can pay it forward, helping someone newer to our world navigate it with more ease. Mentees are a part of our community, and I want them to feel more welcome, and initiate them into the fold.” – Alexa Donne

 

“It feels a bit strange for me to offer to mentor another writer, when I still feel like a clueless newbie myself. Five years into my “writing career,” I have just a smidgen of experience in publishing, and I’m happy to share what advice I can, because this can be a confusing and heart wrenching industry. But I think the writing community, especially the YA online community, is so great about creating opportunities to help each other learn and grow. And it’s important to me to try to give back to the community that helped me get to where I am now.” – Heather Kaczynski

“Mentoring has been one of the most rewarding things that I’m so proud, and feel so lucky, to do as a writer. Many times, authors say they write the books that the younger versions of themselves would loved to have read. On that same note with mentoring, I’ve always hoped for the chance to provide the support and motivation to other aspiring writers that I know would’ve helped the younger writer I once was, still lost and hardcore struggling on my journey to publication. It’s an amazing experience to give back that way, to be able to help someone find their way on the journey, and to editorially guide the mentee and their manuscript you already love into the best shape it can be. Best of all, in mentoring, you gain a great friend in the process—one who you’ll always be there for in whatever highs and lows comes their way, and one who will support you just as much on your own path.” – Janella Angeles

 

“Nobody makes it in the publishing world without A LOT of support. I’ve always been fortunate to have people willing to share expertise and willing to read projects that were, shall we say…less than great. I love doing anything I can do to pass on my knowledge. Mentoring is particularly great because you get to be like the fun aunt but also the stern parent! You get to pick a project you love and cheerlead it and fangirl when it succeeds. But you also get to lay down some of your hard-earned wisdom and beat up the manuscript you love for its own good. It’s also given me A WHOLE TON of renewed appreciation for how hard it is to write and revise a book!” – Mara Fitzgerald

“We’re Janice Ian and Damien from Mean Girls. Come sit with us and we will explain how all this chaos works.” – Mara Fitzgerald

“it like…sort of feels like being in a writer sorority…except your big does things like highlight entire paragraphs and go “this is technically good but i know you can make it better” – Christine Herman

“Having a mentor prepared me really well for having an agent — it taught me how to implement intense, detailed feedback, how to work under deadline, and how to truly get my book to the next level. but because I didn’t have to impose professional boundaries on my mentor, I also got a great friend out of it — & a CP I can shove my books at until the end of time.” – Christine Herman

“Mentoring is an excellent way to remind yourself that you have no idea how to write a novel.” – Amanda Foody

 

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The fear and thrill of writing #ownvoices

Dec

01, 2016 |

Filed in:

community,Writing

I want to write an honest post about something that has always worried me and probably will always worry me as I keep writing about my heritage. It’s a special kind of imposter syndrome, the fear that I am appropriating my own culture for my art.

 

There are so many conversations about #ownvoices and #ownyourown. There are so many people saying meaningful and important things. Sometimes I try to chime in, but I always feel like others say it better, so signal boosting has been my main activity.

The way I see the world is a bit of a hybrid. I’ve spoken to many POC Americans who admit to feeling like they live in-between. Between the world of their parents/ancestors and the world they were born into. We are American but we have a qualifier in front. We are Something(-)American.

But, I chose to write a book about my culture as a Korean girl. And I also chose to write a book ONLY about being Korean (aka, not about being Korean American). So, I had to accept a few things about myself and my book.

1) I am Korean but I was not raised there, so I still see my heritage through a version of an American POV.

2) My parents picked what Korean ideals to raise us with so I lived their version of Korean culture.

3) I learned new things about my roots as an adult, but those aren’t as deeply ingrained in me as what I was raised with.

How I try to keep learning in my writing and in my identity

I am Korean 100% by genetics and blood, but I am a Korean American by upbringing. That means that I need to own what I know and fill in what I don’t with diligent research (just like any other writer).

The book I wrote is my heritage and my culture. But I knew being a Korean girl and being a person of color does not give me carte blanche to write whatever I want. I went to a semester abroad in Korea and visited many times as a child, but that doesn’t mean I instinctively know what I’m talking about when I write a contemporary Korean story. So, I went to Korea (multiple times) and I asked Korean people to clarify things as I wrote it. I asked Korean beta readers to read it. I asked my grandmother questions, my aunts, my cousin, my Korean language teacher. I wanted to ensure that I wasn’t just coasting on my bloodline to assume that I was getting it right.

I believe that we need to own our heritage in our writing. I also think we need to know our limitations and be sure that when we present our stories we are always doing due diligence.

I am proud and excited about this book I’ve created. But I am always learning and that excites me. I never want to stop learning. When we stop learning life can get pretty boring. And I refuse to live a boring life.
That’s why I’m a writer.

As a final note, someone recently shared THIS ARTICLE called “The Year in Hyphenates.” It’s a very honest and insightful article about what it’s like to be raised Asian American/Canadian and the in-between identity that is often created. I gotta be honest, I actually teared up reading it because it resonated so deeply with my own struggles as an Asian American. Often times I felt not Korean enough and not American enough at the same time. And I know that these struggles have bled over into my creative identity. I want to say this to any POC/Native/marginalized creators of #ownvoices reading this post. You are NOT responsible for representing your whole community. You can only tell YOUR story fully and honestly. As long as you love your story and feel like you’re representing YOUR experience well in your #ownvoices, then I’m sure you’re doing a wonderful job.

Keep dreaming! Keep creating!

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Imposter Syndrome

Oct

18, 2016 |

Filed in:

Writing

Hey guys, I know I haven’t written in a bit, and that’s partly because I didn’t have too much to write about. My day job has been really busy and I am finished with my bigger round of revisions (finally!). However, I came back to talk about something that has been a theme of many conversations I have lately:

Imposter Syndrome.

Here’s the thing. We talk a lot about the struggle to get accepted, to find someone to champion us (whether that’s an agent or editor). But there’s not always talk about the moments right after. The moments where your happiness is peppered with sudden drops in your stomach that someone is going to come in and say, “You’re a fraud and you don’t belong here. Get out!”

I don’t know if this is because of the fact that we’re creatives or because of the amount of time we spend receiving rejection after rejection. I think it’s probably a decent mix of both because I know people who found agents at many different points in their journey and they all admit to feeling the dreaded imposter syndrome.

Personally, I feel it every time someone new follows me on Twitter and they’re somehow tied to the industry.

I think to myself, “Do they know that I’m a total newb and I have nothing interesting to say?”

I’ve actually told my friend that I worry they’ll be annoyed with how many GIFs I post. Which, let’s be honest, I do way too much.

But, I will say, that when someone else comes to me with their fears of being labeled a fraud, it’s way easier for me to say, “No, you’re not!”

Maybe because it’s easier for us to defend our friends and see their genius than it is for us to see it in ourselves. Or maybe because I am just too close to my own fears to see past them. But I do know (logically) that the publishing industry is not a charity. It is not a place where people give you a contract or a book deal because of pity or because they had an “off” day. It’s because they see talent in you. And, sometimes we need a kick in the teeth to remember that.

So, this post is trying to be that kick for anyone who needs it (including myself!).

We work hard to get here. If you did all the right things (got CPs, beta readers, wrote a kick-butt query letter, entered the right pitch events, and kept a professional hat on the whole time) then when you get that offer and you feel that happy high, know that you DESERVE THIS! You are amazing and you worked hard!

Seriously you guys, agents reject 96% of author submissions. So, if you got an offer then you deserve this!

No two authors have the same journey! There are different “magic numbers” for everyone.

In an industry with so many opinions and paths, it’s sometimes hard to navigate and know what direction to go in. However, it’s also a community that is full of surprises and wonderful things around the corner. If you have a vision for your work and a good head on your shoulders, then you’re doing well. And, it doesn’t hurt to get a good group of Critique Partners and fellow writers behind you to support you during your down times.

If writing is your dream and your passion, then don’t let doubts bring you down. (I’m not saying you will be able to rid yourself of doubts, but just acknowledge them for what they are, insecurities that probably don’t have too much basis in actual fact).

I also think that admitting you have these fears is healthy, too. If you have a trusted group of friends or critique partners, then I’m sure they’d understand the feeling and be able to talk you through it.

But, at the end of the day, we have to all remember that we are amazing for trying and for fighting and for never giving up on our dreams. We ARE writers and we DO deserve to be here!

And now, bask in a montage of Leslie Knope compliments!

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Querying (2): Writing a Query Letter

Jul

05, 2016 |

Filed in:

Writing

I already wrote a step-by-step querying guide HERE. But I left out the biggest piece of the puzzle: Writing the query letter.

So here you go, my attempt at a query letter guide.

First and most important piece of advice I can give is to read successful queries!

Query Letter Success

Query Tracker Success Stories

Writer’s Digest Successful Queries

Also, reading sites that give query advice is very helpful. A great one is Janet Reid’s Query Shark.

 Okay, so let’s get to the meat of a query. I’ll again start out with a link to someone else, because I do not think I’m an expert at this. I loved Susan Dennard’s explanation on “The Parts of a Good Query.”

Here is what I kept in mind while I was starting my query writing:

1. Keep it brief

(think back jacket summary but less tropey. AKA don’t say “in a world where…”).

 Word count should probably land comfortably between 200-300 words.

If it’s longer then consider why (did you include too many characters or subplots?).

If it’s shorter then consider why (did you not explain the world enough? The conflict? The character?)

2. Include the three biggies: World, Character, Conflict

The world can be a quickie explanation (especially if it’s a world we know already. e.g. contemporary). But if it’s a made-up or fantasy world, ensure the only facts you include are the ones relevant to the MC’s character and conflict.

I’ll use Hunger Games as an example since most people have probably read/watched it:

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, the shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. (WC = 67)

This shows what has happened to the world and why each district must give up two children to the games each year. Nothing more and nothing less.

The Characters named in a query should probably be restricted to 2 (3 if there’s an MC, a main love and an antagonist). I’d only put names if the person is a POV character or they are actively influencing the story in a way that you need to reference them by name in order to explain the main conflict.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before– and survival, for her, is second nature. (WC = 36)

This explains how Katniss feels about the games and a bit of her personal history to reveal her character.

The key word with the conflict is main. Don’t include sub-plots or sub-conflicts.

Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love. (WC = 30)

In the Hunger Games the main conflict is that Katniss volunteers for a game that makes her fight to the death and only one can survive. The subplot is that she is trying to protect her little sister and that she can’t figure out if Peeta is on her side or against her.

NOTE: This is actually the back-jacket summary of HG which is why it is shorter than an average query. Hopefully you get the idea of what I mean by the main points to hit to summarize the story.

3. Ensure that it is specific to your story and world.

This is where I’ll repeat not to use tropes or vague wording. If you say something like “MC must decide between love and family before time runs out” then I can find that in the summary of dozens of books. Be specific about why it’s a decision and how it’s bad if they choose one over the other and vice versa.
Note that in the above back-jacket summary everything is SPECIFIC to the story of Hunger Games. They say exactly what the world is and what Katniss’s conflict is.

Individual parts of a query:

 

So, I don’t think every query can use the exact same formula. But if you’d like a general outline to follow here’s one that can potentially work for about 85% of queries.

 

Personalization:

I like to personalize my queries because it explains why I chose that agent to query. I like to include it at the top but some people like to put it at the bottom along with their personal bio and other information. I also chose to include my word count, Age category (PB/MG/YA/NA/A), and genre (fantasy, sci-fi, contemporary, etc)

Opening/Hook

Not every query needs a hook, but if you want to include one it should be one sentence long and be specific about your story.

Paragraph 1:

Introduce world and character. Show specific motivations for the character when the story opens and how they fit (or don’t fit) into the greater world you’ve created. Introduce the inciting incident.

BONUS: If you have more than one POV then you can introduce each character that has one. I had a dual POV book, so I gave each of them their own intro (complete with their personal conflicts and motivations)

Paragraph 2 (&3):

Explain how the MC(s) react to the inciting incident and how it starts to change them/their world. Explain how the MC(s) plan to overcome or adjust to the conflict. Be specific to your world and your character. Do not use vague language like “or her world will be torn apart” or “A greater threat looms.”

Final Paragraph/Bio

If you want to include comps, you can put them here. Put a quick bio and any writing credits. If you didn’t already include it in the first paragraph, be sure to put Age category (PB/MG/YA/NA/A), word count, and genre (fantasy, sci-fi, contemporary, etc). And any final salutations.

BONUS: Suggestions for overcoming 
Query Letter Writer’s Block

1. Try to write the query summarizing ONLY the first 50 pages of the book. This is a suggestion given to me by many and it helps to focus the query (in the first 50, you should have already introduced world, character, main conflict/inciting incident).

2. Have someone who’s NEVER READ your MS read the query letter, then ask them what they think your story is about. If they can’t give you the main gist then consider re-writing.

3. Ask someone who HAS READ your MS how they’d summarize your book. (Obviously, they can’t write your whole query for you, but they can tell you what they think the main point of your story was from an outside perspective. We are often too close to our stories to see them clearly)

4. Take some time, write the 1-2 page summary instead. Maybe this’ll help you see what is important in your story.

5. Read your whole MS as a READER and see how the story flows.

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Querying (1): Step by Step Query Process

Jun

27, 2016 |

Filed in:

Writing

So, I just went through the journey we call querying and I thought I’d write about it since I love step-by-step guides.

This post probably won’t be completely comprehensive, but I did try to include everything I personally had questions about. And if you have any additional questions, feel free to ask them in the comments and I’ll try to use my resources, friends, CPs, etc. to answer them.

Step 1: Write your query 

(This will be a separate post. Just need to compile querying advice from my own trusted sources to share with you happy people)

UPDATE: Query Letter post is HERE

Step 2: Research Agents

This step can be done at any time during the writing and querying process. In all likelihood it WILL happen before you’re done writing your MS. Because we all like to look ahead a million steps and dream (If we didn’t dream, we probably wouldn’t be writers).

Here’s a sample of a spreadsheet I compiled with data points I thought were important for agents.

You can include as many or as few data points as you want. This is just what I did because I like to compile data (I’m a clinical researcher by day).

This helps because you can write up a query letter that includes detailed reasons why you are querying the agent. Doesn’t need to be much. It can be as simple as “I am querying you because you expressed an interest in Urban Fantasy with diverse characters. I am hoping to interest you in my diverse fantasy set in the city of Bangkok.”

Sites I used to research agents:

– Agency Sites (I always start there, they have the basics such as genre they rep and how to submit)

Query Tracker

MSWL (which stands for Manuscript Wishlist)

– You can also search Twitter for #MSWL

-Speaking of Twitter, you can follow your fave editors and agents

Writer’s Digest

Publisher’s Marketplace

– Also, lots of great interviews on blogs (I just googled [Agent Name + Interview])

Step 3: Make sure you pick the proper genre:

Genre is NOT MG, YA, NA, Adult.

Those are your audiences. You cannot just say you are writing YA and think the agent will think, “Great, that’s what I represent.” Some agents do represent all YA, but even they will think something is fishy if you don’t include a genre. So a genre is:

Fantasy: This is magic! Elves, wizards, mermaids, dragons. There is high fantasy (Lord of the Rings style) and low fantasy (Daughter of Smoke and Bone Style). There are subgenres in fantasy such as Paranormal, Magical Realism (to be discussed later,) and urban fantasy (to be discussed later).

Fantasy YA books: The Star-Touched Queen, The Wrath and the Dawn, Graceling, Throne of Glass, Prophecy, and Serpentine

Science Fiction: Also easy to define. This is taking something that is rooted in science and stretching it and expanding it into something fantastical. But it is not magic. So something like The Matrix is Sci-Fi because they do live in a world without the true laws of physics, but they’re ruled by machines and computer code. This includes sub genres like: dystopian and space operas.

Books that are Sci-fi: Legend, ZeroboxerHunger Games, These Broken Stars

Urban Fantasy: This is magical elements in a kick-butt urban world. So, Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series is Urban Fantasy.

Other Urban Fantasy books: Vampire Academy, White Cat, Shadowshaper, Labyrinth Lost

Contemporary: These books are set in a realistic, contemporary setting (thus the name). They can be issue driven, but don’t have to be. They are often quieter in nature, but are most times coming of age stories within the realm of YA. (Think John Green, Jenny Han, Katie McGarry). Tiny Pretty Things, Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, Perks of Being a Wallflower

Thriller: This is like the action movie, suspense genre. It’s more contemporary in setting (so no magic), but it has faster pace. I don’t read much of thriller genre in YA so I’d defer to other sites and their definitions, but some books in YA Thriller are The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, We Were LiarsAfter the Woods

Horror: Just like it sounds. It’s horror. I don’t write this genre a lot, so I defer to other sites on deeper definitions, but some books that are YA horror are Anna Dressed in BloodThe Madman’s Daughter, A Monster Calls

Magical Realism: This one is harder for me to define because I can see how a book would be Magical Realism one way, and then fantasy another. So I like THIS post to explain it. It’s pretty much a contemporary world with a magical element that is treated as a reality of life (I often think of Miyazaki films for this). The Weight of FeathersThe Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1)Bone Gap

Historical: This is how it sounds. A book that is set in the past. Usually doesn’t have fantastical elements, but there have been some good historical with light magic (magical realism books).

Under a Painted Sky, Code Name Verity, The Book Thief

At the end of the day genre is definitely fluid. Some people would say their book is Science Fantasy because it’s a space opera with magical wizards on Mars.

I personally called my current MS Contemporary Fantasy because it is based on Mythology with a mythical creature, but it is in modern day Seoul and the characters deal with a lot of contemporary issues.

Step 4: Check on your word count 

(this actually could be a “pre-step” since it comes about in writing and revision stage.

THIS is a great guide written in detail about word count for all genres by Chuck Sambuchino at Writer’s Digest

But in general, these are the guidelines I follow (keep in mind these are just my rules for myself and I only write MG and YA):

YA Contemporary: 50,000-70,000 (Sweet spot ~55,000 to 65,000)

YA Fantasy/Sci-Fi: 60,000 – 100,000 (Sweet spot ~75,000 to 85,000)

MG (I tend to write “upper MG”): 40,000 – 60,000 (Sweet spot ~45,000 – 55,000)

Step 5: Make sure you FOLLOW SUBMISSION GUIDELINES

I cannot stress this enough. I have friends who work or worked at Literary Agencies. They say that the biggest reason for auto-reject  is that the person did not follow submission guidelines. I think “auto-reject” is the saddest thing ever because it happens before your pitch or work can speak for itself.

Things to make sure you double check:

– Does the agent represent your genre?

– Does your MS follow word count guidelines for your genre?

– Do you have the proper submission email? (This could be different from an email found on an agent’s blog. Go directly to the agency website to get the right email address for submissions)

– Did you address the agent in a formal way? (Mr. or Ms. LAST NAME)

– Did you write a personal blurb about WHY you’re submitting to them? Many agents like to know why you’re querying them. They want to know that you did your research.

Additionally, my critique group (and specifically the wonderful David Slayton @davidrslayton) created this sweet flow-chart of do’s and don’ts

Step 6: Headers/Subject lines/Attachments/Body of email

This is something I had A LOT of questions about. So I will just say what I did. This will definitely vary depending on the agent you send to, so please check their requirements before you send the same email to everyone (also, this should NEVER happen, you should personalize your emails for the agent you’re sending to):

SUBJECT LINE: Query [Agent Name]: TITLE OF BOOK

(the reason I put Agent Name is that a lot of submission emails are agency wide. It just helps to name the agent in the subject line)

BODY OF EMAIL:

1. Query letter

2. PASTE sample pages

3. PASTE synopsis (if requested).

(I personally liked to put synopsis last because the synopsis is kind of dry, language-wise. I want their first impression to be my voice. Now there is nothing I found that said what the order of sample pages and synopsis were. But if you do find that then follow those rules. Just know that query letter will ALWAYS come first. It’s your opener).

SIGN OFF: I put my signature at the end of the query letter. Because that was my formal opening and then the sample pages were like an attachment that I just copy pasted into the body of the email. 

I used a simple “Sincerely, Kat Cho”

BONUS:

 If you are submitting to an agent because of a request or a contest then the SUBJECT LINE should include that fact!

I did both a conference and an online pitch contest they looked like this:

RT Con Request for [AGENT NAME]: GUMIHO

#DVPit Request for [AGENT NAME]: GUMIHO

Step 7: Send the query!

Okay, now you’re ready to send the query! So press send!

Step 8: Step away!

Okay, so, if you’re anything like me, you’re going to FREAK OUT as soon as you press “send.” Try as hard as you can NOT to do that! It will only end in stressed sadness. So, this is the “waiting and distraction” phase.

Some suggestions of activities to distract yourself with:

1. Start another WiP

2. Read your whole TBR list

3. Watch everything you’ve ever wanted to watch on Netflix

4. Flee the country (and/or go on a reasonable trip)

5. Do…fun things? I don’t know, you’re lucky I came up with 4 things already.

Step 9: Submitting Requested Materials

You did it! You got an agent to request your materials! Whether it’s a 50 page partial or a full MS, this is a celebratory moment. I personally bought myself a little gift after my first request. (Then I drank heavily after I sent out the materials, but that’s…not a requirement)

I’ve heard varying advice for this. So, I’ll just say what I did.

I replied to the original email chain and changed the subject to “Requested Material: TITLE”

Then I put a little blurb into the body of the email. Not anything huge, just something simple like:

“Thank you so much for requesting my Full/Partial of TITLE. I have attached the requested material as a Word doc.
For your convenience, I’ve pasted the query letter below.
Thank you again, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Your Signature
PASTE QUERY HERE”

So, you don’t actually HAVE to paste your query letter again if you’re replying to the original thread. But I did it (and I’m not sorry!)

Step 10: Step away AGAIN! 

Yes! More waiting! So, see step 7 for my great suggestions on how to not worry about your MS being in the hands of agents.

Also, peppered in between each step should be halfway steps that I call CELEBRATE YOURSELF

Seriously! You did it! You rock. You are awesome. Even just sending ONE query means you’re putting yourself out there. That is huge. I know that I felt ridiculously accomplished after sending one query. And then I just rested for a while thinking “Yes, I did it. I pressed send.”

(I really spent time celebrating sending ONE query)

So, bask in your glory. And ask any questions you might have below. I’ll try to answer or provide links I’ve used.

Just as a final note, querying to find an agent might not be for everyone. I know people who have gone straight to a publishing house with their MS or have self-published to great success.
This post is merely for people who would like to find an agent as their next step on their writing/publishing journey.

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Adventures in Revising(5): Dialogue

Jun

07, 2016 |

Filed in:

Writing

Dialogue is a funny thing. It is the voice of your characters, but it is not necessarily always the voice of your narrative (especially when you’re writing in third person). This means that not only do you have to figure out how to give your story a voice, but also each individual character (wow, writing is hard y’all).

Anyway, here are a few tips that I’ve picked up as I’ve been writing and revising.

Common Problems When Writing Dialogue:

Problem

Overly formal dialogue.

For example, “I do not understand what you are referring to. I was simply minding my own business with my friends.”

Solution: 

Rough it up! Add some slang (but not too much) and just say the sentence out loud and see if it sounds natural. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I was just hanging out with my friends.”

Problem:

Alternatively, too much slang is bad.

This kind of language can date your story (i.e. if you’re making your character say a popular slang word that was big in 2010 but no one uses it anymore, totes awkward amiright?

Also, if you use too much slang it makes it hard to follow the dialogue anyway. Even though everyone speaks with different dialect it can distract from your story. And, sometimes authors who are writing children’s fiction use random words that kids/teens would never actually say themselves. So why trap yourself with trying to use “young speech” patterns.

Solution:

Just stick with dialogue that you use. Chances are that if you’re not an overly-proper English marm then you speak like any teen, adult, monster, alien character that will be in your book.

Problem: 

Wall of dialogue aka monologues.

It’s what supervillians do in the movies that always get them beat at the end. So we know that it is the tool of evil and destruction. This is how you should view monologues in your writing.

Solution: 

Don’t turn your MC into a guy who won’t shut up. If your MC is telling a long story and it fits into the flow of the story, you should still break up that big block of text with action.

Problem

What I call “Telling Dialogue.”

Just because we put background information in dialogue does not magically make it showing instead of telling (which I will talk more about in a later post). Dialogue can definitely feel like telling (I mean, it is literally a character telling another character something)

This is easy to identify if you realize you’re having characters say information that every character in the scene already knows simply because it explains the world or background story to the reader. In real life, if everyone in a room knows something already, I’m not going to tell that story again, it would make me a boring friend and no one would ever talk to me.

Also, if your character is talking out loud to themselves in order to impart information, this is a big no-no (you know, those scenes in Days of Our Lives where the character is like “why did I kiss Steve when I know he’s my sister’s husband? We just got close again after she regained her memory.” Everyone ridicules these tactics in Soap Operas, so don’t use them in your book either!)

Solution:

If there is a new character who doesn’t know this information then you can impart information in an appropriate conversation. Storytelling is not bad, it just needs to be imparted in a way that creates movement in the story, pushing plot forward. Also, the ability to trust your readers to hang in there to figure out what makes your world tick is a big lesson I learned in writing.

Problem

Fancy dialogue tags (i.e. yelled, snapped, growled, hissed)

Solution

Just use s/he said and s/he asked. Use action and the actual dialogue to show how it should sound. The context of the words should be enough to get emphasis across.

(This was a hard lesson to learn, although I am still guilty of using the occasional “whispered” and “shouted”)

Problem: 

(Over) Repetition of a character name.

Sometimes you want to distinguish who is speaking in a dynamic way. You don’t want to muck up your dialogue with random “he said” and “she said” tags. So you just plop the names of characters into the dialogue itself. The problem is that this can get very repetative.

Say character names once in a conversation (max).

Just think about it, in regular conversation someone would not say, “As you know, Fred, I am new to this town. So, Fred, when I am out doing errands I often get lost. That is why I need your help, Fred.”

Solution

Differentiate who is speaking with a well-placed dialogue tag rather than saying names in the dialogue.

Other Lessons Learned:

Subtext and Context are your friends.

If you have an upset character saying “I’m fine,” then the reader is probably smart enough to know that this is said in an angry tone and that the character is (in fact) not fine.

Also, if someone says “Well, aren’t you just a genius?” then most readers will automatically read that line as sarcastic, because seriously, we live in a world where someone is more likely to be sarcastically calling you a genius than truly thinking you’re a genius (sad, but true).

Try to stay away from the kitchy written out speech ticks
stuttering “s-s-s-o c-c-c-old.”

lisping “Thisth isth ridicluousth.”

and anything else that you’re using to give your characters quirky voices. You can just said “It’s so cold,” he said, stuttering. Or “This is ridiculous,” she said, her lisp making her words hard to understand.

Make Every Line Count.
I would give this advice for any kind of writing. Don’t have throw-away scenes just to get to the juicy part. So don’t have throw-away dialogue either. Don’t have characters talk about the weather for two pages unless it is because there are gods controlling the weather and it is a sign that the apocalypse is coming and your characters must stop the dark lord from shrouding the world in hurricane evil!

Read your dialogue out loud.
Dialogue is your characters’ spoken words, so you should speak them out loud yourself to see if the cadence and word choice fits what you’re trying to accomplish. If it sounds stilted and awkward then rewrite.

Make sure your dialogue is distinctively from your story and part of your characters. 

Something I say to my CPs all the time–if I can take your dialogue and plop it in the middle of any other YA Fantasy or Sci-Fi or whatever-your-genre-is book, then you need to make it more distinctively yours. Give it more voice, make it a part of your characters. Don’t just use dialogue as a vehicle to move plot forward, use it to show us who your characters really are.

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