While 2021 sucked in many ways, my experience as a writer was not one of them.
I started the year thinking—once again—I was ready to query. My hope was to be agented by the end of the year, and my goal was to send a handful of queries every other week or so. As a science fiction writer, my available pool of agents is smaller than that of non-genre writers, so I’m careful not to send tons of queries at one time. I’m methodical, sending small batches so I can revise my manuscript and/or query as I get feedback.
Another goal I had for this year was to find a solid set of critique partners. I joined four online crit sites—Critter’s Workshop, Critique Circle, Scribophile, and CritiqueMatch—and also began attending a local in-person writing group once pandemic restrictions lifted enough to resume meetings. Each of these options works in slightly different ways. I ended up having the most success on Critique Circle and Scribophile, so they’re the ones I continue to use regularly. If you’re on either, connect with me, especially if you identify as female and write soft sci-fi! I’d love to add more awesome writers to my networks!
Thanks to the critique groups, I learned so much in the first half of the year, I decided to stop querying and do a major revision. First, I completely gutted one of the POVs in the second act and rewrote all of those chapters. I also shifted everything from past tense to present, which made the action feel much more immediate. I loved the tense changes, but unfortunately, not in the third-person POV. I ended up doing another revision to move it from third person to first. That, I think, was one of the best moves I made because it really made the narration in the different POVs diverge in voice.
The manuscript is significantly stronger than what I started the year with, and I’m so glad I didn’t just keep slogging through the querying trenches with my subpar book. I’m also incredibly grateful for the crit sites and groups that helped me refine my writing so much in such a short time. (Also, Abby Jiminez rocks…she mentioned Critique Circle in one of her Facebook posts, which is how I found the site that’s been the most helpful on my journey. If you like romance novels that will rip your heart right out of your chest and make you beg for more, check her out!)
I sent the newly-revised manuscript to several beta readers, and now that I’ve gotten notes back from them, I’m doing another final-polish-before-querying revision. I’ll start querying it in a week or two, after I’ve revised my synopses and query letter to go with the new draft.
To me, that’s a whole lot of success for a single year . . . but wait! There’s more! This year I also . . .
• Critiqued well over 100 individual chapters/pieces
• Did two full beta reads
• Read more than 60 traditionally published books plus a few indies/self-pubs
• Joined NetGalley and started doing reviews for ARCs
• Attended my first two conventions—one local in person, one online
• Started attending SFWA’s monthly craft discussions with awesome authors
• Participated in my first pitch session with an agent (and got my first partial request out of it!)
• Got a lot of great professional feedback on my first pages
• Learned a ton about how to write a good query (thanks Patrick!!)
• Sent thirty-four queries
• Started blogging semi-regularly
• Grew my Twitter platform by 238%
• Applied for PitchWars (didn’t get in, but it led to an invitation to a private crit group!)
• Started a novel for NaNoWriMo and completed it at 65K words a couple days after Christmas
• Refined a short story I wrote several years ago
• Wrote a new short story
• Submitted both short stories to multiple contests and magazines
• Researched a ton of agents
As I told my AVP at my day job, I’m not good at “downtime” ha ha! Yikes.
I’m really glad I sat down and wrote this out. It’s easy to think I’m not moving forward, just revising the same manuscript over and over again. Knowing how much that manuscript has improved—and how much better the first draft of my NaNo project was thanks to all that work—I think it’s been well worth the effort. If this round of querying doesn’t work out, it may be time to set it aside and focus on other ideas, but hopefully, it won’t come to that. I have sequels partially drafted, and I’d really like to have a reason to finish them!
My hope for this year, once again, is to get an agent. My goals to help me achieve that dream include . . .
• Continuing to query in batches to test the strength of my query and first pages
• Continuing to build critique partner relationships
• Developing and revising the NaNo manuscript
• Reading at least 50 books
• Reviewing at least 25 books on Goodreads & NetGalley
• Doing at least one more in-person (live or zoom) pitch
Here’s to doing what we can to make our dreams come true. Happy New Year!