Universal truth: writers are AWESOME, whether they have agents, book deals, contest wins coming out their ears, or are in the query trenches. Yes, trenches. You know, the period of time when a writer leaves behind anonymity and braves the rejection-heavy world in their attempt to obtain representation by a literary agency.
It’s a mouthful, ain’t it? Yeah, so is doing it. But when I was querying and entering every contest available, I found myself surrounded by amazing people who were querying right alongside me. Not only did my other “Trenchers” keep me going, but these were also the people who taught me the most about how to do this crazy thing we’re trying to do, and what kind of cheese goes best with red wine. (It’s Tillamook cheese, btw.)
It’s for that reason I reached out to writers who are either actively participating in contests or are querying agents, and I asked them about who they are, what they’ve learned and would like to share, and how we can support them in their journey.
I hope you join me in welcoming
MICA S. KOLE
K: Hi Mica! Thanks so much for talking to me today! So what genre and age category do you write?
M: I write about impossible things for readers who can handle dark truths. In other words, adult fantasy.
K: I love how you describe that! How long have you been writing? What inspired you?
M: I’ve been writing since I learned to write and telling stories since long before that. My first “book” inspiration came from Duplos (these are like giant legos for children). I would build Duplo homes and act out stories about the animals that lived there. (I distinctly remember them using “vine juices” to make vehicles fly.) I wrote and illustrated two books about them, called “The Miracle Zoo” series. I just continued to invent stories with my toys and friends until age 11 or so, when I started writing part of the series I’m still working on. I filled up two notebooks before I hit the keyboard.
K: Wow so it sounds like you’ve definitely been doing this for a while! So what’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about writing/querying while in “The Trenches” that you’d like to share with other authors?
M: Querying: You literally cannot be ready to query if you have not had a really, really good beta reader. If you haven’t had good critiques, trust me: your book sucks. Also, get professional feedback on your query letter at least five times before even clicking “Send.”
Writing: Plot your book out either right away or after the first draft. If you don’t follow the Act 1-3 structure, or something similar, you will still end up needing to follow it. And fixing those problems in draft 6 is much more frustrating than in draft 2!
K: I completely agree: a good beta reader is crucial once you start approaching writing as a career. Where did you find your CP, and are you still seeking any additional Critique Partners or Beta Readers?
M: I don’t actively seek CPs unless I cross paths with someone that seems to (relatively) match my genre and skill/draft level. There’s nothing worse than offering to read a book and finding out that the author you agreed to CP with hasn’t run a spell check or learned the difference between showing and telling. I don’t have time for that at book-length, and I can’t value a person’s feedback if they haven’t already figured out the same basics that I have.
Ways to get good CPs:
Writer’s Groups. I founded my writer’s group via Craigslist, but I’ve heard good things about Meetup. The writer’s group led me to my first solid critique partner (who oddly has the same first name as me).
Twitter Events. I partnered with a published CP whom I met during a Twitter contest and somehow impressed.
Writing Conferences. Hold up a sign during lunch breaks with your genre, and eat out with people who write what you do. You’ll have a CP in no time. Also, I have the personal email of the author of Liar Temptress Soldier Spy because of a chat during a conference book signing; I imagine that email would be incredibly valuable to someone who wrote in her genre - not as a CP, per se, but perhaps as a mentor.
K: Those are some great resources for finding a CP! As a querying author, do you have any other resources that you can’t live without?
M: During my first query run, I was too thorough. I submitted to 80+ agents accepting fantasy, and was rejected by all of them… but I saved their information. I shared it on my website so that I - and those like me - can make use of it in future. (link). I also worked as an intern for Speilburg Literary, and made a blog series - using my slush pile experience and the agent’s feedback - about how to write a query letter. That experience was incredibly valuable to me and I like to refer people to the articles; they’re a very good place to start (link). I’d also say Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird is required reading, and that you’re not a real writer if you don’t hit at least one writer’s conference!
K: That’s so kind of you to share all your experiences and have that information available! You also mentioned having your fair share of experience with rejection in the querying stage—as a lot of us do in this industry. How do you stay inspired and keep going?
M: My motto is to “Keep moving forward.” If I am constantly improving upon my work, whether it’s through agent rejections/feedback, partner critiques, or paid editors, then one day I’ll be published and be able to make a small living at it, whether I resort to self-publication or not. It’s logically the only outcome there can be, as long as I don’t settle for less than my best. And my best gets better every day! I can’t even explain how much better my book is since my last round of rejections; I don’t blame a single one of those agents.
K: I think that may be the best attitude one could have! So is there a place where can we learn more about you, possibly read some of your work, or support you in any contests you’re actively participating in?
M: Aw, you’re too kind. Here’s a list:
Join #FriDare. I run this Twitter contest on Fridays on my personal handle @micascotti It gives writers a one-Tweet challenge weekly (usually with humor overtones). I pick winners!
Follow @writevent On this Twitter handle, I post about free online writing events from my Events Calendar If you see upcoming events, add my handle to your post about it!
Visit my blog or website (micascottikole.com). I could use a little more engagement on the blog, and the site is filled with author tools like my fantasy agent list and my tip-series for authors new to Twitter.
Read on Wattpad My book is going up biweekly on Wattpad for the first time (illustrations and other media in the works). I’d love any feedback on that. It’s seen more than 5 solid edits so it’s really not terrible, I swear.
K: Oh man, I can’t wait to add some more Friday twitter fun to my calendar! Speaking of fun: What book do you wish you had written because it’s just.that.awesome. ?
M: Rereading the Harry Potter series with a writerly eye makes me so jelly now. J. K. Rowling is just a pro when it comes to weaving plot elements together. I also envy her humor. As a writer of sometimes-dark stuff, I have a lot of trouble with that! I have the same birthday as her and Harry, too, so I feel a bit of an extra connection to her work.
K: You had me at Harry Potter! Thanks so much for talking to us, Mica!
Mica was also kind enough to share a sample of her work!
14 Days Until Omniren
K-1 stood before the counter of a wine shop, holding her unpredictable balance in check. Beneath the wall-to-wall shelves of steel kegs, she forced her task through her mind three times, repeating the words until they finally stuck:
Go to the Vintner. Fulfill his request.
Return for reassignment….
Across the shop counter sat the Vintner in question, an old and abnormally thin man leaning back in his chair. He sat in what appeared to be deep concentration, intent upon the pages of the leather-bound book in his hands. But K-1 knew better. His eyes never moved.
He was pretending that she was not there.
Finally he grunted and set down his book. “You here to make my delivery?”
She nodded. “Yes Mas—”
She made a fist beneath the counter, out of sight. She looked past her fisted hand to the steel weave of the floor.
“I got lost,” she lied, because it was easier. She hated the taste of the words.
The Vintner raised one eyebrow and turned to the wall behind him, where wine bottles—made of rare glass—rested in loops of black steel. She followed his gaze to the bottles and past them, to the floor-to-ceiling wall-bars that separated this room from the sun-struck supports of the Tower interior. There, in the knot of steel room-cages and beams, the sunset crawled along the geometric black edges, its fingers reaching through the golden wine bottles, hinting at end-of-day pink.
(End of sample)
Mica S. Kole is a 26-year-old English graduate of Michigan State University. She quit her day job to pursue her dream of being an author for a living. She lives near Detroit, MI with a teleportational cat and a boyfriend who does everything (except teach high school English) in his underwear. Required reading: The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho.
If you have a friend or acquaintance who is actively seeking representation through the "Query Trenches" and you'd like to see them featured on Writers on the Rise, feel free to nominate them in the comments below, or you can reach out to me on twitter @KatieGolding_TX
Until next time, Happy Reading!