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
K: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me, Maxym! So first, what genre and age category do you write?
M: I tend to stick to New Adult and Adult. As far as genre goes, primarily fantasy and romance. Light fantasy, urban fantasy, dark fantasy, fantasy romance . . . I have a contemporary romance that I occasionally visit, but it’s hard for me not to douse that sucker in magic. And I love to write about kissing. ALL THE KISSING. Yup, that about sums it up.
K: All the kissing! A motto I live by myself ;) So how long have you been writing? And can you tell us what inspired you?
M: My mom says I started writing really early on. I’m talking like I learned how to hold a crayon and I just started going. But as far as what I can consciously remember, I’d say 13 (so about 13 years now, but those first eight weren’t really serious). I have exceedingly vivid dreams and night terrors, so I started writing as an outlet. I think that’s also why I’m so drawn to fantasy — it’s the closest thing I can come to in terms of capturing the fantastical elements that pop up in my dreams.
K: That’s so incredible that you started so early! And as one very vivid dreamer to another, I love the idea of swirling fantasy and reality into your writing that’s prompted by your unconscious mind. So with your aforementioned 13 years of experience (wow!), 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: Oh boy. What haven’t I learned while hanging out in the trenches? It really comes down to two things, I suppose, and one of those things sparked the other realization. First and foremost, get involved. Be an active part of the writing community. I spent my first few years in the dark, totally unaware of Twitter contests, beta readers, critique partners — the works. Rejection is hard to handle, and I had (unknowingly) placed myself in a very bad place in terms of writing. It was like trying to navigate a class five river in a banana boat. And sometimes, it still is. But now, I have people to go to. When something doesn’t work, I can get advice and feedback (something agents rarely have time to do) and that makes everything easier. Like navigating a slightly less dangerous river on a banana boat but with a paddle.
But beyond that, and this is the second realization, it’s important to set smaller realistic goals. I have lofty aspirations (as we all do). And I’m not saying you should toss that primary goal to the wayside. I’m just saying give yourself something smaller along the way. A positive review on your query, a request for pages in a contest, winning a contest, a request for pages from an agent — any goal that isn’t the obvious, “become a best-selling novelist overnight.” Trust me, accomplishing the little goals along the way is a huge win, and it makes the ride more enjoyable.
K: *barely resists the urge to give you standing ovation because YES, TAKE ALL THE WINS, gives in anyway and claps my heart out* *cough* *tries to re-compose self because #professional*
So it seems as though you’re well versed in how to handle the query process, but can you tell us what resources you used to get started, or any that you’ve collected in the time since?
M: I have a habit of collecting links on my site. Pages I frequent, blogs I follow . . . It’s not an all-inclusive list, and I’m constantly adding to it when I realize that I’ve accidentally left someone off (that happens a bit). But generally speaking, I’d say I can’t live without QueryShark. She’s rad. When it doubt, find a query that works and emulate the formula. Afterward, take it to a crit group and shape it into your own beauty.
K: That’s such great advice – especially taking it to a crit group for feedback. On that train of thought, do you have a CP, and if so, where did you find them? If not, are you seeking a Critique Partner or Beta Reader? And what are your strengths are as a CP?
M: I currently have one CP and I met her through Pitch Wars. We’re both part of an aspiring mentee group on Facebook, and we’d been eyeing each other’s posts for a bit before we started swapping chapters. In retrospect, I wish we’d started sooner because she’s totes amazing.
I wouldn’t mind an additional CP or beta reader, preferably someone who’s familiar with fantasy and is OK with romantic elements. My current CP writes contemporary romance, so she’s got the kissy stuff on lockdown. I’d like to work with someone who can bring a fantasy lens to the table. I’ll probably start poking around for one of those post Pitch Wars. As far as where I’ll go to find one, I’m not sure. I’ve seen groups pop up on Facebook, Twitter . . . there’s always sites like Absolute Write Water Cooler which is a forum-based platform where other writers come together for queries, synopses, pages, frustrations, celebrations, etc. Though you have to be willing to put in some legwork for that site, as you have to prove you’re actively interested in helping others instead of just flying by for some free critiques. You could probably start your own thread seeking a CP and go from there.
As far as my strengths go, I can tell you I won’t pull punches. I work as a copy editor for my company, so I’m not afraid to get real with you real quick. I’m not talking mean in any sense of the word, but I’ll likely get invested in your story. I want it to shine bright like a diamond, damn it! I’m also pretty good at pointing out character incongruities, overloaded descriptions, sentence flow/continuity . . . I can tell you where it’s dragging, where we need to feel the character vs. see the environment. That kind of stuff.
K: There you have it, guys! She’s looking for CP and if you’re interested, leave a comment below or check her out contact links. So Maxym, this career path can be tough for even the most experienced writers. I’m so glad to hear you’ve got a great CP behind you – how else do you stay inspired and keep going in the face of a rejection-heavy industry?
M: I read a LOT. I’ve devoured six books this week alone. That quantity/ratio isn’t exactly normal, but I’ve had some extra time on my hands and a wandering mind that likes to browse Pitch Wars teasers . . . so I occupied it. J I’m also a gamer and an anime nerd. When I discover new worlds, I find my own inspiration.
Look, this industry is brutal. I almost broke earlier this year, and I had to take a break for my own sanity. And I realized that in the face of rejection, I had forgotten what was important — the why. Take the time to rediscover why you’re writing. This is less of a “go and do something” action like finding a community and more of a “sit and be” kind of opportunity. We all want to be published authors. We all want to wander the rows of bookstores and find our novel on a shelf. But why do you write? I write because it makes me happy. I find joy in writing. It helps me come out of a particularly lucid dream. And yes, I’m beyond thrilled when someone loves my work, but in the end I write because I can’t stop. If I hold tight onto that, it makes rejection a little bit easier.
K: So true, you have to keep focused on the root of why we started! The writing! Is there a place where can enjoy yours, maybe links to where we can learn more about you and support you as a writer? Or any contests you’re actively participating in where we can root for you?
M: I’ve got a blog, maxymmagazine.com, where I occasionally rant/offer advice about the writing struggle. And as of August 24, I am officially a Pitch Wars mentee! The lovely and talented Layla Reyne selected me to work with over the next two months. I couldn’t be more thrilled and humbled to work with her, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity that’s been presented to me. Seriously, I straight ugly cried when I saw my name on the list. I’d love any and all support throughout the upcoming months. My twitter handle is @maxymmckay and I’ll probably be posting updates on my blog as I go along. Connect with me! I’m always game for chatting, and if you’re participating in any contests, I’ll root for you, too!
K: Congratulations on being selected as a mentee for #PitchWars! How exciting! It sounds like you’ve got a lot moving in the right direction, so I promise this last question won’t be too terrible before I let you go. Just for fun: What book do you wish you had written because it’s just.that.awesome. ?
M: Aside from the obvious Harry Potter? J I’m a huge fan of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Honestly, her diction, word choice, language . . . gah. I can’t even. I admire that level of talent. There are plot lines and characters that I love more in other stories, but she’s so damn good at her craft that it makes my heart weep for joy.
K: Preach, girl, Preach. Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me, and I wish you all the best in #PitchWars and all your other endeavors!
Maxym Martineau was kind enough to tease us with a sample of her writing!
THE RAVEN PRISONER
Lighthouse District was full of possibilities. And I had one in my sights.
I gripped the cracking, leather hold above my head as the Runner screeched to a stop. The motion rattled the rest of the passengers, and that’s when I saw her. The elf. I could balance a broomstick on her perfectly angled shoulders. So much confidence. The metallic, train doors slid open, and she strolled out onto the pavement. I tracked her with my eyes and pushed my way past passengers to follow in her shadow.
She was young with pointed ears and thick, black hair. Her red heels clicked against the pavement like ice cracking over a thawing lake. Business casual. Pencil skirt with a slit up the back. Wide-set hips. She’d do just fine.
A wave of desire purled down my spine and spread toward my limbs. Damn, I was hungry. But I didn’t come to Lighthouse just to settle for the first hot piece of ass off the Runner. Hell, I’d even dressed up for this. Hunger gripped my insides, and I pressed my hand against the boning of my corset, willing the sharp clenching to fade away. Even though it had nothing to do with actual food, I couldn’t help the habit.
True to its name, in Lighthouse there weren’t any dark corners. No seedy establishments. No hidden alleys for questionable acts. Just marble-like buildings with magic in their brickwork that held a constant, soft glow. The natives maintained a general sense of privilege that most outsiders resented. The back of their heads were so heavy their noses never pointed anywhere but up. If it weren’t for the people, I probably would’ve visited more often.
(End of sample)
Maxym Martineau is an aspiring novelist and a copy editor out of Mesa, Arizona. She has a questionably unhealthy addiction to Dr. Pepper and an avid love for video games, anime and all things fantasy. Her 5-year-old-self screamed at Hugh Grant when he left Julianne Moore in the movie Nine Months, so it’s safe to say Maxym’s a romantic at heart. When she’s not locked in her office crafting stories, you can find her playing with her fur babies or entertaining her fiancé. And drinking Dr. Pepper. Sometimes with rum.
Follow her on Twitter @maxymmckay
Check out her online magazine: maxymmagazine.com
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!