My Hive Mentor Experience 2023

Mentorships are a big thing and twitter made them an even bigger thing. I remember applying for them and crying when I didn’t get in. So this time I decided to do things differently.

You never stop learning about your craft, process and self. I have learnt a lot in the last year which enabled me to change my approach. And my expectations.

Today I know that once I put my heart’s love into the story through edits I am a lot less open to changes. I have been writing for over 25 years. Many things are my style, my way of writing, my voice. A lot of that is not marketable right now. I am AuDHD. It can be difficult to connect to my characters because of that. But I won’t have my lived experience invalidated by tradpub preferences.

This time, I chose a manuscript I had not yet edited my heart into. They always say to send a the ms in the best shape you can get it into. I could do that. But then you’d be running into walls with all improvement ideas. Let’s not do that.

The manuscript is decent. I needs editing and some work. I am ready to do that. I hope that outside help will show me bits I am blind to already. Ways to tread the line between being authentic and sellable. Not to mention advice for whatever path of publishing the mentor does.

I found a whole of 4 mentors who might take on a ms with as much porn as I put into mine. So selection wasn’t really that difficult. I chose somebody who knew what they’d get into with me (or so I hoped) and people who shared my marginalisation, baring that were from a marginalised group.

Did I think my ms had the best chances with those mentors? No.

Did I hope they’d chose me anyway? Also no.

During the selection period I heard back from exactly one mentor who had all the questions I’d have had in their place as well. I answered truthfully. Which didn’t increase my chances any but I have to be truthful in situations like that.

It was a good conversation. I got Christmas presents out of it.

Was I chosen?

But I’m cool with it. I don’t think I make a good chosen one. I dislike the trope. Also, I mostly participated to shut up the FOMO gnome. Would it have been great to work on Horny WIP with a mentor? You bet! Will I get it done without one? *indistinct mumbling*

The lesson, if there is one to be had, is that it’s fine to do stuff to shut up the FOMO gnome.

See you next year in the application piles. 😊

Nightsky of A Hundred Shattered Dreams

Querying is hard and we do what we can to stay afloat. Having a writing community is of utmost importance. I don’t know how anybody stands the pressure, consistent hits on the self-esteem and doubting your writing abilities without people to cheer and uplift one. I know I could not.

What else can you do?

I decided to have a visual (and pretty) representation of the passes that come in. I expected there to be many because fantasy is a tight market, and my stories are niche and not on trend. So I got myself a nice canvas and glittery stars and decided to count to 100 passes with it.

Lo and behold, my WIP:

A square white canvas that is partially covered up with black clour onto which glittering stars of many colours are glued. Where the canvas is unpainted, you an see a grid drawn on with pencil. . Two of the stars are bigger ans silver. One star has a tiny, handwritten name tag. The canvas is a little over half filled with stars.
Nightsky of a Hundred Shattered Dreams

The big silver stars are for agents that asked to see another manuscript, should I get one finished. Personalised passes got their name tacked onto the star. Yes, yes there is exactly one of them and no, that was not on the full I had out.

It includes the stars where I thought in retrospect that I dodged a bullet. There’s passes on there when I am in hindsight happy it was a pass because I don’t think it would have worked on a personal level.

Querying is highly subjective – from both sides. I have a little insight on querying from the other side and it’s not much easier for agents. They are flooded with good work each day every day and have to make the hard decisions on who they can successfully represent. The reasons for a pass a varied and many of them are not about the quality of the work.

Still, each star on this canvas represents a pass. If I added stars for each query, I don’t expect to hear back from I’d probably be close to done by now. But I am petty, and I have petty dreams for the future. In case I ever get an agent, my plan is to inform everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, who didn’t officially pass on my manuscript an update note.

Then I shall imagine, most incorrectly, I know, how those agents search their inboxes for a query I sent over a year ago. I started querying at the end of 2021 and the longer I’m in the trenches the funnier it gets for me. I know I’m petty. But Query Manager exists, and every agent is free to close for queries any given time.

I still have agents many on my query list. Most of them have been closed whenever I looked to send more queries. Some, I think, were actually closed since I started querying.

I don’t really have a point to make. Just – make sure you have your community. Find ways to keep track of your querying distress in a way that helps. Hype your friends when you can. I know sometimes it’s hard when you feel it’s never gonna be you.

I’m rooting for you!

The Unrelatable Character

Not so long ago I wrote books with protags that I kept getting the feedback on that they were not relatable. I cried. Because those characters were like me. In lieu of finding protagonists that were like me in SFF, I wrote them Only to be told that they were not making sense, nobody would be/think/act like that.

And that hurt immensely because while those characters are not me, the things pointed out often were things that made them more like me. Especially the way they experience and process the world and emotions. (Not that I haven’t been told that I’m doing that wrong before.)

I have learnt a lot about me and about publishing since then. Do I write character that are more relatable now?

Half body shot of David Tennant as Benedic from Much Ado About nothing. He is wearing a superman tee and holds a can of soda with a curly straw while he says: I think not.

But no I do not cry about it the way I did before any longer. I have learnt that the things that make my protagonists stand out (like a sore thumb), the things that make them like me, are traits of my autism ADHD.

And agents have been no more trained to interact and relate to autistic characters than normal people. Of course they have difficulties relating. What am I expecting?

Truth be told? I don’t even know any longer.

Of course I could just reign it in and make my protags palatable. I thought about that, naturally, since I want to get pubbed really bad. Right now, I’m like, fuck it! With each book, my protagonists get more autistic. Maybe being blatantly obvious about it will work better.

But I want to be unapologetic about who I am. And I don’t want to have to justify and explain why I am the way I am. If you need an explanation to accept that I like eating the same thing over and over and love to bury myself under 13kg of blankie at night – fuck you.

People are weird. People are different in all directions. I don’t need to know why. (Unless they ask for help being less weird. Which generally, we don’t.) You can’t tell me people can’t relate to my character because they are like me, when I related to characters that were not like me my whole life.

I am also certain that there are people out there just waiting for more autistic protags in SFF. We want to see ourselves in the main character. And as it takes one to know one? We know. Better believe we know. We see it, when it’s there. And we want it. Want more of it. (Please rec me SFF with autistic protags. 🥺)

To circle back to writing unrelatable characters. I thought it was a me-problem, that I was incapable to write characters that readers can identify with. I have made it into a you-problem. I am writing characters you were not confronted with before. I am refusing to spoon-feed you the autistic experience. I am offering it to you in the form I experience the world (and it’s reactions to me).

I understand that tradpub doesn’t like it because it is new and untested. I understand that my voice is not seen as marketable. While some readers will easily identify with my characters, the majority is not used to them and will have to put some work into relating to them. Don’t worry. It gets easier over time. I’ve been doing it for over 40 years now and barely notice any longer.

This will not improve with more books. I am veering away from traditional, tightly-wound, fast-paced, three-act structure stories. I write what I want to read. And I know by the time tradpub deigns to publish some of that, I will be long dead.

Being relatable is a non-measure for a character. It is usually cut down to how much of a background you share with the person portrayed. And how much work you are willing to put into understanding them. I get now that for many people this amount is none. I feel I should be less surprised because it’s exactly what happens most times in life.

It was probably naive to think that things will be different in publishing just because it is allegedly a creative business looking for the fantastic. It’s still a business and what it looks for first and foremost is selling books.

My characters aren’t unrelatable. They are unprofitable.