Buy on Amazon Buy at Barnes & Noble Buy at IndieBound
Amy Zhang

An Interview with Yours Truly

Hi, everyone! I got interviewed this week over at the Teens Can Write, Too! blog, so if you’re interested, please check it out! Here’s the link:

It’s got some false advertising, though…I literally turned sixteen the day John posted the interview. Look at me, lying about my age already. I’m off to go look for gray hairs and wrinkles now.

Word Watchers (My MS’s Diet Plan)

I know, I know, I promised to post the second part of my querying rant last week…but I got caught on other (less fun) stuff. Exams are coming up, tennis preseason is grueling, clubs need to be wrapped up, newspaper articles need to be planned for next year and new staff must be chosen, church functions have to be taken care of for the summer, piano competitions need to be prepared for, and then there’s jazz band concerts and AP homework and summer job forms…gah. I’m tired.

So. I know I promised more about the querying process–and it’ll come, hopefully sometime soon. But recently, my agent informed me that I need to cut about 20-25K from my MS…which wasn’t a surprise, but it still left me feeling somewhat helpless as I stared at my overweight novel. So today I’d like to talk about the surgery table–the terrifying process of cutting words from the manuscript.

Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it makes you want to cry (not that I do, of course. *sniffle*) to slice away words you had invested so much time in. But I’ve known from the beginning that my novel needed to go on a Word Watchers diet and lose some of that padding…I’ve just been putting it off, telling myself that, you know, I’d do it later. Eventually.

My agent’s exact words to me: “Well, now it’s later!”

Me: “Aw, boo.”

So…here marks the beginning of a long, painful, unavoidable process of revising once again, only this time, I’m strictly NOT ALLOWED to add words. Seriously. I wrote it in all caps on my whiteboard and everything. This is happenin’, guys. (I’m hoping that if I keep telling myself that, it actually will happen. Positive reinforcement. Though, I got up yesterday morning at five to cut, and ended up adding a thousand words instead. But. Thinkpositivethinkpositivethinkpositive).

My posts might be a bit sporadic from now on, though. I was kind of hoping I’d have more time this summer, but after drawing up a Master Calendar (Summer Edition), it looks like between guiding my MS through a Word Watchers diet, working, summer gym, tennis practice, AP Chem/History/Lit homework, SAT/ACT studying…OH, COME ON. I JUST WANT ENOUGH TIME TO SLEEP IN FOR ONE DAY. ONE. IS THAT REALLY TOO MUCH TO ASK?!

Oh! And I almost forgot: I’ve recently started a new blog with the fabulous Mark O’Brien. Go check it out!

Querying! (Part I)

It’s almost the one-year anniversary of the day I started querying! And since summer is a popular time to query agents (and to mark the occasion), I thought I’d put my meager opinions out there for all of you who will be sending out your queries soon.

When I started out, I had literally no idea of what I was doing. I wasn’t clear on what an agent did, or why I needed one besides the fact most publishing houses don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts anymore. I didn’t know what websites to use or how to connect with people who were on the same step of the process as I was (or that I needed to connect with other people). I didn’t know what a query letter was, much less how to write one. (If this describes you, go peruse around or Or even if it doesn’t describe you. Those two websites are freaking amazing).

So. I kind of just…did it. Trial and error. Which was very, very stupid. Because my query letter sucked. And I queried all of my top agents first. And I got rejected, again and again and again…

So how do you write a query letter? Well, they usually consist of a hook, a paragraph with the premise and conflict of your manuscript, and a bio of yourself. The one that follows got me four full requests and an offer in two weeks, after querying nine agencies.

Dear <agent>, 
Faye defines her life in numbers.

Nine hundred children who are trapped together in a circle of mountains every year to fight a War that keeps the rest of the land at peace. Eight years since she watched a man with golden eyes murder her parents and swore to avenge them. Three faces she sees in her nightmares every night. Two ways she can die: by the betrayal of the Fate which should gift her with powers beyond all reckoning, or by being drained of every drop of the peculiarly colored blood that marks her as one of the Fated.

One boy that appears in her life without warning and undermines everything she believed in.

Arrogant and unreachable, Aro is one of the enemy king’s most prized soldiers. A cynic who knows the price of trust, he keeps a long list of things he doesn’t believe in: second chances, because people never change, regret, because it only comes when it’s too late to do anything but wallow, innocence, goodness, sanity…

And since he doesn’t believe that opinions are worth anything, he ignores his own when his king orders him to capture Faye during a War. He never expected to save Faye’s life. Faye, for her part, never expected to give him the chance to do so. And neither of them ever expected feel anything more than animosity for each other. But when a number of looming threats force them on an unprecedented attempt to cross the mountains, battling avalanches and seemingly insurmountable odds, neither can continue to ignore the similarities that are binding them together.

Wildflower (100,000) is the story of a girl who has learned to keep her heart locked away, a boy who knows that love is a weakness, and emotions that can be defined by neither numbers nor lists. Also, I thought you might like to know that the Lowenstein Agency and the L. Perkins Agency currently have the full manuscript, the Kristin Nelson Agency has a partial. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best regards,

I pasted this here mostly for those of you who’d like to see an example query. Keep in mind, though, that I chose to break a number of rules with this. It’s rather lengthy for a query , and it’s written from two different POVs, and looking back, there are a lot of things I could have done better. This week’s post was supposed to be something of an intro to this blog series, and next week I plan to dissect the above query a bit more and list a few things I wish I’d known before I started querying.

Um. So it’s probably pretty obvious that I’ve never done a blog series, either. Or really given querying advice. So…maybe you guys could put questions in the comments or something? Suggestions?


Sometimes, I love my manuscript. I love my characters. I overlook all of my typos and spelling and grammatical errors. I love every single line.

Today is not one of those days.

Today is just…blech. I’m not letting  myself touch my manuscript , because I’ll probably end up deleting the majority of it. In fact, right now, I’m tempted to email my agent and ask her if she’d be willing to wait for another revision. The problem is, right now I feel like my project is such crap that no amount of revising would make it worthy of publication. That maybe, I should just ditch it and start on something new because this is never, ever going to be good.

And on these days, I’m good for absolutely nothing. I mope around the house and stalk people on Twitter and glare at my computer screen and talk to myself until my mother asks if I have a boy hidden in my closet and mope some more. Usually, in my darker moods, I retreat to my room and lose myself inside that hopelessly mangled place I call my head, and I’m all sunshiney again when I come back. But. I can’t do that right now. Which sucks.

So. Now I’m here. Moping on my blog, waiting for inspiration. And maybe it’s coming. Maybe it isn’t, and I’ll wake up tomorrow newly in love with my setting and characters and plot. But what I’ve realized through the many ups and downs of the writing process is that I can’t give up. I’ve promised my characters that I’d tell their story. And so I will.

I just don’t feel good enough to do that right now. So I’m going to go take a nap instead.

This past week, I was told that most authors don’t like what they write. But I don’t believe that. True, I don’t know a lot of authors. But I do know that no one would have the perseverance to see their novels through publication if they didn’t love them. A lot.

How about you guys? How do you deal with these days? Or do you curl up and have conversations with yourself in the mirror? Not that I do that, of course. Um.

On a different note, I’d considered titling this post “Mopey Dick.” I didn’t end up going through with it, because it seemed too perverted, but I did succeed in amusing myself.

5 Things Do While You’re Waiting

Personally, I think one of the hardest parts of being a writer is waiting.

And waiting…and waiting…and waiting…
Waiting on feedback from critique partners. Waiting for a response from the agents you’ve queried. Waiting to hear back from the editors your agent has submitted to (or waiting for that stage to begin). I have a hard time waiting for my nails to dry. Needless to say, my first few weeks of querying were absolutely excruciating. I checked my email hopefully every five minutes, only to be miserably disappointed every time. And waiting for responses to partials and fulls was even worse, since agents can take up to four months with those. At one point, I remember thinking to myself, “I wish Ms. Superagent would just reject my manuscript already. I’d rather have some response than…this.”
And…my wish came true.
My parents always know when I’m waiting for something, because my phone bill for that month skyrockets. At school, I constantly check my email between classes (and during classes–that’s me, living on the edge). In fact, I read the email in which my agent first offered representation during Global Studies, while I should have been doing research on Haiti. And being the suave, collected person I am, flipped out and yelped, “Oh, my God!” loud enough for my entire class to hear. Then I lied and pretended to be all excited about some piece of information I’d just discovered about Haiti’s government (for those of you who read my last blog post, you know why).
Waiting sucks. It really does. And I’ve spent countless hours staring at my inbox, wasting time I could have used to do something, you know, somewhat productive. For those of you who are querying or waiting on something else, here are five things you can do instead of spending every waking moment wondering why you’re being ignored:
1. Social Media: Go commiserate with people who are going through the same thing on Facebook, Twitter, whatever. A great writer’s community is, which has a forum especially for the submission process.
2. Start working on your next project: Pour your efforts into a sequel or new idea. Remember that character who wouldn’t leave you alone while you were working on your ex-WIP, but you had to ignore because you were already committed to a manuscript? Connect with them. Listen to their stories.
3. Get out: Go do all of the things you had to skip out on to entertain the voices in your head. Grab a few friends and go shopping, the movies, whatever. Personally, I go to the tennis court and play for a few hours, because I tend to get my best ideas when I’m physically active.
4. Watch a movie/Read a book: Give your creativity a rest and enjoy what someone else has poured their blood, sweat, and tears into. When I’m waiting on something, I always, always watch Get Smart. Steve Carell is my hero.
5. Connect with your book: When I’m writing or revising, I’m always on a strict schedule, and as soon as I’m done, I’m on a strict revising schedule. Waiting gives me time to make maps of my fantasy world, sketch out my characters and settings, compose music for the lyrics in my manuscript, and find other ways to make my world come alive.

A Map of My World!

Guys! I’ve just finished drawing a map of my the setting of my novel (I was bored waiting for my beta readers to get back to me, alright? Don’t judge), and I’m so very proud of it that I’m posting it here!

I usually sketch out a map when I’m writing my first draft, especially if it’s a fantasy novel, because it helps me visualize the setting and the characters’ physical and emotional journeys. I’ve actually drawn this particular map three times already, and this time I think I’ve finally go it right. I was a bit more obsessive drawing/artsy-wise while working on this project because it offered a lot of opportunities for me to create visuals (I’ve also drawn out prison blueprints, building faces, and castle floor plans for my WIP), and frankly, I’m more attached to it emotionally. And for whatever reason, I enjoy drawing these maps 🙂

Writing is writing is writing is writing….

I’ve just finished my revisions for my agent! And I’m exhausted. Of course, I still have do some surface revising, to make sure everything makes sense and take care of any logistical errors (and there’s always a few), read every one of those 130,000 words out loud to find spelling/grammatical errors, send it to my beta readers, take care of their critiques…

Sigh. Even more exhausted now. I really need to train myself to like coffee.

Quite honestly, though, I don’t mind doing revisions. It’s amazing how much things can change between one revision and the next. There are at least three characters who played large roles in my first draft who don’t even appear in this last revision, and conversely, at least three characters who play large roles in this draft who didn’t appear at all during that first draft.

This was my eleventh rewrite. Yes, rewrite, not revision. Usually, I don’t create a new document labeled “Revision X” unless there is a change I want to make to my manuscript that’s radical enough to require me to start over from a blank screen. Which isn’t to say that I don’t reference it to past revisions, or copy and paste parts that still work. For whatever reason, I’ve always thought that it’s less work to start with a clean slate than to try to comb through an old revision.

Revising takes guts. That was something I struggled with tremendously at first (and still do), because I would grow so attached to certain scenes that I would force them into the new version, even though they didn’t flow well with the rest of the novel. As a writer, I think one of the most difficult and necessary skills to have is trusting yourself to write things that are even better than the things you cut. Why? Because that speck or ocean of pride exists in all of us, and it’s human nature to want other people to see the beautiful things we’ve written. As Ray Bradbury once said, “You have to trust in [that] secret self as a writer, or you shouldn’t be doing it.”

So if you’re wavering over a line, or a scene, or the entire second half of your manuscript, don’t be afraid to put it aside and open a fresh document. You will write something just as wonderful, or even better. And besides, you’ll have no choice but to do it anyway, seeing as most agents and editors require it nowadays.

Now. I think I’m going to make someone drive me out to Dairy Queen and get me a Blizzard. I feel like I’ve deserved one 🙂

And then I’m going to go sit back down at my desk, do any other necessary revisions and read throughs, and hopefully send it to my agent by the end of next week. And then I will cross every appendage I have as she…(cue dramatic music)…starts shopping my project to publishers!

Game of Sevens

So, Meredith Barnes has posted a game for authors on her blog (see here). The rules are:
1. Go to the seventh or seventy-seventh page of WIP.
2. Count down seven lines.
3. Copy the seven sentences that follow and post them on your blog.
4. Tag seven other authors (on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr–up to you!).

So, here are the seven sentences that begin on the seventh line on the seventy-seventh page of my manuscript. Enjoy!

As we remount, Aro calls casually over his shoulder, “You’re the only thing keeping me from riding after your men, little girl. Remember that. If you care at all for their lives, you won’t throw your own away so carelessly.”

My teeth clench, but I say nothing. The impulsive decision that had seemed so lucid just a moment ago has faded to foolishness, and my cheeks are burning with my inanity. I glower at the back of Aro’s head as Eras hovers beside me, ready to catch me if I decide to launch myself off the cliff again. But I’m not going to throw my life away so easily. Not yet.


Oops. Guess that was eight sentences. I’m such a cheater.