WRITE A NOVEL. Change this fucking world for the better.

by Ksenia Anske


Photo by Emma Katka

This was supposed to be a happy post. This was supposed to be a post about a victorious feeling after finishing Draft 4 of my 1st novel, getting 50+ Beta Readers to read it, getting an enormous amount of positive feedback on it, and much much more. Well, it's not going to happen, because 20 elementary school kids died this morning when a gunman, a father of a student, opened fire on them.

HOW CAN YOU LIVE AFTER HEARING NEWS LIKE THIS? TELL ME. I'll tell you. I will write. I will write as fast as I can. I will use every second of my existence to do it.

I won't let a gunman stop me. It is my job, to change this fucking world for the better or die trying. 

IT'S WHY I LIVE.

People keep asking me where I got inspiration for my book. It wasn't inspiration, it was pain, an incredible amount of pain that I didn't know how else to release and help others feel it with me, in hopes of doing something about it together. As I disclosed on Twitter a few weeks ago, I'm an incest survivor, my father and my step-grandfather sexually abused me and I had complete amnesia until I went back to Russia and saw my father. This triggered memories, panic attacks and the like. At 33 I wanted to kill myself, but then decided, NO, FUCK IT, I will talk about it instead. For the first time in my life, I understood why I wanted to take my life at 16. Why I ran away from home. Writing SIREN SUICIDES was my therapy. It's heavily laced with issues of teenage suicide and the antagonist is a woman hater. This is my cry for help, this book. I want to stop teenage suicide. I want to stop abuse. I want to change it.

YOU CAN DO IT TOO. WRITE A NOVEL. PLEASE.

Dig deep into the pain you're afraid to face. All of us have this one forbidden topic that nobody mentions at family gatherings but that gives you nightmares. You're afraid to mention it, I know. Don't! Make up a fictional character with the same problem and pour out your heart into a fictional story. Magnify the issues you want to talk about, it's the best thing ever. You can be as mad as you want, as angry as you want. In fact, the more you feel while writing, the better it feels when you're finished. I can testify to you that I'm a hundred traumas lighter after almost finishing my book. So go ahead, start today. Take one step closer to being happy.

Forget about plot and stay true to your feelings. Stop reading books about how to write books. 1st Draft of anything is shit. Just sit down and start from the place that hurts most. Keep pouring until it's empty. I'm sure it will take you several months (though it took me only 6 weeks, I carried it so long, I guess it badly wanted out). Keep writing. Don't stop. Don't think. Don't talk to anyone. Don't share it with anyone. Write. Stop at the end when done. Ignore your doubts. Imagine that you're writing a complete stream of consciousness. And one day you'll be astounded to find Draft 1 completed. Voila!

Divorce from your story, make it about your characters. Now that you have 1st Draft completed, let it rest for a week and then read the whole thing to see how it makes you feel and find the story that's there. Let it live on it's own - each consecutive Draft is about the story, NOT YOU. Remember this. That's why people will read it. They don't know you, they won't care for your pain. That's why a novel is so powerful. You create a fictional character that is a magnified version of everything you ever wanted to be (or not), and readers will notice that person. They will root for her or him, and they will feel it together with you. The most recent example I have of this is 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. I can literally feel what he's trying to say, and it made me that much more driven to continue with my own writing.

Stop existing and start living. Think about it. You carry suppressed pain. We all do, to one extent or another. Your body and mind spend energy suppressing it, instead of enjoying life. So, depending on the amount of pain you carry, maybe about 20% of your energy is spent keeping it in check, maybe 50%, maybe even 80%. Ever meet those people that look like walking zombies? Yeah. You don't want to turn out like that. Cut yourself open, I know, it's painful, but it must be done in order for you to spill your pain on paper. And you will gain your energy back. I did. I'm happy. I've never been happier in my life than I am now. You can do it too. Please!

Now that I've written my pain out, in this post, I actually feel better. I only have one question for you - why do you live? Right now, right this very second, if you knew you had only 1 hour left to live, what is it you wish you had time to do? Would you wish you weren't so afraid and had the guts to tell your story? You still can.

START NOW.

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MAKE AGENTS COME TO YOU, not the other way around

by Ksenia Anske


Photo by Holly Henry

Last week I got done writing Draft 4 of my 1st novel, and, to my surprise, got pinged by 3 (!!!) agents from big reputable NY agencies on being interested in representing me. I was like, what?!? Isn't it supposed to be the other way around? What about those horror stories that I heard about approaching agents, about spending months writing perfect query letters, about... You get the picture. We all heard that. After initial shock, I decided to analyse this. How did it happen? What did I do to attract their attention? Here is what I think helped:

Twitter numbers. Someone at some point told me that big agents and publishers don't even look at you unless you have 10,000 followers on Twitter (I think it was Rachel Thompson who said it). I have 14,000. Did that help? I think it did. I'll backtrack here a little. First, how the hell did I get to this number? I was at about 2,000 when I started writing my novel and tweeting actively about 6 months ago. What happened here? Several things. Number one, I watched folks like Maureen Johnson and realized that it's ok to be myself. It's ok to spill all that bullshit that comes to my mind. I tentatively tried. People started re-tweeting it. I tried more. More people followed. So I stopped being afraid and started baring my soul in public. Everything. My writing struggles, my successes. Number two, the one thing I never did was sell myself, which is what a lot of writers on Twitter do, and that's a big turn off for people (I wrote another post for writers on HOW NOT TO USE TWITTER). Number three, being supportive of others. If one writer doesn't support another, then who will? Anyway, I was astounded at this growth, it keeps growing. You can do the same. Stop being afraid and be yourself. Tweet every day. They will come.

Novel excerpt. I didn't plan this and only posted the excerpt after my boyfriend yelled at me, literally, to do it, because he loved it. I was like, ok, I'm scared, but here it is. He told me to do it, because, poor soul, he's read every single draft of mine, and was in love with how much Draft 4 was stronger than Draft 3. I posted, comments started flowing in. They still are. I think there are more than 50 now (half of them are my responses). CRAZY!!! Did this help? You bet. What an agent or a publisher is looking for is a big enough reader base - it'll make their job easier. Inadvertently, by being public about my writing process, I have created a community of writers and readers who not only support me, but who also help me get better, every day. And that is invaluable. I mean, just take a look at this. Once I was done with Draft 4, about 50 people volunteered to Beta Read it. 50! That's like 50 pieces of amazing critique that will only make my book that much better. Would that have been possible if I didn't post an excerpt? I don't think so. I suggest you do the same, just make sure it's under 600 words. If anyone decides to copy-cat and post it without your permission, it will fall under "fair use" rule of copyright law, because it's such a small portion of 100,000 words (assuming you will be close to that word count when your novel is finished). 

Reason you write. You know, agents are people too. So I don't get it why some writers treat them like some evil gate keepers. And, like any other human being in this world, they care for things, things that are dear to them. I mean, we all do, don't we? My point is, there is a reason you write. Let everyone know what it is, people will want to help you, to make this world a little bit better. I think my being public about my reasons helped attract them. I write about teenage suicide. I wanted to kill myself when I was 16 and I want to prevent another teenager deciding to part with their life. That's my goal. That's why I live, that's why I write. Sure, it would be great if I could support myself with writing, if I could sell my book like crazy, etc, etc. But in the end, my ultimate goal is to know I helped save a life. To go to a book signing and have a teenage reader whisper to me: "Thank you, I decided not to do it." That would make my life. We all have our reasons. I think agents need to know them, to FEEL your story. Because then they will want to help you push it out into the world.

You're a nobody. So stop being pissed off at people not getting back to you right away, specifically, agents. They are busy busy people, and, as a first time novelist, you're nothing. I mean myself here. I'm nothing. I'm a rookie. 1st time writer. 1st time novelist. Never published anything. So why even talk to me? Because I don't try to be something that I'm not. It's the attitude that matters. I know I will have to kiss their feet and wash their dogs and clean their houses, for free, until they grace me with their attention, and even then I will continue serving their every need, because they are doing me a favor. A huge favor. You know what is? Taking a chunk of their precious time and spending it on reading my story. Tearing time away from their kids, their spouses, their hobbies. And that's BIG, HUGE, ENORMOUS. In the end, this alone is amazing. So thank people, thank people profusely for this, even if they never get back to you. Be humble. And, suddenly, they'll be interested in learning more.

OK, I feel like there is so much more to this, and maybe I've forgotten something. But! Here is a disclaimer. I am a rookie and a 1st time everything, so I don't know how true this is, I'm only guessing. Right now, after publishing this blog, I will go e-mail those 3 agents (scared shitless) and start looking for more agents to contact. What will happen out of this? Perhaps nothing, I don't know. But I promise you this: I will blog about the results, so you can learn on my mistakes.

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