The Many Right Ways to Fall in Love

As a writer, I love me some slow-burn, will they/won’t they, long sighs and significant glances romance. But as a reader, I don’t understand the pushback against what many call “instalove.” Love at first sight. Soulmates. The characters lay eyes on each other and just know. People deride it as unbelievable, and even lazy writing. One reviewer said she threw a book across the room in disgust when “I love you” happened on the third date.

And that’s confusing to me, because I’ve lived it.

When I laid eyes on my now-husband, I knew. It had nothing to do with a riot of hormones (although they were involved). It was like I had a best friend my whole life that I hadn’t met until just that moment. We moved in together after three months, and we’re still married ten years later (not that the validity of a relationship can be measured by its duration.)

But  I still see the rants against “instalove” sprinkled through book reviews with almost hipster levels of derision. For this Valentine’s Day, I want to break down some of the possible interpretations of what a reviewer means when they say that a character’s love at first sight is “unbelievable.”

1. “The author didn’t sell me on it.”

This is perhaps the most charitable interpretation of the complaints about “instalove.” If this is what the reviewer is saying, I’m right there with them. Sometimes, love at first sight is lazy writing. As a reader, if a character falls desperately and immediately in love with someone who treats them like dirt, or has few positive personal features other than killer abs, I’m usually going to be unhappy with the book. Chemistry is chemistry, but a willfully shallow and self-destructive MC isn’t going to be sympathetic for me, and the author will need to find a way to sell it masterfully for me to believe it.

2. “That’s not real love…”

Usually this discussion involves moving goalposts, with phrases like, “that’s lust, not love,” and “how can you say you love someone you don’t even know that well?”

It’s fine to have a specific definition of love that you apply to your own relationships. It’s not fine to assume that those definitions are universal, or yours to enforce on others. Because strong attraction and emotional connection are not only based on intangibles, but they are also absolutely a valid form of love. It may have a different “flavor” than your ideal or current relationship, but then, every relationship does. There are no human universals when it comes to feelings or behavior, and the person experiencing the emotion is the only one in a real position to judge its validity.

3. “I’ve never experienced it, so it can’t be true.”

The least charitable reading of the pushback against love at first sight, and one that is almost never stated so directly. As subtext, the argument suggests extremely poor personal boundaries as a best-case scenario.

Any time you suggest that your own experience is universal, the burden of proof is squarely on your head. How could love, a thing that is so strongly influenced by cultural norms, personal identity, psychological makeup, personality, and emotional state, possibly be monolithic? How could it possibly be completely understood by a single individual? Heck, researchers and philosophers can’t even agree on what love is, much less whether it is a verb or an adjective.

4. “It’ll never last.”

This falls directly into the trap of our cultural assumption that a relationship can be judged by its end. Under this assumption, the only valid relationships end in the death of both partners. That’s it. All or nothing. Anything less is a “failed” relationship, no matter how much happiness or personal growth it provided the people in it.

But get a little distance from the heteronormative, monogamy-centric areas of our culture, and you’ll see that there’s a lot more to the story than HEA. If you’re open to expanding your worldview, read blogs and books by queer and/or polyamorous authors.  You’ll find a rich and dizzying array of relationship arrangements and perspectives that are more galaxy than spectrum. You’ll find lifetime partners with no interest in getting married, short-term partners that move easily into fast friendships deeper than many marriages, asexual relationships that defy hormonal assumptions about attraction, and the concept that souls can have as many mates as fit a person’s journey through the world.

But the diversity of love is not a dilution. At the root of the arguments against HEA, I think, is the idea that love at first sight somehow invalidates the investment of time and emotional energy into sustaining a long-term relationship. Saying that there is only one way to be in love is like insisting that there is only one kind of flower. The existence of roses in no way diminishes the validity of lilies.

Your love is valid, even if it doesn’t look like a fairy tale. It’s also valid if it does.

And when elves and dragons are filling the bookshelves, love at first sight is hardly the dealbreaker when we talk about realistic writing.

A Basic Guide to Twitter Pitch Parties

If you’re a writer on Twitter, every now and then your feed is going to blow up with book blurbs for a day. If you’re wondering what the heck is going on, the answer is…a pitch party. This is an event where writers share a one-tweet length description of a completed book, in hopes of attracting an agent or publisher.

I’m not pitching..what do I do!?

It may sound counter-intuitive, but DO NOT LIKE PITCH PARTY POSTS. Agents and industry professionals use the like button to indicate interest in a pitch. YOU, as a friend, should show your support with comments and retweets ONLY. Re-tweeting raises the post’s visibility, and it becomes more likely to catch an agent’s eye. It’s also a great way to make new friends and build your following.

I want to pitch!  What do I need to get ready?

Remember, a pitch party is a way to catch an agent’s attention, but it isn’t the ONLY way.  So don’t rush your novel to catch a pitch party if another round of edits will make it better. Only completely polished, finished manuscripts should be pitched. Generally, only unpublished books should be pitched. Follow industry guidelines to format your manuscript and have it ready to send.

Now, if you do get a like from an industry professional, it isn’t an offer of representation; it is an invitation to query. So you should also have a polished query letter, synopsis (1 page version and 2 page version), short author bio, two comparison books similar to your own…essentially everything you would need for querying, all formatted and ready to go. Pitch parties are a jump-start, but not a shortcut!

Most pitch parties will allow multiple postings (e.g. the last #SFFPit allowed one per hour per book, up to 10 total). Prepare these in advance. Polish them. Post them without the hashtag and ask for feedback from your followers. Make sure each one is a little different, to avoid being caught in Twitter’s spam filters. Have them ready to copy and paste on the day of, or schedule them using social media software.

Google the pitch party hashtag to get the rules for participation. There will be a website that lays out when the pitch party is open, what works are accepted (e.g. SFFPit is just for science fiction/fantasy) and what hashtags you should use to indicate genre and audience, or special features (e.g. #ownvoices or #lgbt).

What should be in the pitch?

A pitch is a very short query. You should focus on showing your premise, your MC, the stakes the characters face, and your narrative voice. It’s something that takes practice!  Use your followers to get feedback, or reach out to one of the writing communities for help. Or, watch a pitch party play out and see what other people do. You don’t have to include comparables, although many do.

Your pitch’s only REAL job is to make an agent want to read your book.

Use the hashtags specified by the pitch party, even though they take up valuable tweet space. Agents are using them to narrow their search, and won’t find your book without them.

Do NOT include images unless the party specifically allows them (most agents filter them out to avoid spam). Do not thread tweets. It all has to go into a single tweet of text.

Remember to pin your pitches as you tweet them! It makes it easy for followers to find and re-tweet. You can always put your regular pinned tweet back up afterwards.


You got a like…or multiple likes…and from actual agents instead of well-meaning friends who don’t know how to act during a pitch party!  Now what?

IMMEDIATELY research the agent to see if they’re someone you want to work with. Google them; don’t rely solely on their website. Find out who they represent and where they’ve placed books recently. Check Writer Beware for scams. Search for them online and on Twitter to look for complaints or endorsements.

If you think the agent is someone you want to work with, go to the agent’s feed and look for instructions on how to submit. Some will direct you to their website or standard submission form. Some will offer their email. Follow the instructions in the tweet, regardless of any instructions on their website. If their tweet for the pitch party says to send an attachment, do it.  The exception is if you get responses from multiple agents at the same agency; check their website to see whether you should choose one to query at first.

The usual rules and wait times for queries apply. Don’t wait for responses before you begin the next book!

I didn’t get a like 🙁

Again, pitch parties are a way to get an agent, but not the only way. It shouldn’t discourage you from sending out those queries! Be sure to read the Query Shark archives to make sure your query is as enticing as possible. In the meantime, keep polishing those pitches, because there’s another party just around the corner!

When’s the next party?

#PitMad is a general pitch party, held four times a year.

#DVPit is for marginalized authors and illustrators (October and/or April)

#PitDark is for horror and mystery manuscripts, and held twice a year (October/May)

#PBPitch is for picture books, and held in February

#SFFPit is for science fiction/fantasy and takes place twice a year (variable)

#KissPitch is for romance writers, and takes place in February