Keeping It Real

In my last post, I touched on how YA faces the hardest parts of life, head on. Life, love, and loss–nothing is too intense for YA. Sometimes, it’s even more intense, super-charged with young emotions. It’s also so important to be true to these emotions, and be raw and honest when it matters, especially when dealing with sensitive and difficult subjects.

A lot of my most recent writing is very emotional and powerful. I’ve been exploring love and relationships, loss and grief, despair and depression. I’ve already pushed my characters to their breaking points and beyond, and now I’m handling the effects of that. After such extreme conflict, my characters are going to be forever changed. Some of them will learn and grow from it, some will never be able to recover. All of them will have scars, both seen and unseen, just like in real life.

As I’ve been writing these intense scenes, I’ve struggled sometimes with just how raw they are. I knew they were going to be, but seeing everything in words, stripped bare on the page, is something entirely different. Honestly, it’s even a little scary because in going to those raw places, there’s also a lot of deep and personal pieces of myself on the page. In exploring my characters’ scars, I’ve revealed some scars of my own.

So how much is too much? Is there a such a thing as being too raw, too deep, and too honest in your writing?

For me, I don’t think so. It might be scary to be so open and vulnerable, but that’s what writing is. It’s our blood, poured out in ink. And I think as writers we have a responsibility to be as open and authentic as we can. If we aren’t, what is the point of writing?

This week, I let a friend of mine read my MS. It’s the first time a non-writer friend has read my work. At first, it was a little terrifying. It felt like I was revealing this deep, inner part of myself. But I gave in, and she read the entire book in two days, cried at the end, and is already begging for the second.

That is exactly why we can’t be scared of being raw and authentic. That is the writing that affects people, even changes them. And if my writing has the ability to do that, I consider that the highest success of all, best-seller’s lists be damned.

Don’t be scared of going there. Our instincts always tell us to build walls, and lock those parts of ourselves away. It’s terrifying to knock those walls down and lay things out in the open. It will feel vulnerable and personal, sometimes too much so, but those are the words that will make a real difference.

Tear down your walls. Be open and authentic. Grab your demons by the horns, and wrestle them on the page. That’s what will resonate with readers.

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Weekend Writing Warriors

Hey there! Winter break is coming to an end, so only two more posts until I have to go back for spring semester. Going to make the most of it, though 🙂 To meet some new authors, read some great writing, or join in the 8-sentence fun, stop by at Weekend Writing Warriors!

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This is a direct continuation from last week’s snippet (here). In this scene, Falcon has been captured by the Helyx gang and is being harvested for her Amaranthine magic. Creative punctuation has been used to fit into the eight sentences.

_________

The boy seemed eager to comply.

I grit my teeth against another scream as his ragged knife tore into my flesh, prying skin from muscle–Desperately, I tried to focus my energy as Asa had tried so often to teach me, his chest glowing with energy, skin and fiber knit together at his touch.

But nothing happened.

Of course it didn’t, it was hopeless–I may have Amaranthine blood, but I was pathetically, hopelessly human.

Scar leaned against the wall, sipping from the bowl as he watched the boy harvest me. I stared at him, and willed all of my rage against him–He was everything in this world I hated. He had hurt the only friends I ever had before I met the pack, he hurt everyone he ever came in contact with, and enjoyed it–He lived off of everyone else’s pain.

And now he was going to kill me.

_________

That’s it! Read on next week to find out what happens 🙂 I cant wait to read all of your snippets this week, happy 8sunday!

Blog Post and Novel Excerpt © Victoria Davenport and the Coffee.Write.Repeat. blog

Love Hurts

If you’ve ever been in love, or any kind of relationship, you probably know that love can hurt. It can be messy, complicated, and sometimes leaves no survivors. In real life, love is very rarely the simple happily ever after fairytale.

One of the things I love about YA is that it doesn’t flinch away from the complicated and heavy parts of life. It deals with every raw part of teenager’s lives, from first loves to loss. I think as authors we have a responsibility in that. To not just write about these, but write them authentically.

Just because it is YA doesn’t mean we should “water down” things. Life is not watered down. And especially in these dark fictional worlds, teenage characters deal with very adult problems, just like in real life. There’s a fantastic post on this by author Kate Brauning, which you can read here.

With all of that in mind, I’ve still struggled with how dark and twisted to go in my often dark and twisted fantasy. I want to be true to my characters and my world, but within the realms of YA and without alienating certain readers. I know how crucial YA was to me while I was growing up, and how much I learned, so I want to be able to give that same experience to younger readers.

But more than that, I’ve had a hard time with the romance in my story. From the very beginning, even before I wrote a single word, I knew Falcon was going to be with Hawke. They are perfect for each other, a team. And while they do have some conflict over outside events, they don’t really have any issues between them.

Then came a new character, Crow. I never intended for him to be a romantic interest, not even slightly. But the more I wrote, the harder it became to ignore. There was just something between him and Falcon, no matter how I tried to deny it. A pull, a spark, whatever you want to call it, it was there, and it wasn’t going away.

The problem is, Crow has issues. A lot of issues. I mean, he’s an assassin for a gang lord and comes from a severely abusive and messed up background. He isn’t capable of a healthy relationship. For him, everything is messy, no matter how good he tries to be. But when my CP first read EMBER, one of the first things she said was this is who Falcon should be with, their chemistry is tangible.

So how do I choose? Do I choose the character she should be with, the one who would make a great relationship and role model for love? Or do I choose the one who I know will cause her pain, but might actually be the stronger, greater love, even if it’s not always healthy?

Honestly, I still don’t have it entirely figured out. I have strong reasoning and motivation for both. But reading Kate Brauning’s post and some of her other tweets helped to open my eyes. YA relationships don’t have to be perfect. Really, they shouldn’t. Because real life relationships, especially teenage ones, are rarely perfect. It would give me an opportunity to really explore the ups and downs of relationships, all the messy tangles of love. Not to mention that the rocky, imperfect love might simply make for a better story.

What do you think? Do you prefer characters who are perfect for each other and relationships that are healthy? Or a more raw, complicated love story that might be a little more true to real experience, especially in YA?

Weekend Writing Warriors

Happy New Year everyone! Hope you enjoyed the holidays 🙂 To meet some new authors, read some great writing, or join in the 8-sentence fun, stop by at Weekend Writing Warriors!

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This is a continuation from last week’s snippet (here), though a couple paragraphs have been skipped. In this scene, Falcon has been captured by the Helyx gang and is being harvested for her Amaranthine magic. Creative punctuation has been used to fit into the eight sentences.

_________

I could see the taint of madness in his eyes–He was beyond reason, but I had to try. “But my blood is tainted with humanity–You can’t know what effect it will have on you.”

Scar laughed, a sound that reached out with dead fingers and gripped me by the bones, “Lying isn’t going to save you–You’re nobody’s Pet now. We’ll drop your body off at your doorstep so your perfect little family can see the pain you died in.” He ordered the boy with the knife to bring over the bowl that collected my blood–It sloshed with the movement, a dark red-black, and laced with a shimmer that only I could see–Amaranthine.

As I watched, Scar raised it to his lips and drank. He grinned, and his teeth shone red with blood–A wolf tearing into a kill.

“I’m done with her–Drain all of it, even if she’s dead.”

_________

There you go! I will continue this scene next week, so make sure you check it out 🙂 Thank you for reading, and look forward to your snippets this week! Happy 8sunday!

Blog Post and Novel Excerpt © Victoria Davenport and the Coffee.Write.Repeat. blog

Weekend Writing Warriors

Hey there! Hope you all had a fantastic Christmas 🙂 To meet some new authors, read some great writing, or join in the 8-sentence fun, stop by at Weekend Writing Warriors!

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This is a direct continuation from last week’s snippet (here). In this scene, Falcon has been captured by the Helyx gang and is being harvested for her Amaranthine magic. Creative punctuation has been used to fit into the eight sentences.

_________

“What do you want?” I hissed through clenched teeth, “I’m not with Crank anymore.”

“Yeah, I know, got yourself a pretty little family now–But this has nothing to do with Crank, I only want you.”

“If you’re going to kill me, just get it over with–You get nothing out of torturing me.”

A snake of a smile crept across his lips, “Oh I’m not torturing you, but you’ve been keeping that precious magic of yours all to yourself–It’s rude not to share, ya know.”

The other thugs laughed, too hard–Eager to please their master. They were weak, nothing more than sheep following a wolf, but I knew just the monster that Scar was. I’d seen the marks he used to leave on the other girls–Being Crank’s Pet was the only thing that had saved me from him. But there was nothing to save me now.

_________

Thanks for reading! I will continue this scene next week, so I hope you stop by. I look forward to reading all your amazing posts this week! Happy 8sunday 🙂

Blog Post and Novel Excerpt © Victoria Davenport and the Coffee.Write.Repeat. blog

Weekend Writing Warriors

Hey all! It’s been a long time, but I am finally on Christmas break and I’m so excited to be able to join in again for a little while 🙂 I thought I would share some snippets from my manuscript Ember, which is out on submissions now. You can read my previous WeWriWa snippets here. To meet some new authors, read some great writing, or join in the 8-sentence fun, stop by at Weekend Writing Warriors!

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In this scene, Falcon has been lured and captured by the Helyx gang and wakes up being harvested for her Amaranthine magic. Creative punctuation has been used to fit into the eight sentences.

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Pain snapped me back into awareness.

A scream tore from my throat at the fire lacing its way up my arm–I opened my eyes to find a Helyx tracing the lines in my skin with his knife. I thrashed against my bonds, and the knife jolted across my arm, taking strips of flesh as it went.

A man watched from the end of the room, his eyes wicked in the flicker of candle-light–A scar ran from his forehead to his jaw, revealing him as the leader of the Helyx gang, Scar. “Stop,” he said to the boy cutting my arm,  “I want to talk with her.”

He stopped–The blade dripped blood onto the floor in fat drops. My fists curled, my nails dug into my palms to fight the pain in my arm.

“Didn’t think you would see me again, did you Pet?” Scar taunted with a grin.

_________

There you have it! The next few posts will continue this scene, so I hope you come back next week. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with y’all and reading all the great posts this week! Happy 8sunday 🙂

Blog Post and Novel Excerpt © Victoria Davenport and the Coffee.Write.Repeat. blog

A Survivors Guide to Pitch Contests

Hey y’all! I don’t know if you saw, but #pitmad #SFFpit and #PitchMas all happened in the last two weeks! If you don’t know, or have never heard of them, these are all really awesome contests where you pitch your MS in 140 characters or less, and agents/editors stalk the feed and make requests. It might seem like a one in a million chance of anything actually coming out of this, but you’d be amazed how many success stories there are.

This was probably my second or third #SFFpit and my fifth or sixth pitch contest overall. The first time, I had no idea what I was doing. It was bad. But I had fun, and I’ve learned a lot in the times since then, so I wanted to share it with y’all so you don’t have to go through all of the trial and error that I did.

Here’s the top things I’ve learned from pitch contests:

1. Don’t be intimidated. It can seem overwhelming at first, especially with how big #pitmad and #SFFpit have gotten. There are seriously big names scanning the feed, and a lot of competition. But here’s the thing: if it doesn’t work out, nothing happens. You quite literally have nothing to lose. I love pitch contests because it’s another way to throw your hat in the ring, without all the time, effort, and stress of querying. Plus, all that “competition” is actually really awesome, which brings me to my next point.

2. You will meet amazing people. I’ve learned since joining writerly Twitter that really, no one knows what they’re doing either. At first I saw the other writers on #pitmad and #SFFpit as competition, but now I realize we’re all comrades. Every pitch contest, I get new followers and make a bunch of new connections. Plus, everyone is so supportive and friendly and it’s all just amazing. It makes me want to giant squishy hug everybody 🙂

3. It will get better. My first few times, I didn’t get a single bite. I got a couple RTs from supportive writers, but no requests. Which I was happy to even get RTs at the time, but didn’t know what I was doing wrong. I slowly learned that my pitches needed work. I’m very bad with anything pitch-y, from Twitter pitches to synopses to queries, so this was a big struggle for me. But I surprised myself with what I would come up with each contest, sometimes randomly struck with inspiration in the middle of it all. Each round my pitches have gotten better and better, and so have the responses. I went from a couple RTs and no bites, to a dozen RTs on one pitch and three requests overall. And I’m willing to bet it’ll be even better next time!

4. Polish your pitch. That said, the biggest factor affecting responses and your chance of getting a request is having a great pitch, so work on it as much as you can. Play around. Test out different ones, see what kind of response you get. Don’t overstress about it. The ones you think are the best won’t always be the most successful, and vice versa. Usually, the ones I came up with spur-of-the-moment turned out to be the best. I had a really hard time boiling down my complicated multi-POV fantasy into 140 characters, but I learned to be as specific as possible. My first few pitches just focused on the world and grand scheme, but it didn’t resonate. I learned that it’s much better to focus on one character, what they want, and what’s stopping them.

5. No cliches. For the love of God, please don’t use cliches when writing a pitch. In fact, don’t use cliches in anything: query, synopsis, or your manuscript itself. They might sound juicy but really they’re just vague and don’t actually tell anything. Plus, to agents/editors it comes off as lazy writing, or low skill. Every time I see a cliche, I die a little inside.

6. Use all your pitches. You have the opportunity for up to 24 tweets throughout the day (twice per hour in a 12 hour period) in most contests. Take advantage of that. I used some pitches to show the three POV’s overall goal. I used a pitch or two to give a taste of world-building. I used several pitches for each of POVs individually, to show their voice and what was at stake for them. One agent might be intrigued by one character, another by the world, a third by the overall struggle. Try them all!

7. Use your best pitches in the morning. Whether it’s because all the agents and editors are up and freshly caffeinated, or it’s before they’ve dealt with the stress of the work day, for some reason I get way more response on my morning pitches. Usually by two or three in the afternoon the response has slowed down considerably and almost stopped by four or five. This doesn’t mean stop pitching, though! There have been some agents who get on the feed late, so make sure you don’t miss out. But be sure to focus your best pitches in the morning.

8. Schedule your pitches. I know a lot of people use Tweetdeck, but I never have and have no idea how to use it, but from what I hear it’s worth checking out. I just use Twitter’s built in system: if you go to ads.twitter.com and under the Creatives tab, then hit compose tweet, there will be an option to schedule it. This eliminates any stress of having to pitch every 30 min or hour, or if you’re unable to pitch at certain times. Even if you are available, it helps you focus on interacting with other authors, RTing, and enjoying yourself!

9. Have patience. It probably won’t work your first few times. (If it does, awesome! You probably don’t need to read this then, and I want to know your secret) That doesn’t mean you’re an awful writer, or no one wants your book, or you should give up forever. Agents and editors are human, and can’t possibly look through every pitch. And even if you don’t get requests or many RTs, I promise you will if you keep working on your pitches, and try try again!

10. Have fun. I know it’s cheesy, but I’m serious! Twitter pitches are probably the most casual way you can get out there. Mess around with your pitches. Read what other authors are doing–there’s some seriously amazing stuff. Get feedback, connect with others, laugh at your bad pitches or the stress of querying or nerdy inside jokes. Pitch contests are really what you make of them, and they can be a lot of fun!

I hope that helps! Are you a pitch contest newbie, or a veteran? What have you learned through your trial and error? Let me know in the comments!