Change of Heart

YA has always been my favorite. I’ve always read it, I’ve always written it, I’ve always loved it. But lately, the spark just hasn’t been there.

I’ve had a hard time connecting with YA books. For some reason, I just can’t get into them in the way I’ve always been able to. I keep finding the stories flat, even formulaic. It’s not just dystopian anymore, I’ve found books across all genres that seem to follow the same pattern, and it feels like a story I’ve read a dozen times–because honestly, I have.

This isn’t all YA by any means. There’s definitely the exceptions that manage to capture me and draw me into a rich, complex world with a story that jumps off the page. But that’s becoming harder and harder for me to find.

Maybe it’s because I’ve seen too much of the other side of the story. Instead of being absorbed in the story, I see EXPOSITION, CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT, CONFLICT, blaring at me. Characters seem like obvious ploys for sympathy or world-building, foreshadowing hits me across the head with a sledgehammer, the setting feels like a budget backdrop in a school play rather than a world I can walk around and get lost in. Maybe I just haven’t found the right books. Maybe part of it is because I’m having a hard time in my own writing, and I’ve projected that feeling onto YA as a whole.

But for whatever reason, I seem to have fallen out of love with YA. Which is hard, because it’s always been dear to me. Thankfully, I’ve been able to fall in love with some really awesome adult books (Outlander, anyone?) so I haven’t lost reading entirely.

What do you think about YA? Are you a fan, or not? Are there some really awesome YA books I’m missing out on? Maybe even ones that could spark my love for YA again. I’d love to find a YA fantasy that doesn’t sound like something I’ve read before, and doesn’t have the stereotypical YA romance. Let me know 🙂

Advertisements

Good Isn’t Good Enough

I’ve been telling stories since before I knew how to write. I taught myself how to type when I was five just so I could write out my stories. Writing is in my blood, and it probably is for a lot of you.

Then you’ve probably also been told many times throughout your life that you’re a good writer. It becomes a title almost synonymous with your name. Teachers, peers, relatives told me all through growing up that I was a good writer. Which at the time was great. It encouraged me to write more, to push myself further. 

And then somehow, it just stopped. I plateaued. I reached a point, around high school, where I was a really good writer. I’d written books, had my own style and voice, had a system. 

I was good. And that was enough. 

I stayed that way for years. It wasn’t until I finally ventured into the writing community that I got a rude awakening. Suddenly, I wasn’t the only good writer in the room, I was surrounded by them.


At first, I was intimidated, insecure, disheartened. What now? Surely I had no hope against countless other writers just as good as I was. 

It took me a while to learn and truly understand the answer, but I’m so glad I did. Over time, I stopped seeing the community as competition and started seeing it as just that–a community. A support group, a panel of advisors, a limitless encyclopedia, a family.

I learned more in a few months with the writing community than I learned in an entire lifetime of writing on my own. Good wasn’t good enough anymore. So I had to be better. 

Writers are a bit infamous for how hard we are on ourselves. But honestly, I think that’s what changes us from good to great. If you don’t ever think you’re good enough, you will constantly be working towards better.

If you want to be a successful writer, never stop learning. Have your writing critiqued as much as you can. Learn from those wiser and more experienced than you. Read. Write. Read again. Write more. Push yourself as much and as far as you can. Humble yourself. Learn. Grow.

Don’t ever be okay with being a good writer. Because good isn’t good enough. 

Calling All Beta Readers

As many of you know, I finished my YA fantasy Nightfire a while ago. While my other MS is out on submissions, I want to get Nightfire ready for querying. Which means edits, but at this point I really need a fresh set of eyes.

Life is great and busy for my CPs which is awesome but means I don’t have my usual people to go to. So I need your help! I’m looking to you, #amwriting community, for a few great beta readers that can give me focused, honest feedback that will help set me on the right path for edits. Are you a fan of YA fantasy? Have you read some of my snippets and want to see more? Or maybe you’re just a super awesome person who wants to help a fellow writer out 🙂 Please let me know! If you want to but don’t have much time to commit, I’ll gladly take more general feedback, or send a partial instead.

If you’re interested, you can read more about Nightfire under the My Books tab, or read some snippets from the Weekend Writing Warriors category. If you want to be a beta reader please comment below, message me on Twitter, or email me at vdavenportwrite@gmail.com.

Thank yall so much!

Scarring Your Characters

Everyone has scars. Something that has hurt them that they carry through life, that changes how they act and react. I’ve said it so many times: characters are people, and they are. And characters have scars too—both literal and figurative.

Scars are more than just a tragic backstory. They can be as deep as an abusive past or loss of a parent, or superficial as social rejection or a petty betrayal. They give characters and stories depth. Characters are people, with pasts and lives and feelings, that are constantly changing and growing. It makes your story full and dynamic—living and breathing.

It also opens up a whole new world of story possibilities and makes your story unpredictable. Instead of a linear path following your protagonist and their struggles, now there’s a dozen different paths, weaving and colliding and tangling together.

So how can you add scars?

Sometimes scars are obvious and unavoidable—like a scar slashed across their face. These are a major part of your character, and unavoidably part of the story, but they don’t necessarily have to be focused on. These don’t always have the most impact on your character. They might be more of a trait, another factor of your character, without really affecting how they interact with the world. I think most tragic backstories fall into this category. Usually, it’s added like another tick on a character sheet: brown hair, sometimes shy, parents died tragically when he was young.

Don’t just add something that seems awful and traumatic for the sake of it being awful and traumatic. It might not really have the impact on your character that it should, like I said above. What matters most to your character? What do they want more than anything? And what would hurt them the most?

For instance, the protagonist of Ember, Falcon, lived with a gang for years before she found her family. The abuse she suffered from them wasn’t what was traumatic. In her world, violence was normal, accepted. What was more painful for her was when the gang lord, the only person to ever show her  “love” and the only family she had ever had, cast her out on the street like she was nothing.

Sometimes scars aren’t obvious. Sometimes they peek out of a shirt sleeve, or don’t even show at all. We don’t always see scars, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not there. In the same way, your characters’ scars might not even be part of the story, but that doesn’t mean they won’t affect it. Falcon’s father figure, Asa, knows a lot about her past and carries a lot of pain from that time. None of that is ever addressed in Ember, but it changes how he treats Falcon and how he reacts to everything that happens in the story.

Not all scars are major. Most are much smaller, but no less important. Sometimes these are the scars that really affect how a character acts, and taken altogether really shape who they are. And sometimes scars that seem small, have a lot more impact than we think. In Ember, Falcon has a scar on her wrist from when the gang punished her for trying to steal food. It seems small, but we learn later that this is the incident that made them cast her out, so it has a lot more meaning to her.

When thinking of scars, usually we think of our protagonists first. Which is great, because they arguably need to be the deepest and most developed character in your story. But I think what really gives a story depth is when supporting characters have pasts and scars, which then affect how they treat the protagonist and the events around them.

If you are going to scar your characters in the story, then it needs to be dealt with straight on. You need to directly address what happened to them, and how they’re going to change because of it. But if it happened to them before the story starts, I think the most effective way to show their scars is to first show the behavior or how it has changed your character, then slowly reveal the reason behind it.

I could say a lot more about this, but I’ll write another post on it later. What are your characters’ scars, and how do you work them into your story? Are they obvious scars on the face, or hidden behind a sleeve?

Either way, scars are what make your characters.

Followers or Friends?

This is something that’s bothered me, and I’ve wanted to write a post on for a while now. I talk a lot about how amazing the online writing community is, and they really are. Where else can you meet so many awesome, nerdy people from all around the world who love the same things you do?

I’ve never seen another group of strangers be so supportive for each other and be so united, without ever having met. A lot of times, the #amwriting community is what gets me through the day, or what makes me keep going when I don’t want to, or keeps me from giving up hope.

The online writing community and those connections are very important to me. So I find it really frustrating, especially as I’ve become more involved and gained a larger presence online, to find more people solely concerned with what they can get out of you.

I rarely unfollow people, but it’s usually for the same reason I choose not to follow someone in the first place. If their feed is filled with mindless RTs, links, and promotions, I’m not going to follow them. To me, that’s not really contributing anything, but more screaming Look at me! Buy my book! I want to make real connections, not scroll through a bunch of links and tweets that could have been posted by robots.

Recently, I had apparently unfollowed a certain user at some point, and they left me a nasty comment trying to make me feel like a bad person for doing so. It certainly made me feel icky, but not for the reason they intended. I didn’t feel guilty, I just felt attacked. There was nothing personal about it, but they had made it personal. If we never connected, never talked, and there was nothing genuine there, why would I want to follow them?

Similarly, I’ve had several users with massive numbers follow me more than once, meaning they had followed, unfollowed, and followed me again (sometimes three or four times), without recognizing me and probably without ever knowing who I was. Clearly, there was no real connection there, I was just another stat to add to their numbers.

Another thing I’ve noticed is how many of these accounts simply RT and follow those on the #amwriting or other tags, without even seeming to read the tweet or notice the person. I’ve seen these accounts RT inappropriate and completely unrelated things, simply because they were tagged with the #amwriting tag, usually because it was trending. In that case, do those RTs even mean anything?

Obviously, no group is going to be perfect, especially when the internet is involved. But sometimes it just leaves me with an icky feeling, rather than the usual warm and fuzzies I get from the #amwriting community. To these people, you’re more important as a number than as a person.

There’s nothing wrong with having a lot of followers, or following everyone back. But I’ve become a lot more conscious on who I choose to connect with, and what their motivations are.

The online writing community can be whatever you choose to make it, and what you want to get out of it. I feel like those who are obsessed with followers and RTs, just for the sake of followers and RTs, are missing out on all the best parts. The #amwriting community isn’t just for gaining influence, building an audience, and selling books. Actually, most evidence has shown that social media isn’t a huge boost to book sales.

The best parts are everything besides the numbers. The awesome people, the friends, the diversity, the connections, the networking, the business opportunities, the support. Really, would you rather have all of that, or a whole lot of numbers that in the end, don’t actually mean anything?

Weekend Writing Warriors

Hey there! Sad day, since this is my last snippet before summer since spring semester has started. It’s been great to be back over break, thanks so much for everything! To meet some new authors, read some great writing, or join in the 8-sentence fun, stop by at Weekend Writing Warriors!

Image

This is a continuation from last week’s snippet (here), though I have skipped some paragraphs and rearranged for the sake of snippet flow. 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.

_________

With one last awful gurgle, Scar stopped struggling and slumped against the wall.

I stood over him, blood trailing from the corners of his eyes, his mouth, lines raked into his neck where he had try to claw the blood out–I had done this, this horrid, violent thing.

I had boiled a man from the inside out, without touching him.

I balled my hands into fists to stop them from shaking–Blood snaked down my arms, mirroring the lines that glowed silver-blue with Amaranthine.

I stared down at my hands–They had done this, I had done this. I grinned–My magic wasn’t useless after all.

It was deadly.

I turned and ran, leaving my victim slumped against the wall.

_________

There you have it! Thanks so much for all the support over break, and I look forward to being back this summer 🙂 Until next time, happy 8sunday!

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

Weekend Writing Warriors

Hey y’all! Classes have started again, so I’ll only post one more snippet to finish this scene before the spring semester gets into full swing. To meet some new authors, read some great writing, or join in the 8-sentence fun, stop by at Weekend Writing Warriors!

Image

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.

_________

Scar’s face turned red–He coughed, and it caught at the back of his throat, trapped–choked. A gurgle slipped out, mangled–The bowl fell from his hands, and shattered as it hit the ground, dashing my blood against the wall.

The boy froze, and cast an anxious look at him, “Are you alright, Scar?”

Scar couldn’t speak.

His hands went to his throat, clawing at his skin and drawing blood. His skin paled to ash, his eyes bulged–His scream came out a strangled gurgle.

The boy ran to him as Scar’s legs buckled beneath him–He cried for help, and two more boys rushed in, shooting a glance at me before rushing to Scar’s side in panic. They circled him like headless chickens, lost.

_________

That’s it! I will finish 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