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 🙂

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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!

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.

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?

TBAS Snapshot

I know I missed last week, but it’s finals and life has been crazy for me. But good news, I’ll be done with the semester after this week and free for an entire month! But here’s the snapshot for this week with an extra long excerpt as promised 🙂

Title: Ember

Current word count: 81,117

Words written this week: about 2,000

Words cut this week: about 2,000

What I’m working on: Polishing. I worked with an editor for the first 10k and used her comments to apply to edits to the rest. I added a couple action scenes, cut down some other ones, and polished the prose and voice. It really made a huge difference, even the small details and changes. I wanted to really perfect it before pitmad, SFFpit, and PitchMas. Also, I just made a couple big submissions, so fingers crossed! 🙂

Favorite lines: 

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.”

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 magic 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.

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. It 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.

Goal for next week: Rock out SFFpit and PitchMas! (After finals, of course)

What YA Gave Me

YA has been a part of my life, even before I knew to call it YA.

From reading the Inkspell series every night with my dad, to reading every book ever written by Tamora Pierce, YA has always been there. At the time, I didn’t realize what a big influence it was having on me–I was just reading books, and falling in love with these stories. Now I look back and see how much books, and more specifically YA, changed me and helped to shape me into the person I am today.

Some people consider young adult as “less than adult”. But for me, in a lot of ways YA is more than adult. Adult books may have wonderful stories that capture our emotions or change our views on certain things, but it is a very rare book that truly changes us. But reading YA while growing up, there are so many books that changed me.

YA is so important because it is targeted right at the most formative years of a person’s life–YA is a point of change, and it most certainly was for me. It does not flinch away from life’s toughest subjects, and Through YA, I learned about being strong, but that it’s also okay to not always be strong. I learned about womanhood, and love, and even sex. I learned about family and friends and all kinds of different relationships, and bonds that tie us all together. I learned about loss and death, grief and pain.

YA opened my eyes. It showed me places and people and views different than my own, hundreds of different kinds without ever leaving my room. I learned about others, but I also learned about myself. I learned what was most important to me, I found role models to look up to and emulate.

One day, I hope that I can write these kinds of books. The kind of stories that change people. To me, that would be the ultimate success as an author. More than money or awards or recognition, I want to be able to affect others. I want to be able to make someone fall in love with stories, or find a new genre, or maybe even change their life. Because I think that’s what stories are really about, connecting and changing us.

Do you read YA? If not, you should stop reading this and go find a book right away (seriously, shoo). Young or old, I think YA is very special in its capacity to affect all ages and all walks of life. I really think there’s something in it that almost anyone can relate to.

What are your favorite YA books? What are the ones that changed you, and how did they change you?


I know it’s been too long since I’ve posted, but things have been so crazy. Good news though, finals will be done next week so then I will be free for an entire month! 🙂 But don’t worry, I’ll have a snapshot post for y’all on Wednesday with an extra long excerpt, and next weekend I should be able to join back in with Weekend Writing Warriors! I’ve got some great snippets for y’all 🙂

TBAS Snapshot

Hey all! With the semester almost over and the holidays coming up, things have been a little crazy but I’ve still managed to get some editing in. If you hadn’t heard, I finished my WIP Nightfire! You can read my post all about that here. But I know that y’all have liked the snapshot posts, so I thought I would continue them as I dip my toe into the editing phase, and eventually get into major revisions where I’ll be picking apart my beautiful shiny MS completely.

I created To Build A Story to take you through the writing process and journey with me–which doesn’t stop when I’ve finished the first draft. I’ve changed up the snapshot a little bit so I can give you a better look into my editing process.

Title: Nightfire

Current word count: 67,505

Words written this week: 500

Words cut this week: about 100

What I’m working on: My first full read through of the story start to finish, with some light edits and tweaks. I’m actually surprised by how well it turned out. I expected I would have to destroy most of it since it is only the first draft. But I think that the beginning is very strong, though it does start to change around the middle, with the parts I wrote for CampNaNo. They’re not awful, but they’re not entirely working, though I need to figure out exactly where I want them to go before I try to fix them. I also finally divided (most of it) into chapters! So at least there is some sort of organization and logic now.

Favorite lines: 

In this ever-shifting world, only two things are sure. Tangible, unchanging.

The breath in my lungs, and the drumbeat in my chest.

I sit crouched in my vantage point, my muscles stiff with cold yet poised to strike, an arrow notched in my bow. My breath crystallizes as it meets the frigid night air, swirling clouds from my lips. Here in this austere silence, instinct pulses through my veins and my humanity falls away.

I am a predator, born to kill.

Goal for next week: I’m a little over halfway through, and I hope to have finished this read-through by then!