Hello everyone! If you spend any time on the book side of Twitter, you probably know how hectic this week is. Saturday marked the start of #RevPit, a contest during which writers submit their work to editors in hopes of winning a free critique of their entire manuscript. Although winners and runners up will not be announced until next Monday, the editors are busy sending requests for more materials and posting #10queries critiques on Twitter (tweet-length critiques of queries they received during submissions). These #10queries fill the Twitter feed with examples for all writers to learn from, whether they submitted or not.
On top of #RevPit, a Twitter pitch event called #DVpit occurs this Wednesday and Thursday. #DVpit is a pitch event for marginalized writers and illustrators, including but not limited to native peoples and people of color, disabled people or people living with an illness, and people falling on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. Literary agent Beth Phelan created this event as a way to boost the voices of historically underrepresented writers. Just like any Twitter pitch event, #DVpit will fill Twitter feeds with hundreds of pitches from a variety of writers hoping to secure representation.
Twitter pitch days are a flurry of activity and excitement, but they can also be stressful and disappointing. If you are a writer that has never participated, you might be wondering why you should bother pitch your manuscript on Twitter. In honor of this week's events, here are five reasons to participate in Twitter pitch events:
1. Practice Formulating a Concise Pitch
Participating in a pitch event requires you to have at least one concise pitch of your manuscript, but preferably more. Considering these events happen through Twitter, concise now means within 280 characters. There are many resources for perfecting your pitch, but a favorite resource of mine is writer and editor Meg LaTorre, who consistently posts articles and videos about the writing and publishing process. She has a video on her YouTube channel about How to Write a Twitter Pitch for Your Manuscript.
Formulating your pitch benefits you in more ways than simply supplying you with a pitch to use. It forces you to think through your manuscript's main character, primary conflict, and stakes--but in a very concise way. You must break these aspects down to their barest components yet still catch the eye of anyone perusing the feed. If you cannot think of distinct ways to characterize your main character in the length of a tweet, perhaps you need to develop your MC more. If you cannot think of the personal stakes your MC faces, perhaps you need to heighten the stakes of your manuscript. Formulating a pitch forces you to think through your manuscript in this way.
2. Meet Other Writers
Twitter pitch events or contests might seem purely competitive, and you can make it that way if you choose, but that is not how it should be. These events bring writers together in an act of sharing their work. Some participants of #RevPit created a Facebook support group that now has 167 members. I have met other writers through practice pitch events, and now I am invested in their own writing journeys because I like them as people and I am interested in seeing their stories come to life. Meeting other writers also creates a group to build you up during pitch events, since retweeting each other's pitches boosts those pitches in the feed.
3. Get to Know Agents and Editors
You will quickly learn after joining Twitter that literary agents and editors are amazing, spectacular people. I would love to be friends with them all. They are funny and supportive, and many of them give a lot of their free time to answering questions and helping aspiring authors. Participating in Twitter events allows you to engage with these agents and editors, and find people you want to follow. Regardless of how the event turns out for your own writing, following these agents and editors fills your Twitter feed with resources and lively personalities.
4. Learn from Other Pitches
Writing might seem like an isolated hobby or profession, but if you want to improve, it most definitely is not. Not only do Twitter pitch events allow you to meet other writers, but they help you learn from those writers' pitches. Depending on the writer, these pitches become examples of what to do or what not to do. If a writer's pitch really caught your attention and got you interested in his/her/their story, what about the pitch made it do so? How can you incorporate those techniques into your own pitching? If a writer's pitch bogged you down or confused you, why? How could that writer improve such a pitch, and how can you learn from that mistake?
5. Potentially Be a Success Story
This step seems necessary to include, since it is the main reason people pitch their stories. Writers want to be offered representation from literary agents, and Twitter pitch events are another opportunity to link writers and agents together. If you pitch on Twitter and an agent likes it, you then send that agent a query and any other requested materials. Just like with any form of querying, there is no guarantee of success. However, according to Beth Phelan, #DVpit has created 65 success stories, including 27 book deals. These successes happen, and if you keep working towards it, you can become one someday too.
Those are my five reasons for participating in Twitter pitch events, but I'm sure there are many more. For anyone participating in #RevPit or #DVpit this week, I wish you the utmost luck. I hope to write blog posts soon about knowing when to pitch and how to formulate a pitch, so stay tuned for more content about pitching both on and off Twitter. If you are looking for industry professionals to follow, head over to the #RevPit website to read about the amazing participating editors. If you want to stay on top of the dates for pitch events, check out Meg LaTorre's Pitch Contest Calendar.
School has kept me busy, but I managed to participate in last week's #PhotoStoryPrompt (albeit a little late). #PhotoStoryPrompt (previously known as #PhotoStoryChallenge) is a flash fiction exercise created by Radina Valova, which challenges writers to use her photographs as inspiration for a story or part of a story. Participants write flash fiction anywhere from the length of a tweet to the length of a full short story. It can also be a great exercise for getting to know a character you already have in mind, or sparking new ideas for characters and stories in the future.
Above is last Thursday's photo prompt. The rules of the challenge were that the main character must use a shovel and say the words "it has to." An optional challenge was to write it as a screenplay.
I've participated in a few of these challenges now, but I decided to bring back my characters from my first challenge. I posted a recap of that challenge's flash fiction if you'd like to read a previous scene between these characters. Something about the juxtaposition of a farm girl and a demon queen won't get out of my head. There's a chance I will turn this story into something longer and thought out in the future, but for now, enjoy my unedited flash fiction below.
“How do you know it will come this way?” Annora asked.
“It has to,” I said. “The barriers you placed around the spawning location will bar it from going towards town, and these trees are packed in tightly enough to be a barrier themselves. This road is the clearest path to the farm.”
The wooden handle of my shovel scraped my palm as I leaned against it. The shovel had served me many times before on the farm. It was familiar—a memory of home, of my seventeen years spent in the most mundane of ways. It probably never expected to be used to dig up the crown of a demon queen, or fight off undead monsters. But that’s life for you, I guess. Sometimes years of mundanity build up to one spectacular moment.
“What do you plan to do when it comes?” Annora asked. “Hit it with your shovel?”
I swiveled the shovel against the asphalt so I faced her as she paced back and forth beneath the bridge. For a demon queen, she was quite fidgety. Maybe it was all that fire inside her, searching for a release.
“I thought maybe you, with all of your demonic fire powers, could fight it,” I said. “But if that fails, then yes, I will use the shovel.”
Annora paused in her pacing to search my face, as if determining if I was joking or not. “We might consider something more practical.” I scoffed, and rubbed my forehead. Dirt from my fingers smudged onto my skin. “What?”
“Nothing,” I said. The road stretched ahead. Silent. Waiting. Birds called to each other among the trees, apparently unaware of the approaching force. The gravel along the road shifted with Annora’s renewed pacing. The juxtaposition of normal and abnormal fed the anxiety clawing at my stomach until I gripped the shovel so tightly a splinter bit into my skin. “Annora.”
The shifting gravel stopped. I breathed in, and faced her.
“Don’t leave me,” I said.
The skin between Annora’s black brows pinched together. “I would never leave you to fight—”
“No,” I said, pushing the shovel to the ground as I stepped closer. It clanged against the asphalt and then settled into silence. “I’m not talking about leaving me in these woods. I’m talking about leaving me leaving me. For good, never to be seen again.”
“Do you think I want to do that?” she asked.
The thumping of my heart filled my ears as heat burned my skin. “You made me promise to let you go.”
“My kingdom is dying,” she said. “If I can’t get back there to help my people, this is going to keep happening. Monsters from my world will invade yours. Do you want that?”
“Of course not,” I said. Another breath. “But I want you.”
Annora’s expression went slack with surprise. “Charlotte—”
I huffed. “Don’t ‘Charlotte’ me when I am standing here telling you how I feel. Either you want me or you don’t. Tell me.”
“It is far more complicated than that,” Annora said. “I can’t stay in this town with you forever. I can’t be trapped in a pact with you forever.”
“I am not asking you to do any of that!” I exclaimed. “I get it. You have responsibilities, and a kingdom, and you live in another world. Is a vacation completely out of the question? Maybe a letter here and there?”
Annora watched me. All her fidgeting had stopped, leaving her uncharacteristically still. I held my arms at my side, refusing to cross them, refusing to hide from her.
“Do you want me?” I asked.
“I want you,” she said. No hesitation.
My breath slipped out in a sigh of relief. “Good. That’s good.” My heart still pounded in my chest. It was worse than the time I had to ask Grady Mills to prom. Worse than standing up for a speech in front of my class.
Annora strode straight through the puddle between us, pulled me into her arms, and kissed me firmly on the mouth. I curled my fingers into her shoulders, against the worn fabric of the shirt she borrowed and her soft, dark skin beneath. The smell of dirt, sweat, and cedar filled my nose. No fire and brimstone.
Then I realized the pounding in my ears no longer came from my own beating heart, but from an external source, and I pushed Annora back to face the monster charging down the road on all four legs. Green flames burned along its arched back and its mouth hung open to reveal a plethora of glistening teeth.
With half my brain still focused on that kiss and the other struggling to process the oncoming threat, all I managed to get out was, “I told you so.”
Annora snorted, kicked the shovel up into her hand, and pushed the handle into mine.
“Here,” she said. “In case my demonic fire powers fail me.”
That's all for now. Stay tuned for future challenge recaps. Meanwhile, I need to jump back into writing for my CampNaNoWriMo word count goal, and stop getting distracted by a farm girl's pact with a demon queen. Check out Radina Valova on Twitter for weekly #PhotoStoryPrompts. If you'd like to read the other contributions to the challenge, go here.
Before I say anything else, let me say this: if you started reading Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake and put it down before finishing, pick it back up. It will be worth it.
Three Dark Crowns is a dark, Game of Thrones-esque tale of the Island of Fennbirn and its triplet queens, who in every generation must fight to the death to determine the Queen Crowned. Each sister represents a traditional family on Fennbirn as well as a category of magic: Mirabella is an elementalist, Katharine a poisoner, and Arsinoe a naturalist. The story follows the perspectives not only of the triplets destined to kill each other, but also several of their followers and companions, who all have a stake in their queen winning.
Three Dark Crowns caught my interest the moment I first picked it off a shelf, and it instantly earned a place on my book wish list. However, when I started reading, the excitement wore off. I wasn't prepared for the many POVs, the triplet queens seemed nowhere near as impressive as their descriptions on the book jacket. Despite the detailed worldbuilding, I couldn't attach myself to the story.
Thankfully, I kept reading. I let go of the story I expected to read and adjusted to the story Kendare Blake wished to tell. Not only does Blake build an interesting and believable world, but she creates an atmosphere that sets this world apart from others and sucked me in the further and further I read. Plotting families willing to do whatever it takes to crown their queen, unpredictable magic, an island seemingly alive and unwilling to let the queens go, queens who do not live up to expectations and another who has no desire to kill her sisters--all of these factors combine to form an intriguing setting with provocative characters.
The atmosphere of Three Dark Crowns truly makes the story and builds the conflict. Blake manages to construct this atmosphere while revealing new character aspects, foreshadowing future incidents, and breathing life into a twisted world. This off-putting yet addictive atmosphere primarily arises from the characters scheming to assist the queens, the various systems of magic, and the Island of Fennbirn itself.
Although I did not expect the plethora of characters involved in Three Dark Crowns, their varying personalities and methods of scheming add a dark twist to the story. Madrigal never fit her role as a mother, but delves into low magic to assist Arsinoe, and through her, Jules. High Priestess Luca comes across as a gentle, grandmother figure to Mirabella, yet agrees with Rho's plan to tear Arisnoe and Katharine apart in order to make Mirabella a White-Handed Queen. Cold Natalia will poison anyone in her path, but the subtle hints of her motherly love for Katharine define her.
"Arsinoe never thinks of Madrigal as beautiful, though many, many people do. "Beautiful" is too gentle a word for what she is."--Kendare Blake, Three Dark Crowns pg. 80
The various groups of magic add further depth and intrigue to these characters, and the interests of the queens. Beyond the three primary categories--elementalists, poisoners, and naturalists--the war gift is powerful yet fading and the oracle gift supposedly turns queens insane. Among all of these powers, even the ungifted can perform low magic, but beyond the blood given to empower it, it often involves a greater sacrifice.
"Now that the magic is made, it feels wrong. A crooked thing, twisted through with good intentions. She does not know why she did it. She has no excuse, except that it was easy, and nothing has ever come easily to her before."--Kendare Blake, Three Dark Crowns pg. 85
Blake weaves the same twisted nature of Three Dark Crown's characters and magic into the Island of Fennbirn itself. Throughout the story, the island seems more and more alive, and it wants its queens too much to let them go. The mist surrounding the island captures Arsinoe during multiple attempts to escape, and the Breccia Domain holds the bodies of dead queens and calls to Katharine when she first glimpses it. The life of Fennbirn makes the entire story feel more alive because the characters themselves are not the only entities with something to gain or lose.
"The Breccia Domain feels. The Breccia Domain is, in that way that so many other sacred places on Fennbirn are, but the Domain is where all those other places connect. It is the source. Had Katharine been raised in the temples like Mirabella, she might have better words for the hum in the air and how it makes the back of her neck prickle . . .
Three Dark Crowns drew me in, and its sequel One Dark Throne left me speechless. Kendare Blake creates a living world with multi-faceted characters that are impossible to root entirely for or against. I completely recommend adding it to your TBR shelf. Head to your local bookseller or library, or find it online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or other online booksellers. Also check out Kendare Blake's website for more information on her and her other work.
What are your thoughts? If you've read Three Dark Crowns, how did it come across to you?
I write YA fantasy and contemporary fiction. This blog is dedicated to thoughts and advice on writing and publishing, as well as various interests related to the world of Young Adult.