One of the easiest things you can do as a writer seeking publication is turn writing into a competition. After all, so many people want to write and be published, and agents and publishers can only choose some of them, right? That makes other writers your competition, right?
Wrong. I spent years living with this mindset. It felt as if everyone around me wanted to be a writer. When someone achieved what I couldn't, I felt bitter. I felt pushed down, further away from my goal.
But that was such a lie, one bred by the oh so infamous feeling of jealousy. This mindset never once helped me. Ever. In fact, it only hurt me because if anything held me back, it was thinking that the success of others negated my own potential success.
Now, after a year of experiencing various writing communities through Twitter, I see reason. Writer friends will be your salvation in the long and emotional journey towards publication. They build you up, cheer you on, and have the guts to tell you what needs to change to improve your writing. So if you've ever questioned the need for writer friends, here are my five reasons to befriend other writers:
1. You Build Each Other Up
Writer friends become your support system. Writing, editing, pitching, and querying can be very taxing activities. If you isolate yourself, you have to handle that strain on your own. But with writer friends, you have a supportive group of people there to point out what you are doing well and encourage you to continue. You have someone to give you a shoutout on social media, help you gain a following, and/or help you find a community.
It's also not a one-way street. Just as your friends support you, you should support them back. Encourage them, brag about them, and support them through both the celebrations and the disappointments.
2. You Cheer Each Other On
Sometimes you need cheerleaders in your life, and writer friends fit that role perfectly. Are you pitching an agent in person at a conference? Your writer friends can give you that much-needed pep talk beforehand. Are you participating in a pitch event on Twitter? Your writer friends can comment on and quote tweet that pitch to bolster your visibility (and your confidence). Are you 20,000 words deep into a mentally exhausting revision? Your writer friends will remind you that You. Can. Do. It.
Also, being a cheerleader for someone else is fun, believe it or not. When your friends achieve something big or small, it feels great to celebrate with them. Much better than feeling bitter.
3. You Offer Each Other Valuable Critique
It's great when friends and family members are willing to read your work, but oftentimes, they don't get nitty-gritty in their feedback. That's okay. It's totally understandable, even. They read your work as readers. But when someone reads your work as another writer, they get nitty-gritty. Trust me. (And it's great.)
Detailed, honest feedback makes you a better writer as long as you are willing to accept and grow from that feedback. Writers read work and see how it can be improved. They view it as a work-in-progress, which enables them to see the threads that work and the ones that seem weak. Yes, I love this setting and adore this side character but what if you cut out these two characters, made your main character responsible for the death of that villain, heightened the social conflict behind the primary plot--
You get the point. My friend M.J. told me this morning that having beta readers gave her a whole new perspective on her writing, and it's true. Having another writer read your work forces you to view it more critically. The same can be said when you read another writer's work and put yourself into the critic's mindset. You learn to see strengths and weaknesses in your work and the work of others, and that will only help you improve.
4. You Empathize With Each Other
As I say time and time again, writing and seeking publication hurts sometimes. Non-writers don't always understand that. You love writing so it must be fun, right? You're good at writing so it must be easy, right?
Not always. Sometimes it's the most painful process of my day. Other writers understand that. You can complain about an inspiration slump or joke about all the methods you use to avoid actually writing (*cough* Pinterest *cough*) and suddenly you might feel better. It's nice to know you're not alone.
5. You Share Connections and Knowledge
One person can't know everything or everyone, but when you put a few people together, your pool of knowledge grows considerably. I have learned so much since meeting my writer friends through Twitter. I often find out about contests or pitch events through them, I learn about different organizations and conferences and publications, I discover new methods for editing and querying, and I meet more writers. I try my best to stay in-the-know about the book and writing world, but I am much better off now that I have other sources of knowledge to draw on, and you could be too.
These are only five reasons to befriend writers, but there are many other reasons too. Do not hold yourself back as a writer by turning this journey into a competition. Instead, find the people to ride it out with. Those people might just be the ones that help you to reach your dreams and goals.
Lastly, since it's Follow Friday (#FF), I want to give a shoutout to the writer friends that have recently blessed my life with their support, feedback, and lovely personalities. This shoutout goes to A.J. Eversole (@amjoyeversole), M.J.B. McGregor (@MJBMcGregor), Juliana Xavier (@JulieJubz), Katie Van Amburg (@ktvyay), and Anna Coyle Taylor (@britegrace). Thanks for everything!
We are nearing the end of this month's Camp NaNoWriMo, which I decided to join at the last second (this seems to be a trend for me). For anyone who doesn't know, Camp NaNoWriMo is an offshoot of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), an event in November that challenges writers to write 50,000 words in one month. Camp takes place in April and July, and allows writers to choose any goal they would like.
I set a word count goal for April's Camp NaNoWriMo in the hopes of digging into my witch WIP, but the craziness of my last semester in college kept me from reaching that goal. I hesitated to try again this month since I would spend 10 of the days in Japan, but my critique partner, Juliana Xavier, invited me to her cabin and I thought, "Why not?" This time, I set a goal of 30 hours to work on revisions of a different manuscript, and jumped in.
I left for Japan on July 4th, only four days into Camp NaNoWriMo. Just as I seem to have a habit of taking on these challenges at the last second, I also have a habit of regaining my writing fervor just at the moment when I lose all time to write. I wanted to enjoy my trip and my time with family without glueing my face to my computer screen, but I was also itching to write. Revisions are hard--sometimes incredibly so--but it's also addicting to watch your story improve little by little.
My compromise was writing in the mornings before we went out, and the evenings after we returned. I was often tired from walking around in the burning sun all day, and it was rare that I managed a full hour at a time. This left me making strange notes to myself of time spent here or there until I had an hour to log into the website's counter (which unfortunately doesn't accept partial amounts of time). Perhaps it wasn't the image of ideal writing productivity, but it was something, and it was something that did not take away from what mattered more--my vacation.
All of this time added up. By the time I returned from my ten days abroad, I had finished most of my first round of revisions. I realized along the way that when you're trapped on an 11-14 hour flight with very few distractions and the inability to sleep on planes, it's quite easy to rack up a few hours of edits, assuming you have a laptop and a source of charge. Below is the image of my Camp statistics after my return flight.
Overall, I'm glad I pushed trepidation aside and joined in on Camp NaNoWriMo once again. It inspired me to push through these current revisions and, perhaps more importantly, introduced me to a new group of writers that I have thoroughly enjoyed talking to over the past twenty days. Maybe attempting this challenge while abroad wasn't the easiest, but it was certainly more memorable. If I can't sit around a campfire with my cabin-mates eating s'mores and sipping hot cocoa, I might as well be thousands of feet in the air or tucked into a hotel room.
There were less bugs this way, too.
Have you ever been in the midst of editing a manuscript and wished you could physically move sections of your story around? Are you a kinesthetic or visual person who might benefit from a more hands-on method of interacting with your outline?
A tangible outline might be the method for you.
What I mean by a tangible outline is a story outline written out on physical pieces of paper, enabling you to interact with your outline in ways that you cannot do on a computer screen. In my own editing experience, creating this form of outline has been incredibly beneficial for stories that need major revisions such as deleting or moving chapters. I find it much easier to work with slips of paper that I can swap around to different locations than adding or deleting bullet points on a Word document. This way, I can try out various ways of ordering my chapters without actually changing my official outline each time.
This method also works wonders if you need to focus in on a certain character or theme within your story. If you create a slip of paper for each chapter in your manuscript, but write chapter numbers or titles featuring that character or theme in a different color, you can track where the character or theme appears throughout the story. This makes it easy to see if the appearance of that character or theme is scarce in one area of the story or too regular in another. You can also determine if your characters learn information at the proper moments by evaluating those moments within the larger picture of your outline.
If you are interested in creating your own tangible outline, this is how I do it:
Step One: Gather Supplies
I cut pieces of paper into small slips, enough to have one slip for each chapter of your manuscript. I also recommend using colored writing utensils so that you can code certain characters, themes, or a specific category of chapter in varying colors. The colors enhance the visual aspect of the outline and make it easy to see where certain storylines progress. I used sharpies, but colored pens or pencils would also work.
Step Two: Create and Arrange Outline
Here's an example of three slips from an outline of one of my manuscripts. For this outline, I color-coded it based on the priority of the chapter and the main character's relationships (ex. pink = important interactions with the romantic interest). Obviously my outline is much longer than three slips of paper, but I wanted to give an idea of the purpose of the different colors. By using this method, I am able to see if too much priority is placed on interactions with the romantic interest throughout the manuscript, and if so where I could include further development with other primary characters.
This could similarly be achieved by highlighting bullets on a Word document, but by using a tangible outline I can easily move the slips of paper around in a variety of patterns to determine the best order. It's also easy to add in slips or take away slips and see how that change would affect the balance of your storytelling.
Every writer has his/her/their own method of writing and revising, but if you think a tangible outline might help you feel more engaged in the revision process, I highly suggest trying it out. It has helped me a lot with major revisions in the past, and I expect I will use it again in the future.
Moving from college towards a new stage of life and living situation has meant purging belongings that don't make the cut. As someone whose first thought when it comes to favored belongings goes straight to my book collection, it was not easy to consider--let alone go through with--purging books from that collection. Especially when I never got around to actually reading many of those books.
Alas, I did the unthinkable, and I will tell you why I feel lighter for having done so.
Reading has been a primary interest of mine since childhood, but my reading frenzy slowed tremendously partway through high school and into college. Homework, required reading, and extracurricular activities took its place. My TBR shelf mocked me for years with unfinished series and dozens of interesting debuts that I couldn't or wouldn't squeeze into my schedule.
I didn't feel entirely the same during that period of time. Books were a huge part of my life previously and the focus of my ideal future, so the lack of regular reading time left a hole that nagged at me constantly. How could I leave the third or fourth book of a beloved series sitting on a shelf unread? How could I improve my writing or stay current in the industry if I wasn't reading books?
Eventually, a few good books pulled me back in and I made it a personal mission to prioritize reading once again. But the TBR shelf remained. Staring at me. Shaming me for abandoning it all those years. And what did I do?
I bought more books.
I wanted to read new releases and stay current with the market. I gave in to their irresistible siren's call. They were fresh, and new, and--as I eventually realized--they did not remind me of times I wished to forget. The books on my TBR shelf dated back to high school. After years of feeling pressure to catch up with books I had long abandoned, I finally realized what I wanted most was to move on.
Culling my TBR shelf was not easy. It required giving up on series I had once cared about but would probably never fully connect to again. It meant discarding books I had barely even touched, which felt like a complete waste. But it also meant freeing myself of a burden I hadn't realized had become so heavy. It opened my shelves to new possibilities and new adventures, which I am excited to experience.
The books purged from my TBR shelf will serve a much better purpose in the hands of their next owners than they did accumulating dust on my bookcase. The TBR shelf is an iconic piece of a bookaholic's existence, but if your TBR shelf plagues you as much as mine did, consider taking another look and deciding which books you truly want to dedicate your time to, and which are there out of pure obligation. There's a chance you will feel much lighter afterwards.
Besides, trimming a TBR shelf doesn't mean you no longer have a book obsession. What did I do immediately after purging mine?
I went to B&N and I bought more books.
It’s been a while, but I’m back! Although I usually try to post to this blog every week or two weeks, over a month has passed since my last entry, 5 Reasons to Pitch on Twitter. I decided to take a step back because it was my last month of undergrad, I had a dance showcase to organize and perform in, final papers to write, a college to graduate from, and friends and family to spend time with. In the end, I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and East Asian Studies with a Minor in Japanese, and proceeded to spend four days traipsing through amusement parks.
A break from the writing world was needed, but difficult to take. In April, I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo and set a goal of 20-25k words. I had ideas for my WIP and a desire to write it, but it fell too low on my priority list. Prioritizing school, RevPit, and DVpit meant allowing that goal to fall by the wayside.
That was a hard decision. After all, if I could meet the 50k goal in November, why couldn't I write half that amount in April? I felt disappointed in myself for knowing I would not meet what at first had seemed a reasonable goal. But at that point in time, it was not a reasonable goal. I could have forced myself to make it happen, but it would have meant stressing myself out, taking my energy and focus away from other areas of my life, and probably pushing out poor writing. In the end, it wasn't worth it. I might not have met my goal, but I did write part of it, and that is just as important.
I have certainly missed writing and engaging in the writing world. I've missed out on discussions and writing challenges, and I have a growing list of editing to-do's. But I also needed the mental break. I needed a chance to take a step back and think about where I want to go next with my writing. Where do I want to focus my efforts? Which story keeps popping into my head?
Taking a break as a writer can be very difficult. With so many sources telling you to write every day or as often as possible, it feels like failure to press the pause button. But it's not. Just as with every creative endeavor or profession, writers can burn out and deplete their wells of creativity. Pushing your way through writer's block is one thing, but forcing yourself to write when it will be more detrimental than not is not worth the mental strain.
If you need a break, take it. Let your mind wander. Let it rest. Engage more in the other areas of your life. All of this will help you in the end. Living life breeds inspiration, and that inspiration will fuel you once you have the energy to dive back into writing. When you're in it for the long haul, you have to learn to take breaks or you won't make it. The stories will still be there, the community will still be around, and you will feel more engaged with both after you've taken a step back.
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for regular posts again!
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?
Here in Florida it feels like summer, and throughout the country it feels like winter, but happy first day of Spring! Winter tends to breed sadness and depression, but spring brings me thoughts of pretty flowers, cute animals, and an overall sense of positivity. In honor of the season, I'd like to share my thoughts on the power of positive feedback in the editing process.
I've worked as a college writing tutor for the past three years. Part of our training for assisting other students with papers is to point out areas where the student has done well. Even if these positive remarks appear far less often than the critical remarks, they serve as concrete examples of what the student has done well and should continue to do in the future.
I believe the same mindset should apply to critique partners, beta readers, and anyone else involved in the editing process for creative works. Critique is so important. Without critique, a writer's work will never improve because it will never be forced to change. But critique should not entirely eclipse positive feedback.
Positive feedback tells a writer, "I liked this. You did this well. You should continue along this vein in the future." As someone critiquing a work, it's easy to feel sucked into searching for what to fix, and consequently overlook what already succeeds. If you don't critique a particular section, that implies to the writer that section is fine. Right?
Not necessarily. From a writer's perspective, if you only receive critique, you start to wonder, "Was any of it good?" No matter how braced you are for criticism, it's a very discouraging thought to have.
For me, a little positive feedback goes a long way. One positive comment amid a wave of critique keeps me going, even if that comment is a simple "haha" in the margins. I love that! My magic system might need more explanation or my paragraphs reorganization, but at least that line made someone laugh. On Friday I have a Skype appointment with Eric Smith, an author and literary agent I greatly admire, to discuss my query letter and first ten pages. As the amazing person he is, he already sent me written comments. His critique and suggestions opened my mind to ways I could improve, but the positive comments he wove throughout made it all seem more rewarding. It reminded me how powerful a positive comment is among critique, and how I hope to do the same to other writers when editing their work.
Keep editing and critiquing. That's how writing evolves. But remember the power of positive feedback, and consider wielding it in your own editing process.
Last Thursday, the book world of Twitter became a flurry of pitches due to #PitMad, an opportunity for writers to pitch their stories to agents through shortened Twitter pitches. Since I have a couple opportunities on the horizon to receive further critique on my manuscript, I decided to hold back from this month's #PitMad and wait for a later opportunity.
In order to distract myself from the temptation of pitching, I instead participated in a writing exercise called #PhotoStoryChallenge. Every week, Radina Valova posts one of her photos on Twitter with a set of rules, and challenges writers to incorporate the photo and rules into a scene. It's a great flash fiction exercise, and it's fun to see the many ways different writers twist the inspiration into a variety of stories. Since I've recently trapped myself in a cycle of editing and worldbuilding, I enjoyed giving myself a chance to write without a care, and it helped jog my creativity. It also strengthened my bond with the participating members of my writing group on Twitter.
Here's a recap of the March 8th challenge:
The rules of the challenge were to write a scene based on this image, and it had to include dialogue between at least two people who want something from each other, and the writer must use the words "is that all."
Apparently when given this set of inspiration, my first instinct is to write about a farm girl and a demon queen. Below is my unedited #PhotoStoryChallenge flash fiction from Thursday.
She didn’t look like a demon queen, leaning against my closet door while the setting sun highlighted her profile. Not the way she did an hour prior, when the fire in her eyes burned against the darkest shadows surrounding her, and for a split moment my fear and awe mixed into a knot of doubt.
“I thought you might kill me earlier,” I said. “Rather than that monster.” The memory of its putrid breath twisted my stomach, and I touched the spot on my neck where its teeth punctured my skin before it fell prey to the demon queen.
Annora pulled her gaze away from the window to look at me. “That would somewhat defeat the purpose of protecting you, would it not?”
The twist in my stomach became something else entirely as I smiled at her. “It might be counterproductive.”
Her dark eyes still simmered with a hint of that flame. “I wouldn’t hurt you.”
I shrugged in an attempt at nonchalance. “I suppose our pact wouldn’t allow you to harm me.”
Annora shook her chin. “It’s not about the pact.”
I arched a brow, but she didn’t elaborate.
“Well,” I said as I pushed to my feet and stretched my arms up, “we should get going. We only have four hours to locate your buried crown and defeat a demonic prince before he destroys you, me, and everyone else in my small but still arguably significant Kansas town.”
The edge of Annora’s mouth twitched up. “Is that all?”
I offered my hand to pull her to her feet, and she paused in front of me. Her warm fingers locked around mine and her extra two inches of height forced me to tilt back in order to meet her eyes. Her rare smile returned to tight-lipped hesitation.
“Annora,” I said. I meant it as a statement, but my concern turned it into a question.
She squeezed my hand. “When this is over,” she said, “you have to let me go.”
A dull ache spread through my chest, but I refused to let it show on my face. Returning to my lonely farm life now seemed more unbelievable than losing my heart to a demon queen.
“I will,” I said, dropping her hand. “I know the rules.”
The look in her eyes echoed the sentiment in my head: neither of us felt confident in my ability to fulfill that promise.
That's all, folks. Follow Radina Valova for more weekly challenges, which I hope to participate in from now on. I also need to tuck this story idea of a farm girl and a demon queen away in my box of ideas-that-cannot-distract-me-from-my-current-work-in-progress. Also, check out Radina's Twitter Memory to read the scenes written by other writers!
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.