On the Romanticization of Writers

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Frequently, around the interwebs, I see quotes that are meant to be inspirational for writers about how writers can’t do anything but write. Or how the true test of the writer is not not being able to write.

There are also really flowery quotes about how wonderful writing is, and then you see media portrayals of the struggling—but brilliant!—writer who becomes a bestseller, and then you hear about a teen getting a publishing contract for about a bajillion dollars and the whole writing thing can sound like a pretty sweet deal. 

These writers, man. They’re special. They feed on words and bathe in advances. They are living the dream. 

And I mean, some of us are, I suppose. Some days I kind of am. But sometimes the dream staring at the screen for hours when you’re supposed to be writing and not actually writing a word, or looking at a mountain of revision notes and panicking about how you’ll ever manage it, or realizing you’re going to need way more than one book deal to even think about supporting yourself off your author wages, or not being able to write for months and starting to wonder if you’re really a writer after all. If you’ve lost your magic. 

The truth is, I don’t like romanticizing the process because it doesn’t do anyone justice. Because if we pretend those hard days, weeks, months, years, even, didn’t happen then suddenly a writer’s success isn’t perceived as earned—it starts to look like it’s been given. Because if we pretend writing is something that comes naturally and can’t not be done then on the days where the writing is really hard, you might start to wonder if you’re really a writer at all.

I’m not into pretending writing is always amazing, and wonderful, and rainbows, and sugar. I’m not into ignoring the days where the writing is tough and I’m not sure what I’m doing and the pressure feels like almost too much. I’m not into overlooking the days where I’m exhausted from school but still have manuscripts to edit or vlogs to post or blog posts to write. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love my pub jobs and I’m so grateful to be working in a field that I love. But I think being transparent about the realities of the publishing and writing life is important, both to encourage each other and to get through the not-so sunny days. 

What do you think? Do you tire of the romanticization of writers? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Writer @Ava_Jae says, "I’m not into pretending writing is always amazing..." What do you think? (Click to tweet)  
On the romanticization of writers, and why one writer is tired of it. (Click to tweet)

Fixing the First Page Feature #11

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It's time for the eleventh fixing the first page critique! Yay! As always, I'll start by posting the full first 250 excerpt, after which I'll share my overall thoughts, then my redline critique. I encourage you guys to share your own thoughts and critiques in the comments (I'm just one person with one opinion!), as long as it's polite, thoughtful, and constructive. Any rude or mean comments will be unceremoniously deleted.

Okay! Here we go.


Genre/Category: YA Fantasy

First 250:

"I break the red seal engraved with a tree stump crest, unfold the stiff white paper, and squint at the contoured penmanship. The letter I received last week from the de Paula Barony communicated the death of my aunt’s husband and her impending arrival. I don’t hold much hope this message will relay better tidings. 
Dear Baron de Souza, 
It is with great pleasure that I invite you and your family to celebrate the wedding of my granddaughter Sophia de Paula to Lord Gavin Gwynn. The reception will be held at the riverside fortress of the de Paula Barony on the sixth day of the coming week. 
Accommodations can be made for your party at the premises, and please forward my invitations to your baronets. 
I hope this letter finds you in good health. 
Looking forward to seeing you next week, 
Baroness de Paula 
I glance at the stack of letters on the large wooden desk then at the messenger who delivered them. His unruffled peasant garb is wrinkled from his day on the saddle. 
'The others are for Father’s baronets?' I bite my tongue. My baronets. 
He nods. 'Do I take back a reply?' 
'Let Baroness de Paula know I’ll be attending with a small escort.' The other invitations I hand to Father’s Master of the Fields who is standing by my chair. I feel like I’m playing in Father’s dressing room, waiting for him to catch me in clothes too big for me. 'I’ll make sure these are delivered.'"

Okay, so, initial thoughts. I pretty immediately noticed two major things: first, the I double-checked the category because the voice does not sound YA to me (it sounds much more like adult), and second, I suspect this opening is starting too early.

On the first point, even for YA Fantasy which sometimes has slightly elevated language, the writing sounded too formal to me for YA (see phrases like "contoured penmanship," "communicated," "impending arrival," "I don't hold much hope" and "relay better tidings"). On their own, phrases like that could hypothetically work in YA without sounding too old, but all together in the first three sentences gives the impression written for an older audience, IMO.

On the second point, this, to me, just isn't an arresting enough opening. We don't know enough about the protagonist to really care what the letter says, and we don't know enough about what's going on to understand the significance of some likes like "My baronets." Furthermore, there isn't really any hint of conflict here—the protagonist is invited to a wedding and she agrees to go.

I'm wondering if it would be better to open when she arrives at the wedding (or just before/when conflict begins to happen at the wedding, which I presume is where the conflict begins). Either way, I think the solution here is to open closer to the inciting incident, whatever that may be, though of course I'm just guessing here based off the first 250. But on its own, this does not feel like a strong enough opening to me.

Now the in-line notes.

"I break the red seal engraved with a tree stump crest, unfold the stiff white paper, and squint at the contoured penmanship. The letter I received last week from the de Paula Barony communicated the death of my aunt’s husband and her impending arrival. I don’t hold much hope this message will relay better tidings. I already mentioned my thoughts about this first paragraph. As a whole, the writing is just fine and I like the details, but the language is a little wordy and in my opinion feels too formal for YA, even YA Fantasy.
Dear Baron de Souza, 
It is with great pleasure that I invite you and your family to celebrate the wedding of my granddaughter Sophia de Paula to Lord Gavin Gwynn. The reception will be held at the riverside fortress of the de Paula Barony on the sixth day of the coming week. 
Accommodations can be made for your party at the premises, and please forward my invitations to your baronets. 
I hope this letter finds you in good health. 
Looking forward to seeing you next week, 
Baroness de Paula 
Do we need to know every word of the letter? It seems to me like a pretty standard invitation and I find that it's slowing down the pacing in the opening. If you choose not to cut this scene entirely, you may want to consider cutting the letter and just making it clear that it's an invitation to a wedding. (An example where telling might actually work better than showing.) 
I glance at the stack of letters on the large wooden desk then at the messenger who delivered them. His unruffled peasant garb is wrinkled from his day on the saddle. I have two problems with "peasant garb." First, it's not very descriptive and I'm not entirely sure what it means. What is "peasant garb" to the protagonist? Second, it makes the protagonist sound super snooty. I understand that she's from a high status family, but calling someone's clothes "peasant garb" makes me not like her very much.
'The others are for Father’s baronets?' I bite my tongue. My baronets. As stated above, I don't understand the significance of this line. Why does she bite her tongue? Why does this bother her?
He nods. 'Do I take back a reply?' 
'Let Baroness de Paula know I’ll be attending with a small escort.' The other invitations I hand to Father’s Master of the Fields who is standing by my chair. I feel like I’m playing in Father’s dressing room, waiting for him to catch me in clothes too big for me. This is nice. I like that we see some of her insecurity here. It makes me a little more sympathetic toward her. 'I’ll make sure these are delivered.'"

On a writing level, I think this is actually written well (which is why I don't have many notes on the writing itself), just...not necessarily for YA as I mentioned above. I think in order for this to really read like YA we need to streamline some sentences and remove some of the more formal (and wordy) phrases. The idea is to write the way today's audience might imagine a teen would speak whenever this takes place—if she doesn't sound like a teen to the reader (not necessarily the way a teen would actually speak then), no amount of authenticity is going to matter.

Some good examples of YA Fantasy voices that do this include the TV show Reign (which say what you like about its lack of historical accuracy, does a good job capturing a YA (TV) voice in a historical setting) and the Graceling Realm series by Kristin Cashore.

With a re-worked opening closer to the inciting incident and with a hint of conflict, I think this could be really interesting. But unfortunately as is, if I saw it in the slush, I would probably pass.

I hope this helps! Thanks for sharing your first 250, Patchi!

Would you like to be featured in a Fixing the First Page Feature? Keep an eye out for the next giveaway! 

Twitter-sized bite: 
.@Ava_Jae talks starting in the right place & historical YA voices in the 11th Fixing the 1st Page critique. (Click to tweet

Vlog: How to Write When You Don't Want To

Confession: sometimes writers don't feel like writing. But here are some ways to work through the slump.


Have you ever experienced this slump? What did you do to get through it?

Twitter-sized bite: 
Don't feel like writing but know you should? @Ava_Jae vlogs about breaking through the "don't want to write" slump. (Click to tweet)

How to Turn an Idea into a Plot

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Note: Quick announcement! The winner of the Trish Doller prize package is Victoria Gender! Woot! Congratulations, Victoria! Now onto the post...

So it was brought to my attention that I’ve written frighteningly little on brainstorming and my brainstorming process, and I suspect that’s probably because my process is fairly nebulous and can vary depending on the book.

That said, I’m going to try to explain the best I can anyway.

So you have some kind of idea. Maybe it’s just a character, or a single scene, or a vague compilation of images. For me, it almost always starts with a character (though Beyond the Red was a notable exception), usually the protagonist. But regardless of where you idea begins, when all you have is a fragment, it can seem kind of impossible to turn it into a whole book.

The very first thing I do when I have an idea fragment I want to explore is make a bulleted list. This list will include anything and everything I think of related to the idea: What If? scenarios, other characters, potential sources of conflict, possible scene ideas, setting notes, genre/category notes, themes I’m interested in exploring, etc. In this stage, I don’t filter at all—the idea is to just get as much down as possible.

Usually, by the time I get to the bottom of the list, I’ve started to get a feel for the potential book. That’s when I go back and start to weed things out by starring bullets I really like. Once I’ve got my main bullets marked out, potential plot ideas start (slowly) forming in my mind.

The very first plot point I tend to nail down is the inciting incident. Occasionally another random plot point will surface before the inciting incident, but once I have the inciting incident down, that’s when I open up Scrivener and start a new project.

Note that at this point, starting a new Scrivener project does not guarantee the book is going to be written. Or even fully plotted for that matter. All it means is I like where this idea is going enough that I want to explore it further. There’s no pressure whatsoever in this stage—I’m just testing the fragments I have to see if I can expand and weave it together into a potential book plot.

I’ve mentioned before that I am a plotter, and this is where the plotting really begins. I go straight to Scrivener’s cork board, write down the inciting incident and any other scene ideas I already have…then stare at it and try to push it further. I like to start from the inciting incident and think, okay, what could happen next? Some questions I frequently ask myself in this stage include:

  • What happens next? 
  • How can I make this worse? 
  • What if x happened? 

While I do this, I try to keep the main points in mind. Generally the first couple points I want down are the big plot points (Inciting Incident, Point of No Return, Rising Action, Dark Night of the Soul, Climax, Falling Action, Ending) but it doesn’t always work out that way. The ending, especially, I often don’t figure out until I’ve plotted most of the book.

From there, there’s a lot of back and forth. I jump around between flash cards and add new scene ideas wherever I can think of them, writing a sentence to a paragraph on each card to describe the scene/plot point. I delete scenes, rewrite them and move them around until the plot makes sense and fits the way I want it to. Once I’ve hit roughly somewhere between 30-50 flash cards (depending on how long I sense the book will probably be) and I can’t think of anything else to add and it all flows together in a way that makes sense, I know I’m ready to start first drafting.

And maybe when I’m first drafting I’ll fall in love with the characters and the ideas and write the whole book. Or maybe I won’t. But either way, if the idea makes it to the end of the plotting stage (not all ideas do), then I know at the very least it’s worth experimenting with with some words.

How do you turn an idea into a plot?

Twitter-sized bite:

How do you expand a book idea into a whole plot? Writer @Ava_Jae explains her process. (Click to tweet

Fixing the First Page Giveaway Winner #11!

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Quick off-schedule post today to announce the winner of the eleventh fixing the first page feature giveaway! Are you ready?

The winner is…


Yay! Congratulations, Patricia! Expect an e-mail from me very soon.

Thank you to all you lovely entrants! If you didn't win, as always, there will be another fixing the first page giveaway next month, so keep an eye out! :)

4th Blogoversary Giveaway Winners!

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Wow! So thank you all so much for entering—the response was pretty amazing and your excitement made me pretty darn excited. :) I'll have to do something like this again in the future.

There are a lot of winners, so here we go!

  • Query critique from Michelle Hoen: Kelly DeVos
  • Query critique from Megan Easley-Walsh (five winners!): Elizabeth Flynn, Patricia Moussatche, Sussu Leclerc, Roxanne Lambie & Amelinda Berube
  • Partial submission package critique (query, synopsis & first three chapters) from Cait Spivey: Don King
  • Partial submission package critique (query, synopsis & first three chapters) from Phil Stamper: Sydney Paige Richardson
  • First twenty pages critique from Liz Furl: Cassandra Catalano Newbould
  • Query plus first twenty-five pages critique from K.T. Hanna: Dea Poirer
  • Query plus first twenty-five pages critique from me: Samantha Harris
  • First fifty pages critique from Nicole Tone: Chelly Pike
  • First fifty pages critique from Jackson Eflin: Laurel Decher
  • Query plus first fifty pages critique from Anya Kagan: Saratu Buhari
  • Full MS critique from Jami Nord: Jodi Vorwald
  • Full MS critique from Kisa Whipkey: AurorA Dimitre
  • Proposal plus full MS critique from Nicole Frail: Mary Liles Eicher

That’s it! Thanks again to all who entered—and to those who see their names here, you should be receiving an e-mail very shortly (if it’s not already in your inboxes!). Keep an eye out today. :)

Finally, if you don't see your name here, don't despair! You can still win a first 250 critique to be featured on the blog (giveaway closes today!) and a Trish Doller book package that includes Something Like Normal, Where the Stars Still Shine and an ARC of The Devil You Know, (which also closes today)!

Thanks to all who entered, and good luck!

UPDATE: The super generous Megan Easley-Walsh has offered a 10% discount code for any Writability readers that booked any service from ExtraInkEdits.com by June 1st. (Discount code: EIE2015FE) Yay! 

“But The Book Gets Better!”

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Occasionally I’ll get questions from writers who are worried about their WIP because they’re aware of an issue in the beginning of their novel—whether it’s slow pacing, a ton of exposition, a protagonist who isn’t initially compelling, etc. Oftentimes, when I get questions like these the concern is that their book gets better, but readers might not stick around to see it improve. 

The truth is they should be worried. 

In terms of publishing, there are tons of manuscripts that are submitted to agents and editors every day. Way too many to even think about one person reading the entire submission every time—way too many to read more than a brief sample until one decides whether or not they’re interested. There's literally not enough time to read everything being submitted from cover to cover. 

In terms of self-publishing (or books that do get published), there are tons of books being published every day. Way too many to even think about one person reading (let alone buying) every book published even in a single day—way too many to read more than the back cover copy and maybe a quick sample until one decides whether or not they’re interested. There's literally not enough time to read everything being published from cover to cover. 

This is why first pages are so darn important. This is way getting your opening right and not wasting a single sentence is crucial. This is why compelling for one reason or another, is not optional. 

It’s also why “the book gets better” is never going to cut it. 

As of this moment, I have 362 books on my Goodreads TBR shelf. I add more constantly. And I’ll probably start removing books I added years ago that I’m no longer dying to read. Because the truth is, I literally don’t have the time to read them all—and that’s without adding to the list like I frequently do. 

If I start sampling a book on my list and the opening doesn’t grab me, it’s getting removed from the list. Period. There are too many books out there that I would really enjoy for me to waste time on a book that I don’t find interesting. And if I’m being entirely honest, and I hear from readers that the book gets better…well, to be honest, it’s too bad. Why should I slog through an opening I’m not enjoying if I could read (and spend money on) something I’d love from page one? The truth is, unless there’s an external reason for me to read the book (i.e.: assigned for class, book research, etc.) I won’t. 

This doesn’t change for submissions. When my boss sends me something to look at, I’m honest with him if the opening doesn’t grab me. On the other side of the desk, the publishing industry is not a place for sugar-coating—we have to be honest with ourselves as editors and assistants and interns and readers about whether or not we really think a submission could be successful. And if the answer is “maybe,” well, maybe usually isn’t good enough. Maybe might get you an R&R but it’s not going to get you a “yes.” 

You, the author, will not be there to tell that agent, or editor, or reader your book gets better. And even if other readers are there to say it, quite frankly, it’s not going to be good enough for every reader. Some might stick it out, maybe, if they hear really raving reviews from friends. But many won’t. Many just don’t have the time. 

I’ve heard people say online that some agents and editors look at submissions looking for a reason to say no. And while I can’t speak for everyone, I can say this: do you want to give anyone a reason to put your book down, even temporarily? 

I know I don’t. And I suspect you don’t either. 

What do you think? Would you stick it out for a book that “gets better”? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
"You, the author, will not be there to tell that agent, or editor, or reader your book gets better." (Click to tweet)  
Writer @Ava_Jae says "the book gets better" isn't enough. What do you think? (Click to tweet)

Vlog: One Year of Vlogging!

A year ago I posted my very first vlog! So thank you to all of you who have continued watching and commenting and all around being awesome. Let me know what your favorite vlogs are/what you'd like to see more of/if you have any book or writing related questions for me! :)


What would you like to see more of with the vlogs? Any questions or topics you'd like to see addressed? Let me know! 

Fixing the First Page Giveaway #11

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Can you believe we're nearing the end of May? Which means even though there are two giveaways still running today (with one closing today!) it's time for ANOTHER giveaway! Yay! 

I hope you guys love getting free critiques because they're raining from Writability. 

For those who’ve missed it in the past, the Fixing the First Page features is a public first 250 word critique. Using the lovely rafflecopter widget, anyone interested in winning a PUBLIC (as in, featured in a post on this blog) first page critique can enter.

For an example of what this critique will look like, here's the last Fixing the First Page post.


  • ONLY the first 250 words will be critiqued (up to finishing the sentence). If you win and send me more, I will crop it myself. No exceptions.

  • ONLY the first page. I don’t want 250 random words from your manuscript, or from chapter 3. If you win the critique and send me anything other than the first 250 words of your manuscript, I will choose someone else.

  • I will actually critique it. Here. On the blog. I will say things as nicely as I can, but I do tend to be a little blunt. If you’re not sure you can handle a public critique, then you may want to take some time to think about it before you enter.

  • Genre restrictions. I'm most experienced with YA & NA, but I will still accept MG and Adult. HOWEVER. If your first page has any erotic content on it, I ask that you don’t enter. I want to be able to post the critique and the first 250 in its entirety without making anyone uncomfortable, and if you win and you enter a page with erotic content, I will choose someone else.

  • You must have your first page ready. Should you win, you need to be able to submit your first page within 48 hours of my contacting you to let you know you won. If 48 hours pass and I haven’t heard from you, again, I will choose someone else.

  • You’ll get the most out of this if it isn’t a first draft. Obviously, I have no way of knowing if you’re handing me a first draft (though I will probably suspect because it’s usually not that difficult to tell). I won’t refuse your page if it’s a first draft, but you should know that this critique will likely be of more use if you’ve already had your betas/CPs look over it. Why? Because if you don’t, the critique I give you will probably contain a lot of notes that your betas & CPs could have/would have told you.

  • There will not be a round 2 (unless you win again in a future contest). I hate to have to say this, but if you win a critique, it’s NOT an invitation to send me a bunch of your revisions. I wish I had the time available to be able to look at revisions, but sadly, I don’t. If you try to break this rule, I will nicely say no, and also remember to choose someone else should you win a second contest. Which would make me sad. :(

So that’s it! If you’re okay with all of the above and would like to enter to be the tenth public critique on Writability, do the thing with the rafflecopter widget below.  Since the end of April kind of snuck up on me, the entry window is short this time around—you have until Friday, May 22 at 11:59 EST to enter!

Also, in case you missed it, there's still another giveaway running on Writability right now in which you can win a pack of Trish Doller books! It's closing soon and the odds are pretty good and also I really want that ARC. (But alas, I can't enter. But you can!) 

Happy entering! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

On Writer Insecurities

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So the book that I’m currently revising, which I’ve started calling #NerdyWIP on Twitter, has been an emotional roller coaster to say the least. One day I love it—the characters, the message, the voice, and humor, and fandom references, and the next day I’m pretty sure it’s secretly terrible. It’s been like this since I started first drafting, and even after I’ve gotten really awesome feedback from CPs, and betas, and my amazing agent, it’s still been a very up and down experience.

Of course, I know I’m definitely not alone with these feelings.

Writing is a really personal experience. Even when you’re not intentionally making it personal or making parallels to your own life, it’s impossible to write without putting parts of yourself into the work, even subconsciously.

Every stage of the writing process has its own moments of terror: whether it’s the brainstorming panic of how will I ever write this book I’ve built up in my head? or the mid-draft my writing sucks block, or the finished draft what the hell did I just write? Then of course there are revisions which come with their own set of anxieties and insecurities that often run along the lines of how am I supposed to fix all of this?

To be honest, I don’t really have a solution or way to avoid this. It’s part of the process, and it’s scary when it happens. But the best remedies I’ve found are to keep going and/or talk to your critique partners (or agent, if that’s something you and your agent do).

But I think the important thing to remember is it does pass. And when you hit this point, know that it’s okay. It’s normal. It’s largely unavoidable and just about every writer goes through it repeatedly.

Experience it. Acknowledge it. Then move on. Just don’t let it paralyze you.

Have you experienced some writer insecurities? How do you get past it?

Twitter-sized bites:
Writer @Ava_Jae says, "it's impossible to write without putting parts of yourself into the work." What do you think? (Click to tweet
How do you get past writerly insecurities? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Discussion: When Do You Pre-Order?

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So I received a very nice B&N gift card for Christmas, which meant I basically went on a pre-ordering spree. In the last couple months, I’ve pre-ordered:

Which is to say I’ve done a lot of pre-ordering. At least for me.

I’ve found that there are two main scenarios that lead me to pre-order:

  1. I absolutely love the author and/or the prequel and must have the next book. (This was the case for Trust the Focus, Focus on Me, Half Wild and Made You Up. This was also the case for just about every Harry Potter book after Azkaban and all of the Grisha books after Shadow and Bone.)

  2. The book is getting a lot of buzz from people I trust and just sounds friggin’ amazing. (i.e.: Made You Up, Simon vs. and More Happy Than Not). 

I’m curious, however, about what gets other people to pre-order. Is that reserved only for your favorite authors? Are exceptions made for debuts that sound amazing? Something else? What gets you to pre-order? 

Twitter-sized bite: 
When do you pre-order books? Do you pre-order often? Rarely? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet)

Vlog: Elements of a Great Protagonist

What makes a great protagonist? Today I'm talking five essential elements to engaging protagonists. What would you add to the list?



Twitter-sized bite: 
What makes a great protagonist? @Ava_Jae vlogs about five essential elements of an engaging MC. (Click to tweet)

Year Four Blogoversary Celebration!

So as I mentioned on Friday, last week was Writability's fourth birthday! And this week I'm celebrating with a huge giveaway focused on the most popular giveaway item here—critiques! All the critiques!

After doing a call on Twitter for editor-types who'd be willing to help out, I have seventeen prizes to give away from some really generous editors and interns. And here they are!

Michelle Hoehn—Query critique

Michelle Hoehn was born on a Monday, married on a Saturday, and last seen purchasing what has to be (in her opinion) the most delicious mini watermelon on a Sunday. For the past year, she’s worked as an editor with REUTS Publications. Michelle loves all kinds of storytelling, especially animation, comic books and television.

Twitter: @mah_hoehn
Blog: http://www.asleuthofbears.com

Megan Easley-Walsh—5 Query critiques

Megan Easley-Walsh has over seven years experience helping others improve their writing and content editing is her speciality. She is a certified English teacher, who has taught a writing course to international college students in Dublin, Ireland by request. She is also an author and poet, won her first computer in a writing contest in college, and has had her work requested for use in classrooms in the United States and South Korea to demonstrate writing techniques.

Cait Spivey—Partial submission package critique (query, synopsis, first three chapters)

Cait Spivey is the author of the paranormal horror novella series “The Web” and the forthcoming New Adult dark fantasy, From Under the Mountain (October 2015). She is also co-owner of Bear and Black Dog Editing LLC and a lead editor for REUTS Publications, and has interned for The Bent Agency and Corvisiero Literary Agency. She loves dark stories, unlikeable protagonists, and tragic romances.

Phil Stamper—Partial submission package critique (query, synopsis, first three chapters) 

Phil Stamper is a public relations professional who fled the States with his love of books to earn his M.A. in Publishing at Kingston University in London. He acts as the managing editor for RiPPLE, an annual literary magazine, and he is also an editor and proofreader for Booktrope, where he is actively taking on new projects. You can find him on Twitter, where he exclusively talks about 90s movies, British culture, and sometimes books.

Liz Furl—First 20 pages critique 

Liz Furl is the founder and editor-in-chief of Real Talk Magazine and the co-host of the Getting There podcast. She is also a freelance writer and editor, and blogs at Furl Unfurled. You can find her on Twitter at @LizFurl.

K.T. Hanna—Query + first 25 pages critique

KT has been a New York City Agency intern since August 2014, ecstatically devouring manuscripts and filling in reader reports. After realizing her love of editing, she became one half of Chimera Editorial Services. Her debut novel, Chameleon (The Domino Project #1), releases August 4, 2015.

Ava Jae (me!)—Query + first 25 pages critique

Ava Jae is a YA and NA writer, an Assistant Editor at Entangled Publishing, and is represented by Louise Fury of The Bent Agency. Her YA Sci-Fi debut, BEYOND THE RED, is releasing March 2016 from Sky Pony Press. When she’s not writing about kissing, superpowers, explosions, and aliens, you can find her with her nose buried in a book, nerding out over the latest X-Men news, or hanging out on her blog, Twitter, Facebook, tumblr, GoodreadsInstagram, or YouTube channel.

Nicole Tone—First 50 pages critique

Nicole Tone is a NA and WF writer, MFA Writing candidate at Savannah College of Art and Design, an Editor at Pandamoon Publishing, and an Editorial Intern at REUTS Publications. Her NA Contemporary debut, LAKE EFFECT, is releasing Winter 2016 from REUTS Publications. When she's not writing or editing, she's playing tourist in her city or hunting for her next book idea. She's doing book reviews and travel writing on her blog, www.nicoleatone.com, and be sure to her on Twitter at @nicoleatone.

Jackson Eflin—First 50 pages critique

Jackson Eflin graduated from Ball State with an degree in Creative Writing and is trying to support his community in any way he can while assisting a teacher at an afterschool program for at-risk elementary students.  He's usually in the middle of four or five different speculative fiction books and was published in No Horns on these Helmets, an anthology of Viking Fiction, this May. Follow him on Twitter here!

Anya Kagan—Query + First 50 pages critique

Anya Kagan loves helping others shape the gems of their writing, working to draw out and enhance the author's vision. Since graduating from Brandeis University with a degree in Creative Writing (as well as in French and Russian Literatures), Anya has worked with authors such as Simon Quellen Field, Gabriel Böhmer, Aubrie Dionne, Sarah Andre, and many more. She is cofounder of Touchstone Editing.

Jami Nord—Full MS critique

Jami Nord has interned for Entangled Publishing, Bree Ogden, and a NYC Agency she’s pretty sure is Voldemort, since she’s not allowed to say their name. She comprises half of Chimera Editing, and still spends her nights curled up with great books.

Kisa Whipkey—Full MS critique

Kisa Whipkey is a dark fantasy author, a martial arts demo team expert, and a complete sucker for Cadbury Mini-eggs. She's also the Editorial Director for YA/NA publisher, REUTS Publications. Her personal blog--featuring sarcastic commentary on all things storytelling--is located at www.kisawhipkey.com.

Nicole Frail—Proposal + Full MS Critique (for fiction or non-fiction)

Nicole Frail is an editor of both fiction and nonfiction at Skyhorse Publishing in New York City. She acquires mainly cooking and lifestyle/hobby, adult genre fiction, and young adult fiction. Main interests include reading, writing, sleeping, and eating!

Note from Ava: Also, Nicole is my editor. So. Just saying. ;)

So many critiques! I've decided this time to put everything into one giant rafflecopter this time, so you only have one to enter. :) The giveaway will run until next Monday, May 18th at 11:59 PM EST. Good luck! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Finally, if you don't have anything ready for critique, you can still enter to win hardcovers of Trish Doller's Something Like Normal and Where the Stars Still Shine as well as an ARC of The Devil You Know in this guest post! If I wasn't hosting, I would totally enter. Just saying.

Thanks for all of your awesome support! Happy entering. :)

Writability Turns Four!

Photo credit: billerickson on Flickr
So technically Writability’s fourth birthday was on Wednesday (May 6th), but I’m writing about it today because I’d already scheduled Wednesday’s post when I realized what day it was. Which is fine. This is close enough. 

Writability has hit a ton of milestones over the last four years, which has been really incredible to see. This blog has taken off way beyond any expectations I had when I first nervously posted four years ago, and I’ve met and connected with so many people because of it, and all in all it’s just been a really wonderful experience. 

So I have you guys to thank for that. Whether this is the first post of mine you’re reading, or the 696th, thank you. 

I’m currently in the process of setting up something really great for you guys that I think you’ll like. The details will be up Monday, and I’m pretty excited about it.  

In the meantime, I’m just going to leave this short post saying thank you. Writability’s success would not have happened without your amazing comments, lovely RTs and shares and inspiring suggestions. 

Without your support, Writability wouldn’t exist. So thank you, thank you, thank you.

Why the “Miracle Cure” Trope Hurts

Photo credit: Moi
So I have a lot of feelings about the Miracle Cure trope. And while I’ve kind of talked about it online, I haven’t much, mainly because talking about it borders on talking about something else that I’ve deliberately not spoken about online. Namely, why it matters so much to me.

But lately I’ve been wanting to talk about it openly. I’ve had a lot of feelings about a lot of related things and I want to be able to say something without feeling like I’m talking over someone else.

So I guess I’m going to talk about it now.

Back in October I took the post picture during the WDNB initiative. And then when time came to post it, I hesitated.

I looked at the picture, and I looked at the Internet, and thought am I ready to tell everyone? I’ve talked about my anxiety stuff before, but this always felt different to me somehow. Maybe because I wasn’t diagnosed until after I started Twitter stuff. Maybe because this was physical, and newish, and I still haven’t digested it emotionally some days.

Maybe because I’m starting to understand I may never fully digest it emotionally.

I wasn't ready then, and I'm not sure I'm ready now, but I’m just going to say it. I have rheumatoid arthritis.

For those who don’t know, which I’m assuming is most of you, the lowdown is this: rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes my body to attack itself, particularly my joints and the lining between my joints. It’s a debilitating, incurable (thus, chronic) disease that causes chronic pain and usually affects people twice my age or older, but has also been known to attack many in my age group and even younger. I was diagnosed at twenty, but my symptoms started at nineteen. I’ll save the story for another day because this isn’t actually about that.

This is about the Miracle Cure trope.

There are many problems with the Miracle Cure trope, but the biggest, to me, is the insinuation that people who are chronically ill/disabled/neuroatypical can’t have happiness if they aren’t cured. This repetition of the happy ending = Miracle Cure is a punch in the stomach that says you aren’t whole unless you’re healthy. 

What’s worse is that people believe it.

What made my diagnosis even more difficult for me, was many of my well-intentioned family members didn’t want to accept it. I can’t tell you how many times I heard something along the lines of “Don’t worry, we’ll find a way to make you healthy.” I can’t tell you how many arguments I had where I was told off for having a bad attitude when I said, “There isn’t a cure. I need to accept this.”

I’m not blaming anymore. I’m not complaining. I love my family and it just took time for everyone to come to terms with what was happening.

But a large part of the reason why that transition period was so rocky, and why those arguments were so hurtful was because we were back to the Miracle Cure that everyone was expecting. There was this message, over and over, of “you can’t be happy until you’re cured.”

Except I probably wasn’t going to be cured. Right now, at least, there isn’t a cure.

The Miracle Cure trope isn’t just something stupid we occasionally see in fiction. It’s a real, damaging thing that feels like a knife to the gut to those who are chronically ill/disabled/neuroatypical.

The Miracle Cure says, “it’s too hard for me to see you as Sick. I’d rather pretend you’ll be Healthy again soon.”

The Miracle Cure says, “thinking about you having an incurable condition is too scary. I’d rather pretend you’ll be Normal again.”

The Miracle Cure says, “you aren’t whole if you aren’t healthy, neurotypical, and able-bodied.”

The Miracle Cure trope hurts. And if I never see it again in fiction, or hear it referenced again in reality, it’ll be too soon.

Twitter-sized bites: 
What's the big deal about the "Miracle Cure" trope? @Ava_Jae explains why it's so damaging on & off the page. (Click to tweet)  
"The Miracle Cure trope isn't just something stupid we occasionally see in fiction." (Click to tweet)

Vlog: How to Get Book Ideas

For me, figuring out the next book idea can often be the hardest and scariest part of the writing process. But here are some steps as to how I approach it: 



How do you approach developing book ideas? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Writer @Ava_Jae vlogs about the scariest part of her writing process: figuring out the next book idea. (Click to tweet)  
Struggling to get ideas for your next book? Writer @Ava_Jae vlogs her idea-generating process. (Click to tweet)

Discussion: How Do You Rate Books?

Photo credit: guzzphoto on Flickr
So I've been doing a lot of book reviews lately, and it got me thinking about book ratings. Specifically, how drastically different some people approach the five-star rating and how some people (like myself) give five stars much more easily than others.

When I approach a book rating, I generally think of a book as starting at five stars. If I get through the book and I really loved it and I didn't see any major issues, it gets a five star rating.

If I read and find that I really enjoyed the book, but there was one thing that threw me off, or many several small things that bugged me, then it'll get four stars.

Three stars go to books that I enjoyed, but [something]. Sometimes it's a pacing or voice issue, sometimes it's a bunch of small issues, etc. But I still consider three stars a good rating and I give books that I enjoyed three stars.

Two stars drifts into "this was okay" territory. These books I didn't outright hate, but I wouldn't say I really liked them, either.

One star is...well...I think everyone knows what one star means.

Anything in between those gets a half star, and I round up when rating on Goodreads (but will say at the top of the review if I actually mean four and a half stars instead of five, for example.

So now I'm curious: how do you approach star ratings when reviewing a book? 

Twitter-sized bite: 
How do you choose star ratings when reviewing a book? Join the discussion on @Ava_Jae's blog. (Click to tweet

Book Review: HALF WILD by Sally Green

Photo credit: Goodreads
Once upon a time I read and reviewed Half Bad by Sally Green, then went on to tell a whole bunch of people about my favorite read of 2014 (which was, of course, the aforementioned dark YA Fantasy novel). So it’s probably little surprise that I pre-ordered Half Wild and was just a little excited to read it.

But before I go on, here’s the Goodreads summary:
“‘You will have a powerful Gift, but it’s how you use it that will show you to be good or bad.’ 
In a modern-day England where two warring factions of witches live amongst humans, seventeen-year-old Nathan is an abomination, the illegitimate son of the world's most powerful and violent witch. Nathan is hunted from all sides: nowhere is safe and no one can be trusted. Now, Nathan has come into his own unique magical Gift, and he's on the run--but the Hunters are close behind, and they will stop at nothing until they have captured Nathan and destroyed his father.”
It can be a little hard to know what to expect from a sequel. Sometimes an author hits it out of the park, and it’s amazing, and sometimes it’s a let down (which is especially sadmaking when you loved the first book).

Half Wild, however, was definitely the former.

I had pretty high expectations jumping into the Half Bad sequel, and I have to say, those expectations were totally met. Half Wild is dark, exciting, full of action and complicated characters (and character relationships) and I was racing through this book to find out what happened. Nathan/Gabriel are one of my favorite ships, and I really loved some of the new characters and magic introduced in this book.

Like Half Bad, the voice is raw and arresting and it was interesting to see Green play with different formats and stylistic choices. There isn’t nearly as much second person POV in Half Wild as there was in Half Bad, but even though I loved the second person POV in Half Bad, I didn’t mind the shift.

Nathan’s character development has been super fascinating to watch, and the ending was seriously awesome, and 2016 is too far away because I want the next book now. If you like dark, violent, gritty YA fantasy, I honestly cannot recommend this series more. It’s on my perma-favorites list for sure.

Have you read the Half Life series? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
.@Ava_Jae gives 5/5 stars to HALF WILD by @Sa11eGreen. Have you read this dark, gritty YA fantasy? (Click to tweet)
Looking for an intense, action-packed YA fantasy? Check out HALF WILD by Sally Green. (Click to tweet)
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