Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Writer's Voice

**UPDATE: I was picked for the agent round of this contest! Go Team Krista! You can read my revised entry here.**

It seems I'm one of the lucky 150 to make it into the next round of a rather awesome and exciting contest, "The Writer's Voice." (You can read about it here.) Thanks so much to all of the people involved in putting this contest together! You guys are awesome! :)

(A note to my regular followers: two blog posts in one day? I'm sure you're as shocked about it as I am! I suppose it was bound to happen someday.)

And now, without further ado, here's my entry!

Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 91,000


Seventeen-year-old Caya Filar, like everyone else in her city, sees only in grayscale. Colors exist as magical energy, once worked by Luminaries like her father. But when a prince, terrified of magic he couldn't see, slaughtered the Luminaries and stole the king's throne, colors became something to fear.

Now little better than an outcast, Caya steers clear of the king's guards. She knows they're eager for any excuse to brand her a Luminary and execute her, whether she can see color or not. And there's no chance of leaving the city with guards patrolling the walls, murdering anyone who tries to flee. Keeping her head down, she works in a shop to feed her family—at least until the shopkeeper's son proposes. His respectable name might help her overcome the stigma left by her father's Luminary magic. 
If only the stone in her engagement ring had stayed gray.


Every day as I left to work, Avara tried to make me feel guilty and I tried to make her feel useless. It was a daily routine for us. I kept my head high and my shoulders back as I made my way to the grand foyer, knowing she was there.

Sure enough, I was only about halfway down the curved staircase when I heard her usual sound of disgust. "Stubborn as ever," she said softly, and I followed her voice with my eyes. She was leaning against the doorframe of the parlor, arms crossed over her stomach.

"Not stubborn." After months of the same argument, my voice came out flat and disinterested. "Just not in favor of starving to death."

"You're making things worse. You have to see that." 

"Yes, because so many people were clamoring to marry us before I took a job."

She glared at me. No matter how many times I used the line, she had no response. Yet she still picked the fight, pretending nothing had changed in the six years since King Elun stole the throne from his brother.

The uprising happened the night of Avara's debut ball, ruining her plan to be betrothed by midnight. She'd known Elun's guards were coming for our father, hunting down anyone who could see the colors of magic. But all she'd cared about was getting a ring on her finger, no matter the cost.

If she hadn't argued for so long, we probably all would've gotten out of the city alive.


So did you ever come up with an idea for a novel, and you loved the idea, and you thought it could really go somewhere, but something about it just felt wrong? Like, not something small or easy (changing a character's name, or making some tweaks to the plot, etc.). Something BIG. And it's like it's there, just on the edge of your brain, and if you only concentrate hard enough, it'll come to you.

Except you spend hours, days, weeks basically going like this:

And NOTHING! Absolutely nothing. So frustrating. So you put the story aside and you move on. Clearly, it's not going to happen with this one.

So you come up with some other new stories. For some of them, maybe you just write down a few sentences, because all you have is the basic premise. Something to let percolate and come back to later. Others, your brain is absolutely on fire and you write down plot and setting and character studies and maybe even start some chapters. But maybe your heart isn't in it. Because it's not the story you want to write. So you start to act like this:

And you sigh a lot. And you worry that maybe you're going to get frown lines. And then you actually do get worry lines from all the worrying about frown lines. And you have absolutely no idea what you're going to do because everything ever is wrong.

Until you're driving to work one day, listening to the Rock of Ages soundtrack, and suddenly, you're all, "I've just had an apostrophe." And Captain Hook says, "I think you mean an epiphany, Smee." Well, I mean, that was these guys:

But whatever. Same difference. Suddenly, out of nowhere, while you're singing Don't Stop Believing (ironic, I know), you know exactly what was wrong. And you were right. It was a BIG thing. I'm talking you had the entirely wrong person as the main character big. But if you change it...oh, the possibilities! So you write down notes and ideas and bits of dialogue like an absolute mad woman because it's just flooding your brain, and you want to get it all down as quickly as you possibly can. Then you read over everything you just wrote and can't help but go:

Which then makes you think of Doctor Who. Which only makes you even happier. And suddenly, that tarnished, old idea is shiny. Life is shiny.

Okay, I realize I probably got a bit too specific for this to apply to any of you. But, you know, if you take out the odd details, how about then? Ever go from confused and depressed to, "I'm brilliant!" in the space of a moment? Because that is one of my favorite parts of creative writing. That feeling of shiny elation when a plan comes together.