Sunday, August 23, 2015

SECRET #PitchWars Warrior Project!


If you are a #PitchWars mentor, close out this tab and don't read any more of this post :D

If you are a #PitchWars entrant, read on!!

Regardless if you got selected/requested in PitchWars, you are probably like me and feel super duper grateful to all the mentors who gave so much of their time and effort to help us! So grateful, those thank you tweets just don't seem to cut it.

It's been suggested that we buy the mentors' books, which I think is a great idea, but I just had another idea: let's make a thank you video!

Here's how you can participate:

1. Film a ten second video of yourself thanking the mentors (please keep videos PG but feel free to make them fun!). Send it in before WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 26TH.

2. Email the video clip along with your name and the age category/genre of your entry to me at (recycling an old email :D )

3.  Keep an eye out! The full video should be posted before Labor Day. I'll email the participants with the link and tweet the video to let you all know that it's up!

Remember, SHHHH this is a surprise! Please share this post so we can get as many people in as possible!

Yay! So excited! Let's show the mentors some love. Looking forward to seeing your contributions!



Friday, August 21, 2015

So I'm Going to College...

The title is pretty self-explanatory :D But yes, a week from today will be my last day of freshman orientation at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, not far from Pittsburgh. I sit here at Arthur, my laptop, with my WIP open next to my browser, trying to write as much as possible before the school onslaught.

So for the sake of order, I'll attempt to answer some of the questions I get pretty frequently as of recent.

1. WAIT. You're STARTING college????

Yes, I am that young :D

2. So do you know what your major is yet?

Yes, I do! I will be majoring in Secondary History Education. So I'll be a history high school teacher. I will not be playing sports despite Geneva's big (for a small private college big) sports program, but hope to try out for choir.

3. What made you choose Geneva?

I applied to a couple of schools, and it came down to either Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina, or Geneva. I went with Geneva because offered me a very nice scholarship, my parents met and graduated there, and I've been to the campus a couple times. Geneva offered the exact major I wanted and has an excellent reputation in its education department. I also grew up in Pennsylvania, albeit on the other side of the state.

4. Will you still be blogging/reviewing/vlogging/writing/hosting #YayYA/on the face of the earth?

Yes, I will. My internet appearances will be understandably more sporadic, and the next #YayYA may be on hold for a while, but I will be blogging and vlogging and keeping in touch with my writerly tweeps on Twitter and my IRL friends on Facebook/Instagram. I've kind of gotten behind in my Newbery reviews, but hopefully I'll have more of those out soon, too.

5. How can I help?

Where you can help is to tell me what topics you'd like me to touch on, whether it's worldbuilding, market, pitching, cake recipes, War and Peace fangirling... okay, just kidding with that last one (mostly kidding anyway), but really, feel free to throw ideas at me! It'll prompt me to write posts and then there will be posts about what you want to read!

Also, subscribe to my blog and to my Youtube channel, and if you don't already, follow me on Twitter @whatshewrote (forewarning if you're a non-writer: I pretty much use Twitter for writing only).

I'll be making the move this coming Monday, so prayers and thoughts are appreciated as my family will be trekking from Oklahoma to Pennsylvania to drop me off. Thank you in advance! :D

If you have any further questions about anything about life, the universe, and everything, I'm hoping to film a Q+A video soon! Feel free to ask in the blog comments and on Twitter.



Monday, August 17, 2015

5 Habits to Avoid When Writing Narrative

Narrative is the dish you serve your story on. Without it, you'd just have a mess all over the floor. It's where that ever elusive voice comes through. It's where the story happens.

I've been critiquing a lot of work lately, between a summer swap marathon and pre-PitchWars, and I've seen some patterns in fellow writers' narration (and my own) that can, unfortunately, disengage readers.

1. The Info-Dump

This often shows up at the beginning of the story. Long, long paragraphs of backstory and information that you could probably cut and instead spoonfeed through the narrative as you go along.

Never info dump if you can help it. While you understand perfectly all the information you're conveying on the page, you have the entire story in your head, and your readers do not. It's usually too much for them to process, and more oft than not they'd rather just get to the story.

2. Looooooong paragraphs

Anyone who has had me crit their work has no doubt got my comments on this. I'm a full supporter of white space, especially when it comes to kidlit and YA. Having a page full of big blocks of text is hard to read through.

There's no rule about this, but my own personal rule of thumb is to have at LEAST five paragraphs per page, with no paragraph longer than five lines, including dialogue as individual paragraphs. I don't always follow through on this, but the point still stands. Take full advantage of white space. It sounds crazy, but emptiness on the page actually makes the text more engaging. It frees up the reader's vision and lends itself to a faster read.

3. Imitating another author

This one is common among newer writers. I know, I love Tolkien/Lewis/Enter Famous Author Here too, but the whole point of publishing is to get your personal voice out there. When you write, write like you. Find your own voice.

4. Listing action

Look at your action sections in your narrative. If you can add "and then" in front of every sentence, you're listing action. "And then he lifted his sword. And then he crashed it down. And then..." etc.

This leads to clunky and disengaging writing.

5. Head Hopping

My critique partners will tell you I'm guilty of this one, and I am, but head hopping is a prevalent narrative fault. What is head hopping? It's not the same thing as multiple Point of View, when different characters tell the story in alternating chapters, but rather it's when you try to have multi-POV in the same scene/paragraph/sentence.

Head hopping goes like this: "Mary liked the pizza. Harold didn't like the pizza." You switch us from one character's head to the next. Keep everything in one character's perspective: "Mary liked the pizza. By the grimace on Harold's face, she could tell he didn't."

So there you go! There's many more pitfalls to avoid, which I may touch on in a sequel post, but don't get discouraged! Sometimes writing feels like a bunch of do nots, when in reality it's an art, and art is a place to break the creative rules. However, there are some standards that are good to follow for the benefit of your readers.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

New Vlog!! What She Wrote Episode #005: Six Resources for New Writers

Sorry for the hiatus, y'all. Too many pre-collegey things happening. But here you go! Episode five, in which I share my favorite resources for new writers. The links to the aforementioned resources are in the video's description. Don't forget to subscribe, if you haven't!

Next week will be on the topic of fantasy world building. Also, hit me up with questions! I hope to do a Q+A video sometime soon.


Monday, August 10, 2015

25 Things Only Writers Will Understand

Ah, the marvelous, wonderful world of writing. It's so much fun! *shoves shredded manuscripts under the bed* *hides coffee mugs from last week* *burns last hour's work* *blows up the world*

You might be a writer if you can relate to these:

1. The curse of the blinking cursor

2. The almighty writer's block-smashing power of Hans Zimmer's soundtrack 

3.  We should just ban chapter breaks, know what I mean?

4. You half-stalk people for character inspiration

5. When people call you crazy:

6. This "If people talked to plumbers like they talk to writers" analogy speaks to your soul:

7.  Your reaction when people say, "Don't worry about rejection. J.K. Rowling was rejected 12 times!"

8. Your reaction when people say, "Someday you're going to be as rich as J.K Rowling!"

9. Your reaction when people say, "Can I be in the movie?"

10. When writing THAT scene:

11. You justify watching TV as research

12. When an agent stars your pitch on Twitter:

13. When aforementioned agent then rejects your story:

14. Comic Sans must die

15. You're afraid your Google search will land you in jail

16. But then again:

17. The bossiest people you know are your characters. You wish they'd just shut up, except they're in your head.

18. When someone tells you YA isn't true literature 


20. And then ten seconds later you realize you have to revise it still

21. When someone asks why you even bother

22. But then your CP sends you all the positive smiley face comments

23. Or when you nail that world building and you just bask in the glow of your marvelous imagination

24. Or you LOL at your own comic relief

25. But there is no GREATER FEELING that no one else will EVER understand than the overwhelming satisfaction of KILLING YOUR ANTAGONIST.

And there's a whole bunch of us out there.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

My #PitchWars Mentee Bio

Yay! It's time for #PitchWars! I've dreamed about entering this contest for a couple years, and now I finally have a manuscript ready to enter.

My name is Rachel Stevenson. My middle name is Anne with an E, and yes, because of Anne of Green Gables. My mom is wonderful like that. I was born in Philadelphia, moved to Williamsport, and then to Greenville, South Carolina, before trekking out here to Oklahoma. I've hosted two #YayYA blog critique hops, and participants went on to be shortlisted in contests like #PitchtoPublication and #PitchSlam.

This is me at the Will Rogers Memorial. I got to go inside his tomb and in the closed-off downstairs. It was awesome.

But there are many sides to me. Historical dance me.

Playwright me. I've won three awards here in Tulsa for short plays that were performed live. In total, I've won ten writing awards in the past three years.


Literary nerd me! With my CP being Enjolras and Marius. Because. We made a Disney Princess video on Youtube that has 90k views and a Les Mis one that doesn't. If you want to see me imitating Mulan/Rapunzel and Russell Crowe/Aaron Tveit, check them out.


And then there's sports fanatic me! I binge-watch the Olympics, March Madness, and the World Series. Go Yankees!

Pepsi over Coke, cats over dogs, Mac over PC, white over black, cake over ice cream (unless it's Haagen-Das).

Favorite authors: N.D. Wilson, Leo Tolstoy, Susan Cooper, C.S. Lewis, Shannon Messenger, Cornelia Funke, Jane Austen, J.R.R. Tolkien, Maggie Stiefvater. Basically I love classics and fantasy.

Favorite books: That Hideous Strength (Lewis), War and Peace (Tolstoy), The Dark is Rising (Cooper), The Book Thief  (Zusak). Full list is here.

Favorite movies: Hugo, Sense and Sensibility (1995), The Fellowship of the Ring, The Book Thief, The Hundred-Foot Journey, The King's Speech, Cinderella (2015), Tangled, Meet the Robinsons, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, War and Peace (1956), My Fair Lady, Chariots of Fire.

FANDOMS: Les Miserables (ENJOLRAS), Star Wars (Kit Fisto is my favorite Jedi), Keeper of the Lost Cities (TEAM FITZ), Rise of the Brave Tangled Dragons (I don't not ship Jelsa, ever), Jane Austen (Colonel Brandon forever!)


I also love photography (I've won awards for this, too), baking (I will make you poundcake or chocolate cake or blueberry cake or whatever-you-want cake, mentors), hosting massive parties, classical music, any 50's fashion (red lipstick and big skirts forever), dressing up (I've been Mary Poppins, Princess Leia, Eowyn, to name a few) and just general nerdiness. 

I call myself a fun-loving, extroverted geek in heels and say class before sass. I'm an ENTJ, but my motto is that it only takes a few seconds to brighten someone's day. That said, I like to hear things how they are, so, my dear mentors, please tell me like it is! I'm a realistic worker with an optimistic outlook. When given a goal, I work toward it until it's achieved without ever thinking of quitting. I'm not afraid to ask questions, and like to approach the publishing world with friendly professionalism (albeit with some behind-the-scenes fun!)

I have a Youtube channel for writing here. I'm kind of behind on it. Sorry, viewers *sheepish smile*

If you want to read about HOW I write, check out this blogpost here! :D

I own a cat named Joash Rutherford (not Josh, Joash). He's part-dog and my big 16-pound beebee who loves LOTR soundtrack almost more than I do.

I'm starting college this fall at Geneva to get a degree in Secondary History Education. I LOVE Napoleonic History. Also Ancient Western Europe, Church, Irish, Russian, Renaissance... never mind, all history. If you want to know anything about historical fashion, I'm your girl. I was critting for someone once (I give out a lot of smiley-face filled critiques) and gave them a hard time about their main character's dress as being anachronistic. Sorry, not sorry :D

So as you can see, I love fantasy and historical. That is why I absolutely love writing upper YA historical fantasy, which is what genre belongs to my #PitchWars entry, THE RED AND THE SCARLET.

The Red and the Scarlet's Wordle. It's changed since I made it, thanks to revisions :D

To be honest, it was hard to label TRATS. It takes place in our world in 1811 on a fictional continent. Someone told me, "You can't do that! You can only have either your fake world or our real world." My response was:

And so I have my fictional continent with its Slavic/Asian culture and all that awesomeness. I wasn't sure if I could label it historical fantasy, but when I explained the whole thing to a couple editors and an agent, they said it was the best option.

TRATS's comp titles are LES MISERABLES meets MULAN with a POC mercenary Anne of Green Gables for the heroine. It'll also appeal to all you THE WRATH AND THE DAWN, JONATHAN STRANGE, and SHADOW AND BONE fans. It has bounty-hunters, swoon-worthy heroes, a swoon-worthy antagonist, cannon battles, tsunami, female pirates, dances, Chinese water torture, diversity, comets, secret cults, exploding fireworks factories, brilliant musicians, sword fights, gun duels, socially-awkward spies, blue ships, cotton mill riots, books, Beethoven concerts... okay, I'll stop :D 

Inspiration pics for my MC Fyr and a cartoon I drew of her 

If TRATS was chocolate, it'd be that 80% cocoa kind: bitter and dark and rich and sweet. It features sometimes-unlikeable and dramatic heroine Fyr, her little wannabe composer brother, a rude but dashing bounty-hunter, and the handsome politician Fyr wants dead. I hope this pricks your interest :D

Aforementioned handsome politician's inspiration pic (he should be smiling and in 1800s garb) and a cartoon of aforementioned bounty-hunter

My strengths in writing are world building, intense emotional scenes, imagery, voice, variation in word choice, and the main character's arc. My biggest weaknesses (which I am currently revising as much as possible out of my MS and hope to scrub even further out with a mentor's eagle eyes) are filtering, long sentences, and head-hopping (I'm getting a lot better at NOT doing this one, though). I'm aware of my weaknesses and am working hard to make them strengths! 

Well, that's all for now. If you've been in other contests with me back when I was subbing a different MS, you know I like to party it up on Twitter and start games and questionnaire threads. So undoubtedly, you'll see me around! Cheers!

(And mentors, please consider me?) 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

What Exactly Do You Write, Rachel?

The title of this post is a question I get often. If you follow me on Twitter and kindly put up with my barrage of tweets come #pitmad, you probably have an idea, but some of my IRL friends have recently asked this, because, well, outside of this blog, I actually don't talk about my work that often.

Well, why not?

Mostly because you don't talk about narrative techniques and antagonist death scenes during social gatherings. Well, I don't. If you do, more power to you.

However, I do get asked what I write at social gatherings. Usually the conversation goes like this:

"So you like to write?"

"Yeah, I've been doing it for a while now."

"So, like short stories? Or poetry?"

"No, more like 80,000 word novels."


Yes, I do. Let's break it down into a nice list, because I like nice lists. It's a plotter thing :D

What I Write:

I write novels. My shortest is 30,000 words long (about as long as one of the Narnia books) and my longest is about 90,000 (about as long as FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING). In all, since 2013 I have written an estimated total of half a million words (about the length of LES MISERABLES or WAR AND PEACE).

All of my books except two are some form of speculative fiction, meaning fantasy, sci-fi, or magical realism. Out of my completed novels, I have one Young Adult space opera, a YA urban fantasy trilogy (that is about to be overhauled), a YA/Adult Historical Fantasy (that I'm working toward getting published), a YA epic fantasy, and a Middle Grade adventure fantasy.

In the books I'm currently working on, I have a YA/Adult Historical Fantasy (sequel to the one previously mentioned), a YA tragic weird western set in the 1920s, a MG urban fantasy about Jack the Giant Slayer's enter-a-million-greats-granddaughter, a YA contemporary, and another YA epic fantasy. I also have plans for a light YA urban fantasy involving pirates set in Charleston, a dark YA Time Travel, a YA magical realism featuring a Les Mis fan fiction writer set in Tulsa, and a Women's Fiction historical comedy set in the Dutch Baroque.

My work tends to be the fantastic grounded in reality. All my fantasy worlds are based on historical cultures.

I also have written some short stories and short plays for contests and have won awards for them.

Me with the awesome cast of my short play Viral back in 2013

How I Write:

Either downstairs in the dining room or up in my room, either late morning or mid-evening. I always have scene-appropriate music playing through my headphones, and I always eat beforehand. I write about a thousand words a day, six days a week, or at least try to. Some of my books I handwrite first (those of you who have been to my house know this by the massive stacks of notebooks by my bed), and then type. A lot of people tell writers these days to just sit down and write, and not worry about perfection: I can't do that. I'm rather meticulous with word choice, which means I take a lot longer to finish projects.
A photo posted by Rachel Stevenson (@rachelstevensonwsw) on

My writing spot. That's my YA/Adult Historical Fantasy right there. And there's Carolina raspberry tea in the mug, if you were wondering :D

I'm a flexible plotter and write down plotlines, character concepts, and world build before writing. Many of my ideas stay in my head for about a year (sometimes two) before I put them down at all.

My itsy-bitsy handwriting in the margins to save paper.

What Inspires Me:

History. Light. Landscapes. Cultures. Studying what drives people to do what they do. People in general. Usually my books start with a picture in my head of a character in a setting and a story that builds around it. What if? It's the speculative writer's favorite question.

Some random pictures in my inspiration folder:

Some music I've listened to most recently while writing:

Mirie It Is  (This WILL get stuck in your head)

I gravitate toward soundtrack and classical. The King's Speech, The Adventures of Tintin, The Hundred-Foot Journey, Hugo, The Chronicles of Narnia, and BBC's Emma are all favorite go-to's of mine. 

Well, that's all for now. If you'd like to ask me any questions, I'm going to be having a Q+A vlog sometime soon, so feel free to ask! :D

And of course, when people ask me about my writing, they usually ask for me to send some of it to them. If you ask me this, please don't be hurt if I don't! I'm probably still polishing it, which takes a long time and a lot of mental elbow grease. But since you all do ask me this, here's a sample from my current YA weird western work-in-progress, UNIVERSITY BESIEGED:

I hate pomp and circumstance, even on the Emmie level.

Darby sits across from me, twirling her spoon in her maple syrup as the others laugh through their breakfast. The long line of pushed-together tables, of mismatched heights under one bubbled tablecloth, bumps up and down under my elbows. I reach over others’ hats and dishes for chili sauce and spoon some over my wiggling eggs.

Breakfast at Ladybird Diner and General Store. That’s our Emmie outlet’s idea of pomp and circumstance. I thought maybe just my squad would be there for the send off, but I show up and not only do I hear that we’ve got two other girl students joining us en route, but the whole dadgum outlet’s here. Woohoo.

“A toast,” says the outlet captain, shoving his squealing chair back over the dirty tile floor.

He punches the air with his orange juice and waves at me and Darby. Darby smiles weakly. A bunch of weatherworn faces, butter and crumbs clinging to the corners of their grins, turn in our direction, but especially me. They know I hate this.

I’d like to melt into my eggs, now, please.

“To Bobby and Darby, our Ladybird U entrants!”

They all start whooping and clapping and slopping juice and coffee over the table and each other’s sleeves. Marty’s down toward the end chanting something I’m glad I can’t hear.

Darby smirks and clinks her glass on my mug. “Here to, classmate of mine.”

Noise, noise, noise. We’re getting sidelong looks from regulars in corners from over the edges of their newspapers. The newspaper headlines screech, “HAROLD TOWN DEVOURED,” and “LADYBIRD UNIVERSITY SEND OFF PUSHED FORWARD DUE TO SAND.”

I swallow coffee and let it scorch my throat, pretending it’s the most preoccupying thing in the world. But then this beanpole ginger Fish girl I had seen working the General Store counter comes rushing over with laden trays, squawking, “All right, all right, fellas, that’s enough rowdiness. You’ll scare my customers.”

“If anyone’s scary, it’s them,” says Marty in classic Marty poor comeback attempt.

The Fish girl glares at him as she slams down her delivery of crockery. She straightens both her back and her pinned mop of unusually long hair, faces us with arms akimbo, and says, crystal-clear and dignified, “Anything more you gents and dolls gonna be needing?”

“No thanks, Miss Juliet. Jist maybe clear off some of this stuff,” says the outlet captain.

“Right,” says Juliet.

I recognize her name. She’s one of the University entrants. Marty delivered her letter, so no wonder I didn’t know her face.

“She coming with us?” I ask Darby.

“Reckon so.”

“Ginga!” yells Juliet, yanking her sleeves up and marching off back to the General Store Counter, where stacks of guys with stupid raises to their eyebrows are crowding round.

“How do, Miss Juliet?” asks one too slickly.

“You shut up,” she says.

But then out from the kitchen comes a Nudge girl covered in flour, blanching her dark skin. Exhaustion and irritation drips from her face as she makes for our table, pushing past other chairs. The fellas are piling up dishes for her and passing them down.

“You people the Emmie send-off party?” she asks, cocking her head.

“Yes, we are,” outlet captain says, and then points at me. “Bobby and Darby are our send-offs.”

“I think I’m going with you all,” Ginga says, rolling plates into her wide grasp.

There’s an awkward pause, like none of us know what to say next. I genuinely don’t, but I know some of the others have feelings about Nudges that aren’t kosher. You can hear their thoughts floating over their heads.

You? How’d you get in?

But watching her work and the fire in her eyes as she lugs a stack of dining residue taller than her into the kitchen without even anyone’s offer to help, I know one thing. That girl is determined, maybe even moreso than Juliet who was slapping words with her flirty customers behind her counter.

“All right,” says the outlet captain, as soon as Juliet snatches up his check and dashes back into the kitchen, hollering, “Ginga, Ginga!”

He stands up again, cueing us to do the same. I feel my breakfast settle in my stomach as I sling my hat over my hair and my lone pack of things over my shoulder. As we slowly start filing out of the place, ignoring “good riddance” faces from the other diners, Juliet and Ginga come tumbling out after us.

Juliet sidles between me and Darby, shouldering her trunks. Someone in our crew takes one for her, she thanks them, and turns towards us. “You an Emmie, too?” she asks Darby.

Darby responds levelly, “Mhm.”

I skirt away from them. The Nudge girl Ginga is eyeing me, dragging her suitcase along behind her, but I ignore her too.

Around my neck and half-under my collar is Shot’s hair, knotted into a clumsy braid. On it’s tied one of Step-Momma’s rings, Daddy’s punched bullet shells, and a small Ijjer wood charm Marty carved me. I had painstakingly painted Momma’s initials on it the night prior, and showed the whole kaboodle to Daddy that early morning when I set out from our shack.

He had stood there leaning on the doorway, pipe in hand, watching me go. His last words to me were, “Walk on, son. You walk on, Bobby MacFarlane.”

Daddy never cried. He didn’t then. Wish I could say the same for me, but I didn’t let him see.

I’m fine now. Just don’t wanna hear none of Darby and Juliet’s chat.

I breathe. Ladybird University, here I come.

None of us really know where we’re going. We get instructions in our acceptance letters, cuz the University’s so hidden. I think of Mr. Johnny Marker and his dreadlocks and wonder what his life is like, being a University instructor.

The instructions? Wait at the train station. So we do. We all huddle on the platform, a clump of dirty, mismatched life, most of us half or fullbloody Ijjers, and the few other people hanging around the freshly painted station giving us the same looks as the people in the diner.

Darby comes and stands next to me, her lips twisted as we stare at empty, dusty track leading out into glaring plains.

“Geez and crums. That Juliet girl talks,” she says.

I laugh softly and bump her elbow.

And we wait. We wait till Juliet’s sitting with her legs dangling off the platform, Ginga’s leaning on a pole by a bucket of half-hearted petunias, and some of our Emmies apologetically leave with just as half-hearted congrats. Soon only we four are hanging around, eyes to the west.

It’s not a train we’re looking for.

We’ve read the University novels.

And then something shimmery flickers on the swimming horizon. Juliet jack-in-the-boxes up and exclaims, “I see it! I think I see it!”

Eyes squint from under hands.

“’Bout time,” says Ginga sourly.

Juliet flings her hands up over her mop of pinned carrot hair and shrieks, waving, “Yay! Y’all, we’re going to Ladybird University!”

“Is it it, Bobby?” Darby asks me, ignoring the other girls.

“I think so.”

The curtain of dusty wind finally fiddles out of the way, and chrome glints in our direction.

“There it is!” Juliet is howling.

There it is. The Ladybird University trolley car, striped navy blue and white and candy pink with a fresh silver roof, rattling down the tracks. I know it has twenty-one seats, one for me.

And we’re gonna ride it, just like the heroes of the University novels.