Victoria Marini

YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Running Press Kids, 2016

Running Press Kids, 2015

Tessa Elwood is a Midwestern web-designer obsessed with coffee, gadgets, and Dragon Age. She writes scifi/fantasy and is particularly fascinated by messy lives and complicated loyalties.

The breakdown: — 3 books to land an agent, not including the first book I ever wrote. — wrote the first book in college. Made it part of my honors curriculum, so I HAD to finish it. Took me two years. — my debut book was drafted in two months. — the debut wasn’t the book that got me my first agent, though it did get me my second. That book didn’t sell. — Spent three-five years querying, then two years on sub with the non-seller. — with Victoria, I sold in two weeks. — Victoria also loves the non-seller, so I’ll probably gut that book & try again. Until then, we’ve two other projects in the works 😉

I’ve navigated edit letters from both editors and agents. Written a book on deadline, rewrote a story from a blank page, and pulled characters from a defunct story into a whole new (better) world. I’ve had smooth editorial revisions, and been smited by the editorial gods.

I’ve been on the critique circuit for years, everything from in-person groups to online betas. Was even a mentee myself in the NV SCBWI program with Holly Black (who is all things amazing). I’m usually the one my CPs (current or old) hit up when they have an agent edit letter they need help translating, or when they consistently get the same feedback and can’t figure out why.

It all comes down to characters and voice. A good character will carry me through a boring world, but even the most amazing world and incredible plot will not make up for a boring character. This is a human journey (or an alien’s journey, I’m not picky :), and I’m most interested in the humanity of it. The mystery, the emotion, the hope. I love fluff, but I’m especially drawn to stories and people that run deeper. Make me think. Or laugh or smile.

I love working through stories, helping people tell the story they want with as much emotional punch as possible. It’s fascinating, and I always learn something. I grow as much as my mentees.

  • Fantasy
  • Sci-Fi
  • Mystery/Thriller
  • Magical Realism/Fabulism
  • Romance
  • Urban/Contemporary Fantasy

Scifi, fantasy, mysteries, urban fantasy, speculative, romance—anything genre. I’ve a soft spot for underdogs, and fundamentally good characters that everyone maligns. I like secrets to unravel and people that surprise me. Being a badass is great, but I also appreciate the subtle and shy. Light and funny rocks, but so does dark and tainted. I’m game for anything, but I prefer stories with at least some depth and real personal stakes. If the worst problem facing the protagonist is what to wear to prom, I’m not the best fit. Not a fan of portal stories, and will hold them to overly high standards.


  • Edit Letter (Big Picture developmental feedback)
  • Line edit (dropping notes into a Word Document)
  • Skype or phone call
  • Freestyle in chat

A lot of good feedback really boils down to good translation. Everyone assimilate information differently, and I do my best to make my edits accessible. If someone isn’t grasping a concept, I’ll approach the idea from a different angle—walking them through their own logical process so the concept will make sense.

Encouragement is half the battle. Dumping a laundry list of faults on a person isn’t going to make the story better—which is the whole point of critique. So I look for the 2-3 big things that will best improve the story. I can nitpick if you like, but have never found it helpful for myself or fellow CPs.

I write edit letters organized by sub-sections, which could be anything from characters to plot points. I’ll start with things I liked, but won’t restrict the good notes to one section—be prepared for praise throughout!

Once sent, I like to do video chats via google hangout or Skype. This gives you a chance to ask questions, and lets me know what you love best about the story—which will sometimes reframe/alter my feedback. I’m also happy to chat or text.

If you’ve had a lot of similar feedback (for this story or others) or feel like you’ve hit a wall, I’ll piece out the potential issues to dig up the practical reasons behind it. I work with big picture edits, the plot and character arcs and themes. I’ll comment in the MS to point out specifics that relate to the big picture.

Someone who is motivated and ready to work, and open to new ideas. There are a thousand roads to get from point A to point B in a story. The ideal mentee will take a deep breath, seek out and explore those roads, even when it’s terrifying. I was terrified. Trust me, it’s worth it. Just because this is how a scene is written, doesn’t mean that’s how it has to go down. You are the god of your written universe. Sometimes you just have to smite.

All things genre! Decent people in sticky situations, less-than-stellar people who make me laugh, nearly broken people who refuse to give up. Silly, fun, dark, romantic, a little crazy, a little tortured. I like thoughtful work and stories with heart. I love heart. Give me Dark Triumph or Persuasion or a dance number to defeat the ultimate bad. The quiet moments that move mountains. And if the world is only blackness, I’d prefer a slice of hope but I’ll take that, too.

Protagonists too stupid to live. They don’t have to be clever or perfect, but should have at least some sane decision making capacity. The Great American Novel, with Impossibly Epic Prose. Can’t say I’ve ever been impressed by one. (Though I just tried to convince a friend that Moby Dick is worth the read. 😉

Dark Triumph by LaFevers, Old Man’s War by Scalzi, Terry Pratchett, The Abhorsen series by Nix, Agatha Christie, Dick Francis, Georgette Heyer, Holly Black, Sara Zarr, and about a dozen others

Other stories
Yuri on Ice!!!, One Punch Man, Dragon Age, the Uncharted series, Fantasy Life, Fifth Element, Persuasion (with Amanda Root), Dominion, Pokemon, Infamous, Leverage, Gosford Park, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Roxanne

Life stories
Yellowstone, crochet, yarn dyeing, art fairs, taco tuesdays, frozen yogurt, and learning how to draw ”