Friday, June 23, 2017

It's My Birthday & I'll Slack If I Want To

Today should have been a #OAFlash Fiction Contest post, but...I forgot to prep for it, and I'm going to use my birthday as a slacker excuse.

So instead, I'll just talk to you, how 'bout that? So I had a miserable Monday this week. Usually Mondays are just Mondays to me, and I don't buy into it the hype that they're some kind of cursed day. Except on this particular Monday, I got a parking ticket (at a whopping $40 bucks!), lost the key to the mower, and then flooded the kitchen because I forgot and left the faucet running.

I was...not in a good place. (as in, sobbing while I'm throwing towels down on our new indoor wading pool)

But the week improved and today is Friday, and my birthday, and I'm going to eat at the Italian restaurant next door to my work for lunch. So exited to get some yummy bread!

And then tonight is my birthday dinner at my in-laws. I picked chicken casserole, cheesy scalloped potatoes, salad, & crescent rolls. Then it's ice cream cake for dessert. Can anyone tell I like my food? ;)

Then the glorious weekend begins, and Saturday night, I'm dragging out our fire pit for the first s'mores of the season. (I did say I liked food...?)

Have a great one, everyone!!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Why You Should Write a Synopsis Before You Start Writing Your Manuscript

If you'd like a primer on how to write a synopsis, see my posts here and here. And if you want your synopsis critiqued on this website, fill out the form here, or email your 1-2 page synopsis to me at, and I'll post one critique per week (NOTE: I'll email my critique to the author as soon as I'm done, so the author won't have to wait to see his/her synopsis on the site). Thanks for participating!

For many writers, drafting a synopsis is the most painful part of the novel-writing process. You've finished writing, editing, polishing, incorporating critiques, and your novel shines! But now you have to go back and summarize your entire plot in a 1-2 or 4-5 page document? It's painful, it's difficult, and you'd rather spend the day cleaning your house or going to the dentist. Since this is such a common complaint, I found myself wondering if there was any way to make the synopsis-writing process more enjoyable.

As it turns out, there is: Write the synopsis before you start writing the book.

You might be thinking, "But I don't even know what's going to happen in my book until I start writing!" Or, "My synopsis is going to change significantly once I'm done with the book!" But hear me out. Even if you're not a strict (or even casual) outliner, you have some idea of what's going to happen in your book before you start writing. At the very least, you know something about your main character, what happens to her, what choices she is forced to make, and maybe even what happens at the end. 

So, using just that information, you can start writing a synopsis. You won't know all the plot details, and that's okay! Writing a synopsis is a great way to start brainstorming the types of scenes you want to include, what the main character's arc is going to look like, and how to incorporate a satisfying ending into your narrative. Seeing the most basic beginning-middle-end of your plot on a single page (or two pages) is the best way to see what the plot needs to be complete. Are you missing action? Tension? Resolution? A basic synopsis can tell you all of that.

Of course you'll go back and revise the synopsis as you write the book. And you'll need to revise it extensively when you're done writing the book, to make sure you're accounting for the entire plot. But you'll have the skeleton of the synopsis already written, and revising it tends to be far less painful than starting from scratch.

EXERCISE: Write a Pre-Novel Synopsis

1) Know who your main character is, the basic setting, and at least the most basic answers to the questions of 'what happens?' 'what does my main character want?' and 'who/what is standing in the way of my main character getting what he wants?'

2) Brainstorm a list of at least ten scenes you want to see in your book.

3) Using that list and the answers to the questions in (1), put the scenes in the order that makes the most sense for your narrative (usually chronological, but not always)

4) Add details (no need to include too many at this point) to each of the critical scenes, using a paragraph for each one (at least at this initial stage)

5) Flesh out transitions between scenes - because 'X' happens in paragraph 1, 'Y' must happen in paragraph 2, and that leads to 'Z' happening in paragraph 3.

6) Read over your synopsis and note areas where the main plot and main character arc are missing important elements (change, tension, action, resolution, etc.). Note where those elements need to be added.

7) Use this Pre-Novel Synopsis as your guide for writing your novel!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Meet Tiffany D. Jackson in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6


1- Do you have a pic of Oscar, the Chihuahua, posing with your book?

Meet Tiffany D. Jackson in this Debut Author Spotlight

2- Can you share a story from your life that shows who you are as a person and why you are a writer?

I don't take the anniversary of my Grandfather's death as hard as my Grandma's. He lived a full life and I was prepared vs. I felt my Grandma was violently ripped away from me. However, I'll never forget that I missed being there with him when he died. I was still working in television at the time and ignored phone calls from the nursing home, trying to tell me he would be gone soon. I will always remember that I chose to stay on a set while being yelled at by a belligerent producer and my Pop-Pop died alone. (Years later, that show aired and I wasn't even credited for it.). That was the moment I decided to change. 3 months later, I found a new gig, moved into my own apartment, wrote #allegedly, and started traveling more. I no longer put a job above my happiness, dreams, health, or family. I don't kill myself rushing to the office, I leave with a clear conscious. I take ALL my vacation days.

3- Which is your favorite R. L. Stine book?

Goosebumps series but my favorite would have to be from his Fear Street Series, Silent Night.

4- Would you share a picture with us from one of you travels?

This is me leaving the Taj Mahal in India. It’s one of my favorite pictures.
Meet Tiffany D. Jackson in this Debut Author Spotlight

5- What are some of your short and long term writing goals?

Short term, really want to co-write a book with someone. I love the thought of kicking ideas around with a fellow author. Long term, I’d love to write an adult book, somewhere down the line.

6- How important do you believe it is for a book cover to feel right to the author?

Even though our books are our babies, our books are also products we are pushing and we have to believe in the products. Thus, if authors don’t LOVE their covers, it’s hard to sell something you don’t love.

7- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

I hope this book elicits outrage for the treatment of girls in prisons and sparks the need for young advocacy. If I would’ve known then what I know now, I would have been fighting for my fellow peers a long time ago.

8- I read that you love fried chicken. Do you have a favorite recipe or favorite place to grab a bucket?

HAHAHAHA! Yes, it is my favorite food. My favorite place is from a spot called SOCO in Ft. Green Brooklyn. They have a delicious Chicken and red velvet waffle plate.

9- What most helped you to improve your writing craft?

Actively reading the genre I’m writing in. For me, particularly since I write thrillers, it’s important to study the work of masters.

10- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

You never see Mary without her gray hoodie.

11- #DiversityBingo2017 Which squares does your book cover on the card?

  • POC on the Cover
  • Book by an Author of Color
  • Black MC (Own Voices)

12- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

She’s quiet but her actions are loud. (That’s all I can say with spoilers)

13- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?

I’m always a sucker for a good hook and a killer premise. I love books that can engage me from the flap copy or the first five pages.

14- How will you measure your publishing performance?

I don’t look at numbers, the idea of them gives me too much anxiety. I rather focus on writing the best story I can.

15- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

I had a gut feeling that this story needed a broad reach that I only traditional publishing could provide.

16- What is one question which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

Did you like the ending? (insert evil smirk)

17- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

Definitely follow me on twitter and instagram! @Writeinbk


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Guest Post: Pitching to Agents, by Megan Lee

I recently attended a writers' conference in Seattle that focused entirely on publishing.  Since I was pitching that day, and was scared out of my mind, the class focusing on developing and presenting a good pitch was extremely beneficial and helped me to sort out my thoughts and ideas to develop a great pitch.  Now I am just crossing my fingers that the requests for my MS turn into something more!

Here is what I learned from the May 2017 Seattle Writer’s Conference about pitching to an agent.

The set-up of a perfect pitch: in order
-Introduce Main Character
-Flush out the Main Character (Tell us what they want out of life or what makes them interesting.)
-Inciting incident (What propels your novel into motion- The Hook)
-What is the major plot of the book about (What does the Main Character intend to do about the incident):  Part three should automatically lead to four.  State the incident and what the Main character intends to do about it.
-Complications (What stands in the way of what the MC intends to do.)
-What will the MC do to fix the problem (Do not say whether or not they will succeed.)
-Stakes: If the MC fails.  What will happen to them?

A couple of other great tips for your pitching session:
-Start with your genre, title, word count and any relating novels they may be able to draw from (never use the classics like Harry Potter or Hunger Games: personal pet peeve of almost all authors)
-Never end the pitch with a rhetorical question
-Although agents prefer you to memorize your pitch, if you don’t feel comfortable, do what you are best at.  If you need to read your pitch, then do it.  Represent yourself the best you can.
-If you are looking to write compelling pitches and first pages your BEST resources to find and study are successful debut authors in your genre.  They have learned to develop an amazing roadmap in order to get published so USE THEIR ROADMAP.

Personal things I learned about my pitching session:
-First pitch is the hardest. I was shaking like a leaf.  But once I started, I got comfortable and was able to pitch with a lot more ease the rest of the time.
-The agents are human just like you are, so talk to them like a human, not a robot.  During my first pitch I realized I had brought an apple with me (pregnancy and anxiety do not go well together.)  I sat down and just said “Obviously I am pregnant and nervous because I brought an apple to my pitch session,” she laughed and I immediately felt more at ease.  I realized after that, that she is human, and was able to talk to her with greater comfort and ease.
-Be prepared.  I studied common questions that agents ask in pitch sessions and I had an entire typed out page of well thought out answers that I could refer to.  The agents asked a lot of questions, and I felt well prepared to answer them because I had gone to great lengths to research and develop my thoughts, especially the break-up of my plotline.  When they asked specific questions about my plot, I felt prepared to answer.

I hope this helps future writers to be more prepared for their pitch sessions!  Good luck to all of us in this huge and exciting undertaking.


Megan Lee has a BS in Print Journalism and Law and Constitutional Studies and has published articles in several local and online resources where she has won small competitions.  She spent time editing talks for worldwide audiences and now spends most of her time nurturing two toddlers and dreaming up stories.
To find Megan Lee:
Facebook: Megan Sonderegger Lee
Twitter: @meganleewriter
Up and coming niche blog:

Friday, June 16, 2017

Graphics Giveaway!

I super enjoy designing graphics. Much like decorating a room, I love dabbling with colors and fonts and pictures, and seeing what fits and what doesn't. I'm normally the go-to-girl when it comes to my critique partners, for graphics for teasers,giveaways, and what not.

Not saying I'm super good at it, but I think I'm at least competent, lol! So with that, here's an offer for you all: The first two people to comment on this post will receive one free graphic from me. It can be a teaser from your book, an email or blog header, an invitation, a quote you like, anything, really!

If your email isn't available on your profile or on your own site, then please leave it in your comment, so I can easily contact you. Barring any interruptions, I should be able to have your graphics to you by next Friday, 6/23.

Here's some examples of graphics I've done:

(Psst! This giveaway is still going on...) ;)

(Disclaimer: This picture was provided by Kristin's publisher, I just added the text.)

So there you are, and I look forward to working with the winners! 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

How to Write a Synopsis for a Book with an Unusual Structure

If you'd like a primer on how to write a synopsis, see my posts here and here. And if you want your synopsis critiqued on this website, fill out the form here, or email your 1-2 page synopsis to me at, and I'll post one critique per week (NOTE: I'll email my critique to the author as soon as I'm done, so the author won't have to wait to see his/her synopsis on the site). Thanks for participating!

My usual one-line tip for writing a synopsis has evolved from this Lewis Carroll quote from ALICE IN WONDERLAND: "Begin at the beginning ... and go on till you come to the end: then stop." This is fine advice for manuscripts that progress chronologically, using a traditional format. But what if you've written a book that jumps back and forth in time, or is unclear about the timeline, or has two or more viewpoint characters on different timelines? What about if your novel uses storytelling tools other than straight prose? How do you account for these unusual novel structures when writing your synopsis?

The point of a synopsis is to tell the reader what happens in your story. That means, even if your manuscript is not structured in a traditional, chronological manner, you still have to account for what happens in the main plot during the beginning, middle, and end of the story. In other words, don't worry about accounting for the book's structure in the synopsis. Just tell the reader what happens, in a chronological or other straightforward manner that will allow the reader to follow the plot. For example, if your book progresses on two timelines that converge at the end, you can synopsize what happens during the first timeline, then do the same for the second timeline, then use the last paragraph to explain what happens when the timelines converge. There's no need to jump back and forth between the timelines in your synopsis, even if that's what happens in the book.

If you're using a structure other than straight prose (letters, diary entries, flashbacks, poems, etc.), there's also no need to account for this in the synopsis. Just tell the reader what happens in your story, whether those narrative events take place in prose, poetry, or a different format.

As always, if you're uncertain what method of synopsizing works best for your book, draft a few different synopses and see what works. Have beta readers weigh in. I find chronological is best for easy comprehension of a plot, even a complicated one, but that might not work best for your book. Don't be afraid to try several kinds of synopses until you hit on the one everyone understands. Always remember: the goal of a synopsis is to clarify your plot. 

NOTE: It's a good idea to let your reader (especially an agent) know that your book has an unusual structure. However, the query is the place to explain that, not the synopsis. For example, if you have multiple timelines, you can drop a sentence in the housekeeping paragraph of the query that says something like, "BOOK alternates between two timelines, one following Claire through 1950s America and the other following Jamie in the Scottish Highlands of the eighteenth century." (My apologies to OUTLANDER).

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Meet Rose Phillips in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Cutting to the Chase

1- I see you have some interviews on your blog ( Do you make those images yourself?

I wanted to have my own twist to interviews and I thought a more interesting visual display might be appealing. I work with the app FotoRus. It’s a little time consuming but fun.

2- Can you share a story from your life that shows who you are as a person and why you are a writer?

My teen years were spent in an outport in Newfoundland. An hour to school by bus meant not only a lot of time to kill on the road, but also that most of my friends lived too far away for weekend socializing. So life was fairly insular and books were my escape. One of my favourite authors when I was in my mid-teens was Mary Stewart. I devoured her books and when I read the second in her Merlin series, I was disappointed that it was over. So I wrote her and told her that. Now this was in the day and age of snail mail so fangirling took a lot of effort and time. My mother didn’t think I’d ever hear back from an author in Scotland, but I did. I was thrilled to find out that there would be a third book for the series and over the moon that she took the time to write. At that point in time I was dabbling in writing Harlequin style stories (another addictive discovery in my teens) and I swore that if I ever managed to become a writer, I would be as kind and approachable as Mary Stewart. It meant so much to me, I still have the letter almost forty years later.

3- Do you have a favorite cheese?

Oh, you certainly do your research! The only cheese I’ve ever met that I didn’t like is blue cheese. Other than that, bring it on.

4- If someone knows someone who self-harms, what's the best way to offer help?

Be there for them. Period. In any way they want. Let them know you care, that you are not judging, that you hear them. The urge is to fix but unless you’re a trained psychologist, that’s probably not going to be within your realm of expertise. Nobody harms themselves for a good time. There’s a lot of pain bottled up inside. Give them an alternative outlet by listening. I’ve had so many students tell me their stories for the simple fact that I was willing to hear them. And talking about it, is the first step to learning how to manage it.

5- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?

There is no greater fan than my husband. He has been beside me, encouraging me, every step of this writing journey. He read my first version which was written in third person point of view. He patiently re-read it when I rewrote it in first person. He’s a grammar guru and is tremendously helpful when he reads. He thinks it’s amazing that I have stuck with it and never given up. And he loves the little glimpses of things that happened in real life. Only he knows which moments they are. It’s like our own little secret about the novel.

6- Would you share a picture with us of your dogs posing with your book?

Spice is more into reading than Ginger.

7- What are some of your short and long term writing goals?

I’ve just finished the first draft of my second YA and I have a third one started in bits and bites. Both are connected to Cutting to the Chase but it’s not a series. All three are stand-alones. I have also drafted an outline for a 4th YA novel that is not connected to these in any way. For long-term goals, I want to get back to writing historicals. I’ve grown as a writer and I want to revisit/revise Raven’s Path, the historical adventure I penned after reading Outlander. Because it’s laden with historical detail, I’m hesitant to mess with it until I can focus on it 100 percent. I’ll wait until my YAs are in good shape before venturing into that manuscript or writing more historically-based novels.

8- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

Ultimately, this is a story about hope. If readers who hurt themselves can feel that it is possible to climb out of a dark hole, then this story has done its job. Readers who have someone in their lives who cuts tell me that they feel they now “get it” in a way they didn’t before. I hope that will also be helpful as they walk alongside those in pain. A particular scene? Well, without giving too much away, I hope the scene where Lizzy hits bottom accomplishes both things I have mentioned.

9- What most helped you to improve your writing craft?

Practice and feedback. I read craft books but it is the critique and comments I get on my writers forum (frequented by readers and writers alike), from writer friends, and from beta readers that truly moves me forward.

10- Anything special in your garden this year?

Again, I’m in awe of your background research! I’m still a newbie when it comes to gardening. About two years ago, we moved from the city, across the country, to a rural coastal community where the climate is perfect for growing. Last year was my first vegetable garden. In my excitement, I overplanted. I will try to temper my enthusiasm this year. But, really, it’s still all special to me. Currently, a rabbit feels the same way.

11- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

There is nothing as remarkable as the Harry Potter scar but Lizzy is fascinated by Michael’s chipped tooth and draping bangs. She’s often frustrated by her own uncontrollable head of hair. “I should have tied it back. Now it’s going to puff out and I’m going to look like a dirty Q-tip.”

12- #DiversityBingo2017 Which squares does your book cover on the card? (Alternative question: What's your favorite book that covers a square on the card?)

As realistic contemporary fiction, some diversity is embedded in Cutting to the Chase, but it is not an Own Voices novel. I think my all-time favourite Own Voices books is Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini . It is poignant and beautifully written. My most recent YA Own Voices read was This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp. I loved the weaving of the four characters and the way she maintained tension.

13- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?

I’m very author loyal. So, if I like an author, I will seek out all of their books even if they switch up genres. Otherwise, anything might prompt me—a good back-cover blurb, a positive review, a personal recommendation or an interesting interview.

14- What ignited your passion for writing?

My answer is more about what re-ignited my passion for writing. Life gets busy and passions are too often abandoned as a result. The realization that I had done just that came when I was a literacy consultant for at-risk adolescents. I would run around the county working with students in grades 7 through 12 and promote the joy of reading. Yet I had lost my own. One day I picked up a book that had been gathering dust on my shelf. I didn’t find the cover appealing but I dug in anyway, determined to actually read a book so I could walk the talk in my job. I got lost in it—the characters, the historical detail and the relentless plot. It changed the trajectory of my life. Inspired again by the written word, not only did I return to reading but I sat down and started writing too. That book was Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I joined the forum she frequents and she has continued to inspire and encourage me over the last 9 years. I took a master class with her last year at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. Such a treat to meet her in person (for the second time) and to learn from one of the best.

15- How will you measure your publishing performance?

I’m trying not to get caught up in the numbers game as a measure of success. I’ve had lots of emails from adults who have read the book that boost my morale and that’s terrific. But I’d love to know that it made it into the hands of teens and perhaps resonated or made a difference. That’s my ideal of ultimate performance for this novel.

16- Did you do anything to celebrate becoming an Amazon top 5 bestseller?

Oh, a few bottles of bubbly have been popped over the last few months. Of course, I love the stuff, so I’ll use any excuse to have a glass.

17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

I had submitted to many agents. Several were sitting on full requests when I went to the Surrey International Writers’ Conference this past October. There I talked to an author who had enjoyed her publishing experience with Evernight Teen Publishing. They accept unagented manuscripts so I thought “Why not?” Two weeks later I had a contract offer. It’s been a terrific experience.

18- What is one question which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

Has an “issues” book ever impacted you or someone you know? If so, what book?

19- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?


How do you fix something you didn't break? Lizzy certainly doesn't have the answer. All she knows is that she needs to survive senior year, then get as far away from her dysfunctional family as possible. In the meantime, when she can't take the pressure, she eases it with the sharp edge of a razor blade. But she's been cutting deeper and her thoughts are growing darker. Until she meets Michael. With him she finds relief. Now, maybe—just maybe—she can make it.

Rose Phillips holds a BA, BEd and an Advanced in Educational Leadership. She is a certified Librarian and a Dramatic Arts Specialist. She has worked with both students and teachers to strengthen literacy skills through reading and drama, both in her job as a literacy consultant and as an instructor for York University. Her first young adult novel, Cutting to the Chase, was released by EvernightTeen Publishing in 2017.

Twitter @rosephillipsya
Barnes & Noble
Evernight Teen

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Reading Roundup!

Here's what I've read since the last roundup:

I got this book for free from Amazon as part of my Amazon Prime membership. It was okay. I'd recommend it if you need a light, breezy read.
 I am hooked on this series. It has ghosts, and teens that fight them with rapiers and salt bombs, and a grumpy talking skull. What more do you need?
When I read historical romance, I require a unique premise, and this one delivered.

Now I'm caught up on this series, and I am DYING waiting for the next one to come out. Also, I 100% blame Leandra Wallace for getting me hooked on these books, and I love her for it.

I was inspired by this book to finally go through my belongings and stop feeling guilty for discarding things I don't love. Being a tidying consultant is now one of my dream jobs. Full disclosure, my husband did get tired of me telling him to thank his possessions for bringing him joy before throwing them away.
 I loved the first book in this series, and while I enjoyed this one, it didn't quite measure up and that made me a little sad. Would still recommend.

It is uncanny how well Lyndsay Faye copies Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's voice. If you like Sherlock Holmes short stories, you'll enjoy this, and if you don't, you won't. Plain and simple.

I am one of those people who are still mad that The Force Awakens was made instead of Timothy Zahn's original Thrawn trilogy. So yeah, this book did it for me. Thrawn is my favorite Star Wars villain of all time.
My daughter was having a hard time sleeping, so I checked this out from the Cloud Library and read it on my phone while trying to get her to go back to bed. Which made the sexy times a little awkward, TBH. But I love a good enemies-to-lovers, and this certainly delivered.

Our team was offered an ARC of this book as part of the blog tour, and as the only team member with a middle grade aged child, I got it. My son and I enjoyed reading this together, and he says he would recommend it to all of his friends. The vocab is a little advanced, so I read it out loud to him, but I'm hoping by the time the next book comes out he'll be able to read it on his own. For a full review, go here.
I haven't read Mansfield Park, but I'm a sucker for a retelling even if I'm not familiar with the original work. This was a delight, and I'd recommend it to any teen who likes theater or film--whether or not they like Jane Austen, too!

This was a reread for me because I needed a comfort read, and yes that means Agatha Christie, murder and all. This is one of my favorites.

What have you read and enjoyed lately?

Monday, June 12, 2017

Two Easy-to-use Tools the will Dramatically Improve Your Dialogue

Have you considered dialogue tags lately?

I've been editing a piece I wrote almost five years ago. At the time, I'd only been writing for a couple of years, so I had a lot to learn (I still have a lot to learn and I've been at it for seven years). One of my rookie mistakes was too many dialogue tags. As I edit, I'm cutting about 90% of them.

Dialogue adds life and movement to your story, but right smack in the midst of great conversations are these little bits of telling rather than showing--the dialogue tag. The I-said, she-said, he-asked that all of us must inevitably include in our stories.

They may be inevitable, but I argue that they are grossly overused. While we don't want the reader confused, wondering who said what, there are better ways to convey who is speaking.

1.  Stage action--show us what the speaker is doing rather than telling us that she's saying it. This adds context to her speech and interest for the reader.

Clare started the car and rolled down the window. "Don't you dare think you you're going to get away with this."

Willis pulled the butcher knife from the drawer and sliced into the onion. "I don't appreciate your tone."

In both cases above, we know who is speaking because it's the person who is doing the action. 

2. Body language--they say body language conveys more than words, so use it in your writing. Show us the emotion and meaning behind the dialogue. The same piece of dialogue can take on new meaning through the use of body language.

Loretta swallowed hard and scratched her arm. "I'm ready to go."

Loretta hooked her hand on her hip. "I'm ready to go."

Again, we have a clear sense of who said what, but the dialogue is enriched by the emotion and meaning that the body language conveys.

There are places where dialogue tags will be needed. You won't be able to get rid of all of them, but like the dreaded adverb, use them sparingly and only when absolutely necessary.


Melinda Marshall Friesen writes sci-fi and urban fantasy for teens and adults from her home in the great white north. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Flash Fiction Contest Winner #31

Thank you to everyone who provided yummy stories of cookouts!! Made me hungry. =) But, regrettably, there can only be one winner, and that is: Stephanie!

The sun burned hotter than the burgers on the grill. Two look-alike women – one older and one younger – wearing huge floppy hats and brightly flowered sundresses laughingly shooed flies away from bowls of potato salad and coleslaw as juicy meat sizzled and popped, its mouth-watering aroma temporarily overpowering the sour tang of chlorine and the slightly sweeter scent of sweat mixed with sunscreen. Kids screamed and splashed in the above-ground pool, oblivious to the rough-and-tumble game of two-hand touch on the other side of the backyard, just one touchdown away from finally turning competitive.

I stood at the grill with a spatula in one hand and a glass of ice-cold lemonade in the other, fat drops of condensation rolling down the sides of the glass and drip, drip, dripping onto my hand. A bit of grease plopped onto the coals causing a burst of flame that nearly devoured a hot dog and sent a heatwave rolling toward my face. But the flames died down just as quickly as they came, leaving their porcine victim charred to perfection and me pressing my glass of lemonade against one heat-flushed cheek with a quiet sigh of relief. 

Not sure which was cooking faster – me or the meat – I stared longingly at the kids splashing in the pool, at my pretty young wife as she stood in the cool shade slicing big, juicy pickles into small perfectly round slices, and finally at the football game, which seemed to have degenerated into a full-contact sport. Maybe one day I'll get to join in the fun, but not today, because I am the grill master, and this is our family cookout.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Flash Fiction Contest #31

In celebration of the warmer months, this flash fiction prompt is about what many of us do with friends and family: cookout! Nothing like the kids running wild in a backyard, while something yummy sizzles on the grill.

Deadline is by noon on Sunday 6/11, EST. Winner will be announced later that evening. Rules can be found here.

Have fun!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Writing a Synopsis When You Have Two (or More!) Viewpoint Characters

If you'd like a primer on how to write a synopsis, see my posts here and here. And if you want your synopsis critiqued on this website, fill out the form here, or email your 1-2 page synopsis to me at, and I'll post one critique per week (NOTE: I'll email my critique to the author as soon as I'm done, so the author won't have to wait to see his/her synopsis on the site). Thanks for participating!

One question I'm frequently asked when I teach my Tackling the Dreaded Synopsis class is "how do I incorporate multiple narrators/viewpoints into a synopsis?" Many novels are written from the perspective of more than one main character, and since a synopsis needs to account for the entire plot, drafting it with only one main character's viewpoint represented isn't going to work.

So how do you handle this unusual kind of synopsis? There are a few different methods (assuming two narrators; for more than two narrators, the structure would be similar):

1) Write the plot/character arcs for each viewpoint character, one after another. This isn't my favorite approach, because you might end up rehashing plot details more than once, and that can quickly get confusing for the reader. This approach would work well if you've got viewpoint characters on different timelines, so there wouldn't be repetition in plot points.

2) Work chronologically, alternating paragraphs between viewpoint characters to reflect the scenes in the book. Again, this can get confusing to bounce back and forth between characters. If you do choose to try this method, make copious use of the word 'meanwhile' to indicate a transition between what one character is doing in one synopsis paragraph, and what another is doing in the next.

3) Use a hybrid approach, working mostly chronological, and following each viewpoint character when it makes the most sense for the plot. I think this method is most effective. This way, you don't have to bounce back and forth between characters every other paragraph. You can even include details about what both viewpoint characters are up to in the same paragraph. Using a chronological approach, even when accounting for multiple narrators, is usually the best way to present your plot in a straightforward, coherent manner.

At the end of the day, the best way to know what works best is to draft one or more of these synopses, read through them, give them to critique partners, and determine which one reads most clearly. That's your goal with a synopsis, after all: Giving your reader the basic through-line of your story and showing you've written a book with a clear beginning, middle, and end. If you find a synopsis-writing technique that accomplishes that, that's the one to use!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Meet Adrienne Kress in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6


1- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

I hope that people will feel the entire rainbow of feelings. I hope they feel excited, and that they laugh a lot. I hope they feel a bit nervous too, perhaps, at the thrilling bits (at the zoo, for instance), and some sadness, especially with Evie's lack of friends and family. I hope most of all that they relate to her and Sebastian, feel a sense of camaraderie and empathy.

As for an especially resonant scene, I don't really have one in particular. (It’s a little like asking a parent, “Which of your children is your favorite?”) But I suppose I do hope that I manage to strike a chord with the scenes between Sebastian and Evie where they are getting to know each other and their friendship starts to grow. Friendship to me is very important, and sometimes I feel it isn't given its due, especially compared with, say, romance. I want to elevate the importance of friendship. It's been very important to me in my life.

2-What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

Catherine Lind's short red hair is very distinct, I think. But I do feel that my villains have the most peculiar and arresting looks. One of them has a face that's half-melted and he's missing an ear, the other has his jaw wired shut with bits of metal that poke out through his skin. So that's pretty . . . memorable, I'd say :) .

3-Is there any diversity in THE EXPLORERS?

As a feminist I endeavor to get as many female characters and female voices as I can into my work. In this book, I made sure the president of the Explorers Society was not only a woman, but an older woman. And the first explorer we meet from the Filipendulous Five is also female: Catherine. With her I wanted to create someone tall and imposingly built, to celebrate a different type of female form. It was also important to me that Evie was a problem-solver, both smart and capable, but also someone who does make mistakes. The ideal strong female character to me is a three dimensional one.

As for Sebastian, he has anxiety and suffers from panic attacks. This is something I've been dealing with myself since high school and like to address in my writing wherever possible. I think it’s important to read about characters who have these kinds of challenges to overcome and bravely work to succeed in spite of them.

We don't meet the rest of the Filipendulous Five exploring team in this first book, because each book introduces us to one more. But the team is briefly described in this book and they will become lead characters as they appear in later books. Two of them are African American, one is Chinese American. And one is also LGBTQ.

4-Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

Right now I think that would be Catherine. She is so remarkably empathic with animals that it seems she can practically speak with them. And yet she is completely clueless about how to empathize with and understand humans. I enjoy that.

5-As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?

Humour is the first thing I tend to look for. I also enjoy books with complex and somewhat unusual characters.

6-What cause or charity do you most often lend your voice to?

There are several that I donate to, but I'd like to highlight Interval House. It's a local centre here in Ontario for abused women and children.

7-If you could co-star in a movie with anyone, who would be your pick?

Oh my goodness, that's a nearly impossible question. There are so many actors I respect and revere so much. I think right now if I had to choose, I’d love to meet and work with Meryl Streep and Viola Davis. They are so accomplished, at the top of their game, and it seems, at least from interviews and speeches, that they are good friends with each other, so maybe I could round out the trio and then we could go fight crime together . . . or have tea or something . . .
Twitter @AdrienneKress


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Begin with the End in Mind

It's time again to learn how to apply the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to our writing! If you missed the first post in this series, you can find it here.

Habit #2 is called Begin with the End in Mind. Now, before all you pantsers out there start jumping down my throat, relax. I'm talking about editing.

I've been asked before how to go about editing once you've finished a first draft, and I think this principle sums up the most effective way to begin your editing. Once you've typed "The End," it's important to be sure that what you've written in the beginning of your novel appropriately leads up to the final action. This means leaving clues for the big reveal, making sure your main character's emotional arc is aligned for a big payoff, and filling in plot holes that may have occurred along the way.

When you begin your editing, do so with the ending in mind. Now go forth and polish!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Why the Standard “Author Platform” Doesn’t Work

Welcome back to guest blogger, A.P. Fuchs. He's spent well over a decade in the business and has seen many trends come and go. Thanks for sharing with all the readers at Operation Awesome!

All right, let’s talk straight. Specifically, let’s talk author platforms. You’ve read the articles. You’ve been told how important they are. You’ve been given a list of what to include. Heck, you’ve even taken all that information to heart and acted upon it.

And the book sales aren’t happening.

So you keep at it, hoping one day it’ll all pay off. Day in and day out you bust your tail on social media and the Web only to keep missing your goal sales-wise. Or, perhaps, you hit it some months and others you wonder what it’s all for. Frustration sets in and you don’t know what’s going on. You did what Author A said. You got your Facebook page, your Twitter account, your blog, your Instagram and all the others—yet still you’re just another author voice shouting into the storm.

Here’s the issue: you’re following someone else’s advice. Worse, you’re following it to the letter and in the game of publishing, following the author platform advice to a T is a death sentence.

This is why:

▪ Publishing is a giant crapshoot. There is no sure-fire way to do anything. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying or trying to sell you something. While true there are basics and groundwork you can lay, that’s all those things are. Yes, your standard author platform recipe should be part of your game plan. That’s no different than saying you want to sell your book but you know you can’t sell your manuscript as is. You need to make it pretty and put it between two covers before you can do so. That’s a given. The basics.

▪ The standard author platform isn’t working for you is because you aren’t making it yours. You’re making it like someone else’s or, simply, following the basic recipe without adding the personal tender loving touch that makes your cookies taste better than the other guy’s.

This is how to fix the issue, written step-by-step, but don’t treat it like an instruction manual. Customization, you know?

Step one:

Lay down the standard recipe. All good baking has a fairly consistent base across the board. Have your Facebook page, your Twitter, blog, Instagram and all that. Customize each page and make it about you and your books then commit to a Web plan where you’re active on each on a regular basis.

Step two:

Start adding the TLC. Don’t make your Facebook page like Joe Famous’s. Make it like yours.

I hate the word “brand” when it comes to this author stuff. It turns us into a product and, frankly, art is never about product. It can become a product, but should never be a product. See the difference? This world is sickly loaded with consumerism and people pushing products non-stop twenty-four hours a day. Most of us have tuned out the racket. But what draws us and captures our attention? Unique items and unique people. This so-called “brand” you’re supposed to become? How about voice? After all, your voice is what makes your art what it is to begin with. Why turn that off when sharing it with people?

So . . .

Format and design your pages to reflect you and your books. Don’t be all authorish. Don’t be all bookish. Don’t make people feel like they’re in a stuffy library when they visit you on the Web. In other words, don’t be so professional you come off as cold. Cold people suck.

Into baking or crafts? Build that into your page designs and content.

Into superheroes and comics? Put up some indie superhero character art as part of your banner and pictures.

Into sci-fi and tech? Give your page(s) a mechanical flare and make the electro-junkies squee on the inside when they visit you.

Into horror? Spook it up, man.

Get the idea?

Step three:

With your on-line base of operations already established, leave it alone for a bit and start playing around with other marketing ideas.

Some items . . .

▪ Set up book signings. Table at conventions. Hook up with some craft shows and flea markets. Arrange a book tour, say, local at first then, depending on success, look at traveling out-of-province/state, even country.

▪ Set yourself up as a unique property at these events. Don’t just have a plain table. Add some posters and signage. Add some props. Display your books in a pyramid-like tower. Stand out. Fool around. Don’t be the lonely author who sits there with a handful of books laid out boring and flat in front of them, longingly gazing at the passersby, your eyes pleading, “Please come talk to me. Please come buy my book.” I mean, you took all this time to personalize your on-line presence, why wouldn’t you do the same for your off-line one?

▪ Casually bring up you’re an author into everyday conversations. You can subtly work your pitch into whatever you’re talking about with someone—choose appropriately, of course—and at a bare minimum leave them with a business card. But have books on-hand or in your car in case a sale is to be made. Trust me, it happens.

▪ Go to open mic nights and share story excerpts or poetry. This is your chance to pimp your work, network and perhaps get hired for new projects.

▪ Do workshops.

And a thousand other things. These examples are to make this point: lay your groundwork—that author platform—then play around with other marketing avenues. You’ll be surprised what works. You’ll also be surprised at what doesn’t because what works for Author A doesn’t always work for Author B.

Book marketing is all about customization. It’s about finding what works for you and putting energy into those things while discarding the things that don’t after you’ve given them a fair chance (i.e. six months to a year or something). And you know what? Even that thing you did that didn’t work for your first novel might be the goldmine that works for your second one. Each book is different. Even each book in a series is different.

Authors want the easy way out. “I just want to write,” they say. Well, if that were really true, you wouldn’t be publishing as well, right?

Or they want to be told what to do: that standard author platform recipe. Come on. How can you be so creative in fiction then totally useless outside of it? Don’t you know your life is a story and so is your book career? That creative flare that you put on the page can be used off of it, too. Stop thinking inside of your book and start thinking outside of it.

After this article is drafted, my plan for the day is to revisit my platform, one that I’ve already customized to me over the years—self-publishing since 2004—and take inventory on what’s working and what isn’t. I’m going to make some changes and try new things. Going to add my own TLC instead of relying on the standard Author Platform recipe.

I’m eager to see how these cookies turn out. I already know my zombie chocolate chip ones are dead ringers for a win and my Axiom-man cookies are super.

Screw the standard author platform. It’s boring and useless. But your own? The one with your personal touch?

That’s something special.

Get to it.

About the Author: An independent writer and cartoonist, A.P. Fuchs has been part of the underground publishing scene for twelve years. He is the author of more than forty books, loads of comics, short stories and poetry, and has a weekly newsletter called The Canister X Transmission, in which he currently discusses publishing and marketing tips, past work, indie creator spotlights and whatever’s on his mind that week. Heck, he’s so passionate about writing and publishing he even wrote several books on the subject, one a collection of the first year of his weekly newsletter, another called Getting Down and Digital: How to Self-publish Your Book. Plus a few others. Sign up for his newsletter at and get a free thriller e-novelette out of the deal, and be sure to visit him on-line at his main hub at