Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!

Image by satit_srihin at

Happy Halloween, Operation Awesome! I hope you have super fun plans for tonight, whether you will be trick or treating, headed to a party, or curling up with something nice and creepy. If you're planning on the latter, here are a few recommendations to get your night started.
Some free things:
- CLICK CLACK THE RATTLEBAG, a short story by Neil Gaiman presented in the classic, read-out-loud tradition of the creepy stories of our childhood. It's a free download from Audible today, so be sure to snatch it up. 
- HIS FACE ALL RED, a stunning horror comic by artist Emily Carroll. Carroll's comics are masterworks of the genre, lyrical and spare and brimming with unspoken dread. I highly recommend devouring all the other free comics on her page, and then checking out her anthology, THROUGH THE WOODS.

- WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE, a serialized podcast drama that's a delightful fusion of sci-fi, satire, and cosmic horror, all in the style of a small desert town's community radio broadcast. 
And here are a few lightning-fast book recommendations: 

- THE MONSTRUMOLOGIST, by Rick Yancey: The first of a stunning, devastating quartet of literary horror YA. Not for the faint of heart.
- THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS, by Claire Legrand: A wickedly clever and deliciously creepy MG horror. Particularly good for those of you who loved CORALINE and want something similar.
-  LONG LANKIN by Lindsey Barraclough: The atmosphere in this debut is perfect. And the titular monster is freaky as hell.
- THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE by Shirley Jackson: It's usually best to let Jackson's words speak for themselves.
 "No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone."
And that seems like the perfect note to leave you on. Pleasant dreams! 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Gearing up for NaNo....

All right my lovelies. It's almost November....and that means NANO!

I sort of attempt NaNo every year and never quite make it. Well, I shouldn't say that. I've written novels in a month (or less) on several occasions. Not really on purpose. But I have deadlines. And a brilliant ability to procrastinate ;-D Put those two together and you get a writer churning out a novel in a month or less ;-D But I never seem to be able to do it within the actual confines of Nov 1- Nov 30 for some reason.

This year, however, I am under contractual obligation to do so. Well, sort of. I have a manuscript due December 1st. And I have about 40-50k left to write. So...NaNo is falling at the perfect time for me. This year I shall prevail!!! Mostly because I absolutely have to, but still. Whatever works, eh? ;-)

A few of my favorite things about NaNo:

1 - lots of other writers madly trying to squeeze in awesome wordage every day. This is sooo much easier to do with friends :D

2 - This awesome Potato Man word counter! I've seen a lot of word counters but he is soooo fun :D

3 - The NaNo calendars!!! HERE are a bunch of great ones. I usually try to find one that matches the theme of the book I'm working on, for a little extra inspiration. But this year, I'm on the lookout for an Outlander calendar, because I've been totally Outlander (or Jamie, if I'm totally honest) obsessed for years and the release of the Starz show has made it sooo much worse lol So if anyone finds one let me know! :D And if you have links for calendars, leave them in the comments! These are so much fun - I esp love the ones with the funny inspirational sayings :D

So, how about you? Are you doing NaNo? Do you have a favorite part of NaNo or fun NaNo stuff to share?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

It's All in the Details

Close up of spider's web
Photo by Sylvia Duckworth (cc)

A spiders web begins with a frame. It works, creating the structure as it goes along, but it knows what will strengthen it is the detail.

It travels round and round. Spinning it's thread into the image it needs, but knowing the truth can't be seen until the end.

But it still works. Detail after detail. If it falters it doesn't give up. It rests and returns to work.

We spin our story in the knowledge that it could fall apart at any moment, but we work. We push on with the fine thread of our plot, layering it with the detail we need. Until the day we step back and, hopefully, reveal something beautiful.

The structure holds it together, but it's all in the details that catch the reader in our story webs.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Book Birthday for Angus MacBain and the Agate Eyeglass

Happy Book-Birthday to our very own Angela Townsend 
for Book 2 in the Angus MacBain series.
If you loved book one, you'll definitely want to check this one out.

   Angus MacBain and the Agate Eyeglass

When Angus MacBain finds that a Sea Hag has cast a deadly spell on Vanora’s father, he must once again set aside his life in the outside world to plunge into danger to save his friend’s father. But when he seeks out Fane, advisor to the MacBain Kings, Angus discovers that Vanora’s father is not the only one in dire peril. Now with two souls in mortal danger, Angus and Vanora must face the unknown challenges of Fingal’s Cave alone this time—without the aid of his trusted advisor. But what new and dreadful dangers lurk in the Hall of Kings? Armed with only the ancient weapon of the MacBain Kings, the heirloom amber eyeglass, Angus is about to find out.

Available TODAY in Paperback and Digital formats at:


Monday, October 27, 2014

Book Festivals

I spent this last weekend volunteering at the California Capital Book Festival in Sacramento, the first time they've put on this event. Hopefully, if they continue to offer this event in the future, it will gain more traction (and more of an audience--the attendance was lower than I expected).

A couple of highlights for me were the Fearless Fifteeners panel, which I tweeted a picture of (please excuse the phone-quality pic)
I got to put faces to names on some of my fellow Fifteeners (left to right, they are: Alexis Bass, Kelly Loy Gilbert, Stacey Lee, Sabaa Tahir, and Jessica Taylor), as well as cheer them on. It was a good way for me to see a panel from the audience side, and to apply a more analytical view of it, in preparation for the fantasy writing panel I'm going to be on in January. I may have been biased, but I thought they all did fantastically well!

I also got to introduce and serve as moderator for my friend (and my cover artist), author Kelley York, and meet a new author-friend, Tracy Clark. They talked about writing for young adults and did a thoroughly charming job of representing our YA writer tribe.

I loved that this festival is local, so I hope they stick around and keep the author fun going!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Two Reactions When You Tell Non-Writers You Have a Book Out

The other day, a friend was feeling insecure because of the reaction she got when she told people her book was self-published. It's the same reaction I get when I tell people about my own book, out from a newer medium-sized press. It's the same reaction I've heard directed at Big-Five published authors.

So I realized there are two main reactions anyone gets when they tell non-writers they have a book (or books) out:

Not impressed.
1) They are impressed because I've written and published a book, and the details don't matter.

2) They are not impressed and could never be impressed, because they've never heard of me, my book or my publisher, my genre is wrong, my method of publishing is wrong, my book is published in the wrong format, their cousin got published much younger than I am, there's no movie of my book, their next-door-neighbor has a Pulitzer, National Book Award, Newbery, and Caldecott for a string of New York Times bestsellers, and they are absolutely sure they'd do better if they tried it themselves.

When I get Reaction Number One, my tendency is to downplay what I've done. After all, when you hang out with writers, it seems like everyone writes books! But it's not that way for non-writers, so now I try to just take the compliment. Writing books is hard! I know it. You know it. Everyone I know who writes books knows it. And people who don't write books know it too. It's an accomplishment.

Reaction Number Two is the one that undermines confidence, and no writer is immune because there are always writers who are more successful, or who others perceive as producing books that matter more.

But the reaction that really matters isn't from people at cocktail parties or the line at the post office, but people who actually read my book. If I amuse, touch, provoke, or create a reaction, that's what really matters. I write for readers and myself, not for a conversational starter.

And while I don't know how everyone I meet has a cousin who won a Nobel Prize for Literature at the age of 22, it seems to happen. So I try to take the intent of speaker not as showupmanship, but as a conversational convention, like when you find out somebody is from the same hometown as your college roommate and you are compelled to ask if they know her.

Non-writers are just looking for common ground, same as me -- something to say. And guess what? I'm impressed by their cousin, because it IS an accomplishment, and I love any opening to talk about books, writing, the business of publishing, and people we know in common. Odds are, someone who isn't impressed knows -- or thinks they know -- about books and publishing, and there are a lot of directions that conversation can go. I want interaction, not accolades.

So bring on Reaction Number Two.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Film Marketing—Film Festivals—The Blair Witch Project and more.

In just a few weeks a horror film based on my novel, The Forlorned, will be in production. In 2015 The Forlorned will be screened at a few film festivals in the United States. Festivals are very important for the promotion of films.

Film festivals are annual events, where motion picture films are screened and judged by film experts. Festivals can range from huge, red carpet events such as the Sundance Film Festival or Cannes in France. No matter the size or location the most important thing about the festivals is that they give an opportunity to independent filmmakers as well as big film producers. This allows all motion picture artists a chance to show the world their creative works. This is critical to the survival and spirit of film making for everyone who wants to join this profession. It gives many great movies with lower budgets a chance to shine.

For example, The Blair Witch Project was an independent film with a budget of very little (under $40,000.00) with a gross of over 200 million at the box office. At the film festival the film makers of the Blair Witch Project produced flyers and placed them around the Cannes film festival. The posters were of  "Missing" cast members. (Out of respect, the posters were quickly taken down when it was discovered a recent kidnapping had occurred in the film industry. Thankfully the executive was found safe.)  The posters gained a ton of attention to the film and the producers had huge success.   

My movie, The Forlorned will be screened and judged in 2015. The novel will also be released in the next few weeks.  

I never dreamed that when I wrote this novel I would have this kind of success. I lived through many rejections and set backs. Its very important to remember that every project is different and you may find success in different ways for your creative works. The trick is to never give up hope!

Happy Writing Everyone!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Pre-Writing for NaNoWriMo

Do you pre-write when you NaNo? The first time I did NaNoWriMo, I didn't do any pre-writing at all. It was strictly a stream of consciousness. What came out was somewhat, well, rambling, as streams of consciousness tend to be.

For a first draft, rambling isn't such a terrible thing. It only means that revision will be extremely important, and most likely time-consuming. Sure enough, it was. In fact, at the end of revision, I wasn't sure the story actually worked.

The next time I did NaNoWriMo, I came across a blog post about pre-writing, and was intrigued. The writer suggested I plot it all out in my head before writing, hitting all the major checkpoints of story architecture.

While there are many methods you can use to plot, my favorite is from Save the Cat. It's actually a book about screenwriting. You may be into screenwriting or you may not, but the structure of writing for film is extremely helpful to any fiction writer. It cuts all the darlings away to reveal the bones of the story, and the reason it does this is simply that the format of film is performing to the shortest attention spans in the world. Master this art of storytelling for film, and you'll be a master of the novel, as well.

Save the Cat has a chapter listing 15 'beats,' on The Blake Snyder Beat Sheet. A simple way to pre-write for NaNo would be to list these beats out on a piece of paper or a Word doc, and fill them in with your basic premise.

1. Opening Image
2. Theme Stated
3. Set-up
4. Catalyst
5. Debate
6. Break into Two
7. B Story
8. Fun and Games (I like to call this one The Musical Montage)
9. Midpoint
10. Bad Guys Close In
11. All Is Lost
12. Dark Night of the Soul
13. Break into Three
14. Finale
15. Final Image

For more incredibly helpful detail on these beats, buy Blake Snyder's book.

My NaNo project this year is a spiritual time travel story. What's yours?

Monday, October 20, 2014

What's in Your Toolbox?

With November quickly approaching, I've seen lots of posts on how to prep for NaNo this year.

I won't be participating, since I'm still editing my current WIP (I'm almost 260 pages in), but all the NaNo stuff got me thinking about being prepared for novel writing and editing, and what I keep in my writer's toolbox year-round. So here it is:
And it's just about this messy.
Writing: The Drafting Stage/Craft Honing

NaNoWriMo really put me in touch with my drafting process back in 2011. With a spreadsheet to keep track of word count, and a separate spreadsheet with character sketches and chapter synopses, I always felt confident at this stage.

For those of you pantsers out there (I'm sure there are many of us), I highly recommend Rock Your Plot by Cathy Yeardley--I often build my outline around the elements she includes, such as inciting event, plot points, pinch points, etc.

I'm also increasing my focus on character development--since I feel weakest there. Mostly, it's getting to what your protagonist wants (goal) and why they want it (motivation). Explore who your characters are, and how they've been shaped by their experiences. Sometimes characters won't tell you these things until halfway through the novel (or even after the novel is written). This happened to me in my current WIP, when I finally realized her main goal was to fill the holes within herself.

At all writing stages, published or not, growing in craft is something we can all do. For this reason, craft stuff probably constitutes the biggest part of my toolbox.


Rock Your Plot by Cathy Yeardley
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
The Art of Character by David Corbitt


Fiction University
Writer Unboxed

Editing: The Revising Stage/Perfectionism and Fear Mongering

I'd admit, this is still an uphill battle for me. I just printed out pages of a revised chapter that I plan to look at tomorrow with fresh eyes, but even before I do, I know it will need a lot of work.

A lesson I learned the hard way was not to worry about line edits too early. Sometimes the perfectionist in me refuses, but when I ask her if she's being helpful, and she says no, I tell her to take a hike. And then I allow myself to be satisfied with my product, even though it might be messy and unfinished.

Another big and hard lesson in this process was learning that the best editor = space from my novel. Which means trunking my first draft for months, maybe a year. When I finally do revisit content, here are some things I try to consider:

First stage: Are the characters compelling people that readers want to hang out with for hundreds of pages? Is the plot engaging? Is there a strong hook to reel readers in? Writing 21st Century Fiction by Donald Maass is helpful in this stage, because it includes all kinds of useful exercises to ramp up narrative.

Second stage: Is everything consistent? Are there story flaws?

*Insert many stages of editing and trunking, including drafts to beta readers*

Last stage: Is everything consistent? Do the sentences read awkwardly?

I'm still honing this part of my toolbox, so if anyone wants to include something in the comments section, I'm all ears.


Writing 21st Century Fiction by Donald Maass
GMC: Goal, Motivation, Conflict by Debra Dixon
Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and David King


Fiction University (Mentioned above, but covers all writing stages)
A Novel Edit

Publishing: The Final Stage/Sending Your Stuff into the Great Beyond 

I've had a tendency to focus too much on this stage, so I'm only designating a small part of my toolbox to it. Still, it's good to know some basics, such as who your audience is, what genre your book fits in (including what genres are actually out there) and what age group your book will fall under (such as the nuanced differences between Young Adult and Middle Grade, standard word counts, etc.). You can keep an ear to what's trending, but don't marry yourself to it. And don't just write to the market, because it's constantly changing.


Writer's Market by Robert Lee Brewer (a new one of these comes out every year)


Absolute Write Water Cooler
Janet Reid, Literary Agent
Fiction University (Mentioned above, but covers all stages of the process)

Okay, your turn! What's in your toolbox?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Key to Speed Drafting

Taking a break from my usual Reasons for Requesting or Rejecting, let's talk about speed drafting. We are, as we all know, only a couple weeks out from the start of National Novel Writing Month. The month of November in which every writer loses their social life. Everywhere, aspiring and established authors sit down in coffee shops or libraries or the isolation of their own bedrooms and try to crank out 1,667 words a day. Its a pretty daunting task, especially if you're not used to speed drafting.

But for me, speed drafting is the only way to write a book. Its just how my mind works. I tend to be very ADD and a book that sparks my fancy one month might lose my interest in the next. As such, I need to set goals for myself or I'd never finish writing a book. For every MS I've written, I have always written the majority of the first drafts in one month.

In fact, for the third year now, I am doing Octowrimo in addition to Nanowrimo. Its become an odd tradition now for me to have a 'Two book Autumn'. The first year, I started writing a novel in October and ended up finishing it because I wanted to start fresh on something for November. The second year I just got so excited about one new idea that I wrote it before September was out. I did Octowrimo after that and ended up getting too burned out to do Nanowrimo that year. And this year its Octowrimo again. I've done a lot of speed drafting so let's look at a few tips for how to crank out words fast.

1) Know Everything
Yep. Just know everything ever. Just kidding. But you do have to know everything about your world in characters. Establish everything in your head and get a good feel for the story you want to right. The better you understand your characters, the better they'll speak to you when you have to write about them. Your character might surprise you in the midst of the writing process. That's just what characters do. But you can at least TRY to know everything about them. Knowing your characters will especially help the dialogue flow. And knowing your world will make descriptions go a lot faster.

2) Outline
Seriously. I know that there are probably a lot of pantsers out there and if you absolutely, one hundred percent, can't outline, then don't. HOWEVER knowing the basic trajectory of your story can be very useful. For one thing, it influences how you write your beginnings, but more importantly, it gives you the ability to skip around.

For example, say you're having a lot of trouble writing this one scene. Its just not flowing at all. You're not in the mood. But there's this scene later in the book that you REALLY want to write at the moment. If you've outlined and you know where this scene fits in the story you can jump ahead and write that one. You can go back and fill in the blanks later. As long as the draft gets done, who cares what order you write it in. You're going to end up editing the crap out of it later anyway. And speaking of which...

3) Turn off that Inner Editor
Your speed drafts will be crap. This is a fact of life. The MS I'm writing right now? Hate it. Its awful. The dialogue prattles on for too long and there isn't nearly enough description. I use 'was' maybe ten times a page. I haven't even bothered to check on my punctuation.

But does that matter? Nope. Because the first draft isn't about making it perfect. Its about getting the thing down on paper. Your inner editor will be tempted to fix things. 'PLEASE let me go back and rewrite this chapter,' it will say. But you have to squash that voice down. Accept that your first draft will be crap, and you can let yourself go.

4) Find your Writing Time
In the end, none of this matters if you can't carve out a decent writing time. Find the place and time of day when you are most productive and lock yourself in. Inform your friends and family that you love them dearly but that you have to write. If they know you, they'll probably understand. And hey, if you write fast enough, you'll have time to spend with them later. But be intentional about when you are going to write. Don't dawdle and drift to youtube to watch cat videos. Sit down and get yourself typing. Because at 1,667 words a day, you'll have a novel by the end of the month. And that's pretty cool.

So are you prepping for Nanowrimo? If not, you really should try it out. Speed drafting might not be for you but at least you can say you tried it. And most people can't even say that. Happy typing!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Blank Page

For the most part, I am a linear writer. I like everything together in the same document, in the order I want it to go in, but that doesn't always work. 

In my WIP, I've been stuck on one scene for a while now. Of course, it's an action scene. For me, those scenes always require a lot of revision. I always put in too much emotion or too much detail or both and totally screw up the pacing in the first draft. My perfectionist brain can't handle this. Just the idea of writing an action scene makes it shut down and then, somehow, I'm checking my email. Or Facebook. Or anything besides working on that blasted action scene.

I tried to sit down and force myself to write it. I knew how I wanted it to go, so that wasn't the issue. It was just getting my fingers to type what I knew would be horrible, horrible words. I couldn't tarnish my previously "perfect" draft with such an awful scene.

The solution (that I've known about for a long time but always forget)?

I opened a blank document and told myself it was okay if I screwed it up because it never had to touch the real document if I hated it. Three days later, I have a shiny new action scene that, at least for the moment, I think turned out pretty good. Such a simple solution. Too bad it always takes me so long to remember how well this works for me. :)

What about you? Any types of scenes that trip you up? What do you do to get unstuck?

Friday, October 17, 2014

What's your stamp?

Happy Friday, OAers! If you haven't seen it yet, the winners of the October Mystery Agent contest have been posted. Head on over to look at the results and take a look at our interview with this month's agent!

I have been plugging away at a new project lately, and whenever I work on that new-project-groove, I spend a lot of time thinking about the work-in-progress in relation to other things I've written. If a story idea has themes, characters or relationships that are too close to my last work, then that idea either needs to wait a while, or isn't developed enough to have a life of its own yet (and then it still needs to wait a while.)

But there are similarities that follow me from project to project, too. I have been writing for long enough now that I've identified many of my favorite tropes to use, though I'm recognizing more and more all the time. I love stories about negotiating power imbalances: both in relationships and in the character's station in life. I love old, unreliable legends coming to life. I love the consequences of a long-past action echoing into the present.

And there are littler character tropes I love, too: found families, tragically codependent best friends, characters whose lives depend on saying the right words, characters whose decisions are fueled by someone long gone. And recently, it was pointed out to me that my shy, socially awkward characters show their love to those they're comfortable with by getting snarky with them. (And that is totally true. I love that dynamic.)

These tropes are sort of my stamp, as it were - proof that you're reading a Becky Mahoney story. And the fun thing is, the more I play with my favorite tropes, the more they begin to evolve. And I can't wait to see where some of them take me next.

What are some tropes that tend to reoccur in your work? How do you think your readers would describe a quintessential 'you' story?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

October Mystery Agent Reveal!!!

Time to reveal our awesome Mystery Agent. Everyone please give a very warm Operation Awesome welcome to TAYLOR HAGGERTY from the Waxman Leavell Agency!!!

A little about her (from the agency's website):

Taylor is drawn to novels with a compelling voice and grounded, relatable characters that pull her into their world from the start. Her favorite books have strong emotional elements that stay with her long after she finishes reading.

Her current interests include young adult fiction, historical fiction, and historical romance. She's actively seeking middle grade and young adult novels of all genres, historical fiction, women's fiction, and romance—contemporary, historical, and new adult. She does not represent screenplays. She is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and received a master’s degree from Emerson College’s Publishing and Writing program. Prior to joining Waxman Leavell in 2013, she worked at the Gersh Agency.

And without further ado, Taylor has chosen four winners who each get to send her their FULL manuscripts.

Congrats to:

J. Redman - Sea Hawk & the Lone Isle
J.C. Davis - Cheesus Was Here
Peggy Rothschild - Punishment Summer
T.L. Sumner - Culloden Immortals

Please email us at operationawesome6 (at) gmail (dot) com with the subject October MA Winner for further instructions.

Taylor was kind enough to answer a few questions for us so we can get to know her a little better.

OA: Any tips for writers struggling with their pitches?

TH: Run it by someone who isn't familiar with your book. Agents don't know anything about your story prior to reading the pitch, so that getting feedback from a similarly fresh set of eyes can be invaluable. Beyond that, I'd just say to focus on what makes makes your book unique, and be as specific as possible about the conflict/stakes.

OA: When considering a romance manuscript, do you have any favorite tropes? Any you aren’t crazy about?

TH: Friends to lovers and forced proximity are probably two of my favorites, but all tropes are welcome.

OA: Have you read any books lately you’ve fallen in love with?

TH: I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson was beautiful. Highly recommend it!

OA: You are looking for historicals and historical romances – do you have a favorite time period? Least favorite?

TH: I am indeed, and I enjoy reading novels set in all different time periods—for me, the fun of historical fiction is that sense of discovery, of being swept away to an entirely new time and place. Surprise me!

OA: Any exciting news you can share?

TH: I recently signed several wonderful new clients that I'm thrilled to be working with, and I'm actively searching for more talented writers to add to my list, so I'm looking forward to an exciting fall!

OA: And a few just for fun:

Coffee or Tea? Lots and lots of coffee.
Sea or mountains? Sea!
Chocolate or bacon? Chocolate! Preferably in oatmeal chocolate chip cookie form.
Ebook or print book? Both.
Favorite tv show? Oh this changes all the time, but I finally started watching OUTLANDER, so I'm pretty excited about that one at the moment. (Can we get a moment for fangirl squeels please - squeee!!)

Thank you so much to Taylor for being our Mystery Agent this month!! And congrats to all the winners!!

Stay tuned for info on our next Mystery Agent contest!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Image via

We're almost midway through October. It also means we're almost to November. Hitting November means I need to get my butt in gear and start some Christmas shopping. It also means it's almost NaNoWriMo time.

I say every year that I'll take part, but I'm usually already working on a project when it rolls round. This year is no different. 

I love the concept of NaNo. 50,000 words is a huge chunk of manuscript. The community is fabulous. I know plenty of writers who have taken part. And, one day, I'm pretty sure I'll end up giving it a go. But, at the moment, I find setting myself a daily word count target (without the 30 day deadline to hit 50k) is a better fit for me. 

How about you? Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Are you SURE you’re ready to publish?

Anyone can publish anything these days—it really has become that simple. And I’m sad to say that lately, I’ve quit more books than I’ve finished.

If you want to compete seriously with the traditional market, you MUST find an editor. Not your mom, your sibling, or your best friend who doesn’t want to hurt your feelings. And not just a proofreader.

We all thrive on cheerleaders, but what most people really need is someone who is impartial about the project and has a serious eye for writing skills. The quality of your work and ongoing reputation depends on it, and publishing your first, second, or third draft of a manuscript without an editor is a huge mistake.

“Just ignore those earlier reviews. An edited version has been uploaded and it’s much better now!”

Too little, too late. You can never remake that first impression with your readers. (Unless you delete the book and give it a new isbn/asin.. which you might consider if you already regret hitting the ‘publish’ button.) :-)

A good editor will point out the candy bar scenes that won’t be missed if you took them out. In some cases, a 4k chapter of showing is NOT better than a single sentence of telling. Yes, I know we’re told to “show don’t tell,” but let’s get real, especially if your book is bordering on being too long already. I (the reader) don’t need to see your character’s daily routine at the beginning of every day to believe he/she has morning issues. Really! A solid example is all it takes, and it wouldn’t take more than a few words now and then to remind me how dreadful the mornings are.

A good editor will tell you if your story/scene/chapter is not moving forward. I know you love hanging out with your characters, but I don’t want to spend my free time reading about people chit-chatting around a basket of unfolded laundry. It just reminds me that I should probably stop neglecting my own. So if your characters are bored and unfocused, it’s highly likely your reader will pick up on that feeling and go find something to do (something more productive than reading). This isn’t to say your characters aren’t lovable when they do their household chores, it’s just that keeping your reader engaged might require more cleverness than you thought.

A good editor will point out the words/phrases/ideas that you tend to overused. There’s nothing more annoying than seeing three unrelated growls in one paragraph, and two in the next. We all have our crutch words, but a good editor will point them out and suggest coming up with something a little more creative.  

A good editor can feel emotion and cadence in your words. Do you wonder why an action scene falls flat, even though there’s blood and guts and explosions everywhere? Emotion (too much/too little) and cadence (fast/slow) (pace). Sometimes your best friend can’t put a finger on WHY something feels off, where as an editor can offer many reasons and suggestions.

A good editor will make you see your writing from someone else’s perspective (fresh eyes). If the editor isn’t picking up on what you were trying to accomplish, then maybe you need to do it differently, or give up on the theory if (after careful consideration) you decide the idea isn’t worth defending.

A good editor will know about tense, point of view, and basic grammar. There are times to break these rules, and an editor will help you break them with purpose, or they will stand their ground and tell you it comes across as sloppy and unprofessional.

A good editor will find major and minor plot holes and perhaps help you fill them in. “If I was in a haunted house, I’d just leave. Why are they staying?” “If I walked into a restroom and found a dead body, I’d be calling the police. Why is this person suddenly on the run?” “If I was kidnapped, I’d be trying to free myself. What’s keeping this kid from yelling and screaming when there are people everywhere who could potentially save him?” These are good questions! Anything that pulls your reader out of the story to question the believability/reality is a serious risk. You can’t expect your readers to stick around for five more chapters to figure out the answer. (Obviously there’s an aspect of mystery to consider, but be certain your reader is asking the correct questions if you’re laying a trail of clues.)

You always have a choice to accept or not accept an editor’s opinion. In doing so, you either learn to defend the choices you’ve made in your novel and writing style, or you grow as a writer, seeing the weaknesses you didn’t notice before (such as a lack of character depth/growth, emotion, or forward momentum).

After the editor has done his/her magic, especially if you incorporate lots of structural changes, find a good proofreader (because the editor no longer has fresh eyes when it comes to technical details). What’s the difference between an editor and a proofreader? An editor analyzes your work as a whole. A proofreader looks at the technicalities. An editor will tell you your character hordes too much. A proofreader will tell you it’s hoards, not hordes. An editor will tell you these examples feel repetitive, a proofreader isn't reading for content.

No matter how epic your story and characters are, leaving errors for your reader to find is an irritating turnoff and a sure way to get poor reviews. The LAST thing I want to do when I’m taking the time to read for my own personal enjoyment... is edit.

As a reader, what kills a story for you?

Monday, October 13, 2014

My Office is Peaceful Once Again!

We recently replaced the flooring in our house, and I jumped on the opportunity to put tile in my office (an 11'x10' converted bedroom). The carpeting in there had a Crater of Doom worn into it from rolling my chair from desk to desk, and a more durable surface was overdue.

But as much as I love the new floor, I wasn't prepared for how disruptive renovations in my office would be to my work schedule. The office was supposed to be the priority for completion, but the contractor wasn't as familiar with the epoxy grout and that translated to several extra days of scrubbing to get the film off the tile (not scrubbing by me, mind you--but it's not how my hubby pictured his vacation).

The extra days meant I was sort of a vagabond in the meantime, sometimes working in the craft room, and sometimes in the travel trailer at the dinette. That latter spot wasn't too uncomfortable at first, but then we had 90+ degree days and I had to turn on the air conditioner out there. Which also meant ear plugs, because that sucker is loud.

But even with the "fun" of packing up and trying to find a place to settle, I was able to answer emails and tackle some other items on my to-do list--but not any actual writing. Which is when I got the email from my editor, asking for some blurbs and an elevator pitch on the Sekritt Project. Sigh.

One insight did come from all this turmoil; it hearkened back to my 20s, when I kept waiting for my life to "settle down" or "smooth out"--then I would be able to write. But I eventually had to realize that "settled" doesn't happen--or even if it is possible, you can't wait around for the perfect opportunity. You have to make those opportunities, at least if you're trying to be serious about creating some sentences.

So I'm returning to to book two of Crow's Rest (and those blurbs my editor wants) with a new determination. And because I know some people will be curious, here are a few before and after photos of the office flooring (yes, that is tile and not wood):

We also have some new reading chairs in our living room--plus another YA bookcase--and you can see those pics today over on Angelic Muse.

Saturday, October 11, 2014


Many people have asked me about film rights and other questions. I’m sorry I haven’t responded--but with my first film coming into production in a month--I just don’t have the time to respond to everyone. I hope this post will be of help to all of those I haven't been able to respond to. I really appreciate everyone and I wish you all the greatest success in your creative projects. 

Just to be clear--this blog isn’t meant to be used in any way for legal advice. This is just my own personal experience in the film industry. I have an amazing entertainment attorney who I go to for advice and I suggest you do the same.

 Below are a few simple rules. 

1.    I never sign a book contract that grants or gives away my film or audio rights.

2.    I would never work with a director or producer if they did not have film credits or  credentials. (Its easy to look up anyone in the business on IMDB. Check to see what movies they have made and watch them! ****If there is no information or just a facebook page, proceed with caution. Breaking into film isn’t easy and there are a lot of scammers out there. Do not pay for services that offer huge promises. )

3.    Distribution. I would never work with anyone who didn't have connections to major distributors. 

4.    Always sign with an Entertainment Attorney to help you. Make sure they have experience and a proven history in Entertainment law.

5.    Be informed about your project. Stay on top of it no matter how tired you are. This is your one shot! Make a big splash!   

7.    Do not get discouraged-I know its hard. Breaking into  film is a hard battle. Thankfully there are many ways to go about it. Keep going no matter what! Do not give up!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Friday, October 10, 2014

When Windows is your biggest window

The first 8 years of my marriage were lived out in rentals, mostly apartment rentals. There was one little colonial house with a frosty basement and pokey stairs, the kind you trip down when pregnant. Being home with kids in apartments in a one-car family situation, I often felt like a shut-in. It was a good day if I took my tinies to the park, their recreation center classes, or on a nature walk. We did a lot of fun things INSIDE, but my anxiety over handling the dangers of California roads/traffic, strangers, and wild-kids-who-don't-listen often kept me inside.

Feeling cut off from the world by my circumstances, I reached out to the online community to socialize with distant family, stay abreast of the news, and cultivate my writing talent. I found so much support, plenty of avenues for stretching out as a person. I wouldn't say it was a limiting experience, but I wouldn't call it rich, either. Truth be told, I spent too much time on the computer, whether writing, reading for others, blogging, or perusing the news.

When we moved recently and bought our first house, in the country of all places, something changed pretty drastically. I had WINDOWS! Lots of them, facing the light and the mountains and the sight of my kids playing in the backyard! Suddenly I spent less time on the computer. Feeling safer in our little community, I ventured out more, joined a co-op, discovered the library programs, and put my kids in swimming lessons. I talked to people face to face. At first it was scary, coming out of my protective shell. I worried about saying the wrong thing (common for me), losing one of my wayward children, or damaging public property (I have all boys). With some early successes, I felt encouraged, and just plain got out more! About this time, my husband and I got smart phones, which let us have our "Windows away from Windows," so to speak. I could check my email, communicate with distant family, read books via the kindle app, and do flashcards with my kids, all away from the computer. (Of all the inventions that have helped stay-at-home moms--the vacuum, the blender, the crock pot, the sticky note--the smart phone may have been the most liberating for me personally.)

When I approach writing today, as a liberated person, I don't do it feverishly or constantly. I do it purposefully. In fact, everything I do these days is done on purpose. I feel freer to act rather than to be acted upon.

And though I write less than I did before, I believe what I do write has a richness that was missing before. Maybe let's call it SUNLIGHT.

Please share your own experiences in the comments. Each path is so richly different, and this has only been mine.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Don't leave me hanging

I came across a quote today that totally made me think of Kell's recent Happy Endings post, and had to share: 

Not too long ago, I read a book that made me really sympathetic for the main character. His outlook on life was depressing, he had lost sight of his goals, and he was even ruining relationships by not being honest (because to him, the confrontation just wasn't worth it). As the book progressed, I wanted to grab the guy, pull him aside, and tell him I'd be his best friend. That I'd help get his crap together. I was completely engrossed in the story, and by the time the ending came along, I was ready for closure. 

And yet... I didn't get it. In fact, I wanted to chuck the book across the room when I finished, because it was as though my emotions had been strung along and I was at the top of the roller coaster and the author just walked off, leaving me hanging there staring down at the inevitable drop never to come. 

Is that life? The imperfect ending? Sure, a lot of times it is. But, it's like Ms. Lamott's quote above. Tell me the story of how your character faced the situation, what they felt, and how it made them a different person (for better or for worse). There can be sadness and loss and the frustration of not having things "all together", yes; but at the end, give me closure, not a bunch of tears and an uneasy feeling making me wish I'd never picked up the book.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Finding Your Readers

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about marketing. Part of it is that life has gotten exceptionally busy (fall always seems to go this way) and marketing is the first thing that gets shoved aside when everything else gets crazy. But another part of it is that, aside from a Bookbub promo I did over the summer, I’ve seen very little return on any marketing efforts I’ve made.

This is a topic that is covered constantly in almost every writer’s group I belong to, every Facebook group I’ve joined and every forum where I lurk. And we all question one another – what works?

I’ve done a couple Facebook parties and Twitter events. And they’ve been fun and there’s been lots of interaction. With other writers. And I love writers. They get me. They know about the struggles of raising kids and writing books, working a day job and fitting my passion into scant hours here and there. They know all about the difficulties I face in trying to get my books to a wider audience. But they. Are. Not. That. Audience.

I think we spend tons of time marketing to each other. And let’s face it, though I’m a voracious reader – and I bet most writers are … there are only so many of us! If my books are really going to break out, find their sweet spot, then I have to find a way to talk to the readers who are looking for books like mine.

I’m working on some new answers to this issue, but I’m curious if anyone else has been thinking along these lines. I know Kristen Lamb has, and her book Rise of the Machines has definitely pushed me in this direction. Has anyone else noticed our tendency to market to each other, and if so, how have you pushed your marketing outward? What creative things have you done to find authentic readers?