Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Meet Laura Heffernan in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

America's Next Reality Star by Laura Heffernan

1- What is your favorite reality tv show and why?

My all-time favorite show is Paradise Hotel, both because it was so deliciously trashy and because the rules constantly changed. A lot of the elements of that show found their way into The Fishbowl.

2- Would you share a picture with us of your two furry little beasts with your book?

Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight -- America's Next Reality Star by Laura Heffernan
The only way I could get both cats together in a picture was to sprinkle catnip on the floor. Unfortunately, they then decided they’d rather lick the floor than look at the camera (or pay any attention to the book). But I did get this gorgeous picture of Cat 1.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

I’ve had a passion for writing since I was a little kid. My parents got a computer when I was 4 or 5, and I couldn’t wait to sit down and start writing stories. Over the years, in the back of my head, I always thought about writing books. It was on my honeymoon a couple of years ago when I realized there was no reason to wait any longer before committing to finishing a book.

4- This question might be inconceivable... but what is your favorite quote from The Princess Bride?

Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight -- America's Next Reality Star by Laura Heffernan includes this Princess Bride quote
“Who are you?”
“I am no one to be trifled with. That is all you ever need know.”

I just find that, of all the quotes, this is one I can most frequently work into a conversation.

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

Short term, I’d like to make it through the release without having a breakdown. Long term, the ultimate goal is to be able to share my stories with the world without needing the security of a day job. Whether that comes through a winning lottery ticket or book sales, I’ll be happy.

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

I often think my biggest fan is my agent’s mom. She hasn’t read any of my books yet, but she was the first to buy both when they went on sale. The first to request a signed bookmark. And she’s always sharing my events, RTing my posts, and otherwise showing how much she cares.
My mother-in-law is a huge fan, too. She ordered two copies in case she meets someone who doesn’t have one yet. (She lives in Canada, so it’s likely not everyone she knows will rush out to buy it the minute it’s published.)

7- How did you get involved with 17scribes? http://17scribes.com/

17Scribes founder Kellye Garrett is my agent sister. We were both on sub for a long time, and we got to know each other very well. When we wound up getting contracts around the same time, we started talking about the support groups for YA/MG authors, and how unfortunate it was that there wasn’t anything similar for people who wrote books for adults. She talked to Mary Ann Marlowe and Kristin Lepionka, who felt the same way, and 17Scribes was born. Then we started inviting other debut authors.

8- Is there a favorite baking recipe you would be willing to share?

Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight -- America's Next Reality Star by Laura Heffernan includes this Friends Nestlé’s Tollhouse reference
Like Jen, my favorite baking recipe is printed on the back of the bag of Nestlé’s Tollhouse chocolate chips. Even before they made a Friends episode about it. I do add about half a teaspoon of cinnamon if I’m going to be baking the cookies and not just eating the dough. (This is not common.)

9- If you could only play one board game for the rest of time, which would it be?

This question is just cruel. Why would anyone do that to another human being? And how does a person even pick? I mean, Shadows Over Camelot probably takes the most players, and it’s a long game, so it would take up plenty of time. Pandemic and Forbidden Desert have massive replayability, especially if I’m allowed to include all the Pandemic expansions. I’m obsessed with Pandemic Legacy, but it’s not replayable. Coerceo is a fantastic thinking game. Tales of the Arabian Nights comes with a big book of stories to read, and that would keep me occupied a long time. And my favorite game is probably the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer game, because it’s like being in an episode of the show with your friends.

I could do this all day, but since there’s only one game my husband will play with me regularly, it would have to be: Legendary.
(I always knew I liked cooperative games, but it became really clear as I re-read the answer to this question. Most of those listed are cooperative.)

10- #DiversityBingo2017 What's your favorite book that covers a square on the card?

Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett has a black woman on the cover, and it’s own voices, so it covers two squares. The book is also flipping fantastic. Such an amazing voice! I was fortunate enough to get to read an advance copy, but I highly recommend everyone preorder before it’s released in August.

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

Word of mouth, mostly. I will always buy books from authors I’ve previously read and enjoyed. But I buy a lot of books because a friend with similar tastes admits that they liked it or because I see a positive review on Goodreads.

12- How will you measure your publishing performance?

I tend to overthink things and get hyper-focused on things I can’t control. In order to avoid that, I’m basically measuring my performance on writing books and getting them published. Otherwise, I’ll get obsessed with positive reviews or total sales and I won’t be able to finish the rest of this series (or any of the books I want to put out next).

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

When I first started writing, I expected to self-publish. It seemed much less frustrating. Then I looked into how much work it would be, realized how much I didn’t know, and decided that I wanted to have experts to guide me. I don’t have a background in marketing or visual design. I didn’t even know about developmental editors at that point. I definitely chose the right path for me and my book – the book is stronger, and the cover is so much better than what I originally envisioned.

14- What is one question which you would like the readers of this interview to answer in the comments?

If you could go on any reality show, which would it be and why?

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


Twenty-four-year-old Jen Reid had her life in good shape: an okay job, a tiny-cute Seattle apartment, and a great boyfriend almost ready to get serious. In a flash it all came apart. Single, unemployed, and holding an eviction notice, who has time to remember trying out for a reality show? Then the call comes, and Jen sees her chance to start over—by spending her summer on national TV.

Luckily The Fishbowl is all about puzzles and games, the kind of thing Jen would love even if she wasn’t desperate. The cast checks all the boxes: cheerful, quirky Birdie speaks in hashtags; vicious Ariana knows just how to pout for the cameras; and corn-fed “J-dawg” plays the cartoon villain of the house. Then there’s Justin, the green-eyed law student who always seems a breath away from kissing her. Is their attraction real, or a trick to get him closer to the $250,000 grand prize? Romance or showmance, suddenly Jen has a lot more to lose than a summer . . .

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Google Play | Apple iBooks

Laura Heffernan is living proof that watching too much TV can pay off: AMERICA'S NEXT REALITY STAR, the first book in the REALITY STAR series, is coming from Kensington’s Lyrical Press in March 2017. When not watching total strangers participate in arranged marriages, drag racing queens, or cooking competitions, Laura enjoys travel, baking, board games, helping with writing contests, and seeking new experiences. She lives in the northeast with her amazing husband and two furry little beasts.

Some of Laura's favorite things include goat cheese, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galactica, the Oxford comma, and ice cream. Not all together. The best place to find her is usually on Twitter, where she spends far too much time tweeting about writing, Canadian chocolate, and reality TV.

Website: http://www.lauraheffernan.com
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/lh_writes
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lauraheffernanbooks

March Pass Or Pages Details

Woohoo! Pass Or Pages is back! Our team is so excited to bring back the contest where writers get direct feedback from literary agents. We believe it helps writers to query better, which helps both writers and agents!

In March, Pass Or Pages will focus on Adult Science-Fiction and Fantasy novels.

Here are the important dates for this round:
March 7: Agent panel announcement
March 13-15: Entry window open (via a form here on Operation Awesome)
March 27-31: Feedback reveals!

For a recap of the rules and links to previous rounds, click here. Polish up those entries!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Perseverence, Patience, and the Payoff

I talk a lot about perseverance and writing being a marathon, not a sprint. Lately, I’ve been reminded of just how true that is. 

I’ve been working as acquisitions editor at Rebelight Publishing for almost three years. As I read through the slush, sometimes I come across manuscripts with concepts I love, then I start reading and realize, with great disappointment, that the manuscript is not ready for publication. More often than not, the troubles are issues with voice and telling rather than showing. As strange as it sounds, it actually makes me angry. It’s so disappointing to be introduced to this amazing idea, only to have the writing fall flat.

However, I do have recourse—the revise and resubmit. I don’t ask for many of these because I’m usually asking the author to make significant changes to their manuscript with no guarantee of publication. I only ask for R & Rs on works that I desperately want to say yes to.

Around a year ago, I received one such manuscript. Loved the concept. Loved it! But the voice needed work and author had created a lot of narrative distance between the reader and the protagonist. I wanted this story to work, but it just needed too much work to bring it up to Rebelight standards. So, I gave the author an R &R. A few months later, the revised manuscript came back to me. With other manuscripts in the queue to be read before his, it took me months to get to it. Finally, I was able to give it a read and, to my delight, it was greatly improved. It was now a manuscript I could wholeheartedly recommend to our editorial director. Upon reading it, she too was excited about it. In the last few weeks, the author was offered a contract. He’s since signed and is officially on his way to his first published book.

Here’s the take home—it took this gentlemen a year of waiting, then revising, then waiting again to achieve publishing contract. And he will have to wait again because the book won’t be published before fall of 2018. I don’t know how long it took him to write and revise the work before he sent it to us, but it will have been over two and a half years of process before he holds his book in his hands.
I had a similar experience for my own work. I wrote my first book five years before I got to flip through its pages. Some may think it’s a ridiculous amount of time. But, I disagree. I think it’s worth it. I’ve learned to persevere and my books are better for the time I’ve taken to make them the best they can be and to find publishers who can take them to the next level.

So, be patient. Think long term. You won’t be sorry.


Melinda Marshall Friesen writes novels for young people and adults. When she's not writing, she works as marketing director and acquisitions editor at Rebelight Publishing Inc. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Flash Fiction Contest Winner #28

Loved the homages to tortilla chips with our last contest, good job! But as far as our winner goes, I was really struck by the gentleman burying his woes with some chips & salsa, lol! So congrats to ReLynn Vaughn!

Salt and lime juice burned the cut on his lip. Garrick considered tossing the shot back alone, but his friends would give him hell for breaking tradition. Apparently, a few rounds with José and never-ending baskets of chips and salsa were supposed to cure what ailed him.

He fought the urge to pull his phone out. To trace her picture with his finger and press call. Sarah had asked him for space and time. She hadn’t said no.

She hadn’t said…

The phone vibrated in his pocket. Pulling it out, he gaped at it. One word blinked at him.


Friday, February 24, 2017

Flash Fiction Contest #28

Today is National Tortilla Chip Day! When it comes to eating out, nothing makes me much happier than going to our local Mexican restaurant & diving into a warm basket of tortilla chips with plenty of salsa to go around.

So let's get some chip action going on! Entries must be received by noon on Sunday the 26th, with the winner announced later that evening.

Now go make me hungry! ;)

Rules can be found here.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Synopsis Critique #3 - Adult Fantasy

And now, it's time for this week's synopsis critique! The author of THE TOWER WITH NO WALLS, a 111,000-word Adult Fantasy, submitted this synopsis. My in-line comments are [blue and in brackets], and I'll include a summary at the end. Feel free to comment below!

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 operationawesome6@gmail.com, 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!


K-ONE lives in the steel Tower of Resteth. She is a “baldra,” a young woman who has survived a fatal illness. [Thank you for explaining what that term means right up front!] The ten baldra of the Tower act as servants to their upper class masters, allowing their blood to be harvested for cure research in exchange for the NEN, a mind-fogging medicine which keeps them alive. ['Nen' doesn't have to be in all-caps here, since it's not a character. If it's a proper noun, you can just introduce it as 'the Nen' or, as I suggest below, leave out the name and describe it as the potion, medication, etc.] [This is a nice, clear first paragraph. We're given K-1's 'normal life' and you do quite a bit of world-building with not very many words.] During an errand, K-1 crosses paths with the ruthless Tower leader RIDER, who is genial to her despite her loss of temper. [Why did she lose her temper? If she's a servant and he's ruthless, and she depends on him to stay alive, wouldn't she try to hold her temper? We may need a few character details about K-1 earlier to feel comfortable with this.] Now having doubts about his character, K-1 feels impotent, terrified that she is missing something. [This seems like an odd reaction to finding out Rider is actually a nice guy. Does he also seem to know things about her? Is he trying to get her to do something for him? Why does she feel like she's missing something?] In voicing this fear, she provokes an unexpected voice in her head to speak. [Is this the first time she's heard voices in her head? If so, say that. If not, give the reader a hint that this is something that happens to K-1 a lot] The voice is XABRIC, a prisoner of the Tower. He senses magic inside her, and suggests that she use it to escape with him. K-1 refuses to trust a captive. [But she's kind of a captive herself, isn't she?] The next day, K-1 again sees Rider, but he hits her in front of other Tower leaders in a vicious display. Tormented by this reversal, K-1 is then tasked with cleaning Dungeon cells near Xabric. [Has she met Xabric before she heard his voice in her head the day before? If not, how does she know it's him?] She can hear it as he is tortured through other people’s bodies. [What does 'tortured through other people's bodies' mean?] After, he explains in mind-speak that when he looks in someone’s eyes, he can control and speak to them. As he has never seen her, their connection should thus be impossible, although he cannot control her as is. Xabric then declares the Nen a lie. K-1 is unnerved, but though she pities him, she is still resolute not to help him. [Why?] Later, K-1 comes across another baldra who has been beaten nearly to death. K-1 barely saves her life with what she believes is Nen, but turns out not to be. [What is it? How does K-1 discover it's not Nen?] Suspicious of the Nen and angry at her masters’ senseless violence, K-1 purposely goes the fatal amount of time without Nen. When she doesn’t die, she offers to help Xabric escape, if he will help her get all ten baldra out of the Tower with him. He says their best chance to escape is during the upcoming holiday, Omniren. [There are a lot of names/terms specific to your world in this synopsis, which can quickly get confusing for a reader. For those that are less important to the plot flow, I suggest omitting the proper nouns and describing them. 'Omniren' can just be 'the upcoming holiday.'] With less Nen in her system, K-1 spies on the Tower for Xabric. However, a baldra caretaker named REIMA is growing suspicious of her. [This sentence feels like a non-sequitur since we don't circle back to Reima again for two more paragraphs. You can add this sentence to the last paragraph, as something like, 'However, a baldra caretaker, who has been growing suspicious of her, catches her and Rider..." That'll save some space, improve narrative flow in this paragraph, and you won't have to add another named character] When K-1 learns that her best friend, K-TWELVE, [no need to name K-12 here. Just say 'her best friend.'] is being regularly abused by a Tower leader, she is stirred on a deep level, [I think you can omit 'stirred on a deep level' since it's non-specific, and go right to the action she takes] and makes a risky visit to Xabric only to witness Rider torturing him. Yet the following day, Rider steals her away to a romantic hidden spring, where Rider both proves he knows she is up to no good, yet also confides in her, showing that he’ll keep her secrets. She finds herself wanting to like him, and is overwhelmed by conflicting emotions. [I want a little more about Rider when he's first introduced. Is he handsome? Charming? Why is K-1 falling for him (despite his surprising geniality) when she knows he's torturing her friend? A little more character detail early on will make this shift in K-1's feelings seem genuine.] K-1 then learns that Xabric will be a sacrifice at Omniren. [again, here you can just say 'the upcoming holiday.'] Angry because he lied to her, K-1 abandons him. [What did Xabric lie about? Or was it Rider who lied? Specify.] That evening, however, K-12 [again, this can just be 'K-1's best friend'] accidentally creates fire, and K-1 recognizes it as the vague, evil power in her masters’ folklore. [How does she recognize it as such? Why does it make her so angry?] Her hatred of her masters and their lies overcomes her, and she rejoins Xabric, only to lose herself in the fog of Nen for days, [does she drug herself or is she drugged? If she's drugged, by whom?] emerging from her drugged state a day before Omniren. In the race to escape, K-1 discovers that Rider’s hitting her was a veiled attempt to help her. [How does this work? I'm sure it's not meant this way, but it reads a little like making an excuse for an abuser] Determined to understand his motivations, she ignores the danger and meets with him, and he kisses her. Having recently learned the baldra are homosexual, she now becomes distressed over her identity among them. [This is an odd detail. Wouldn't she have realized this earlier? If this sentence isn't vital to the plot (maybe K-1 is earlier questioning her identity because she's not attracted to women, or something similar) I'd omit it.] Reima catches her and Rider, and imprisons K-1, who escapes and frees K-12 from her abuser, learning in the moment that baldra are capable of healing. [There's a lot going on in this sentence. Suggest you break it up into 2-3 sentences] They are pursued deep into the Tower, where they find a machine filled with their blood and realize they have been harvested all their lives as a power source. [They knew they were being harvested, right, but they thought it was for scientific research? I'd bring this full circle if the fact that their blood is being harvesting as a power source instead is what's shocking to K-1]
When they reach Xabric, K-1 discovers he is a giant. [How did she not know this before?] He is too injured to move, and K-1 nearly gives in to despair, but her love of K-12 convinces her to fight an impossible battle rather than submit. [But she already rescued K-12, didn't she?] In the ultimate act of trust, she looks in Xabric’s eyes and allows him to fully control her. This act heals him with her power. Twelve then releases enough fire magic to melt Xabric’s chains, but Reima recaptures K-1 and is about to kill her when Rider saves her life. They part with K-1 believing he [Rider] is a friend, not an enemy. But before the baldra flee the Tower with Xabric, Twelve dies from overexertion. K-1 feels intense sorrow, self-blame, and loss of direction, but she still looks to the future as they escape. [Specify what 'looks to the future' means here. A life with Rider? Starting a new life with the baldra? It's the last sentence, so end with some enticing details.]


Overall, this is a good synopsis: it's well-written with a nice narrative flow. My main critiques are:

(1) Especially for a fantasy novel, where you've created new names for people, places, and objects, try to keep the proper names to a minimum in the synopsis. Otherwise, it gets very confusing for the reader, who likely hasn't read the whole manuscript yet and had a chance to learn all the names. For example, 'The Nen' can be the medicine, or the tonic, or something like that. 'Omniren' can be 'the holiday.' The only characters who seem to merit proper names in this synopsis are K-1, Rider, and Xabric (though if you can eliminate the proper names for the Nen and Omniren, then you can add the proper names for K-12 and Reima).

2) I included a number of how/why questions throughout. It doesn't take too many words to explain how or why things are happening. For example, in the last paragraph, you state that K-1 realizes Xabric is a giant, and that was confusing to me since it seemed like they'd met in the third paragraph. So changing that sentence to "Because K-1 had been near Xabric, but never actually seen him, when they reach Xabric's cell, she's surprised to discover he's a giant." That's a bit awkward, but it explains the situation and the reader doesn't have to pause to wonder about it. I tried to point out each place in the synopsis where I had similar questions.

Great job, and best of luck with this manuscript!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Meet Rebecca Christiansen in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Maybe in Paris

1- Have you been to Paris and, if so, what was the best part of the trip?

Yes! I went to Paris when I was 15, with my French Immersion program in school. It was incredible, and it helped inspire MAYBE IN PARIS. The Louvre was a highlight, but one of my favourite places that I saw was Mont St Michel. It’s a monastery and Medieval town on top of an island, which is in the middle of a bay on the coast of Normandy. I want to go back to France so bad. If only I had unlimited cash!

2- What is the best meal you've had while traveling?

The best foods I had in France were pear gelato, tarte au chocolat, and the one I still daydream about, pistachio crême brûlée. My mouth is watering just remembering!

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

I wrote my first novel when I was 13, and wrote many of them throughout high school. I wrote them all on looseleaf paper taken from my school binders, because that way I could write in class. So my books ended up being these huge stacks of battered looseleaf, full of my cramped handwriting. In our school, we had a twenty minute silent reading period at the beginning of the second class of the day. My friends would take turns borrowing my manuscripts and reading them during this reading period, and eventually more and more people started noticing and asking me if they could read my books. It got to the point where girls in older grades were coming up to me at lunch and saying they “NEEDED” my books because their friends were sobbing over the fates of certain characters! It was such a strange experience, but it basically explains why I write — to make people feel things, to give people a meaningful experience — and shows what a strange, awkward goof I was… and still am.

4- What ignited your passion for writing?

I started writing as soon as I could read and write, and I was definitely helped along by the adults in my life, all of whom loved reading. In particular, two of my uncles — who were actually my dad’s best friends — gave me picture books for every birthday and Christmas. They made some stellar picks, because I still have all of the books they gave me, and they’re some of my very favourite books. This is why I’m such a huge fan of giving kids books as gifts. They can literally change their lives.

5- Who made the "Maybe in Paris" book necklace, and are more of them for sale somewhere?

I’m so glad you asked this! I got it from this Etsy shop called Jewelry by Compliment, run by a fabulous artist named Bistra Kanalieva. She’ll make a book necklace out of any book cover you want. I love my MAYBE IN PARIS necklace so much, it’s so beautifully made. Here’s a link to the piece on Bistra’s shop: https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/266922464/custom-book-jewelry-custom-book-necklace

6- Would you share a picture with us of your favorite nail art?

Rebecca Christiansen nail art

These are a recent favourite! It’s a chrome powder over bright pink, with black lace stamping overtop.

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

For short term, I’m working on a manuscript right now that I’m trying to finish in the next few months. I’m almost through a second draft now and it’s looking great. For long term goals, it looks like my next project might be a series! That’s new for me. I’ve got it mostly mapped out, but it’ll be a huge challenge.

8- Do you know anyone who is autistic, and did that help in writing the Levi character?

Yes! My younger brother is on the autism spectrum. He is also mentally ill. He’s the main inspiration for Levi in MAYBE IN PARIS. We never went to Paris together, but many of the other things in the book really happened.

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

Oh my gosh, I don’t know! Not all that many people have read MAYBE IN PARIS yet, aside from my best friend, my agent, and my editor. Something that both my agent and editor said before offering representation and a book deal respectively was that they loved how the book focused on the sibling relationship, and that the romance took a back seat.

10- What's your favorite One Direction song?

Ahhh, I have too many to list! “Best Song Ever” is a classic, but I’m going to pick an obscure one and say “Wolves.” It’s from their most recent album, and it’s a crime that it isn’t a single!

11- Liam, Louis, Niall, Harry, Zayn -- which 1D is "yours"?

I love them all so much — I call them my sons — but at heart I’m a Harry girl.

12- 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 it makes readers laugh, because while the main subject is very serious, there’s a lot of levity. I also hope it helps readers appreciate their loved ones a little more. If it inspired at least one sister to give her brother a hug, I’ll be very happy!

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

NaNoWriMo helps me with productivity a lot. I love the excitement of NaNo, and feeling pumped enough to pound out a whole first draft in a month is just incredible. Almost all of my books are born during NaNo.

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

In MAYBE IN PARIS, I think Levi is the most physically distinct character. He’s very big and tall, with huge feet and messy, tangled brown hair. His glasses are always crooked and smudged, and he’s always glaring or rolling his eyes at something Keira says.

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

Unfortunately not many, but like me, Keira does suffer from anxiety. The romance is interracial — the love interest, Gable, is black.

16- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

Keira fits pretty well into “responsible and spontaneous”!

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

I’m a sucker for any YA with LGBTQIA+ themes. MAYBE IN PARIS is actually the only book I’ve written that doesn’t have those themes! I also love dark YA that has anything to do with serial killers, missing persons, or threatening cults and religions. All of those things are insta-buys for me.

18- How will you measure your publishing performance?

Oh wow, I haven’t really thought about it. While it would be great to get starred trade reviews and awards, I think the things that will be most meaningful to me are reader emails or positive reviews from teens. Considering I already tear up when near strangers tell me they’re excited for the book, I’ll probably be an emotional wreck any time I get positive feedback!

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

I’ve always wanted to be traditionally published. I just don’t have the energy to be a successful self-pubbed author. I’m with Sky Pony Press, which is a pretty small press, and my agent and I went with them because they loved the book for what it was — a sibling story. I got feedback from some larger publishers that they would like the romance brought to the forefront, and that just wasn’t right for the book. You have to do what’s right for the book. I’m so glad I did.

20- What is one question (or discussion topic) which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

I’d like to know what books everyone is looking forward to this year! There are so many amazing books coming out this year and I’m sure readers would love to gush about their favourites.

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

Rebecca Christiansen MAYBE IN PARIS debut book
Here’s the summary for MAYBE IN PARIS, which comes out June 20th 2017:

Keira Braidwood lands in Paris with her autistic brother, Levi, and high hopes. Levi has just survived a suicide attempt and months in the psych ward—he’s ready for a dose of the wider world. Unlike their helicopter mom and the doctors who hover over Levi, Keira doesn’t think Levi’s certifiable. He’s just . . . quirky. Always has been.
Those quirks quickly begin to spoil the trip. Keira wants to traipse all over Europe; Levi barely wants to leave their grubby hotel room. She wants to dine on the world’s cuisine; he only wants fast food. Levi is one giant temper tantrum, and Keira’s ready to pull out her own hair.
She finally finds the adventure she craves in Gable, a hot Scottish bass player, but while Keira flirts in the Paris Catacombs, Levi’s mental health breaks. He disappears from their hotel room and Keira realizes, too late, that her brother is sicker than she was willing to believe. To bring him home safe, Keira must tear down the wall that Levi’s sickness and her own guilt have built between them.

Rebecca Christiansen debut author
And here’s my bio:

Rebecca Christiansen tried to study creative writing at university, but kept skipping classes to write YA novels in the library, so she decided to pursue that instead. She loves boy bands and diet soda and suffers from incurable wanderlust. Rebecca lives with her boyfriend in a house packed full of books in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
I can be reached on Twitter @rchristiansenya and Instagram or on Tumblr (http://rebeccachristiansenauthor.tumblr.com )!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

February Reading Roundup

Here's what I read in February:

I needed a book published before 1950 for my library's reading challenge, so I picked this one up. First of all, there is no postman, which was disappointing. Second of all, I'm glad "show don't tell" is a rule for writers now. Third of all, these are the two most unlikeable protagonists I've ever read, and I spent the whole book kind of hoping they'd get away with their crime, and kind of not. Plus, it's fairly racist.

Also for my library's reading challenge... I needed a book from NPR's Best Books of 2016 list. I'm glad I picked this one. It was raw, and real, and I'd highly recommend it to teens.

I liked it, but I wanted MORE Gilmore Girls!

 I love the original Star Wars novels (that sadly were de-canonized when The Force Awakens came out), so I thought I'd try one from the new canon. Sadly, this was a very boring book. I guess after watching Rogue One I didn't care enough about Jyn Erso's parents to enjoy an entire book about them.
This has a fascinating fantasy world. I don't typically like epic or high fantasy, but will make exceptions for unique world building. I can't wait for the next book in the series because I love this fantasy world so much!

Another great literary YA novel from Adam Silvera. Anything he writes automatically goes on my TBR list.

What books did you read and enjoy this month?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Sorry Folks, I Did Not Like Little House on the Prairie

Do you remember the first book that really swept you away? A book that took you to a new world that you never wanted to leave?

I remember the first book that did that for me. I was in grade 5, and I wasn't much of a reader. In fact, I stayed as far from books as I could. In my early elementary years, I struggled to learn to read, so I figured it just wasn't my thing. I'd been given the Little House on the Prairie series. I liked the show, so decided, despite not being a big reader, to give it a try. I read a couple chapters, but didn't like it. So, my young self said, "See, reading is boring." I decided stick to movies and TV. I loved Star Wars, Star Trek, Thunder Cats, Wonder Woman, Buck Rogers and Battlestar Galactica.

My grade five teacher read to us a couple of times per week which I usually found boring. I'd space out and imagine my own stories. But one day, he started a new book--The Keeper of the Isis Light by Monica Hughes. It didn't take long before the story of a human girl living on the distant planet of Isis with only a robot companion captured me. I started looking forward to story time. I hung on every word and was blown away by the twist ending. My imagination soared. No one had ever told me that the science fiction I loved on TV and in the movies came in book form!

This book opened up a new world for me. It's no wonder that science fiction is now the genre I choose to write most.

Perhaps you know someone who doesn't like to read. This isn't a permanent state of being. Most reluctant readers simply haven't found the right book. Like me, they need to find a story that sparks their imagination. Don't assume reluctant readers will like what you like. Young readers especially need an abundance of choices so they can learn what they enjoy. When reading brings joy, people become lifelong readers.

I'd love to hear which book or series made you fall head over heels for reading or which drove you to start writing in the comments below.


Melinda Marshall Friesen lives in a little house on the prairies where she writes speculative fiction for teens and adults. Check out her sci-fi/dystopian One Bright Future series here: Enslavement and Subversion.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Watching Movies to Help Your Writing

Depending on what I'm writing, I often utilize movies to help with fleshing out my story. Especially if the story is a historical or fantasy, I can use movie magic to help me with setting, clothes, and dialogue.

When I was writing my historical fantasy, I watched The Patriot, and also, National Treasure. The Patriot was great for period details, and National Treasure for getting me excited all over again about the Revolutionary War and Benjamin Franklin (who was in my book). 

Right now I'm drafting a fantasy with 1920 ties, and so I recently just finished the tv series, Downton Abbey. I kept a notebook to jot down certain phrases to incorporate into my book, as well as a sharp eye on the outfits that were being worn. I also want to rewatch The Great Gatsby (the one starring Leo D) as well. 

So don't feel guilty the next time you plop down on the couch to do some tube watching-- just call it research and dig into some popcorn!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Synopsis Critique #2 - MG Paranormal Mystery

And now, it's time for this week's synopsis critique! The author of RED-EYED DANIEL, a 76,000-word MG Paranormal Mystery, submitted this synopsis. My in-line comments are [blue and in brackets], and I'll include a summary at the end. Feel free to comment below!

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 operationawesome6@gmail.com, 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!


Thirteen-year old DANIEL VENTURE breaks out in blisters, and this ruins his life: he never invites kids over, doesn’t go to the pool, and doesn’t go to school. [This is a great start, really situating us in Daniel's 'normal life.' But it seems like the blisters must be really painful and/or disfiguring for him to have such an unusual life because of them - consider adding a little detail here describing his condition.] He visits a doctor to treat his condition, but discovers that she has zero intentions to cure him. [Is this the first doctor he's ever seen for this condition? Or is she a new doctor, or supposed to be some kind of specialist?] Instead, the doctor kidnaps his mother to a parallel world. [Has Daniel ever had any indication before this that parallel worlds existed? That his mother would be the target of a kidnapping? If so, integrate a little back-story here. If not, describe Daniel's surprise at this turn of events.] For the opportunity to search for his mother, Daniel trades his eyes. [Who does he trade them to? How? Consider making the last two sentences of this paragraph a separate paragraph and spending a little more time fleshing them out. The visit to the doctor (and subsequent kidnapping of Daniel's mother) seems to be your inciting incident, so they shouldn't be buried at the end of a bigger paragraph.] He wakes up in a parallel universe, haunted by demons. [Is it the universe or Daniel that is haunted by the demons?] Daniel discovers that while he was unconscious, a local doctor named DAVID LODNER filled his empty eye sockets with artificial red eyes. [Was the doctor local to the parallel universe or Daniel's original world? Any relation to the doctor who kidnapped his mother?] With these new eyes Daniel sees a walking demon-skeleton with sharp nails pierce a woman’s shoulder and realizes that he is incapable of battling his mother’s kidnapper, who is a demon herself. [How does he realize this? Does he attempt to save the woman and fail? Also, do the new eyes give Daniel any other abilities or powers?] To gain the knowledge of fighting demons ['To learn how to fight demons' is a little more straightforward], Daniel enlists in a military academy. [More detail about this parallel world would be helpful to situate the reader. Is it just like Daniel's world or are there significant differences (other than the demons)? A sentence or two describing the parallel world would help here - Daniel wouldn't be able to enlist himself in a military academy in his world, but he can here. How?] But the Chief Commander calls roll in the middle of the first night: something has been stolen and the thief is suspected to be nearby. Soon Daniel overhears a conversation between two teachers and learns that his dead father was once working on the reproduction of a secret device called the Pyramid Diamond, whose blueprints were stolen from the Commander. [What does 'reproduction of a secret device' mean? Recreating a device that existed at some point before? If not, then 'production' works better.] Daniel is convinced that his mother was kidnapped because she had classified information about the Diamond. [I really like this. Daniel's learning more about his parents and his real life, and his call to action can't be far off...] Daniel and his new friend BEN LODNER—David’s son [consider using 'Dr. Lodner' throughout instead of 'David,' because that's presumably how Daniel would think of him]—suspect that the thief is the class bully, after they see his silhouette near their guard booth. They give chase, but accidentally find themselves near a pub full of demons. Peeking into the pub, Daniel spots the kidnapper. [consider saying, 'his mother's kidnapper' so we know it's the doctor from Daniel's real world] But to get in and confront her, he needs a demon companion.
Daniel and Ben investigate a bit more, and learn that the Pyramid Diamond is a powerful weapon that can transfer telekinetic energy between demons and people, and vice versa. [Connect the dots here between what the Diamond does and the fact that it's powerful - what does it mean to transfer telekinetic energy? How does that help demons or people? Does it allow them to be stronger, quicker, etc.?] After Daniel and Ben successfully catch a giant bee demon, they are convinced that they can enter the pub and catch the bully helping the kidnapper to recreate the Pyramid Diamond. [Why are they sure it's the bully? And if they can get into the pub, why wouldn't they catch the kidnapper, who we know is in there, as opposed to just catching the bully? And I'm still a bit confused about recreating the Diamond... if the Diamond is an old device that was destroyed, or something along those lines, tell us that.] When they enter the pub, it’s not the bully they find, but David. [Again, I think using 'Dr. Lotner' works better] He was the one they had seen during their guard duty, and he was the true thief. [How do they find out? Does he confess?] Even worse, when David implanted Daniel his artificial eyes, he wasn’t doing him a favor. On the contrary—these eyes were used as a surveillance system, meant to follow Daniel all the time. [Nice twist.] David confesses that he did it because the king of all demons promised to bring his dead wife—Ben’s mother—back to life. And now, with the Pyramid Diamond finally complete and Daniel fallen into his trap, David can summon the king—Asmodeus. [Why does Asmodeus need Daniel? You get into it in the next paragraph, but some hints in this paragraph would help connect them.] Asmodeus appears and tells Daniel that his mother was used as bait to lure Daniel into the parallel world because what Admodeus really desires is Daniel’s immense telekinetic energy, which he will steal using the Pyramid Diamond. [Ah. This is a great reveal. Are there hints earlier on that Daniel has this power? If so, drop a hint earlier in the synopsis] But he also offers Daniel to spare his mother’s life if Daniel joins his army of demons. [A little awkward. Consider, 'But he also tells Daniel he will spare his mother's life...'] Daniel refuses and Asmodeus begins draining Daniel’s energy. [Why does Daniel refuse? I could see not wanting to join an army of demons, but his mother's life is at stake and earlier, he traded his eyes to search for her, so she must be important to him. Does he not trust Asmodeus to keep his word? Or something else?] But then Daniel realizes that in order to destroy Asmodeus he must destroy his demonic eyes. [How does he realize this?] He yanks out his eyes, and stabs them with a knife. Asmodeus is destroyed and Daniel loses consciousness. When he wakes up in the infirmary, he can see with only one eye because the other one was beyond repair. The Chief Commander tells him that Asmodeus was only receiving orders from another, more powerful, demon—Azazel—and as long as Daniel is not caught his mother will be safe. When Daniel gets back to the academy, students look at him with fear and admiration. Though his mother is still held hostage, Daniel’s battle with the demon has made him stronger: he will plot the best attack so the next time he fights Azazel, Daniel will save his mother and come out victorious. [If he's at the academy, wouldn't it be easy for Azazel to track him down?] [Does he ever go back to his original life? Can he? Whatever happened to his blisters? Did they disappear when he went into the parallel world?]


This is a neat concept with some great twists and turns! My main critiques boil down to two areas:

(1) Connect the dots. For example, explaining that the Diamond imparts telekinetic powers doesn't mean much to me as a non-scientist. If those telekinetic powers enable the user to fly, or see through walls, etc., then that description has a lot more impact on the reader.

(2) I had a lot of questions throughout that amounted to Why? or How? Consider these questions as you read through again, and try to answer them briefly. For example, how does Daniel realize he must destroy his demonic eyes to destroy Asmodeus? Does someone tell him? Does he read about it somewhere? Adding even a short phrase to that sentence explaining how Daniel comes to realize this fact helps the reader with the plot flow.

Best of luck with the manuscript!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Meet Ashley Borodin in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

The Jealous Flock: A Literary Epic in Miniature

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

To enjoy writing. Seriously. I want to have fun doing things. I’m not terribly good at that and I’m planning several interventions after I move interstate next week that will force me to have fun. Like buying a pet, so that I have to look after it. And I have someone who gives something back. At the moment writing is all a one-way street. Marketing doubly-so.

I’d like to get into a writing lifestyle. Cos I tend to binge-write and it’s not healthy.

I’ve started on another book that will stretch my ability to create characters. That’s my greatest flaw as a writer. It’s going to take me a while.

2- How has Autism influenced you as a writer?

This is really what I was alluding to in the previous question - my ability to empathise and relate has been severely stunted. I’ve spent my life concerned about ideas. I have compassion for people. I’ve stepped in when people were dying. Animals too. But I don’t relate to them. That’s changing as I persist with the Autism diet I’m on at the moment. For those who came in late it’s called GAPS, or FODMAPS (the more extreme version) and there’s little research, but tremendous allegorical evidence of its efficacy. If you search for GAPS on Youtube or Autism/Asperger forums you’ll quickly discover what I mean.

3- Would you please give an example of what makes you more liberal or more conservative?

Just as an aside, the conservative party in Australia is called the Liberal party. And I notice a lot of Liberals in North America these days are defining themselves as Classical Liberal or anti-Progressive. I’ve always found those labels irrelevant.
I’m a Gelato Centrist. I don’t care what flavour you are as long as you can hold a conversation and cede some ground to reason from time to time. That’s all we need for a perfect society. We already live in utopia, it’s just that several people don’t realise it.

A good example is this interview between Dave Rubin and Glenn Beck:

Like Rubin, I believe in the conversation. To me conversations about issues are more important than what side you take. A side is almost animalistic. A defensive reaction to perceived threat. You see this a lot with the current climate surrounding refugees on one hand, and the rise of the Right on the other. The reactions to these on the corresponding side are typical of frightened animals. The fear is real, but often they fail to prove the threat is equal to their reaction.
And that’s bad politics, it leaves you open to ridicule and ultimately being dismissed from further engagement. Over-reacting, as so many people do on social media, leads to ghettoisation. The other side simply ignores you and you retreat to your irrelevant echo chamber and remain useless in the real world. Only to emerge some time later and discover to your horror that the world has moved on without you. This culture shock is what we’re living through at the moment. The Left is waking up to reality, to the consequences of their actions, of straying from their own noble ideals. Even the Guardian, the Guardian! Today it published this:

If the Guardian are finally acknowledging what everyone else has been saying forever, if even they can get their head out of the ideological sand and remember The Working Class - if they understand Trump finally - that means they know what trouble the Left is in. The Left has lost the moral high ground.
So you could say I’m a Liberal. Like Sargon of Akkad and others wanting to bring the Left back to the centre. I want the Left to re-engage in the good fight for the underclass, for Liberty and all that.
Honestly, the people I identify with most are Catholics. Because they are the ones taking on the big issues and whether you agree or not, you have to admire their principles and courage. I’m a Catholic Liberal. But it’s ok, I have no character to assassinate and no career to sabotage, so I can afford to say things like that. Because that’s the world we live in.

Here’s Sargon talking about that world and The Skeptic community:

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

My wife was an early detractor. Three years ago when I finished the novel, which she’d been tirelessly editing, she pretty much dismissed it. It was the character development, which I agree with.

But now, after many books have gone under the bridge on her side and she’s become a competent translator and editor in her own right - now she is my biggest fan. Perhaps it’s just a book you need to read twice. It should be twice as long, but at the time I was severely ‘autistic’; I did the best I could. And still now I would struggle to do much better. I envy writers whose first novel is perfect. But in my case I have drawn uncommon wisdom from the startup field.

Here are two useful quotes::

“Fail early, and fail often”
“If your first draft doesn’t embarrass you, you’ve launched too late.”

I won’t be forgiven for being a Moderate, but I might be forgiven for being an amateur.

5- What does your Twitter handle 0rWouldUrather mean or where did it come from?

I wish I knew. I think it comes from a song that a guy in my high school physics class made up, it’s a parody of something:

“...or would you rather be a fish?
A fish is an animal
With big fuzzy feet
It eats pineapples
With it’s beak..


So if you can’t tell
A big pond
From a dish
You could
Turn out
To be a fish.”

Genius. By the way, I don’t know if it was ‘big pond’ or ‘Bigpond’ which is a broadband provider in Australia.
(*Interviewer Note: I solved some of this mystery for Ash.)

6- What most helped you to improve your writing craft?#

I think it still needs improving. But starting to overcome autism is the one thing I can say helped. Which means putting your health first.
There was a study of entrepreneurs (I can’t remember the citation) that showed the most important element of success was personal health, putting that first. Every entrepreneur has some crazy, eccentric health routine they swear by. And they’re all different.

7- Does #RRBC stand for (https://twitter.com/rave_reviewsbc) Rave Reviews Book Club? If so, where do you review your books at?

Your research is correct, it’s Rave Reviews. I’ve joined as an author and so far I have been very slack with Goodreads. Or rather so overwhelmed with Twitter and everything else involved in launching that I haven’t really developed a routine with Goodreads yet. I’m also having trouble with the site, so I need to get on that.
I’ve done a few reviews on Amazon and I’m thinking of perhaps doing a few more. I’m not a great reader so I’m not really the best person for the job, though as a writer I understand the tremendous demand.
If I did review regularly, I’d like to focus on stuff like ‘The Leshy’ by NC Stow. You can read my review here.

And poetry and perhaps well-written essays. Basically the stuff no-one else wants to read. Rather like my book.

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

The nearest thing that comes to mind is Poe's Law. Perhaps there’s a better category for things that I can’t tell whether they are a parody or the real thing.

When I started The Jealous Flock I used to be a bit like that. I was never a progressive, because for one I’m not American so the term means nothing to me, but also I’m not a joiner or a populist. I’d heard of people ‘fighting racism’ online and I’d heard of ‘elevatorgate’ and I took them at their word. I assumed it was true.
I think the first facadal fissure began to occur when I saw an interview with one of these anti-racist crusaders (self described) on SBS, which I used to watch a lot. The thing that caught my attention was a picture of Gene Wilder, the American actor in his Charlie and the Chocolate Factory garb. It’s one of my favourite films, so I was interested right away. I didn’t know what memes were at the time, and I didn’t care about Facebook, but I couldn’t quite make the connections between racism and Gene Wilder. Nor Willy Wonka for that matter. Perhaps the Oompa Loompas were typecast and that was the issue. I couldn’t figure it out.
I think the camera actually showed a glimpse of one of the memes, and it was Willy Wonka saying something like, ‘So tell me again how white people are all racist.’ And I thought, that’s funny. That’s really quite funny. And perhaps a year or two passed, and somehow I discovered Sargon and the sceptics. It wasn’t long before I was introduced to memes. And there he was, Willy Wonka saying some really funny shit. All over the internet. It was about as un-racist as one can get.

Anyway, back to your question. I basically took home the grand prize. I don’t know how Bingo works, but I definitely won. Plus I added a whole new chart, so I won next week as well.

I am a fan of diversity, but not systemic conspiracy theories. For as one progressive (I believe he’s called Aids Skrillex by the cool kids) put it : "You’re *^cking a white male." And if you know someone in the West at least who’s more underprivileged than me, I will relinquish my bingo takings. Both weeks. I’m that confident.

9- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

I don’t know. Is this a writing school question? I never went to writing school, but it sounds like a formula. I don’t use those. Or genres. Those people sound mental. I’m mental, so I know the signs.

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

I read as little as possible. Especially these days. The book industry is crap, it just churns out things designed to piss me off on purpose, I’m sure of it.
But also I have too many impediments to reading. It’s just too painful. The amount that I have to do in writing and using the internet is way beyond my pain threshold. Adding reading for pleasure is just impossible.

11- How will you measure your publishing performance?

A good question and one I can’t rightly answer. I think the quality of the conversations I have with readers is my honest answer. I’d quite like to make back some of the money I spent on marketing so I feel like less of an idiot, but there’s no guarantee of that. So far it’s not looking good. I’m told if you switch to romance you can clean up in a month, no promotion whatsoever. The demand is off the chart. It’s a woman’s world.

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

Desperation and obscurity. No one wanted me. And I wanted this to be the one project I saw through to the end, give it the best chance of life. So ‘self-published’. Which is the industry equivalent of leaving my book on the nature strip and hoping the right person will find it.

13- What is one question (or discussion topic) which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

I honestly don’t know. But as long as it’s well-thought out they can say what they want. I’m more interested in free thought than free speech. There’s a reason tourrettes is considered an illness.

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

No, I think I’ve just about ruined my chances with your audience, but if they want a proper fight they can try to get me banned from Twitter, I hear that’s all the rage these days:

You’d be doing me a favour. I hate Twitter, but I endure it because I’m really trying to make a go of this book. I really would like to eventually talk to people about it, about things that matter. I’m thinking of eventually starting a Youtube/Minds/Facebook video thing where I try to bridge the gap, the gulf rather, between the progressive mindset, actual liberals and other moderates.

The Jealous Flock: A Literary Epic in Miniature

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tracking your writing time

I really enjoy Randy Ingermanson's Advanced Fiction Writing Newsletter, and I've been hanging on to this article in particular to share with you all. As someone who ekes out writing time on a very non-regular schedule, this article was a bit of a wakeup call for me. I hope you'll find it useful.
Imagine that your agent calls you out of the blue one day. An editor needs a book written to fill a slot in her publishing schedule. The first draft needs to be done in five months and revisions within the following three. The editor called your agent and asked if he had any clients who could meet the need. Your agent suggested you, and the editor would love to work with you if you’re willing to take the project on short notice.

Now the ball is in your court. Are you interested? Do you have the skills to write the book? Most importantly, do you have the time? The editor has made it clear that the deadline has no slack. Either you can meet the deadline or you can’t. Your agent needs to give the editor an answer tomorrow. What do you say?

You might imagine this never happens.

It happens all the time, somewhere in the publishing world. It happens once in a while to just about every professional author. 

And professional authors know how to answer the question intelligently.

Really, there are only two possible answers:
1) “Yes, I have the time. The project will take me 80 hours to write and 50 to polish, and I have that much time in my schedule on a five-month deadline. Then revisions will take another 75 hours, and I have that in my schedule over the following three months.”

2) “No, I don’t have the time. The project will take me 80 hours to write and 50 to polish, and I don’t have that much time in my schedule on a five-month deadline. Not even close. Sorry, I can’t take this project, but thanks for thinking of me. Period.”

Either of these answers is acceptable to the editor. What’s not acceptable is door number 3:
3) “I don’t know, probably. I’m busy right now, but it sounds like a great project, so I’ll just make the time. I don’t know where I’ll find it, but I will.”

Why is that not acceptable? Because it’s nothing but smoke. Editors get smoke all the time from amateur authors. Amateur authors who miss deadlines are the reason that slots open up in publishing schedules, forcing editors to scramble. An editor expects better from a professional. 

The reason professional authors can answer this question is because they track their time. 
Maybe they use a spreadsheet.
Maybe they use some sort of time-tracking software.

Whatever. A professional author can look at her records and figure out how many hours she needs to produce a piece of work, based on past experience. She can look at her calendar and figure out how many hours she has available over the next several months. She can do the subtraction and come up with an answer—a yes or a no. She can do it quickly, without guessing.

And of course, she might still be wrong. She could break her leg next month and wind up short on hours. If that happens, every editor will understand. What an editor won’t “understand” is that an author said yes on an impossible project without having a clue that she couldn't meet the deadline.
Some professional authors are fast and some are slow. That’s fine. 
Some professional authors have a lot of time for writing and some have a little. That’s fine. 

But every professional author knows if she is fast or slow, and she knows how much time she has for writing. Not knowing is not fine. Blowing smoke to get a contract is not fine.


  1. How much time did you spend writing last month?
  2. How much time did you spend writing so far this year?
  3. Are those numbers about what you had planned? (Say within 20%.)
  4. How many hours did it take you to write your last project?
If you can’t answer the above questions accurately within five minutes, then you need to start tracking your time. There are any number of tools you can use to do that. 

If you Google the phrase “time tracking software,” you’ll find enough options to keep you up late into the night comparing all your choices. Because every author has different needs, there is no way for me to make a recommendation that would be meaningful to you, but the tool I use comes up on the first page of the Google search results. 

This article is reprinted by permission of the author.

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 15,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.