Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Using Power Words

As I was formatting the last round of Pass Or Pages posts, one comment in particular caught my eye. Agent Tricia Skinner noted on one of our entries that writers weren't ending their sentences with "power words." To see the example, check out this entry, comment TS2. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Well, as I was working on that post, I was mulling this idea over and over in my head. How could I use power words to my advantage?

Then I finished the post, and moved over to Scrivener to work on my WIP. As I was reading over the work I'd done the previous night, I realized that there was a perfect example (of what not to do!) right in my own writing! And because of Tricia's advice, I was able to fix the sentence to end on the power word. This is a great example, by the way, of how Pass Or Pages can help writers whether they write in the the featured category/genre or not. Let me show you how it helped me:

In my WIP, the main character hunts ghosts with her two friends. This brings her into the path of a boy she used to be best friends with, and the more she hunts ghosts, the more she sees him. Her friends encourage her to talk to him, so she finally works up the courage to send him a message. The night before this little scene, the MC and her friends tried contacting a ghost through a Ouija board, and the ghost laughed at them (in a scary way, not a cute way). That's all you need to know to understand this sentence:

I'm trying to emphasize that even though she hunts ghosts, talking to a boy she likes is way scarier for this character. This sentence ends with the qualifier "the night before." Is when the ghost laughed at her the important part? No, of course not. So I tweaked this sentence to end on the word that gives the sentence the most power:

It's such a little thing, but it makes a big difference. Using power words correctly to help your individual sentences have greater impact is definitely an advanced writing craft tool, but you can learn it and use it to your advantage. It just takes practice.

Do you have any examples of how you've edited to use a power word? I'd love to see them in the comments!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

THE WRITERS' BLOCK: Exercises for Overcoming a Creative Slump (#3: Favorite Scenes)

In this new series, Operation Awesome is providing exercises to help you break out of writer's block, or a creative slump. Too often, we get stuck with writer's block because we believe when the words don't flow organically, or when the sentences don't come out perfectly structured, or when the plot has holes, we've failed. Usually, it just means you're having an off day, and forcing yourself to write on these days can perpetuate the feeling of being stuck. It can really help to take a day off from writing, but that doesn't mean taking a day off from working on your book. These exercises will help you work on your book when you're not actually writing.

So, none of our exercises involve narrative writing, per se. Instead, they require you to think, daydream, talk to your characters, and CREATE. You can jot down notes as you go, or you can record yourself talking through the exercises, or you can keep everything in your head.

For Exercise #3, we're going to focus on FAVORITE SCENES. You know how there are certain scenes in books and movies that you read/watch over and over? They're so beautifully portrayed, or tons of fun, or they evoke an emotional response, or all of the above. Creating great scenes that keep readers turning the pages is a big part of writing, one that can take years to perfect.

But The Writers' Block isn't about craft - it's about brainstorming. So take paper and a pen, or your computer, set a timer for 20-30 minutes, and brainstorm at least ten scenes you want to see in your book. You can use a basic outline you might already have for your novel, or you can start from scratch. The main rule for this exercise is to brainstorm big, colorful, significant scenes. Nothing is off-limits here... do you want to send your main character to the circus? Into outer space, even though it's a contemporary romance? Do you want a scene where your characters get locked in a mall? Go crazy, knowing that all these scenes might not make it into the book.

Once you have your list of scenes, and you've eliminated the ones that you might write for fun, but might not end up in your book, put them in the order that makes the most sense. That might be chronological, or if you're planning a non-linear narrative, it might be the order that makes the most sense for character development.

Then, start thinking about how to flesh out the details between the ordered scenes. You'll likely need some transitions, some additional scenes, and to explore how your characters are getting from Point A to Point B.

Then, when you're ready, pick a scene, either starting from the beginning or choosing the one that seems the most fun, and start writing! The scene list is a great way to structure a brand-new story idea, but it can also help kick-start a project that has stalled.

Did you enjoy creating a scene list? What scenes did you add to your list from this brainstorming session that you might have never considered before?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Pass Or Pages September 2017 Entry Form

We are now accepting entries for Pass Or Pages! Before you enter, be sure to check out the rules. This month's round of Pass Or Pages is for Middle Grade Science-fiction and Fantasy novels. The entry window closes at 6pm Eastern time on Wednesday September 13th. Remember, with great power comes great responsibility!

Friday, September 8, 2017


I am not a fanfiction reader. For me, I'm content with the worlds the original author created, and don't have any interest in reading another person's spin on it. But there are lots of people who are passionate about fanfiction, and love that it allows them to stay in the story worlds that they adore, long after the final book has been published. And that it totally awesome!

What I have found that I like though, are books about the fanfiction community. I've only read two, but liked them both immensely:


I'm actually getting ready to read Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (sitting by my keyboard as I type this), which is based on a fanfiction story that Cath (the main character from Fangirl) wrote. I loved the snippets of Carry On that were shared in Fangirl, so I can't wait to dig into a novel inspired by fictional fanfiction. (okay, my brain is starting to hurt, lol!)

What are your opinions on fanfiction? Love it, dislike it, or write it?

Thursday, September 7, 2017

THE WRITERS' BLOCK: Exercises for Overcoming a Creative Slump (#2: Character Questionnaire)

In this new series, Operation Awesome is providing exercises to help you break out of writer's block, or a creative slump. Too often, we get stuck with writer's block because we believe when the words don't flow organically, or when the sentences don't come out perfectly structured, or when the plot has holes, we've failed. Usually, it just means you're having an off day, and forcing yourself to write on these days can perpetuate the feeling of being stuck. It can really help to take a day off from writing, but that doesn't mean taking a day off from working on your book. These exercises will help you work on your book when you're not actually writing.

So, none of our exercises involve narrative writing, per se. Instead, they require you to think, daydream, talk to your characters, and CREATE. You can jot down notes as you go, or you can record yourself talking through the exercises, or you can keep everything in your head.

For Exercise #2, we're going to focus on CHARACTERS. Specifically, getting to know your main character, the antagonist, the love interest, and any secondary characters you want, by using a Character Questionnaire. Examples of these questionnaires abound online, but you can keep this simple and see where your creativity goes with it. You won't use the bulk of the answers directly in your story itself, but knowing your characters well makes it easier to build fully-fleshed out people.

First, pick a character you want to get to know better. Use a notebook, think through the answers in your head, or talk to your character out loud (probably don't do the latter option in a public place). Ask your character the following questions, and see how much better you can get to know them!

1) Full name (including middle name, maiden name, aliases, etc.) Have you looked up the meaning of your character's name? This can also help inform personality traits.

2) Birthday. Have you looked up the astrological meaning of your character's birthday? This can also be an interesting way to add personality and life events.

3) Where has your character lived? One place? Many places? If many, why did they move? How did your character react to moving?

4) Family/upbringing: Two parents? One? None? Siblings? Other relatives that lived in the house when your character was a child? Pets? How did everyone get along? Were they rich/poor/in-between? Were the parents strict, easygoing, loving, neglectful?

5) School: What level of education did you character achieve? Were they an attentive student? Did they enjoy studying or hate it? What were their favorite subjects? Extracurricular activities? Did they have a lot of friends or were they a loner? What significant events happened during your character's school years?

6) Friends: Who were your character's friends as a child? Are they still friends? If not, why not?

7) Love interests: Did you character have relationships as a teenager? What happened to them? What is your character's current relationship status? Ever been divorced? Ever had their heart broken? Ever broken someone else's heart?

8) Travel: Did your character get to go to many different places? If so, why (business trips, vacations, moving, etc.)? If not, why not (money, etc.)?

9) Careers: What kinds of work has your character done? Are they lucrative? Did they enjoy them? Are they respected at their job? Did anything significant happen at these jobs?

10) Fears: What does your character most fear? Have they told anyone? What does this fear stem from? Does the fear impact how they live their life?

11) Hopes: What does your character want out of life? Have they told anyone? What are they doing to accomplish these things?

12) Physical appearance: What does your character look like? Hair color, eye color, skin tone, height, build, and also things like notable scars, tattoos, piercings, etc. Are they athletic? Clumsy? Graceful? Do you picture a celebrity or someone you know when you picture your character?

13) Voice: What does your character sound like? Do they have any notable auditory characteristics, like a barking laugh or a beautiful singing voice?

14) Social: Is your character an introvert, and extravert, or somewhere in between? How do they react in social situations? Would they rather go to parties or read at home?

15) Children: Does your character have children? Want children? Hate children?

16) Hobbies: What does your character like to do when not working?

17) Food and Drink: What are your character's favorite foods and drinks? Least favorite? Are there any memories attached to these preferences?

18) Music, movies, TV shows: What are your character's preferences for entertainment?

That's enough to start with. Have fun interviewing your character and try to apply what you've learned about them to their story!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Meet Nick Wilford in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Black & White: Book One of the Black & White Trilogy

1- What's your favorite bit of random trivia right now?

I really like the idea of “witch bottles”, which were featured in Sean McLachlan’s story in the recent IWSG anthology. An old bit of European folklore, they were ceramic bottles with the face of an old, bearded man carved into them that were said to capture witches’ spirits. I’d never heard of them before and was fascinated.

Cool fact! My favorite bit of random trivia is knowing that TODAY is National Read a Book Day!
And Friday is International Literacy Day.

Celebrare #ReadaBookDay and #LiteracyDay #ILD with Operation Awesome! Share this image to remind everyone.

2- What five words represent your most notable characteristic or values? #In5Words

Loyal, patient, hardworking, creative, kind

3- Have you ever used the thesaurus to find a "smaller version" of a "big" word?

I can’t remember doing this, but I should try it. I have a tendency to use needlessly elaborate words if left unchecked!

4- What's your favorite part of the #atozchallenge for bloggers?

Definitely getting to know a whole host of new and wonderful bloggers and learning about all sorts of things that I knew nothing about, as well as hopefully making long-term connections.

5- What ignited your passion for writing?

I dabbled in writing at school, penning short plays and sketches for the drama club, and joined a journalism group at college (16-18), but it wasn’t until I travelled round the world at 21 while keeping a journal that I decided to be a writer. That’s when my eyes were opened to all the stories and characters that are out there.

6- You joined the IWSG in May 2014. How has that impacted your writing and helped you as an author?

It’s impacted my writing immeasurably. Offloading problems and issues to do with my writing is not something I want to be doing all the time, so it’s a great to have a space that’s dedicated to that. The comments always pep me up and I’ve put the advice received into action many a time.

7- What's your favorite invention from the past two years?

That’s a tough one. I’m a bit of a Luddite and not too up on modern technology!

8- Would you share a picture with us of your dogs?
Meet Nick Wilford and his dogs in this Debut Author Spotlight

With five of them, you can imagine it’s hard to get them all in one place for a photo, so how about a nice collage? As you can see, they like to snuggle. L-R: Pippa, Rudi, Tobi, Charlie, Benji (that’s also the order we got them).

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

Short-term – finish writing, editing and publishing my trilogy.

Long-term – work on some of the other ideas I’ve had piling up. This series has occupied a great deal of my attention over the past five years, and while it’s a lot of fun spending time in that world, I’m ready to tackle my next big project! Eventually, I’d love to go back to my roots and have a go at some form of screenwriting, whether that would be a movie or a serial. A lot of research required, but I’d enjoy it.

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

I’d have to say my biggest fan is Kyra Lennon, an awesome author who I first met in the A-Z Challenge back in April 2012. She’s critiqued nearly everything I’ve written and of my current series, she says: “I found myself drawn in every time I picked it up. The characterisation is exceptional - very strong characters with distinct voices.” Thanks, mate!

11- Would you please tell us more about your campaign to get a dedicated specialist college built in Scotland?

That campaign was started to help my stepson Andrew, who had cerebral palsy. He was leaving school and there just wasn’t a higher education facility in Scotland that could give him the dedicated, one-on-one attention he needed to thrive, as well as the specialist equipment required. If we hadn’t fought for him, he would have attended a mainstream college where he would have just been on the fringes of the system and actually doing things that were going backward in terms of his development – the most exciting thing they offered was making collages. Andrew had secured a place at a fantastic specialist college in the north-east of England, with state-of-the-art equipment, where he was set to study film editing.

Unfortunately, he passed away in November 2013, before he had a chance to start. It took the wind out of our sails and our focus shifted, but we always advocate for those with disabilities whenever we get a chance.

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 my book will inspire a feeling of empathy. My world is “the haves and the have-nots” taken to the extreme, and when the two young protagonists visit the society of the “have-nots” they see things that are the complete opposite of everything they’ve experienced. I also hope the reader will root for them to make things right.

13- Will you try your hand at song writing in the future?

Never say never. The lyrics were pretty much the worst kind of teenage poetry. I would probably do something with much more of a narrative now!

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

I have to say, soaking up the amazing amount of knowledge from all the other writers I’ve met. Before I started blogging, the number of writers I knew was zero. It’s a game-changer, for sure!

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

That’s a pretty neat thing. Now I want to read more books that cover these categories.
I’m kind of sorely lacking, but I do have an immigrant or refugee MC!

16- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

My character Ezmerelda is very level-headed and sensible, but given to bursts of emotion when it comes to something she feels strongly about.

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

It’s not the cover – I’m not a massively visual person, although of course it’s good to have something nice to look at. A blurb that offers something new that I haven’t seen before will invariably hook me in.

18- What do you think is the most underrated book of all time?

A few years ago, my family were in a project where we received ARCs of books aimed at school-age children. The best one was Mavis’s Shoe by Sue Reid Sexton, set in the Clydebank Blitz in Glasgow in 1941. Told from the perspective of a girl who survives the bombing and then finds a shoe belonging to her younger sister, the rest of the book consists of her never-ending efforts to find her. Never less than engaging, the narration is spot on, and it’s a human story that I can’t imagine anyone not being able to relate to. But only three Amazon reviews! Many more need to read this.

19- How will you measure your publishing performance?

Of course I’d like to reach a lot of readers, but I don’t measure success in terms of numbers. You have no way of knowing when someone might get round to reading your book after buying it. If a review tells me that I’ve made a positive impression on at least one other person, or made them think differently, I’ve done my job.

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

I’ve been self-published so far but I’m considering targeting small presses in future. Having total creative control and being able to publish pretty much anything, in any shape or format, is pretty sweet.
Unless Lorax EcoWarrior

21- UNLESS -- Could you give us one eco-warrior tip?

A pretty simple one, but not taking the car for short trips. Too many people do this in my town, driving to the shops or to take their kids to school even though these places are five minutes’ walk away. If billions of people followed this tip, it would make a massive difference.

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

Imagine you had a hidden talent you were yet to discover. Ideally, what would that talent be, and what would you do with it?

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

Black & White

Meet Nick Wilford, author of Black & White, in this Debut Author Spotlight

What is the price paid for the creation of a perfect society?

In Whitopolis, a gleamingly white city of the future where illness has been eradicated, shock waves run through the populace when a bedraggled, dirt-stricken boy materialises in the main street. Led by government propaganda, most citizens shun him as a demon, except for Wellesbury Noon – a high school student the same age as the boy.

Upon befriending the boy, Wellesbury feels a connection that he can’t explain – as well as discovering that his new friend comes from a land that is stricken by disease and only has two weeks to live. Why do he and a girl named Ezmerelda Dontible appear to be the only ones who want to help?

As they dig deeper, everything they know is turned on its head – and a race to save one boy becomes a struggle to redeem humanity.


Meet Nick Wilford in this Debut Author Spotlight

Nick Wilford is a writer and stay-at-home dad. Once a journalist, he now makes use of those early morning times when the house is quiet to explore the realms of fiction, with a little freelance editing and formatting thrown in. When not working he can usually be found spending time with his family or cleaning something.



Amazon USA Black & White
Amazon UK

Black & White: Book One of the Black & White Trilogy

Tuesday, September 5, 2017


Today is an exciting day! My CP, Laura Heffernan, has a new book out! It's the second book in her Reality Star series, and you should DEFINITELY read it!


Jen Reid's life after walking off a reality show has been great--she's gone from being a broke twenty-four-year-old Seattleite with no love life and no job to the twenty-five-year-old who got the guy, moved to Miami, and is starting a bakery with her best friend. She thinks her showmance love might be about to propose. And with mouthwatering goodies based on everyone's favorite shows, her business, Sweet Reality, is destined for success.

That is, until a killer competitor opens right across the street. If she's going to save Sweet Reality, Jen has to come up with a secret ingredient--like the recipe that won Totally 80s Bake-Off. Jen can get it--if she steps back into the spotlight. Soon she and her boyfriend are out to sea on a cruise ship full of reality stars, including her nemesis, Ariana; her lying, cheating ex; and some wicked producers looking to bring the drama. Separate cabins, "surprises" from her past, and scenarios tailor-made to spark fights are just the beginning. But with her self-respect, her business, and her future on the line, the fallout from this made-for-TV plotline will be all too real . . .

SWEET REALITY got a 4-star review from RT Book Reviews!

Enter the giveaway for a $20 Amazon Giftcard (which you should totally use to buy Laura's book!)

Buy Sweet Reality on Amazon by clicking here!

About the Author

Laura Heffernan is living proof that watching too much TV can pay off. When not watching total strangers get married, 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.

Connect with Laura

Newsletter Sign Up: http://bit.ly/2tXagfL

Facebook Author Page: http://bit.ly/2s3Cq7J

Goodreads Author Page: http://bit.ly/2sySwcP

Twitter: http://bit.ly/2tCbFsT

Instagram: http://bit.ly/2wEDilT

Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/2sJNQz8

BookBub Author Page: http://bit.ly/2umbMwF

Monday, September 4, 2017

September 2017 Pass Or Pages Agent Panel

Meet the agents who will critique your Middle Grade Science-fiction and Fantasy entries!

Emily S. Keyes joined Fuse Literary in 2013 after working as an agent at the L. Perkins Agency for 2 years. Before entering the world of agenting, she worked in the contracts department of Simon & Schuster, Inc and graduated from New York University’s Center for Publishing. She uses her knowledge of contracts, copyright and the publishing business to benefit her clients and the Fuse team.

Emily is a particular lover of all types of young adult and middle grade books. She wants to represent the kind of stories that will resonate with kids for the rest of their lives. She loves strong voices and unique characters, not knock-offs or trend chasers. Some of her favorite authors include Deb Caletti, Laurie Halse Anderson, Gary D. Schmidt, and Megan Whalen Turner. She thinks books are best when they make you laugh but have a lot of heart.

Emily is currently closed to queries, but is open to requesting work from Pass Or Pages entries that catch her eye!

Meg LaTorre-Snyder likes to think of herself as an avid book nerd with an exceptional taste for mac and cheese. She is an editor, writer, as well as a literary agent apprentice at the Corvisiero Literary Agency.

Currently, Meg is open to unsolicited submissions in the following age groups and genres: YA/NA/A fantasy, historical fiction, romance (with magical elements), space opera, steam punk, and thrillers (with magical elements).

Please be aware: For now, Meg will limit the MG manuscripts she considers for representation to those pitched to her at conferences or through Twitter/blog contests. (To view upcoming conferences Meg will be attending/taking pitches at, click here.)

To learn more about Meg, visit her bio on CLA's website:

Before joining the L. Perkins Agency, Ben worked all over the publishing industry. He started out at a small publishing company in Salt Lake City and proceeded to do internships at three literary agencies before his most recent position as the assistant at JABberwocky Literary Agency. He decided he wanted to be an agent after his first internship, and is excited to start actively pursing clients.

His tastes gravitate towards middle grade fiction of all types, and is particularly on the lookout for exceptional author-illustrators who write middle grade or young adult. He has a penchant for young adult science fiction and fantasy, particularly weird or slightly dark stories (à la The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater). Thanks to his time at JABberwocky, he loves epic fantasy and science fiction, and although his focus is on middle grade and young adult, he won't say no to a great fantasy or sci-fi. He is also interested in pop culture non-fiction for authors with established platforms.

Details for September 2017 Pass or Pages:

Entry starts: Monday, September 11th, 2017, at 6 a.m. Eastern
Ends: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017 at 6 p.m. Eastern
Category/Genre: Middle Grade Sci-fi/Fantasy
How To Enter: Fill out the entry form on the contest post when it goes live.
What Is Required: Your query (NO BIO or personalization for agents), your first 250 words, a complete and polished MS.

You can also read more about the rules here.

The winning entries with agent commentary will be posted on Operation Awesome the week of September 25th, one entry each day. If you aren't comfortable with having your entry (which will be anonymous) shared on the blog, please don't enter Pass or Pages!

If you have any questions, please ask in the comments or tweet @OpAwesome6. Also, feel free to chat about the contest with fellow participants on the hashtag #PassOrPages.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Flash Fiction Contest #35

In honor of Labor Day in the US (can I hear a woot-woot for a 3 day weekend?!), write 50 words describing someone working. Any type of jobs apply: office work, manual labor, etc. Deadline is Sunday 09/03 at noon, with the winner announced later that evening. Rules can be found here.