Friday, December 28, 2018

Flash Fiction Friday #42

This Flash Fiction Friday, we'll be doing things a little differently...

Just because the holidays are over doesn't mean you're safe. Whether you've been naughty or nice this year, you have something to fear. This Flash Fiction Friday's prompt is Krampus, and all of its demonic holiday terror. The word count for this one is a lot more broad, because who am I to stifle your creativity if you want to turn this into a terrifying one-off scene or an entire short story? The deadline is also at a later time too, in case of some of you being night owls who can only write horror during the witching hour.

Winner will be announced on January 1st at 12:00 am so that it'll be a nice New Year's surprise.

Happy Writing! It may be your last...

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Dear O'Abby: I Don't Know What Genre My Book Is

Dear O'Abby,

I'm getting conflicting advice about what genre I should say my book is, and as I get close to querying, it's beginning to stress me out because I need to start thinking about which agents to target.  I thought I'd written a supernatural horror, but several of my readers tell me they think it's a thriller, an urban fantasy or even magic realism.

How do I know which it is?



Dear Jittery,

At the end of the day, you're the one who knows your book best and if you believe it's supernatural horror, then it probably is.  Maybe it has thriller and fantasy elements, but is still primarily a horror story.

That's okay.  Most books aren't 100% one genre or another.  The key is to identify its primary genre and call it that.  A good way to do this is to go to a bookstore and look at where books similar to yours sit on the shelf.  If they are mainly in the fantasy or thriller section, then maybe your readers are correct.  If they're in the horror section, then you are on the right track and you should query the book as a horror.

That said, if the thriller elements are a big part of the plot, you could also query agents who specialize in thrillers too, by just tweaking your query a little.  What is really important is that you pick one genre.  Nothing screams unprofessional noob more than someone querying a novel that's a YA historical suspense thriller mystery.

Good luck with the querying.  Do let us know how you get on.

X O'Abby

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

'Twas the Night before Deadline

‘Twas the night before deadline, and deep in the den
The keyboard was clacking – that and a pen.
The writer typed frantically, fueled by caffeine
To revise those not-quite-right words on the screen.

The weeks had flown by in a revision haze
Just like the minutes, the hours, and the days.
Now the clock was a-ticking, and midnight drew near,
And she prayed for a miracle fix to appear.

She slumped in her chair with her hands on her head.
“I’ll not finish in time – this revision, it’s dead!
My CPs and betas all loved the first draft –
Perhaps I should go back,” she tiredly laughed.

But then from the speakers arose a light bing
And the writer, she paused – what did that sound bring?
A text or a tweet or a DM from Slack?
An email, an IM – or did she just crack?

She browsed through her tabs for the source of the sound
And there, in her email, the origin was found!
A chat box from one of her good writer friends
Had popped up with words he always knew when to send:

“Hey buddy, I know you’ve got deadline tonight.
I know you can do it! I know you will fight
For the words and the plot and the characters too,
And send it all off – then have a cookie or two.”

He signed it with a thumbs-up, and that little hand
Gave the writer the boost to revise as she’d planned!
Her fingers, they flew from the keyboard to mouse,
Typing, deleting, and then through the house

Rang a great shout of joy as she typed the last word,
Saved it, uploaded, and the file transferred.
“I’ve finished! I’ve finished!” she cheered in the night,
Her face all aglow from the screen’s bluish light.

She grinned to herself as with satisfied tread,
Her work backed up twice, she went up to bed
The writer at last slept with nary a fret,
The deadline defeated with her best work yet.

Friday, December 21, 2018


It's that time again, everybody! Enter here for a chance to win a query critique by yours truly! Here's how to participate:

1. Comment on this post and at least one other post from this week by *SUNDAY 12/23 at 12 pm*.

2. Leave your email address in the comment or have it available on your Blogger profile. (Or else I can't find you!)

The winner will be announced in the comment section of this post on Sunday.

See this post for additional rules. Good luck!


Thursday, December 20, 2018

Dear O'Abby: Why does information about word count vary so much online?

Dear O'Abby,

I was recently trying to find out what an acceptable word count might be for a middle grade novel.  I consulted the great Google, and on the first page found three completely contradictory answers to that question.

Why is something like word count, that should be pretty standard across the industry, just... not?



Dear Google-plexed,

I agree, word count is something that should be standardized. And it largely is within the publishing industry, but this is the internet and everyone has an opinion they want to share, regardless of whether it's right or wrong.  Or up-to-date.  And word count of books change as people's reading habits change.

Partly, I think the discrepancies online are historical. The more pages a book has, the more expensive it is to print and bind.  And to ship. Have you ever noticed that books tend to get longer the further you get into a series?  That's what happens for successful authors; they get more words to play with because the publisher already knows there is an audience hungry for the next title by that author.

But this doesn't really apply when a large number of people are reading books digitally and there is no cost for printing, binding and shipping.

Which probably has a lot to do with the way word count seems to be changing.

I did some research and it appears that in the current climate, any book, regardless of age-level that is over 100,000 words starts making agents and publishers nervous.  A fantasy novel or historical that requires a lot of world building might be able to edge up to 120,000, but any higher than that and you might be looking at an insta-rejection.

Middle grade novels tend to range between 20,000 and 60,000 words, depending on subject matter and whether it's aimed at the upper or lower range of MG.

YA novels tend to range between 45,000 and 100,000 words, with most sitting around the 60,000 to 75,000 word mark.  As a YA author, I'm constantly trying to fight to get my own books to that level because while I tend to write really lean first drafts, my finished books almost always wind up being closer to 85,000 than 60,000.  The one I've been editing the past few weeks is just over 90,000.  Luckily I have a very supportive publisher...

Adult books tend to be between 60,000 and 120,000 with the majority hitting somewhere around the 85,000 to 100,000 mark.

Life seems to be getting busier all the time and there are more and more things competing for our attention.  It will be interesting to see if, as attention spans get shorter, publishers start looking for shorter books.  Certainly there has been an explosion in the popularity and availability of novellas in recent years, particularly in the romance genre, which, at around 20,000 to 40,000 words indicates people are buying and reading shorter fiction.

X O'Abby

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Dear O'Abby: I think this might be a scam....

Dear O'Abby,

I am a self-published author with a couple of books available and recently I received a very nice email from a publishing company saying they had really enjoyed my books and would like to professionally publish them.  They promised great distribution and increased sales through their excellent marketing team.

Now, my books haven't sold well.  Marketing isn't really my strong point, and getting my books noticed when there are so many other self-pubbed books out there seems to be nearly impossible.  I've spent money on ads and blog tours and spent far too much of my writing time chasing reviewers. So this offer is tempting.

It just feels off... Am I being paranoid, or is this a scam?



Dear Fearful,

I'm afraid to say, it's probably a scam.  Unfortunately, you probably won't be able to tell for sure until you see a contract from this organization.  But the way they are operating makes it sound like one of the growing number of predatory organizations that are preying on self-pubbed authors.

These 'publishers' promise high quality books, great distribution and guaranteed best-seller status on Amazon.  And on the surface, they look like legitimate publishers.

They're not.

Once you dive into their rabbit holes, they are a giant money-sucking machine that will not generate anything like what they have promised.  You will be faced with fees for your cover design, your edits and possibly even required to buy a certain, large number of your own books at a 'special' price.  And often the contract they offer won't make any of this obvious, obscuring exorbitant fees behind language like 'reasonable costs' and 'author contribution'.

It's important to do due diligence any time an offer comes in.  In every case the money should be coming to you as the author.  If a publisher asks you to pay for anything up-front, they are likely to be a self-publishing company masquerading as something else.  Publishers take a share of the sales of your book to cover their costs and it doesn't always pay off.  That's a risk they take.  These scam publishers ask authors to cover costs so it doesn't matter to them if the book never sells.

Before signing anything with any publisher, check them out.  Writer Beware has lists of scam publishers that grow weekly as well as a blog full of horror stories about them.  Preditors and Editors also offers red flags on publishers that may not be legit.  And the Absolute Write Water Cooler is another place to find out what kind of experience authors have had with given publishers, although you often have to wade through a lot of comments before you find something useful.

The takeaway here is to remember that old saying: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is...

X O'Abby

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

On Rejection

Like a lot of us here, I want to make writing a career. But because I’m at home 24/7 with so many other things calling out to me, I get distracted. So…I spend a lot of time playing video games. For a while, I was in a pretty bad rut – lights off, shades pulled, drinking beer and eating Belgian Doritos while slumping in an Ikea chair and hunting down bandits in some cave in Skyrim. But then I had this great idea: I should try to become a writer for video games!

Yeah. Yikes. Like I said, it was a low point.

I applied to my favorite game studio on a whim with a simple open application – “hey, if a job comes up, I’d like to be considered,” that kind of thing – and, amazingly, after a couple months I got a follow-up email asking me to do a writing test! So I did it, sent it in, and then heard nothing for another few weeks. Right at the point where I thought they weren’t going to contact me again, I did get a response, and they wanted to interview me! I couldn’t believe it. I thought things were finally turning around.

Narrator: Things were not finally turning around.

I didn’t get the job. It was a really tough rejection, because it felt more personal than getting a rejection email from an agent. With agents, most of those rejections are after reading five or ten pages, hardly anything. I could get over those because…well, they didn’t really know me or my writing. But with this, I’d spent a lot of time and effort getting to that point with the tests and the interview, and it felt more like I was being rejected and not my work, if that makes sense. It felt so much more personal, and that was crushing.

Getting over that rejection took more than a month. This year hasn’t been particularly easy – I feel like things have been going downhill since April – so it was just one more thing that firmly cemented 2018 in its place in the pits. One evening when I was crying in the bath, I realized that maybe being at home all the time was the problem. It was giving me the time and space to wallow, encouraging me with its cupboards full of bread and beer. (Yes, I have fully embraced Belgian life.) So I planned a trip for myself, just to get away. I had no real plan other than “not here.”

Weirdly, it worked, but not for the reason I thought it would. I stayed in this really sketchy AirBnB in Vienna, which focused all my energy on “Jeez, am I going to get murdered in my sleep tonight?” instead of “Man I wish I’d gotten that job.” I went to coffee shops and museums, doing anything I could to get out of that AirBnB. And somewhere in there, I found other things to think about. It dulled hat knife and helped me realize that I’d gotten through hundreds of other rejections from jobs and agents and schools, I could get past this too.

I’m still not really over this – I mean, it was basically my dream job, and now that opportunity is gone – but I’ve also been rejected from my dream school, my dream agent, and so many other lesser things along the way. And I’m still here. I'll make it work.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Dear O'Abby: I'm not sure where my book starts

Dear O'Abby,

I just finished NaNo (I won), and now I'm reading back over what I wrote in November's frenzy, and feel like more than half my words happen before the book really starts.  I'm not sure how that happened because I planned everything out really carefully before I started writing.  Is it just me being stupid?  Or did I accidentally write a prequel?


Not The Beginning

Dear Not The Beginning,

Firstly, congratulations on winning NaNo!  Whatever ends up happening with them, you wrote 50,000 words in 30 days and you should be proud of yourself.

As for your question, without reading your words, it's difficult for me to know if you're right, but my instinct is always that you should trust your intuition.  If you feel like the story actually starts more than halfway through what you've written, you're probably right.  I had exactly the same issue doing NaNo a couple of years back.  I realized when I hit the 28K mark, that the story really started at that point, not way back where I started it.

But all is not lost.  Some of that stuff you wrote at the start is likely to be able to be used somewhere later in the book.  In a flashback maybe, or single scenes may slot in elsewhere.

But even if you can't use any of it, those words helped you find the story and your characters' voices.  They brought you into the story and gave you backstory for the events that happen in the book.  Whatever you write from here on will be informed by those words you may never actually use.

And don't forget, those words helped you figure out where your story actually needs to begin.  A strong opening is crucial, and needs to be as close to the inciting incident as you can get without confusing the reader, or leaving them unsure who the protagonists are.

So don't feel like you wasted time in November.  You didn't.  Just keep writing until the end, knowing everything you now know about the people and the world you created.

X O'Abby

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

November Pass or Pages Update

Due to some unforeseen circumstances, we unfortunately have to cancel the November Pass or Pages. We'll be back in 2019, so keep an eye out for the first Pass or Pages of the new year!

For a recap of the rules and links to previous rounds, click here. Best of luck!

Friday, November 30, 2018


It's that time again, everybody! Enter here for a chance to win a query critique by yours truly! Here's how to participate:

1. Comment on this post and at least one other post from this week by *SUNDAY 12/2 at 12 pm*.

2. Leave your email address in the comment or have it available on your Blogger profile. (Or else I can't find you!)

The winner will be announced in the comment section of this post on Sunday.

See this post for additional rules. Good luck!


Thursday, November 29, 2018

Dear O'Abby - I've revised my book that's already been requested by agents

Dear O'Abby,

Do you know what to do if an agent has your full manuscript but then you revise the entire thing and want to send them a new one but it's been 3 months?



Dear Revised,

This is not as uncommon as you probably think.  Writers often revise their manuscripts during the querying process because it can take a very long time and feedback received during the process can lead to writers discovering the manuscript they thought was perfect when they sent it out, isn't quite as perfect as they thought.

Agents want to read your best work, so if you have significantly revised (not just corrected a few typos and changed a sentence or two around), find the email chain where they requested your full manuscript and reply to it with the new manuscript attached. The accompanying email should say something along the lines of:

"Dear Agent X,

Thank you once again for your request for the full manuscript of [Insert Awesome Novel Title].  Since this request, I have done a substantial revision on the manuscript and would prefer if you read this latest version.

Thanks so much,

Busy Author."

Querying can take a long time, and some agents get very behind on reading requested material so there is the possibility that you'll get more feedback that resonates and you'll want to revise again before this agent gets to your work.  If this happens, and the agent still has not responded, you can do the same thing again, but it is probably not the best way to give a great first impression.

Get your work thoroughly revised, beta-read and edited before you start querying.  Then use the time while you're waiting to hear back to write another book, or some short stories to submit to publications that might raise your author platform. Resist the urge to keep tinkering with the novel you've just sent out unless you get feedback you just can't dismiss.

XXX O'Abby

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Dear O'Abby - I got an offer from an agent, but it wasn't the one I wanted

Dear O'Abby,

I entered a Twitter pitch contest recently and got a few 'likes' from agents.  I sent off the requested material, and received rejections from most of the agents a couple of weeks later.  Then today, I got an email from a different agent at one of the agencies than the one I sent my material to.  A junior agent.

She loves the book and wants to schedule a call to talk about it.  What should I do?  I'm excited to have come this far, but I'm not sure I want to sign with this junior agent, or even why she's the one who has read my book when I sent it to a different agent.



Dear Uncertain,

It seems like you have a couple of different questions in there, so I'll try to answer them one at a time.

Firstly, junior agents in larger agencies often read the slush coming in.  Busy agents rely on interns and junior agents to read the slush and dig out the gems for them to read.  It sounds like your Tweet caught an agent's eye, and she asked her trusted junior agent to read the material.  And said junior agent loved it.

Maybe the other agent (let's call her senior agent) also read the manuscript and didn't love it as much, but saw that it has potential in the right, passionate hands.  Junior agents don't have a ton of clients already and are building their list of authors and contacts. They have more time for individual authors and projects. If senior agent believes the book is good enough, and may sell, she might have suggested junior agent takes it on and will then offer support and advice as junior agent goes through the process of trying to sell it.

Junior agents may not have the same number of sales as a more senior agent, but they often have more time to spend on individual projects than their more senior counterparts.  They are just beginning their careers and don't have a large number of authors competing for their time and attention.  If a junior agent has the support of an established agency or a single experienced agent, signing with them might be the best career move you can make.

XX O'Abby

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

November Pass or Pages Timeline Update

Due to some unforeseen circumstances, we have to make some adjustments to the November Pass or Pages schedule. Please find the updated timeline below!

Here are the important dates for this round:
November 27th: Agent panel announcement
December 3rd to 5th: Entry window (via a form here on our blog)
December 17th-21st: Feedback reveals!

For a recap of the rules and links to previous rounds, click here. Best of luck!

Monday, November 19, 2018

A Depressed Writer: I've Been Dropping the Ball

I've been meaning to write this post for ages — since the end of September, at least. Or that's when I first had it scheduled. I probably could have penciled it in even before then, though.

It just seems like I've been floundering everywhere lately. No matter how great my intentions and my desire to be healthy, whole, balanced, productive, happy, I seem to keep shirking at least one if not most of my promised duties.

There's just so much that I wish I could take on and commit to:

  • Work full-time so I can pay my bills, have a fulfilling career, make friends with a totally new set of people I never would have crossed paths with otherwise but whom I adore. 
  • Write all the time, jotting down ~1,500 words a day on whatever novel I'm drafting and still have time to pen the occasional essay, plus my weekly blog post here, as well as on my personal blog...and don't forget the poems!
  • Read allllll the books! The new ones that come out every week in YA, my preferred age category, as well as the occasional foray into Adult. But I also have so many friends who are writers, and I want to read their manuscripts! Oh, and don't even get me started on all the biographies, memoirs, history books, and celebrity humor books I want to devour...
  • Socialize literally every day of the week, either before or after work and for at least four hours a day on my "weekends." I'm an extrovert, so being around others energizes me, and it's the best way for me to process my life, but it's also one of the ways in which my mental health stays regulated. For some reason I need human contact to stay mentally healthy.
  • Sleep, like, eight or nine hours a night and wake up fully refreshed.
  • Watch TV and have other "down-time" to do fun stuff that's hobby-like...including, you know, finding a hobby for the first time in my 25 years. Guys, I don't have any quirky talents other than writing and being snarky. Which means the way I pass the time in my off hours is to keep working, and bite the heads off my friends. Not that I don't enjoy it, I just think maybe they don't, you know? 😂
  • Self-care! The basics plus whatever fun advanced stuff there is, like go for a manicure, get a haircut, go shopping...whatever!
That's my list. For the past few months I've consistently succeeded at not shirking one and only one of those bullet points: the job one.

Granted, it's a ridiculously important one! I'm never gonna be one to tell you not to prioritize your career, not just because it's a responsibility you've agreed to but also because of the aforementioned it's how you pay your bills and keep a roof over your head, clothes on your body, food in your belly. But there are seven items on that list! I'm doing one? Something's wrong here.

Again, I've been trying to write this post for almost two months. And somehow, two months later, I still don't know what I'm trying to say with it. 

Except I guess, here I am, confessing: I'm failing this. I'm overworked, overcommitted, under-energized, stressed out, harried. I haven't written in ages. I decided I would do NaNoWriMo this year, and here it is the 19th day of the month and not only have I not so much as announced my novel, I don't even have a freaking title for it!

Self-care? What's that! I shower sometimes. I drop my clothes off at the laundromat. That's about it.  
A manicure, a salon, shopping? Ha! When my clothes get worn through I order new ones online and hope they fit. 

I do watch too much TV, but that's just because I can't work and sleep all the time, and I'm too tired to read or write in the other hours. 

What I'm saying is: I've dropped the ball, hard. In fact, I've dropped it so hard, I honestly don't even know where it rolled off to. It's entirely possible I dropped it out of the subway on the bridge during a thunderstorm like a month and a half ago and it was swept away to the depths of the East River.

At the same time, I also managed to stay alive. And that's a shockingly big deal. During the same two months I've been thinking of writing this post about how I've failed, I missed an appointment with my doctor and started becoming truly depressed. Eventually I ran out of medication, which exacerbated the depression.

TRIGGER WARNING: discussion of mental illness and suicidal ideation/attempt to follow for the next two (2) paragraphs. Please skip to the *** if you will be triggered by that discussion!!

I reached the lowest point, of wishing I were dead. Of wandering around wondering how to become so. And then a few hours later...I saw someone try to die. In a manner I had often fantasized about acting upon, three years ago 
It horrified me, it sent my body into shock, but once I recovered from that (thanks in part to knowledge that the person was somehow physically safe), I was jolted into a renewed desire to take care of myself.
*** So here I am, a few feet above that rock-bottom, feeling lucky to be alive and realizing that, okay yeah, I did drop the ball, but I also survived. 

I believe I'm what's considered highly-functional depressive, which means that no matter how bad things get, I keep on trucking — until suddenly I don't. My depression doesn't disrupt my day-to-day very much, until it does in a big way, with, say, a hospitalization. People at my jobs often haven't even known I'm diagnosed unless I tell them or there's a crisis.

But it's a reality, and because I am high-functioning, anything that isn't strictly necessary for survival gets shunted to the side. As much as writing is part of my lifeblood, it doesn't quite pay my bills yet. So my novels, my essays, my blogs...they go to the back burner.

I hate that. 

At the same time: I refuse to beat myself up for this reality. I did not choose to be depressed. I did not walk into it, I did not do anything to bring this diagnosis upon myself. I'm 25, and I'm imperfect, but I'm doing my best.

Have I been dropping the ball? Yes.

Am I going to strive to pick it back up again, starting now? You bet.

This image is only relevant because it's of me (hiiiiii friends!!) but also it's of me in New York City and honestly? That has always and likely will always mean conquering to me: my fears, the struggles of not getting a job, and freaking high rent. 

Hey. Love you guys. If there are any areas where you feel like you're dropping the ball, I want you to know it's okay to show grace you yourself. Life is hard, and busy, and there's demands on our time. We're in this together. 

What's some advice you wish someone would give you, that you'd love to pass on to someone else? Share in the comments!

Oh, and if you are dealing with depression or another mental illness and wish to speak with someone, I urge you to reach out to a friend, local doctor, therapist, trusted family member, or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, which is available 24 hours a day in the US at 1-800-273-8255.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Operation Awesome #NaNoWriMo Update Post

NaNoWriMo Operation Awesome

Click for a Plot Camel
In my neck of the woods, we were slammed with a major snowstorm. It was far worse than originally predicted. People were trapped in their vehicles for hours.
And, apparently, so was a camel named Einstein. He was let out of his trailer, both for his own safety (in case someone would crash into the trailer), and so the truck could make it up the hill easier. The camel was on his way to a show the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia had at the Kimmel Center.
But these reasons weren't reported at first.
All people knew is they were stuck in traffic in Eastern Pennsylvania, and there was suddenly a camel out in the snow.
We don't have indigenous camels.
Camels generally make people think of sand, not snow.
It all sounds like a writer in the throes of NaNoWriMo including a random prompt and not caring that it makes no sense at all.
So, there you have it. If PA can have a camel on a highway in a snowstorm, you can have whatever absurd thing you've tossed in your novel in the quest for 50k words.

That's the link to the thread to thank the staff for all they do.

I'm at my half way point! How are you doing?
- J

Friday, November 16, 2018


It's that time again, everybody! Enter here for a chance to win a query critique by yours truly! Here's how to participate:

1. Comment on this post and at least one other post from this week by *SUNDAY 11/18 at 12 pm*.

2. Leave your email address in the comment or have it available on your Blogger profile. (Or else I can't find you!)

The winner will be announced in the comment section of this post on Sunday.

See this post for additional rules. Good luck!


Thursday, November 15, 2018

Dear O'Abby: I think I'm telling my story wrong.

Dear O'Abby,

I'm doing NaNo this year, and am doing really well.  Almost at the 25K point.  But I realized yesterday, that I'm telling the story from the wrong POV.  I started writing this story in first person, with two narrators each taking a chapter in turn.  But now I'm realizing the book would be better served by being written in close third person POV.  How should I proceed?  I feel like I'm making such great progress, but I know the way I'm telling the story is wrong.

Kind regards,


Dear Baffled,

You are not alone.  Figuring out you've picked the wrong way or character to tell your story is a very common writing problem.  And probably one of the most frustrating and painstaking to try and fix.

But you have the advantage of having figured it out early, before the whole book is finished.

The way I see it, you have two choices.  Keep going the way you are now and finish the book.  Changing the character voices and perspectives mid-stream might be too challenging when you're working to a tight deadline like NaNo.  You can go back afterward and change the POV when you edit if you feel the same way when you're finished.

Or, if you think you can switch without it being too difficult, start writing in third person and finish the book this way.  In this scenario you will have the advantage of having already found the characters' voices and rhythms in the new POV and rewriting the beginning will be easier.

Just don't stop writing while you figure out what to do.  NaNo is supposed to be a first draft, a vomit draft even.  You expect to do a lot of re-writing once you're finished, so this isn't the end of the world.   Do what you have to do to finish the book.  You can figure out what to do with the POVs later.

X O'Abby

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Rachael Sparks Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Resistant: A Novel by Rachael Sparks

1- What's the coolest part of the Asheville Museum of Science?

There’s a huge dinosaur in the center! I’m a sucker for him. Photo included.
Rachael Sparks Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book

2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?

Write. Revision is easier on actual words. Read other authors in your genre for research. Review harshly works you like — it teaches you what you don’t like.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

Mostly a love of reading. I knew I wrote well for small stuff but doubted I could finish a novel-sized project. Once I started, it was a tidal wave of ideas coming out that I'd filed in some secret cabinet in my head.

4- Did your degree in Microbiology help when writing Resistant?

Immensely. I will admit, though, I got that degree a wee bit ago, so I still had to research and confirm my education was current. Fortunately, that’s also part of my day job.

5- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?

@rubyjune34 and I’d love for you to shout out to @JCastleWrites @kristinkaye and @mindytarquini

6- Would you share a picture with us of your book in a medical setting (or surrounded by medical supplies perhaps)?

I don't have one yet but I am now so inspired!!
Here's a collage of Instagram pics from Bookstagrammers.
Rachael Sparks Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book ~ a collage of Instagram pics from Bookstagrammers

7- What's up with creepy, but awesome looking, cover logo of the spider-screw thing?

It’s a bacteriophage, a virus that hunts bacteria (yes it’s really a thing)! But you’ll have to read it to understand the cover ;)

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

Short term, I would like to intensively revise the new MS I’ve finished. I have some rules for it I want to achieve. Long term, I’d like to continue producing novels that people enjoy and make it a FT job!

9- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!

Author name: David Walton @davidwaltonfic
Title:The Genius Plague
Love because: Walton thought up a plausible plot device with fungi that invade brains . . . but he really made it magical in the way it manipulates people to its own devices. Great novel.

10- Where did you come up with the Twitter handle @RubyJune34?

34 is my favorite number. Ruby and June were my grandmothers. One taught me elegance and fashion, the other taught me grit and cooking. I joined Twitter when I lived in Austin and it was so new that nobody liked it — and I just took that handle and never used Twitter much again till 2016! It seemed more trouble to change it.

11- 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 excitement, anticipation, that romantic twist in your chest, and some HELL YEAH moments when things go right. I hope all the scenes resonate with readers!

12- Are there sexist tropes in most post-apocalyptic stories, in your opinion?

Bizarre to admit this - I’m not a reader of post-apocalyptic tales! Maybe there are, but . . . in a truly post-apocalyptic world, a uterus should be the most valuable possession anyone could desire. Themyscira’s matriarchal world order would be the smartest plan if you needed to repopulate the earth.

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

Critiques from other authors, and re-reading work I enjoyed but with a reviewer’s eye. I don’t post reviews online, just ratings, and only if they are good, but reviewing works from Bronte to Cussler to Crichton helped me see what I didn’t want to do.

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

One of the protagonists is scarred from a medical experiment, with swaths of dark blue skin crossing his face and entire body. And he’s the love interest!

15- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Army, a main character, is a POC natively from Trinidad, orphaned by the infections and then adopted by a soldier’s family.

16- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

Army, actually. He’s really funny but he’s also a soldier and very focused. He’s fun to write dialogue for, as I think he views the world through a unique slant.

17- Does your book hold a mirror up to society, and in what way?

Absolutely. It’s literally describing the world I see developing if we don’t stop abusing antibiotics, and it describes exactly how that world came about, through our own irresponsibility.

18- Can you think of any small change in the world you could make to benefit hundreds of other authors or readers potentially?

More books printed in Dyslexie font and available as an option to order alongside every book. As a kid, reading was my lightspeed train to the whole world, and it saddens me that many kids and adults avoid it because of reading disabilities.

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

Covers and synopses win my love. If a synopsis is compelling, won’t the whole book be? I’ve also learned to ignore rankings, even before I had any. One author I adore, whom I won’t tag here, got some shit reviews for a literary fiction novel that left me ugly crying on a plane.

20- Care to share a fun picture or two from your Oct 25 Book Launch Party at the Asheville Museum of Science?

A game we played at the launch party—who got the deadliest germ?!
Rachael Sparks Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First BookRachael Sparks Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First BookRachael Sparks Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First BookRachael Sparks Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book

21- How will you measure your publishing performance?

I’m for books sold, but I’ll settle for one happy fan that wants a sequel or more of my work!

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

I went with hybrid publishing after immersing myself into learning about all the different types, and deciding that I wanted to have more say and co-invest in myself...NOW.

23- What's the best book marketing strategy you've come across?

Bookstagramming rocks with its visual artistry evoking the book’s setting or the pleasure of reading. Contests—especially Rafflecopter-type ones whose prizes are the book plus a few cool, related items in exchange for a share+follow—often win me over because, seriously, I could always use a new [fill in the blank — who cares, it’s free AND new!].

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

What is your favorite pasta? Not limited to Italian. [links to] Photos are encouraged.

25- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?
Rachael Sparks was born in Waco, Texas, holds a degree in Microbiology, and has pursued a lifelong interest in infectious diseases and the science of human health. She loves to write, make pasta, eat pasta, think about pasta, and read.
"This is a chilling examination of a possible future, filled with lovable characters, excellent pacing, and sharp sociopolitical criticism." –Publisher's Weekly
Instagram rubyjune34

Resistant: A Novel by Rachael Sparks

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

November Pass or Pages Details

It's time to announce the category and genre of our next Pass Or Pages contest! In November, Pass Or Pages will focus on: 

Adult Horror

Please do not send us YA or MG entries; we can tell the difference.

Here are the important dates for this round:
November 20th: Agent panel announcement
November 26th-28th: Entry window (via a form here on our blog)
December 10th-14th: Feedback reveals!

For a recap of the rules and links to previous rounds, click here. Best of luck!

Friday, November 9, 2018


It's that time again, everybody! Enter here for a chance to win a query critique by yours truly! Here's how to participate:

1. Comment on this post and at least one other post from this week by *SUNDAY 11/11 at 12 pm*.

2. Leave your email address in the comment or have it available on your Blogger profile. (Or else I can't find you!)

The winner will be announced in the comment section of this post on Sunday.

See this post for additional rules. Good luck!


Thursday, November 8, 2018

Dear O'Abby: My body is conspiring against me winning NaNo. Help!

Dear O'Abby,

I signed up to do NaNo this year for the first time and a week in, I'm already struggling.  I did tons of prep beforehand and I know what I want to write, but I have a physical condition which makes it difficult to sit in one position very long, and it's hindering my ability to reach the necessary word count each day.  I already have anxiety issues, and not reaching my daily word count is making me even more anxious. And that's making it even harder to write. Do you have any advice?


Word Panic

Dear Word Panic,

I don't know exactly what your situation is, but you mention physical discomfort while sitting too long.  Is there a possibility you could stand?  I use a standing desk at work and that has immeasurably improved a long-standing struggle I had with arm, back and shoulder pain.  If you can't get yourself a standing desk, it's possible to raise your computer or desk using phone books, bricks, dictionaries and the like.  I also find the kitchen counters are a good height for standing and typing.

If that's not an option, maybe you could break your writing time down into small chunks so you can sit and write only as long as it's comfortable.  Then stop, do something else, and go back to the writing when you feel like you can sit again.  You will soon figure out how many words you can get through in each chunk so you'll be able to figure out how many writing sessions you will need to reach your word count each day, and how to schedule them around the rest of your life.

But even if you don't figure it out, at least you gave it a shot.  You got some words on a page. NaNo isn't for everyone.  Some people thrive on the pressure of having a daily goal to reach, but for others, it's added stress that isn't needed.  Especially while juggling everyday life as well.

If NaNo is making you anxious and you're feeling like you can't cope, it's not the end of the world if you stop.  No one is going to die if you don't write 50,000 words in November.  It's no crime if you take until January to hit that 50K mark.  What's important is that you want to write a book, and you've started it.  Keep writing, even if you're not writing the 1,667 words a day NaNo dictates.  Write what you can and keep going.

X O'Abby

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

NaNoWriMo Can Be Hard

We’re nearly a week into NaNoWriMo already! Don’t forget that it’s never too late to start; when it comes to words, pennies are money – each one counts. The only person you're writing for is yourself!

This year, I’m participating in a sort of “team challenge” for NaNoWriMo. In late October, people signed up to be on teams based on the age range and genre they’re writing for. Our collective word count is averaged every week, and at the end of November, the team who wrote the most will win some prizes. We have a group chat where we talk about problems we’re having and try to motivate each other. In this discussion, there seem to be some common themes, so I thought I’d address those in case any of you are having the same issues.

  • I started in the wrong place and I’m getting to the inciting incident too quickly/not quickly enough! Okay first things first, what you’re writing is a very, very rough first draft. NaNoWriMo is about getting words on the page, not writing The Perfect Novel™ on the first pass. Just keep going. When NaNoWriMo is over, you can always go back and add more before the inciting incident or remove some material before it.* Don’t get too caught up going back and revising before you’re done, or you’ll never move forward.
  • I’m writing too much, and revisions are going to take forever! Wow you must be writing a lot if you’re having this issue – that’s awesome! Someone on my team had a great suggestion for this: if you feel like you’re over-writing, let it happen. It’s going to stunt your work if you try to edit as you’re writing. So, rather than going back and deleting words during NaNoWriMo (thus losing precious word count pennies), instead put things you think may be too much in [brackets]. Then, at the end of the month, or whenever you finish this draft, you can go back and easily delete these if you need to with a simple “find” function.* Again, don't worry about revisions until it's time to revise.
  • The scenes are out of order! I’ve already written two scenes that I know are in the wrong place in the manuscript, but I made the decision not to adjust them yet. Why? Because I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next three weeks. Right now, it feels like things are happening out of order, but maybe next week it’ll turn out that those scenes are exactly where they need to be. So unless that one scene being a few chapters early is throwing your manuscript completely off the rails in an Unstoppable-style train wreck, at the very least, you’ve written the scenes, and that’s something.
  • I feel like I’m already running out of things to write! Say it with me: That’s okay. Fifty thousand words is the approximate length of I Know What You Did Last Summer, Speak, and The Notebook, among many other popular books. Think about the size of those books in your hands. It’s a lot. It’s more words than a lot of us write in a year, and we’re trying to squeeeeeze out all those words in thirty days. It’s hard work, and it’s okay to get tired. Even if you had a perfect outline and character sheets to rival the most hardcore Dungeons and Dragons players, nothing compares to actually sitting down to write 1,700 words every day for thirty days. It’s okay to get tired, it’s okay to take breaks, it’s okay to not hit fifty thousand words by the end of November. No matter how many words you wrote, you did something amazing.

*If you’re deleting scenes, remember to save them somewhere else in case you want them back later. I have a dedicated Word document just for tidbits of scenes and chapters I had to cut, and I highly recommend it.

I hope some of this has been helpful! Let us know if you have other NaNoWriMo successes or...un-successes. And don’t forget to back. that. draft. up.

Happy writing!

Saturday, November 3, 2018

OA's NaNoWriMo Progress

NaNoWriMo Operation Awesome

National Novel Writing Month is officially upon us! Today is NaNoWriMo's Double Donation Day, so if you can, please donate to the equally-awesome operation they've got going on over there! Here at Operation Awesome, two of us are participating this year, J Lenni Dorner and Amren Ortega. We're excited to share our progress (and pitfalls) with all of you, and hope you'll share with us.

What genre/age are you writing?

Adult Urban Fantasy

Young Adult Contemporary

Are you a planner, pantser, or something in between?

Somewhere between those two. I was going to write a different novel. Then changed my mind a week before NaNo started, so I have a partial outline-like thing going on. It's all because of a non-fiction book I started reading. (More on that another time.)

Usually I'm a plantser - I plan a bit and let the rest come as it may - but I wanted to try something new this year, so I've been planning for about a month and a half. I have a pretty solid outline and a lot of information about my protagonist and antagonist, as well as a plethora of information about robots (which is relevant, I promise). 

What's your word count so far?

4831 at the start of today

3717 at the start of today (J is a rockstar)

How it's going?

Okay so far.

Pretty good! I haven't found myself struggling to meet the word count yet, but it is only day three, so we'll see how I fare in the next twenty-seven days...

Link to your NaNo profile

J Lenni Dorner

Amren Ortega

Lifetime November Achievements

WORDS= 333,263 ~2011 winner; 2012 winner; 2013 winner; 2014 winner; 2015 participant; 2016 winner; 2017 winner; 2018 participant

WORDS= 148,907 ~2014 participant; 2015 participant; 2016 winner; 2017 winner; 2018 participant

Other notable NaNoWriMo achievements

Book published because of the writing challenge= Fractions of Existence

And I did my donation for today!
J's donor gift to NaNoWriMo 2018

For Double Up, I'm going to try to double my word count, so check back on my NaNoWriMo profile tomorrow to see how I did!

Friday, November 2, 2018


It's that time again, everybody! Enter here for a chance to win a query critique by yours truly! Here's how to participate:

1. Comment on this post and at least one other post from this week by *SUNDAY 11/4 at 12 pm*.

2. Leave your email address in the comment or have it available on your Blogger profile. (Or else I can't find you!)

The winner will be announced in the comment section of this post on Sunday.

See this post for additional rules. Good luck!


Thursday, November 1, 2018

Dear O'Abby: How long should I wait to hear back from an agent?

Dear OA Abby, 

After reading Pat's WEP entry, I have to wonder...

How long should someone wait to hear back from an email to an agent, editor, etc before checking if the message was ever received? Is there an especially, non-naggy way to say, "Hey! Just checking if you got this. Pass or love, just want to be sure it made it to the inbox."

- A writer who isn't  a canned meat product made mainly from ham

Dear Not-Spam (I hope I can call you that),

This is a good question.  Many agents have an expected response time on their websites, so my advice would be to look for this, and add another two to four weeks to it before nudging for a response.  If there is no response time listed, Query Tracker can be a good resource because other authors often post how long it took for them to get a response.

Or the agent may be a "no response means no" agent in which case you can assume that no reply after  around six weeks is a pass.

If you've done all this, and the agent doesn't mention being a non-responder, it's perfectly okay to give them nudge if it's been a long time.

I would make it something really short and sweet like:

Dear Agent Snail,

I'm enquiring about my query for (Awesome Novel title in a category this agent represents) which was sent on (date at least 8-10 weeks ago, depending on the agent's reported response time).  I know email can be glitchy, so just wanted to check you had received it.


Not Spam

And include the original email under the new one so the agent won't have to go trawling through their in box to find it.

Like all things to do with agents, just keep it professional and polite.

Good luck with your book.


Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Reyna Marder Gentin's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Unreasonable Doubts: A Novel by Reyna Marder Gentin

1- How's next season looking for the New York Mets, in your opinion?

As a true Mets fan, I will tell you that the Mets will undoubtedly win the World Series in 2019. But more honestly, they have a lot of talent and you never know how far it will take them if their players can stay off the disabled list.

2- How often have people said you look like actress Justine Bateman?

Reyna Gentin, photo by Ayelet Feinberg & Stephen Friedgood

Gotta find more fans of Family Ties or Men Behaving Badly.

3- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?

Never let anyone tell you that you need to learn how before you write. Get feedback and take it to heart, especially about voice and tone and pacing, but be your own final judge and best advocate.

4- What ignited your passion for writing?

I have always loved to write, from my high school days on the newspaper to philosophy essays in college to my appellate briefs. But what really got my pulse racing was the first time a creative piece – a non-fiction personal essay about my mom – got published on the Internet. Being able to share with readers and interact made all the difference.

5- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?

@reynagentin. Please shout out to @jiminhanwriter and @lianecarter

6- Would you share a picture with us of your book somewhere in New York?

My book has not been released yet, so it hasn’t really gotten out and about in New York! I hope to soon have pictures of my book in different exciting locales around the world soon!

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

I have a draft of a middle grade novel that I am shopping around now. My next project is a new novel, tentatively entitled Both Are True.

8- How did working as an appellate attorney representing criminal defendants help you write this book?

In lots of ways! First of all, the legal issues in the novel were inspired by a case that I handled as an appellate attorney. I strived very hard in the novel to have all the legal aspects be accurate so that attorneys reading the book would not say, “hey, that would never happen in real life!” The protagonist, Liana Cohen, is a young public defender who has become disillusioned with the mission of the public defender’s office and the clientele. Although I didn’t ever get to that point, representing indigent defendants charged with the most serious felonies and facing decades in prison is extremely challenging work and can be demoralizing at times. I think I was able to portray that effectively because I had lived it.

9- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!

Author name: @williamlanday
Title: Defending Jacob
Love because: I loved the intensity of this book and the way the author raised the most sensitive and critical issues about parenting and loyalty and good and evil in a seemingly placid suburban setting.

10- In your opinion, how could people best prepare for later in life, such as making choices while still "middle-aged" so their adult children don't later have to make tough calls on their behalf?

Wow – I think you’ve read some of my personal essays! I guess my best advice would be to always keep the lines of communication open. No topic should be off limits, and if something is genuinely important to you, you should let those around you know so that your wishes can be carried out.

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

I would have to say honestly that my husband is my biggest fan at this point! (In fairness, because the book is not out yet, this is a limited pool!) I think he genuinely loves the writing and the way I express myself, but even more so, I think he loves that I put myself out there and did something bold and new and out of my comfort zone.

12- If you could say one more thing to your mom, what would it be?

My mother and I were very close (as she was with my two sisters as well). We spoke every day, sometimes more than once, and I have no regrets about not saying any particular thing to her. But I would certainly give anything just to be with her again. I remember my rabbi who has since passed away himself saying to me, “it never really gets easier, does it?” and the answer is no, it doesn’t.

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

I hope that people will have empathy for Liana and the very difficult things she has to go through on her way to figuring out whom she can trust and learning what she wants out of her relationships and her career. I think the book has moments of real joy and real sorrow and real triumph, and I hope readers will relate to those moments. I think there are many scenes that will resonate with readers – I think many people will relate to the times when Liana loses her cool out of an excess of confused emotions – everyone has times when they wish they could really say what they think at work or with loved ones, and Liana speaks her mind.

14- Were you and your husband both involved in Orchestra, and if so, what did you two play?

Ha! Yes, we were in the same high school orchestra. I was a very run of the mill violinist, and my husband was an excellent cellist.

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

I have spent the last four years studying different aspects of writing at the Writing Institute of Sarah Lawrence College. I have learned a tremendous amount from my teachers and fellow workshop participants.

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

Danny Shea’s tiny ladybug tattoo, right above his heart.

17- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? #WeNeedDiverseBooks

The protagonist is a woman, and this is very much a story of how one woman chooses to take control of the things in her life that she can control, and let go of those she can’t. Another diverse character in the book is Gerry, Liana’s boss, who is gay and in a committed relationship. Although he and Liana have their differences in approach, Gerry is the character in the novel most devoted to the mission of the Public Defender’s Office and most concerned with protecting the rights of the indigent clients.

18- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

Danny Shea is vulnerable yet outwardly self-assured.

19-Does your book hold a mirror up to society, and in what way?

The book raises a number of issues that are hot-button issues in society today, although it does not offer any simple answers – just hopefully starts a discussion. The main character is, like many millennials, distanced from her faith. Through a friendship she develops with a rabbi, she becomes more open in learning about how Judaism may speak to issues she is grappling with her life, such as her relationships and her indecision about her job. I think this poses a question regarding how young people might become engaged with their religious communities in a way that recognizes that they need to opt in – that for most young people, religious observance and community involvement is no longer something they have “inherited” from their parents.

20- Can you think of any small change in the world you could make to benefit hundreds of other authors or readers potentially?

I think authors and readers would be greatly benefited by more flexibility in the publishing industry – more different business models that allow people who don’t have an established platform to break in and share their talent with the world.

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

A personal recommendation from a trusted friend.
Unreasonable Doubts by Reyna Marder Gentin's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book

22- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

I’m very up on Sandy Fluck at Bookscover2cover.

23- How will you measure your publishing performance?

I am honestly enjoying the ride and every aspect of getting my book out there. This is a second career for me and an extremely exciting time in my life that I’ve worked very hard for, but which I never expected. I consider my performance a success already.

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

I had worked with an editor as well as workshopped the book for quite a while and I felt it was in very good shape. I was excited to work with a small press that would allow me to have maximum control over the content, as well as over the cover, title, etc. I also was intrigued by working with a publisher that publishes women writers almost exclusively, which allowed me to develop professional relationships with other emerging women writers.

25- What's the best book marketing strategy you've come across?

I am still very new to the marketing aspect of this. I think I got very good exposure by doing give-aways on both blogs and Goodreads – whether that will translate into sales will have to be seen.

26- 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 would love to know what your readers think about choosing a book that crosses genres, something that I think limited me in finding a larger publishing opportunity – Unreasonable Doubts is part legal thriller, part love story, and is also categorized under Jewish fiction. Is it a plus or minus to be in a number of different categories?

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

REYNA MARDER GENTIN grew up in Great Neck, New York. She attended college and law school at Yale. For many years, she practiced as an appellate attorney representing criminal defendants who could not afford private counsel. Reyna studies at the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College, and her fiction and personal essays have been published in The Westchester Review and online. She lives with her family in Scarsdale, New York. To learn more, please visit

"An intriguing blend of romance and legal suspense from a new writer to watch.” —WILLIAM LANDAY, New York Times bestselling author of Defending Jacob

“...not only intelligent, but deeply moving. She knows the law and she knows her characters. Well done!” —SUSAN ISAACS, author of Compromising Positions, After All These Years, and As Husbands Go

“Fans of Allison Leotta and Lisa Scottoline will appreciate the domestic and romantic elements as well as the legal intrigue.” —BOOKLIST

Unreasonable Doubts: A Novel by Reyna Marder Gentin

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Prep for National Novel Writing Month

The time is nearly upon us! National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is mere days away. Don't worry if you're not feeling ready - is anyone ever ready for this? As we count down the hours, the OA team has some tips for surviving the month of November.

  1. It's okay to fall off the wagon. Accept that this might happen to you. It happens to me every other year: I hit my word count the first three days, forget on the fourth day, and then slide into nothingness with a whopping NaNoWriMo final word count of 5,821 because it was too much of a struggle to catch up. Sometimes life gets in the way, and that's okay. As much as you can, instead of trying to catch up to where the NaNoWriMo site tells you you're supposed to be with your word count, just try to hit that 1,700-word mark for the day. You never know, you might catch up on your own when you get a sudden burst of inspiration!
  2. Find a community. It's been said time and time again: writing is a solitary thing. And with a goal seemingly as unattainable as NaNoWriMo's 50K words, it can feel that much more isolating. Many major cities have write-in events, which are increasingly taking place online. Find a buddy, find a group, find someone on the other side of the globe!
  3. Save everything everywhere. The last thing you want is to be nearly done and lose your manuscript in a sudden computer Blue Screen of Death. Have backups of your backups. Save frequently. Email drafts to yourself, email them to your mom, email them to your high school volleyball coach - just keep backing everything up. Save to a flash drive, print a physical copy, put it on the cloud, do whatever you have to do.
  4. Keep going... The hardest thing about NaNoWriMo is doing it. Whether you're a planner or a pantser or somewhere in between, everything you do before NaNoWriMo can easily seem like it wasn't enough. Just keep pushing forward, even when the writing isn't going well. If you feel like you don't have time to sit down and write, work during your commute by writing on a Google Doc on your phone. Give yourself permission to write badly. This is a first draft; it doesn't have to be perfect. 
  5. ...but you can always stop. When NaNoWriMo gets to be too much, it's okay to shelve a project. Especially as we get toward the end of November and it seems like everyone is claiming their NaNoWriMo win, it's really hard for those of us whose projects just didn't work out for one reason or another: didn't have enough time, lost the thread of the story, couldn't figure out that one plot hole. It's okay to stop. It's okay to say, hey, I thought this story/plot/idea would work, and it just isn't right now. November isn't a magical month where the writing pantheon opens its gates and pours down inspiration onto the masses (as awesome as that would be). It's a month like any other, and sometimes we need a break.

No matter what you end up doing during NaNoWriMo, when it comes to writing, pennies are money - every word counts, and every word matters. Don't worry, just write.

You can find more tips at this link, which is a handout from J's local NaNoWriMo community! If you have more ideas, please leave a comment!