Tuesday, June 26, 2018

July Pass Or Pages Details

Operation Awesome is excited to bring you another round of Pass Or Pages! In July, we'll be doing a round focused on Young Adult Contemporary novels.

Here are the important dates for this round:
July 3: Agent panel announcement
July 9-11: Contest entry (via a form here on Operation Awesome)
July 23-27: Feedback reveals!

For a recap of the rules and links to previous rounds, click here.
Note that for this round only, if you were one of the 64 finalists in Query Kombat you are not eligible to enter Pass Or Pages. Let's give someone else an opportunity for feedback!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

A Good Day of Writing

I took a day of writing self-care last week, and I want to tell you all about it because it felt AMAZING.

I'm co-hosting Query Kombat this year. I've helped in the past as a slush reader, but somehow I failed to realize how much work went in behind-the-scenes to make that contest tick. I'm really enjoying it because I love supporting my team as they improve their queries and first pages. However, after a few weeks of going non-stop, I had to acknowledge: it was really eating into my own writing time.

I've been stuck on restructuring the end of my WIP for a few weeks; the Dark Night of the Soul period wasn't long enough, so the climax was coming right on the heels of the All is Lost moment and the pacing just felt off. Figuring out when things should happen has been a struggle, even more so than usual because I haven't had the time to think and write.

So last week, while my husband was out of town for work, I called up my favorite teenage babysitter and asked her to come by for three hours during the afternoon and play with my kids while I disappeared. I went to a coffeeshop in town, got an overpriced but delicious smoothie, and plugged my laptop in. I wrote over 1500 words, expanded the scenes that needed it, and figured out the next steps. It was incredible. I felt so recharged and refreshed when I finished. I think it was exactly what I needed to push through this revision and get the book to my CPs.

Are you burned out or frustrated with your writing time? What helps you?

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Author Websites When You're Prepublished

When I was making my New Year's resolutions on December 31st, 2016, I was still in the query trenches. And I know it's not healthy to make goals you don't control, so I didn't put "get an agent" on my list of resolutions. As I thought about what more I could resolve to do that I wasn't already doing, I decided to make myself an author website.

I am no technology wiz, but I have been using Blogger since 2008, so I decided to stick with a Blogger website. I paid the $12 to have a custom domain name, and got to work.

What to put on an author website when you're a writer but not a published author? I figured if anyone went to my site, it'd be an agent who got the link from my query letter. So what might be interesting to them?

I don't have any publication credits, but if I had I would definitely have included them. I put up a photo of my family, my Twitter handle, some light information about myself. I made a page with my query letter and first chapter of the book I was querying. Finally, I made a page to list the most recent books I've read, because I love recommending books, and also because I think the books you read speak volumes about you. (That was an intentional pun; I'll show myself out.)

Now that I have an agent, I included a link to her agency on my site so people could check her out. I took the first chapter of my book down, but left the query up. And now that I'm working on a new book, I added a brief blurb about that book. Not a query letter, because I didn't have to write one for that book 👐

My website is very simple, and I did everything myself, including the logo at the top of the page. I used Canva, which is about as much art-related technology as I can handle. If my book sells, then I will probably invest the time and money into getting a more professional site that will appeal to future readers. Until then, I'll keep plugging along on my own.

If you'd like to check out my site, you can see it here: www.karareynoldswrites.com
In the comments, I'd love to hear what you like to see on the websites of "prepublished" authors.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Synopsis Critique #22: YA Fantasy

And now, it's time for this week's synopsis critique! The author of THE STARRY-EYED MONSTER, a YA Fantasy novel, submitted this synopsis. My in-line comments are [blue and in brackets], and I'll include a summary at the end. Feel free to comment below!

If you'd like a primer on how to write a synopsis, see my posts here and here. And if you want your synopsis critiqued on this website, fill out the form here, or email your 1-2 page synopsis to me at operationawesome6@gmail.com. (NOTE: I'll email my critique to the author as soon as I'm done, so the author won't have to wait to see his/her synopsis on the site). Thanks for participating!


Long ago, the nourishing sun vanished and plunged the planet of Serim into darkness. The stars emerged as heroes, replacing the sun in the perpetually dark sky. But in becoming saviors, they also transformed into oppressors [1], forcing the monster inhabitants into slavery. Now, whisperings of a secret prophecy give monsters hope they can one day overthrow their tyrants. [2]

Seventeen-year-old Princess RYE is desperate to escape her life. Half-monster, half-star, Rye is the first of her kind and an outcast among the stars. When Rye was just three-years-old [3], her monster mother murdered her star father—who happened to be a beloved king—tainting Rye with her legacy. In an attempt to fit in, Rye denies her monster heritage, determined to prove she’s a worthy successor of her father. [4]

When a star falls from the sky, the council [5]discovers a treacherous plot to snuff out the stars. They task Rye with marrying a prominent monster, ARLIN, under the guise of bringing stars and monsters together. In truth, they want her to find the monster behind the murders [6]and to ultimately turn the stars against the monsters. Although a bit trepid [7], Rye thinks this might be her chance to prove herself as a star. 

Arlin and Rye have a rocky beginning. The monster has a temper, is gruff, and speaks his mind. Even worse, Arlin sneaks the princess down to his monster town, where she witnesses a brutal whipping, revealing the true horrors that plague monster lives. [8]

As their relationship and feelings grow, Arlin and Rye learn to respect each other. The princess agrees to work with Arlin to bring monsters and stars together on the day of her coronation ceremony, in hopes they can create a peace treaty. They work in secret, knowing the council would never approve. 

The day of Rye’s ceremony arrives and Arlin goes missing, threatening their plans. Chaos reigns as stars and monsters clash, but Rye is powerless to stop it. Before she can search for Arlin, the council arrests her for murder of the snuffed stars. They framed her and Arlin to keep Rye from ascending to queen. [9]

Rye is devastated. But allies rescue her [10]and help the princess discover two things: first is an ancient prophecy about a half-monster, half-star who will rise as a new sun and free the monsters; second, her father, KING STRATTON, lives and has kidnapped Arlin to lure Rye into a trap. [11]

Long ago, when Stratton learned of the prophecy, he killed Rye’s mother, faked his own death, and spent years collecting the necessary power to steal Rye’s magic so he could rise as the sun. [12]It seems Stratton might actually defeat Rye, but he makes one fatal mistake: Stratton believed the sun could only rise once accepted by both monsters and stars. Really, Rye needed to learn how to accept both parts of herself, which Arlin helped her to do. Armed with this knowledge, Rye’s sun powers emerge and she defeats Stratton. 

With the threat disbanded, Rye and Arlin can work together to rebuild a peaceful world in which both stars and monsters can co-exist.


[1]: What was the stars’ motivations for oppressing the monsters? If they went out of their way to save the planet, why would they then want to enslave the inhabitants?

[2]: But if they did overthrow the stars, would they be plunged back into darkness again? Seems like a lose-lose situation.

[3]: Should be ‘three years old’ here

[4]: It’s perhaps worth including a few more details here about how Rye feels like an outcast, what the other stars do to her, etc.

[5]: What council?

[6]: Has there been more than one murder?

[7]: I don’t think this is a word. Do you mean trepidatious?

[8]: How does one become a prominent monster, worthy of marrying a princess, if they’re all enslaved?

[9]: How does Rye discover she was framed?

[10]: Who are the allies? Stars or monsters?

[11]: Is he also the one behind the murders?

[12]: If all he needed to do was steal Rye’s powers, why did he go to the trouble of killing the queen and faking his own death? We don’t need all the plot details here, but if there’s a simple way to explain this (did Rye’s powers only manifest in grief? Was the queen onto his plan?) that would help clarify.


This is an extremely strong synopsis, and my only comments are nit-picks. It’s very well written, and I can follow the main plot from beginning to end. Think about incorporating a few additional details, as I noted, and you should be good to go!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Best Explanation of why Showing is better than Telling

I feel like I've talked about it a lot here on Operation Awesome, but just in case you missed it: I went to an awesome writing conference called Storymakers. One of my favorite classes from the conference was called Using Character Emotions to WOW Readers, and it was taught by Becca Puglisi of The Emotion Thesaurus fame.

I flipping love The Emotion Thesaurus. Becca and Angela Ackerman have several books in their Thesaurus series, plus an amazing website for writers called Writers Helping Writers. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to take a class from Becca.

As I reread over my notes from the class while tackling a revision, this little bit on showing versus telling tugged at my brain until I remembered I needed a topic for my OA post this week. Show vs tell is one of those topics that feels like it's been talked about to death among writers, and I've seen many people complain about it. Whether it's because it's harder to show than to tell, or because they don't see why it's important, many writers struggle with this concept.

Here's what I wrote down while Becca gave her presentation:

“Telling” emotions is bare and sparse, and conveys information instead of engaging the reader’s emotions. “Showing” creates an emotional echo with the character, gives a sense of shared experience, and fosters reader empathy.

And that was a "boom" moment for me. That's why showing is more powerful than telling. I was never able to put it into words before.

That's all I have. If you haven't been to Writers Helping Writers yet, that should definitely be your next click!