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!