Monday, December 30, 2019

Please vote for 2020!

Looking forward to 2020!
From last week's post and several emails and twitter comments, we've received the following requests for Mondays in 2020:

Keep First 50 words
First 500 words
First 100 words
First page/250 words
Queries
Elevator pitch [25 words]
Broad/expanded genre in whatever is chosen

Amren did “First Page Impressions” in early 2019.  Nathaniel occasionally does “Query Friday.”  For both of these, one person who commented on that week's post is chosen by random drawing.  That person then emails their first page or query to OA and Amren or Nathaniel provides feedback.  Do you like the idea of private feedback from one of the OA members, or would you prefer that the selection be posted on the blog [for everyone to comment and learn from]?

We can also alternate.  For example, First 50 on the first Monday of the month and something else for other Mondays.

We want this blog to be helpful to YOU.  This means we need YOUR input and opinions on what YOU want to see.  Please let us know in the comments.

Thank you all for being awesome!

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Pass or Pages 2020 Dates!



Is there a particular genre and/or age category you'd like to see us host this year? Fill out the form below to let us know!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Writing during the holidays

There were no questions for O'Abby this week, so I thought with the holiday period upon us, it might be useful to give a few tips around writing during the holidays.  I had meant to publish this last week, but just noticed it didn't actually publish...  Better late than never, eh?

The holiday season can be a very busy and stressful time.  It may mean traveling to visit family or having a houseful of guests.  If you're a writer, especially one on deadline, it can be hard to carve out time and space to get writing work done.

If it is at all possible, my advice would be to give yourself a break.  There is enough going on at this time of year without stressing about writing as well.  But if you are on a deadline and need to work during this time, you're going to need some strategies to deal with this.

If you are traveling to be with family, you may be able to use the travel time to write (not if you're driving though... that would be dangerous).  If not, bring your laptop or notebooks with you and once you arrive, suss out a quiet writing spot you can claim.  Make sure your family understands that your writing is important and that if you're working, you shouldn't be disturbed. Or even better, see if there is a coffee shop or library nearby you could work in so you're away from all the disruptions and mayhem.  It's amazing what you can get done with just an hour or two of uninterrupted, quiet. Grandparents can be godsends so make sure you use them if they're around.

If your home is the destination for out-of-town guests, you may need to juggle things even more.  You may need to get up early to squeeze your writing time in around all your other commitments.  But remember, it's only for a short time and if it's important, you will do it.  You may also be able to sneak away for an hour or two here and there if you have willing family members available to take care of kids etc.

The important thing is not to panic.  Maybe you will lose a few hours of working time you thought you might have.  Maybe you'll even lose a whole week.  It's okay.  You can make it up later, once the madness of the holidays is over (assuming your deadline isn't early January...  If it is, you really should have scheduled your time so you'd be 99% done before the holidays started.).  In the weeks after the holidays, figure out places you can steal time to write to make up for the time you lost.  Early mornings, lunch breaks, commuting time on public transport - all the places I suggested you use to write your NaNo projects.  You can get a lot done in very small scraps of time if you're determined.

Most of all, enjoy your holiday, however you celebrate it.



Wednesday, December 25, 2019

J's Debut Author Spotlight Wrap-Up Is About #BookReviews

Unsplash image


The 2019 special question asked of debut authors:

Why do you think readers should write book reviews?



It's a chance to share your opinion with other like-minded readers, to help navigate the world of stories. There's nothing better than finding your next favorite adventure. If the reader is also an aspiring writer, then that's even more important! It grows the skill set to understand what works and doesn't work about another writer's story, and it also helps the author by spreading the word!
- Laura Gia West

I think readers should write book reviews because these review really mean a lot to the people whose writings are being read. Irrespective of the reviews whether they are good or bad, they open a scope of getting better for the best.
- Abhishek Behera

I think writing a review is an excellent way to show support to writers whose work you enjoy. Such a simple thing can make such a difference to writers, especially newer writers who are hoping people will take a chance on their work.
- Deborah A Stansil

because we are writing for them.
- Nidhi GS

It helps the writer improve, it helps the writer understand his/her good and bad points, additionally, it helps other readers to know about the book.
- Balaka Basu

It helps readers to become more aware of what they do and don't like in a story, as well as helping authors to potentially pinpoint issues in their own writing that they might want to improve on in the future.
- Rebekah Loper

How else are we going to find out which books will grab us by the hearts and eyeballs?
- Scott Wilson

Ideally, so they’ll have to really think about the books that they’re reading in some depth. At least, that’s why I write them.
-Gail Shepherd

I love book reviews, and I wrote some myself. I think book reviews are extremely important because that’s one way for authors to hear from readers, and see what resonated with them and what didn’t work. I read every single review about my book (on Goodreads, Instagram, blogs, etc) and I want to continue to do so. I want to see if I succeeded in stirring emotions in the readers. I want to know what annoyed them and what they truly hated. I want to be a better storyteller.
- Natasha Tynes

I didn’t understand the importance of reviews until I wrote a book. Yes, reviews help sell. Yes, reviews boost ratings and turn other people on to a novel. But as an author, I just want to know what people thought of my book! If they had a favorite character or if they especially hated the car in scene three. It boggles my mind that we can reach out to authors and let them know what we thought of the musings from their head. The world is a magnificent place.
- Chelsea Marie Ballard

Reviews are a great way to help your favourite authors gain more visibility, and also to introduce others to wonderful books they may not have heard of. I always read reviews on Goodreads before I buy a book to get an idea of whether I will like it or not. I’m not sure I’m brave enough to read reviews of my own work, though!
- Anstice Brown

Writing book reviews helps distil how you feel about a book. Why you like it or why you don’t. I find writing book reviews helps my own writing because when I don’t like something, I’m forced to ask myself why and to figure out a way to articulate what I feel is wrong. That thing is then on my radar, so when reading my own stuff critically, I might notice something I wouldn’t have earlier.
-Kate Larkindale

Reviews are so important! One, because what reader doesn't like to talk about books? And reviews are a great space for readers to share what they loved (or didn't) about a book. Also, reviews are SO helpful for authors. Sites like Amazon use review-based algorithms that impact where that book "sits" on their digital shelves, so the more reviews the better.
-Lillian Clark

The process of writing a review presents an opportunity for readers to reflect. What did the story mean to me? It expands the community of readers and provides for an exchange of ideas. Reviews keep writers honest. Good reviews encourage; meaningful critiques help the writer get better. And reviews sell books.
-Bo Kearns

Reviews help tremendously to exposure and to someone's decision to support/buy that author's work. Just like Yelp and restaurant reviews might help you decide where to go out Saturday night, the reviews on Amazon or Barnes&http://Noble.com or other sites you can leave reviews will help other readers to get a feel for the book and decide if that's what they're looking for. Please leave me a review!!
-Danielle Ledezma

Reviews help spread the word about books, as do “shout outs” and shares on social media. There are so many books published every year, and each book is vying for attention. If you like a book, write a review or share some social media love to help spread the word.
- Sarah Scheerger

Three reasons.
1. It helps other readers with similar tastes know what they will and won’t like.
2. It helps sell books as it contributes towards promotional hype.
3. The nice reviews give us writers something to shout about - so if you’re a blogger you get an author-endorsed push too.
-N J Simmonds

Oh my gosh, book reviews are so incredibly important! They can help a reader decide whether they want to give a book a chance. Especially as a self-published author, word of mouth is one of the strongest tools we have. That being said, reviews need to be written in a useful way. If I read a review and it just says the book was amazing or the book was awful, that’s not useful. WHY was it good or awful? I want to know what specifically about it was good or bad. IT also potentially lets the author know what they can use to apply to future projects. Well-written reviews (whether positive or negative) are incredibly useful feedback.
-J. Lawson

There are two reasons. First of all, it helps authors! If you liked a book and think an author should keep writing, write a review. It doesn’t have to be a five-star review (even a one-star review can help!).
Readers should also review books so that other readers know what to expect. I used to read Goodreads reviews every single time I thought about picking up a book. Both the high praise reviews and the negative reviews told me something about the book and helped me decide whether the book was for me.
-Claire Bartlett

Book reviews help readers decide to buy a book and they help writers sell books. But don’t be mean. Every book is an author’s heart and soul. Keep that in mind.
-Sam Hawk

Because every time you read a book and don’t review it, an author looses a sliver of their soul :)
In all seriousness though, reviewing books is important for so many reasons. If you love a book, the best way you can thank an author is to review it. It drives visibility and sales which trickles down to then allowing the author another shot at their next book. If you hate a book and find it incredibly problematic, it’s well within your right to say so and maybe would help like minded people avoid reading something they wouldn’t enjoy.
That seems obvious though. Less obvious would be that it doesn’t matter what ‘level’ of your writing career you are on. Starting out, debut, 20 books under your belt, it’s the same for all: almost every single writer I know will go through phases where we question why we do this, etc. Negative thoughts can try to sneak in and tell you that everything you’ve ever written belongs in the trash. When you are feeling THAT down, look at your phone and have a review from someone who says your book changed their life—in a millisecond— your attitude is adjusted and your hope somehow renewed.
-L.D. Crichton

I think it helps other readers know if a book is a good fit for them. I also think the review process for each reader is very personal. Once this book is in your hands, it is ultimately your story too. It will inspire entirely different emotions in you than it did in me, or your friends, or your mom... No two people will have the same feelings about a book. Just like how I am one of two people who love the movie Waterworld.
Also, this is my first time being an author at the end of a book review from a stranger. I’ve been told by a few authors that I shouldn’t read the reviews, but I did in the first few weeks. Initially, there was this visceral gut-punch realization that it is out there in the world and real people are reading it and I can’t pull it back if there are things about it they don’t like. Its over, done, and free for everyone to form opinions about. Imagine spending years of your life working on this one creative project, building characters, molding their story and lives–basically living in that place with them–and then turning it over to the world without the ability to alter or change it anymore. It is utterly terrifying. I’ve learned a lot based off the reviews so far. Nothing will ever be perfect, but the few reviews I have read tell me what I’m doing really well and what I will work on in the next book.
-Kaytalin Platt

I think leaving reviews is the best way to do other readers a favor. Our internet culture too often seems to feeds off negativity. Writing a review for a book you enjoyed is like the literary equivalent of planting a tree. You are doing something good not just for the author but for the world—for other readers who might now also discover the book and love it as much you do.
-Stephanie Jimenez

This book publishing industry is falling. But I’ve heard more and more people would like to write than read. As such, someone should explain the joy of book reading. That’s the stimulus package for the industry. It’s the review, not the book, that would drive their appetite for the good books.
-Keita Nagano

Book reviews are the BEST way to help an author whose work you loved. Even a few short words of appreciation can be enough to bring a whole host of new readers to the story, and that's a pretty sure-fire way to guarantee you're going to get MORE stories from this author. Essentially, you're boosting awareness, whether it's with a full or short review, or even a 5 star rating on its own. You're becoming part of the story's story, and that's pretty badass if you ask me!
-Luke Dalton

Book reviews are incredibly helpful to authors. Most of us are on our own for marketing and honestly the best support we get is reviews from readers. If you appreciate an author’s work, leaving a review is a great way to support them. And, of course, it helps other readers figure out if the book is a fit as well. Gotta love a win win!
-Malayna Evans

If a reader enjoyed a book then reviewing it is really one of the best ways to thank the writer. It helps other readers to find the book and helps it to stand out in the marketplace.
-Jennifer Camiccia

Reviews are so crucial ; think of the last time you took a chance on an unknown author with 2 book reviews. Then think of the last time you impulse-bought a book because it had dozens (or hundreds) of reviews with a decent rating. Plus, in the end, getting more people to read the books you love just means more people to made headcanons and geek out with.
-Avery Ames

My favorite books have come from friends telling me about a book they think I would love, whether that’s over a cup of coffee or in a conversation on social media. It’s such a joy to be able to connect someone with a book they love and reviews help do that!
-Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne

To spread the good word! It may inspire someone else to pick up the book.
-Jordan Zucker

Because reviews are the only way to keep books alive—in today’s world where readers have more power and platform than ever before, they should exercise it to show the books they love to other readers.
-Damyanti Biswas

I think readers should write book reviews if they want to connect a little bit more with the story. Sometimes, I don’t know exactly how I feel about what I’ve read until I write it out. So, writing a review can be helpful for the reader to process what they’ve just read, but it’s also supremely helpful for other readers to get a sense of what they can expect when they get into a novel.
Personally, I don’t rely exclusively on book reviews to tell me if a story is good or not. Sometimes, I love a book that other people didn’t, or I just didn’t connect with a book that has starred reviews across the board.
-Kelly Coon

Book reviews are a great way to share your joy in a book (or air your concerns). They help readers find good books and help authors and others in the book industry understand more about their readers.
-K H Canobi

Readers should write reviews for other readers. It can help others find great books. Reviews should be honest but not mean—that’s true in life not just reviews!
-Lisa Moore Ramée

I think reviews, especially positive ones, help authors more than anyone realizes, in so many ways! Word of mouth is essential. Not everyone has the marketing budget of the big publishing houses. So if you love something, don’t keep it to yourself! We writers appreciate it more than you know!
-Liz Kerin

People should write reviews to create a culture of response to a work, providing links between readers who are looking for their next story dive. It takes a lot of kind, articulate responses to combat the generic, mean ones, but together we can create a community of readers who are truly invested in sharing their ideas about stories with each other. Whether a response is positive or negative, being able to frame it in a way that helps direct other readers is a gift to the reading community. Be honest. But be kind. Authors are human too.
-Jacqueline Firkins

I am a huge fan of readers (all readers—regardless of age) writing reviews. It’s probably the only way for authors to accurately gauge whether or not our work is connecting. That’s why I frequently have my middle school student write and share their reviews with peers.
-Ernesto Cisneros

What question would you like debut authors to answer in 2020?
Which debut author spotlight was your favorite this year?
Congratulations to Kim C who won the Rafflecopter giveaway.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

And Now, Something Completely Different: Being a Dungeon Master

About a year ago, I applied for several writing jobs at a video game company I really admired, whose stories and quests always managed to surprise me. Unfortunately, halfway through the final application process, my grandmother passed away, and I had to turn in an unfinished campaign because I was grieving. I didn't get the job, and it absolutely crushed me. Since then, it's been really hard to work up the...I'm not sure what the right word is, the interest, the oomph, the courage, to start game writing again. But I'm getting there. This Friday, I'm going to be the Dungeon Master for my first ever Dungeons and Dragons group, using a campaign I wrote myself!

If you're not familiar with DnD, it's a tabletop role-playing game where adventurers (the players) make their way through a campaign (a series of interactions, battles, and investigations) to achieve some specific objective (rescue the princess, retrieve the ancient artifact, defeat the dragon). There are pre-published campaigns, but I've decided to write my own (also known as a homebrew campaign). Nobody tell my partner, because he's one of my players, but they're going to get sucked into a pyramid scheme that's trying to bring about a dragon attack. It's good stuff.

Image result for dungeons and dragons
A little something like this
Game writing can be a fun way to interact with your own stories and see how other people interact with them as well. I always wanted more "choose your own adventure" books when I was a kid, so I love the idea of branching storylines. If worldbuilding is your thing, or if you're a chronic overwriter, game writing may be a fun thing for you to try! You can work within an existing world that already has rules and maps and bad guys, or you can create your own. You don't have to use DnD, either - there's Trail of Cthulhu, Night's Black Agents, Pathfinder, and so many more.

If you want to try game writing, or writing for branching storylines, there are a few good resources to check out. One is Twine, which is a free open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories. You can download it or use it online. It's pretty easy to use, and I actually had to use it for my game writing applications. Choose Your Story is a good place to get feedback on your work. And of course, you can always ask for feedback on Twitter, Reddit, and other writing communities (including this one!). So go forth and be adventurous :)

Monday, December 23, 2019

It's less than two weeks before 2020!!!!

In 2019, we started something new – First 50 Critiques.  It started out well.  The first entry received 9 thoughtful comments.
Last week's entry received 2 comments.

If people don't comment and leave a critique, there is no incentive for folks to submit their first 50 words for critique.

Or for us to continue this feature.

Do you want this feature to continue?  Why are you not leaving a comment/critique?  Can we make any changes to make this more interesting for you? 

What would you like us to do in 2020?  Please let us know in TODAY'S COMMENTS.  Do you want this feature to continue?  If so, we received one First 50 entry last week for the “adult” category, which will post on January 6.  If you want this feature to continue, PLEASE POST A COMMENT on that entry.

If you'd like us to do something else in 2020, let us know.  We want need your suggestions and recommendations.

Thank you!



Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Ernesto Cisneros's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Efren Divided by Ernesto Cisneros


1- In your opinion, given studies such as this (americanimmigrationcouncil.org/), are America's current immigration enforcement methods doing more harm than good?

The most frightening aspect of our current immigration enforcement is how it continues to run its campaign against immigrants without much regulation or accountability from the law. Families are being ripped apart and imprisoned in what can only be described as modern-day concentration camps—often for profit. Congress needs to shut down ICE immediately and ensure freedom and permanent protection for all undocumented immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.

One of the most dangerous aspects of this current agency is the manner in which it portrays undocumented people as being a threat to America and its security. That is simply NOT the case. America was founded by immigrants, for immigrants. Its diversity is a strength, not a weakness.

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

The best writing tip I could offer is to share your work with passionate readers. This could be a librarian, teacher, even that student who carries a book everywhere he/she/they go. Have them highlight the parts that they like. Do this with a few people. What you will find is that different people will find different strengths in your writing. Embrace these things. Much of my highlighted work involved my use of dialogue. Apparently, it is a strength of mine that I wasn’t even aware of. Since then, I make it a point to incorporate a lot if in my writing today. In simple terms, write to your strengths.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

As a kid, I was a true space cadet, always daydreaming. I never really thought about it as being anything particularly useful or positive. But now, I’ve realized that I was writing stories and strengthening my creativity. So please, let kids day dream—it’s not a bad thing.
ketchup fries Photo by Miguel Andrade on Unsplash

4- Catsup or ketchup? And what's the most unusual food you use that condiment on?

First things first, I always refer to it as ketchup. When I was little, my dad convinced me that “catsup” contained actual cat inside. So I made it a point to buy name brands that used that prefer spelling. With that said, I pour “ketchup” onto just about everything—excluding dairy products. That would be gross. Or would it? Hmm.

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

I would definitely like to give a shout-out to @sarahscheerger , @ErinDealey , and my debut pals over at @Class2k20Books

6- Would you share a picture with us of your book in the California sun?

How about the quad area of the school where part of the book takes place?

7- How do you feel that ordinary people could best help the children in ICE's cages?

I would say that we must contact our government representatives and let them know that we will not allow this blatant disregard of international law. Our political leaders have a moral obligation to prevent families from being forcibly separated. And if they do not take appropriate action, then it is up to us to hold them accountable.

Another way would be to make financial contributions to groups like the ACLU who continue to fight for the rights of all immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.

8- What most motivates you to read a new book?

I would say it’s the storyline that gets me to open a book, but it’s the character development that keeps me reading. If I’m invested and connect with a character, then I will follow them on just about any journey. Discovering well-written characters is kind of like making a new friend and having them take you somewhere you haven’t been before.

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:Sarah Scheerger @sarahscheerger
Title: OPERATION FROG EFFECT
Love because: her book left me missing each and every one of her characters. It is expertly written.

That's one of the debut authors who joined our spotlight this year! Sarah Scheerger's interview

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

Ironically, this would be Sarah Scheerger as well. We are each other’s biggest fan.
I believe it’s because we both value many of the same things and work with characters that have a lot of heart.

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?

Actually, I’m finding that people are connecting with totally different aspects of the book. Student’s are identifying mostly with the cultural aspects of the world building, while teachers are mostly connecting with the student-pupil relationship. Still others connect more with the loving dynamics of Efrén and his two little siblings. The book really does have something for everyone.

12- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?

https://instagram.com/tv/B6HzZjYnRv1/

13- How do you hope your book will help readers in their life?

I want my readers to know that everyone’s story matters and that every single one of us is worthy of having a story told about us. Each of us is special with a unique view of the world. It is my wish that they discover the means by which to share it.

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

I feel like that would be Max, who was born with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, which cause some cognitive delays to occur. His love for his brother (and food) is the source of many great scenes.

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

The majority of my characters are Latino. It was my intent to bring some recognition to this often marginalized group. Like the main character, Efrén, the narrator code-shifts, switching languages from time to time. He attends a predominantly Latino school in a predominantly Latino community.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

Hands down, that would have to be Mr. John Schu’s blog: Watch. Connect. Read. John is a true advocate, connecting readers and authors together. He is incredibly supportive and goes out of his way to help everyone, regardless of what press they are working with.

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

The biggest factor was being fortunate enough to meet and land representation from Deborah Warren of East West Literary. Her belief in me never faltered. It is because of her that I get to work with the amazing folk at HarperCollins.

18- Why do you think readers should write book reviews?

I am a huge fan of readers (all readers—regardless of age) writing reviews. It’s probably the only way for authors to accurately gauge whether or not our work is connecting. That’s why I frequently have my middle school student write and share their reviews with peers.

19- Do you have a discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

I know there is a lot of hate going around our country, and it seems to me, much of it stems from ignorance. It is a lot easier to hate things we don’t know than it is things familiar to us. In this case, it’s migrant families. So I invite everyone to step into this world to meet my students, my friends, and family. What you will find is that we have much more in common than we do differences.

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

This book was not an easy story to tell, but my twenty-plus years of teaching in a low-socioeconomic neighborhood helped supply the backdrop for this book. THIS STORY IS NOT MINE ALONE. It is that of many young students whom I have had the honor of working with over the years. I feel privileged to share this world with you.

I thank you for all the support you have given me in helping to BRING EFREN DIVIDED into the hands of those who need to read it most.
@Author_Cisneros


Efren Divided by Ernesto Cisneros

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Why Mentoring Feels Broken Sometimes

"I don't know where things are broken."

This was what I told a writer friend a little over a year ago, back when I was still querying my YA fantasy. I had been in the query trenches for two years at that point, sent over one hundred queries, and applied to dozens of mentoring opportunities, but somehow, I never got any positive responses. Agents weren't interested in my work. Mentors didn't even request more pages. And all I could think was, where is the disconnect here?

There are so many things that are hard about being a writer, and I think getting feedback is one of the toughest – and not just because feedback is sometimes hard to take. I've advocated for the magic of beta readers and critique partners over and over, and I stand by that opinion. But the problem is, there are so many unpublished writers, and so few published ones, that it's really hard to get the information about whatever magic it is that your writing is missing. Most of us just don't know what agents are looking for, because we're not agented ourselves. Before I went through the process of signing with my agent and going through revisions and submission, it was understandably hard for other writers to place their trust in me. What right did I have to tell them that chapter three could use more “oomph”? And for that matter, why should I trust Betty from Oklahoma City that my villain wasn’t villain-y enough?

The role that I’ve always thought was meant to bridge that gap was mentors, people who are agented or who have published books before, and who are willing to provide their experience and expertise to us hopefuls. Finding a mentor, though, is incredibly difficult. Hundreds of people apply to be mentored by a single person, hoping for that chance to find out what’s broken in their process of revisions and querying. But if you’re not picked, you get nothing – you learn nothing about your writing, nothing about your query letter, nothing to make you a better writer. You come out of the experience with no more information than when you went into it.

This is the thing I’ve always found objectionable about mentoring opportunities. More often than not, it seems as if the mentors pick the most interesting story, the one that seems most likely to succeed - and, as a result, the one that actually needs the smallest amount of help. The people who truly need assistance, the writers are really struggling, seem to fall by the wayside every time. I remember literally crying on the floor in the closet in our tiny basement apartment because I’d been rejected from yet another mentoring program, and I received no feedback from the mentor once again. I didn’t know what was wrong with my manuscript. I didn’t know what needed to be fixed. I needed help with my writing so badly, and yet it seemed to always be out of my reach.

Gatekeeping in writing is HUGE, and sometimes understandably so - publishers have to make money, after all. But the process is often so obtuse, so opaque, that it’s impossible to even see the path to the other side. That’s where I take issue with mentoring. I understand that mentors’ time is valuable, that they can’t exactly pen a handwritten note to every entrant. It would take days, if not weeks, to reply to everyone with some sort of feedback. But at the same time, back when I was querying, all I wanted was a single sentence, and many times I didn’t even get that. So I urge you, if any of you out there are mentors, or want to be, or have been, please remember what it’s like to be querying. Remember how lost you felt, how little support there was for you on your journey. Give your applicants every opportunity that you can, and remember that they’re just as important as your mentee. They may never get the support that only you can give. Just give them a minute of your time. That may be all they need to succeed.

Monday, December 16, 2019

First 50 Critique - Adult Urban Fantasy #1

Winter Solstice December 21
We are accepting entries this week!  Category – Adult, any genre.

If you want to submit your First 50 for critique, here's the entrance requirements.  We are accepting entries in the Adult category, any genre.  If you qualify and want to enter, send us an email formatted as follows:

[Subject:] First 50 Critique – Adult [insert genre]

The following 50 words are my own work and I give OA permission to post it on the OA blog for the life of the blog.

I commented on the entries posted on DATE and DATE as [your online ID].

My first 50 words:

[Copy/paste your first 50 words here.]

Entry period opens now and closes at the end of the day on Friday December 20, 2019. All entries will receive a confirmation email from us by Saturday December 21, 2019 that acknowledges receipt of your entry and, if you've complied with all requirements, lets you know what date [in January] it will be included on the blog for critique. If you do NOT receive a confirming email by Sunday December 22, 2019, send us a DM on Twitter and we'll give you alternative instructions for sending us your entry.

Now on to this week's entry!

Reminder: Be nice, but be honest. [Comments that are not polite/respectful will be deleted.] What would YOU like to know if this was YOUR first 50 words? Do you think it's a good opening line for the category/genre? Does it have a hook? Does it pull you into the story? Do you want to read more? Why or why not? Be specific, so your critique helps the person who wrote the entry.

Here's this week's entry.

First 50 Words – Adult Urban Fantasy #1

Police arrived before parents did at Tuck Academy. Ricky Turner and May Flizwatter had gone missing in the middle of class. “Excuse me,” Lilia Turner pushed her way through the growing crowd. She squinted against the noonday sun, finally spotting the sheriff and the academy principal. “Where’s my son?”


Thursday, December 12, 2019

Dear O'Abby: Can I be a writer when I can't spell?

Dear O’Abby,

I’m a writer, or at least, I’m trying to be a writer. But I have a big problem. I’m a terrible speller. And when it comes to grammer and punctuation, I’m even worst. I wasn’t brought up speaking English and while I’m totally fluent in spoken English now, I think I’ve missed some important rules when it comes to written language.

I have written two novels and I would love them to be published, but I’m not confidence that my grasp of written English is good enough to get an agent or a publisher. Do you have any advice?

Yours,

Second Language



Dear Second Language,

Being bad at spelling, grammar or punctuation is not the barrier to being a published writer you might think it is. It just means you need to do a bit of extra work before you send your work out to any publishing professionals.

There are a huge number of online writing tools you can use to check your work on your own. This article gives some information about the different spelling and grammar correction software options available. If you are serious about writing, it is worth investing a little money in something like this if you’re not confident of your grasp of the rules.

Once you have run your MS through one of these tools, it will still probably need another look over because for all AI is great at picking up errors, it doesn’t always correct things in a way that suits your own writing style. So do a read-through and fix anything that doesn’t sound right for your character or doesn’t fit with your personal style.

Once you’ve done this, it’s time to get a fresh set of eyes across it. A critique partner who has a strong grasp of spelling, grammar and punctuation would be good. If you don’t have one of these, maybe try reaching out to an English teacher you might know. Or ask around in your online community to see if anyone might be available to help you with this specific area. If you have a budget, you could look at hiring a copy editor, but as they usually charge by the word, it can get expensive. Especially if you’re writing epic fantasy!

Once you have incorporated the feedback from all these sources, you should have a MS that is spelling and grammar error free! And that sounds like you’ve been writing English all your life. As long as you ensure the same care is put into your query and synopsis, your submission package shouldn’t stand out from the pack in all the wrong ways.

Good luck!

O’Abby

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Debut Author Spotlight #Giveaway at Operation Awesome

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6


a Rafflecopter giveaway


- Laura Gia West
- Abhishek Behera
- Deborah A Stansil
- Nidhi GS
- Balaka Basu
- Rebekah Loper
- Scott Wilson
-Gail Shepherd
- Natasha Tynes
- Chelsea Marie Ballard
- Anstice Brown
-Kate Larkindale
-Lillian Clark
-Bo Kearns
-Danielle Ledezma
- Sarah Scheerger
-N J Simmonds
-J. Lawson
-Claire Bartlett
-Sam Hawk
-L.D. Crichton
-Kaytalin Platt
-Stephanie Jimenez
-Keita Nagano
-Luke Dalton
-Malayna Evans
-Jennifer Camiccia
-Avery Ames
-Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne
-Jordan Zucker
-Damyanti Biswas
-Kelly Coon
-K H Canobi
-Lisa Moore Ramée
-Liz Kerin
-Jacqueline Firkins
-Ernesto Cisneros

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Dealing with Burnout

So you finished NaNoWriMo! Now it’s time for revisions, finding CPs and beta readers, more revisions, potentially working with a sensitivity reader, even more revisions, query writing, looking for agents, writing a synopsis…

Blergh.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I finished NaNoWriMo, I was tired. Bone-tired, exhausted, no-I-will-not-go-to-school-today dead on my feet. Or in my writing chair. Whatever. It didn’t help that I’d just moved 500 miles and had to get our apartment put together while also starting a new job, all during NaNoWriMo. With 50,000 words written at the end of the month, I thought I’d be pumped to set my NaNoWriMo manuscript aside and start revisions on my other manuscript in December. I’m on my last round of revisions, after all, and the sooner I get them done, the sooner my agent can start sending my work out!

Well, days went by, and I wasn’t getting anything done. I really wanted to, but the thought of scrutinizing every word, sentence, and page got me worn out just thinking about it. So I finally realized that there was no other way around it: I am burned. out.

Burnout is hard in any profession. Getting tired of doing your usual tasks is rough, and it makes getting anything at all done difficult. When I go to my 9-to-5, I can at least force myself to get job done because I know I have to (and, honestly, because I’m getting paid to do it). I can’t just sit around and do nothing when I don’t want to do my work. When it comes to writing, though, there’s no urgent deadline. Every deadline I have is set by myself, and when I come home from my job, it’s really hard to be motivated.

I thought about setting hard deadlines. I thought about staying up late to smash through the revisions. I even thought about taking a day off from work. Unfortunately, though, there's no cure-all for burnout. You can't just have a cup of tea and be back to full charge, or rest for a day and *poof* you're all better. It takes time to overcome, and as painful as that is, the longer I let myself rest, the more ready I feel to get back to writing.

So I’m trying to take a break. I’m laying off my manuscripts and going on hiatus from Twitter. I was spending way too much time on those daily hashtag games, anyway. If you keep finding yourself procrastinating instead of writing, stop and think for a moment. Sure, maybe you’re just procrastinating for the sake of procrastinating. But maybe, after a really intense month of hammering out a few thousand or a few hundred or even a few dozen words a day, you need a break, too. Make a new year’s resolution to write. Give yourself the rest of the year off. You’d be in good company.

Monday, December 9, 2019

First 50 Critique - YA/Fantasy #2


For all the details of how this works, click here.  We are NOT accepting entries this week.  But if you want to enter when we DO open the entry period, you must post a critique on at least TWO previous entries before you'll be able to submit.

Reminder: Be nice, but be honest. [Comments that are not polite/respectful will be deleted.] What would YOU like to know if this was YOUR first 50 words? Do you think it's a good opening line for the category/genre? Does it have a hook? Does it pull you into the story? Do you want to read more? Why or why not? Be specific, so your critique helps the person who wrote the entry.

Here's this week's entry.

First 50 Words - YA/Fantasy/Speculative #2

I hope I’ll survive high school without being hauled off by the government’s newest taskforce. The vice-principal whispered to the cafeteria guy about today’s raid. Only one state away. I wonder if someone else I know was taken? As if the first day of high school isn’t stressful enough. 


Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Next Step...


Welcome to December!

Hopefully those of you who were doing NaNo achieved your goals. And even if you didn’t get to 50K, you still have more written than you did on 31 October which is a win  in my book! I surprised myself and managed just under 60K in November.  My book isn’t finished yet, but I figure I have only another 15K or so to go.  I aim to be done by Christmas so I can enjoy my summer holiday (I live in New Zealand so Christmas is in summer) without that hanging over me.

Last week O’Abby had a question about what to do once you’ve finished your NaNo book and I outlined some ideas about revising that first draft (here) and promised we’d talk about the next step this week.  So here goes.

Once your book is revised and polished and your readers can’t find any more major flaws, you need to decide what publishing route is right for you and your book.

If you want to be traditionally published by one of the big publishing houses you will need to find a literary agent as most of these publishers don’t accept manuscripts directly from authors.  There are numerous agents and they all represent different types of books.  Research is required to ensure you find one who will be able to sell your book.  There are a number of websites that can help you with your search.  I would recommend Query Tracker as a useful tool, and for finding our what different agents are actively looking for, MSWL.  Once you’ve found a few agents you’re interested in, I suggest you follow them on Twitter to see what they’re looking for and if you think you might be compatible with them.  Picking the wrong agent is worse than having no agent, so it’s worth going in with as much knowledge as possible.

If you are someone who likes control, self-publishing might be the best route for you.  It’s hard work because every part of the process is in your hands, from editing, to cover design to publicity and marketing.  But you get a bigger cut of the royalties from your sales and you can control when your book releases, what it looks like, the price and pretty much everything else about the process.  I would suggest though, you get a professional editor and cover designer to work with you because readers notice shoddy editing, and a bad cover gives the wrong first impression of your book and can kill sales.

The third option is to publish with a small press.  Most of these do not require an agent to submit so you can contact them directly.  There are a large number of small presses, some which specialize in particular genres and styles and others that publish a broad range of titles.  Some are digital only which means if you’ve always dreamed of having your book on library and bookshop shelves, this isn’t going to happen.  Like everything else, I suggest you do your research before sending your manuscript to any small press.  Some have very limited distribution channels and some only do print copies on demand.  Some have hidden costs associated with their services and should be treated with care.  You will also likely have to drive the bulk of marketing and publicity yourself as most small presses have limited resources for this.

How you publish is not a decision to take lightly, so take your time and do your research.  And don't get discouraged by rejections.  They are just part of the process and while they sting, they won't kill you.  After a while you will be able to brush them off like any other annoyance, as crazy as that might sound to you now.  I can say that because I've had close to 300 rejections in my writing career, and expect more each and every time I send a new manuscript out into the world.

And I'm still breathing!

Feel free to get in touch if you have any follow-up questions.

X O'Abby

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Jacqueline Firkins' Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things by Jacqueline Firkins
Goodreads


1- Would you please tell us more about the "fully twirl-able" book inspired dresses on your Instagram feed?
Jacqueline Firkins' Debut Author Spotlight

I have a distinct tremor and I’m therefore a terrible photographer. This makes IG a challenging platform for me. When I was thinking about what I could post there, I reminded myself that as a costume designer, I’m a visual artist. I should use that to my advantage on a visual platform. So I set about creating costumes—or in this case book themed dresses—that would echo the feel of the book I was releasing while employing my primary skill set. I also love building party dresses and sending them off to events, making someone feel joyous or beautiful during a memorable moment. I’ll be giving away the dresses over the next few months, hoping they help a few girls feel the way my main character does when she puts on her dream dress.

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

Accept feedback. Be willing to listen to how your words read. Then find a way to balance that feedback with your own inner voice. Easier said than done.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

I’ve always been a storyteller, but in my career as a costume designer, I tell stories visually rather than verbally. There’s nothing I love better than developing worlds and characters, especially if I can do so with a group of collaborators. About 10 years ago I developed Essential Tremor. My motor skills decreased and I came to grips with the reality that drawing and doing detailed sewing work wouldn’t always be possible. I considered how else I might use my skills, training, and passion. Rather than take a script and extract the characters within, I began developing my own characters. Pretty soon the hours spent over a sewing machine shifted into hours with a laptop as my brain burst with ideas begging to hit the page.

4- What about Mansfield, Massachusetts, inspired you to use it as a setting?

I knew I wanted a New England setting. I went to grad school in Connecticut and I’ve worked in most of the surrounding states, so I had some familiarity with the area. There’s a sense of history and formality that worked well for paralleling Austen’s world. The name nailed it, and the size of the city is right for the scale of the story. That said, with all due apologies to any locals, I invented a lot that doesn’t exist in the real Mansfield, creating a hybrid of the real town and the settings that served the story.

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

I’m @jfkillsdarlings. I’ve connected with so many fabulous debut writers this year, but three who are consistently supportive, caring, and fun, brightening the Twitterverse are: @KT_Gabriel, @HastingSamantha, @LauraTNamey

6- Would you share a picture with us of your book with a dress?
Jacqueline Firkins' Debut Author Spotlight

7- If someone hasn't read Jane Austen, which book of hers would you suggest the person should read first?

I love them all. The only one I wouldn’t start with is Northanger Abbey because it’s less representative of her tone than the others. Emma and P&P have the feistier heroines. Persuasion and Mansfield Park have the quieter ones. S&S has one of each.

8- What most motivates you to read a new book?

This year I’ve been reading almost entirely debut novels in YA and MG. It’s been a great way to get to know my new community. Most of the time I either read books by people I know or that are recommended by people I know.

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!

I’m a classics geek, but for living authors nothing’s stuck with me quite like:
Author name:Philip Pullman @PhilipPullman
Title: His Dark Materials series
Love because: They’re intensely creative worlds, and they take us on a deep dive into society, religion, class, gender, ecology, and politics all within a spectacularly entertaining adventure saga.


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

I often consider my closest friends my family, and I have an “honorary auntie” (she signs her emails HA) in the Vancouver area. She’s an avid reader of all genres and a brilliant writer as well. She was the first to read my messy early draft of Hearts, Strings and she’s supported me through every revision, cheering me on when my self doubt threatened to topple the enterprise altogether. She’s said that my book feels relatable and hopeful for teen girls, that it speaks to some of their pressures and challenges in an authentic but entertaining way.


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?

Mostly I hope my book makes people smile. It’s meant to be entertaining. There’s grief and there’s heartbreak, but hopefully there’s laughter, too, and a few joyous kissing scenes. I try to merge humour with hardship, so the “feels” run in tandem.

12- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?

There are so many talented bookstagrammers. I was pretty overwhelmed when I joined the site. My fave though is Carmen @tomesandtextiles. As both a costumer and writer, I’m naturally drawn to the way she combines clothes and books in her imagery. She’s also an intelligent, passionate, supportive, articulate voice for the community. She does it all.

13- How do you hope your book will help readers in their life?

I love romances. I read them voraciously. But so many focus around girls who are beautiful and guys who are strong. I’d like to diversify that narrative for readers who don’t self-identify with those traits. When I was teenager I assumed I didn’t deserve romantic love because I wasn’t like the heroines in the love stories I encountered. Boys fell for girls because of how they looked. I want to write stories for and about other kinds of girls. Whether or not my heroines are considered conventionally pretty, their looks aren’t pivotal to their love stories. I hope that if readers see more stories like that out there, maybe they’ll find themselves represented in ways that help them avoid the crippling self-doubt I suffered.

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

Edie spends much of the novel clinging tenaciously to her sneakers while her cousins try to make her over. It’s my way of playing with the Cinderella motif that weaves through the source material. Edie gets her glass slippers, but she knows in her heart that only one pair of shoes will bring her closer to the kind of love she really wants: the shoes in which she most feels like herself.

15- diversebooks.org #WeNeedDiverseBooks What's your favorite book with a diverse main character?

I read Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone this past spring and was blown away. She uses familiar fantasy tropes but she draws on cultural traditions we don’t see as often within the genre. Her writing is so strong, her magic unique, her world building immersive, her characters flawed but relatable. She’s a genius. And the afterward will break you.


16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

https://recitrachel.com (though I *may* be biased because we have matching dogs)

17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?
Jacqueline Firkins' Debut Author Spotlight

I’m not the best judge of my own work. Before I put my writing into the world, I wanted an editorial process to ensure the work was as strong as possible before reaching potential readers. As a theatre artist, I’m also accustomed to working collaboratively. My work is always better for the input of others. Therefore I went traditional, mustering patience until the right manuscript found the right editor, who could identify the weaknesses in the story and draw out the strengths.

18- Why do you think readers should write book reviews?

People should write reviews to create a culture of response to a work, providing links between readers who are looking for their next story dive. It takes a lot of kind, articulate responses to combat the generic, mean ones, but together we can create a community of readers who are truly invested in sharing their ideas about stories with each other. Whether a response is positive or negative, being able to frame it in a way that helps direct other readers is a gift to the reading community. Be honest. But be kind. Authors are human too.

19- Do you have one question or discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

What stories would you like to see retold that you haven’t encountered already?

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

Website: http://jacquelinefirkins.com

Twitter and IG: @jfkillsdarlings jfkillsdarlings

Blurb:


Mansfield, Massachusetts is the last place seventeen-year-old Edie Price wants to spend her final summer before college. It’s the home of wealthy suburbanites and prima donnas like Edie’s cousins, who are determined to distract her from her mother’s death with cute boys and Cinderella-style makeovers. Edie has her own plans, and they don’t include a prince charming.
But as Edie dives into schoolwork and applying for college scholarships, she finds herself drawn to two Mansfield boys who start vying for her attention. First there's Sebastian, Edie’s childhood friend and first love. He’s sweet and smart and . . . already has a girlfriend. Then there's Henry, the local bad boy and all-around player. He’s totally off limits, even if his kisses are chemically addictive.
Both boys are trouble. Edie can’t help but get caught between them. Someone's heart is going to break. Now she just has to make sure it isn't hers.
Jacqueline Firkins' Debut Author Spotlight

Bio:


I'm a writer, costume designer, and lover of beautiful things. I'm on the fulltime faculty in the Department of Theatre & Film at the University of British Columbia where I also take any writing class they’ll let me into. When not obsessing about where to put the buttons or the commas, I can be found running by the ocean, eating excessive amounts of gluten, listening to earnest love songs, and pretending my dog understands every word I say.
My website contains some of my comics and costume designs. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for me, keep your eyes posted for an insanely cute dog, a tired sewing machine, and a large compliment of neuroses. I’ll be nearby.


Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things by Jacqueline Firkins
Goodreads

Monday, December 2, 2019

First 50 Critique - YA/Fantasy #1

When ya gotta write, ya gotta write!

We are accepting your entries this week!

Category/genre:  Young adult [YA] Fantasy

For full details on how to enter, click here.

First, you must comment on at least two previous First 50 Critique entries.  Today's can be one of them.

Second, send us an email formatted as follows:

[Subject:] First 50 Critique – YA/Fantasy

The following 50 words are my own work and I give OA permission to post it on the OA blog for the life of the blog.

I commented on the entries posted on DATE and DATE as [your online ID].

My first 50 words:

[Copy/paste your first 50 words here.]


Entry period opens now and closes at the end of the day on Wednesday December 4, 2019. All entries will receive a confirmation email from us by Friday December 6, 2019 that acknowledges receipt of your entry and, if you've complied with all requirements, lets you know what date it will be included on the blog for critique. If you do NOT receive a confirming email by Saturday December 7, 2019, send us a DM on Twitter and we'll give you alternative instructions for sending us your entry.

[Don't worry all you writers of fiction for adults.  Last time we had an adult category we didn't receive any entries, but we'll try again soon.]

Also, if you want to see this feature continued, YOU NEED TO LEAVE A CRITIQUE.  We want need everyone to participate.  This includes YOU.

Now on to this week's entry!

Reminder: Be nice, but be honest. [Comments that are not polite/respectful will be deleted.] What would YOU like to know if this was YOUR first 50 words? Do you think it's a good opening line for the category/genre? Does it have a hook? Does it pull you into the story? Do you want to read more? Why or why not? Be specific, so your critique helps the person who wrote the entry.

First 50 Critique – YA/Fantasy #1

The High Street. I'm sprinting. Freezing drizzle needles my face. Footfalls and jeers behind me - Spatula and her athletics club vultures. Gaining. Already too close.

I won't make it home.

I need to hide.

I tear past betting shops and pawnbrokers, the pound shop. Round the corner. Then see it.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Flash Fiction Contest #44


Are you behind in NaNoWriMo? Here's an opportunity to catch up!

National Novel Writing Month is an incredible (and stressful) time in which us eccentric bibliophiles attempt to write 50,000 words in a single month. I, for one, am majorly behind in my own word count and wanted to offer some positive motivation for those who are struggling too, or just want to write more for the prospect of #winning.

This Flash Fiction Friday, your task is to write 500 words of your current NaNo novel. It's not exactly a flash fiction prompt, but competition always lights a fire under our butts, right? ;)

Prompt: NaNo Novel Chapter of Choice

Word Count: 500

Deadline: Sunday, December 1st 2019


Happy Writing! May the best insomniac win!

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Dear O'Abby: I'm going to finish NaNo. What next?

Dear O’Abby,

This is my first time doing NaNo and I’m pretty close to finishing my book. I’m super excited about it because I’ve never written a book before. But I was wondering, what do I when it’s finished? Send it to publishers? Do you have any advice for a newbie?

Yours,

Noob


Dear Noob,

Firstly, congratulations on finishing a book! That’s a fantastic achievement and one you should be very proud of.

But finishing a novel is really only the first step in the writing process so please don’t rush off and send your freshly finished manuscript to anyone.

The first thing you need to do is let that manuscript sit for a few weeks. Don’t look at it. Write something else or plan something else. Take a break and do something not writing-related for a while. Whatever you want to do except looking over that book you just wrote. I like to give my manuscripts at least a month before I go back to them because that’s long enough to be able to look at them with fresh eyes.

When you do go back it, you will probably find a lot of things you need to change. Character motivations may not be clear. Tension might not be high enough at key points in the manuscript. The ending may not be as satisfying as you thought it would be. You may even find stupid things like a character’s name changing between chapters or their hair going from blonde to brown. Fast drafting, which NaNo is, is a fantastic tool for getting you story on the page, but it isn’t a finished book yet, even if you have typed THE END.

Revision is crucial to the writing process. And I find it usually takes me WAY longer to revise a book than it does to write it in the first place. I would suggest doing a first read-through where you don’t make any changes, but write notes for yourself about things you notice that need to be changed. If you change them as you go, you may find things you do early on in the book no longer make sense by the time you’ve made changes toward the end. I often find that after this first pass, writing a synopsis of the book helps me to really figure out the shape of the story, and where scenes or characters may need to be changed or moved.

The next step is to make the changes you’ve noted. This could take some time, if the changes are substantial. I’ve re-written entire books from a new POV at this point, or scrapped the entire middle and re-written it so it works better with the ending, or ditched a character completely because they didn’t really have any function in the story. I’ve added 20K in some revisions, and cut the same amount in others. Each book is different.

And when you’ve done, let it rest again. Then rinse and repeat.

When you get to the point you aren’t actually changing anything substantial anymore, just moving commas or changing ‘asked’ to ‘queried’, it’s probably time to get some new eyes on your work. You need to send your book to a critique partner or beta reader to see how it reads to someone who doesn’t know your story. In fact, you probably need to send it to at least three people who aren’t intimate with it. Ideally people who aren’t just going to fangirl about the fact you’ve actually written a book. You need feedback on what you’ve written.

Once the feedback comes in, you need to read it carefully, consider it and make decisions about which pieces of advice are helpful and which are not. Not every suggestion made by a crit partner or beta is going to be useful. But if you get the same piece of feedback from multiple people, you probably should pay attention to it. I also find it’s often useful to give feedback time to settle in. Don’t rush in and change things as soon as the feedback lands. Take some time to think about the things your readers identified as problematic. You may find even better ways to address them than anything that was suggested.

Then you revise some more. And send to new readers. And revise some more.

Told you it was a long process…

Once you’re satisfied it’s as good as you can possibly get it, there are other decisions you need to make about how and where you want to publish. But maybe we’ll look at that part of the process in next week’s post.

Happy revising!

X O’Abby

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Liz Kerin's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

The Phantom Forest by Liz Kerin


1- 1- Are there any charities you plan to support on Giving Tuesday? (#GivingTuesday refers to the Tuesday after U.S. Thanksgiving in the United States. It is a movement to create an international day of charitable giving at the beginning of the Christmas and holiday season.)

For Giving Tuesday, I encourage everyone to check out Write Girl, an amazing foundation that supports young, diverse female voices from the ground up! It’s a very special mentoring program for writers from underprivileged backgrounds and I’ve just started getting involved with them. You can donate online at WriteGirl.org or if you’re in the LA metro area, you can volunteer in person!

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

Sometimes the best critique of your work can come from you, 6 months to a year after you wrote something! This happens to me all the time.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

I have always been passionate about writing, ever since I learned to read. In my kindergarten class we had a make-your-own storybook corner where the teacher supplied blank books and art supplies, and you wrote your own children’s book. I chose that activity so many times my teacher eventually had to force me to try something else! But that’s my earliest memory of writing. I remember writing a short story about a polar bear and a seal who get separated from their mothers and have to trek across the Arctic to find them. It was 100% a Land Before Time ripoff but hey, you’ve gotta start somewhere.

4- Is there a religion, myth, or legend you used as the basis for this book?

One of my favorite myths is that of Persephone, and Orpheus is a close second. Both stories, of course, have all the Underworld vibes. While this book was definitely influenced by the Greek concept of the afterlife, I also peppered in imagery from Dante’s inferno, ideas about reincarnation, and inspiration from texts like the Egyptian Book of the Dead. I don’t think I pulled from any one particular religion or mythological construct. The point of this exercise, for me, was to create something entirely new with touchstones of familiarity. Every culture since ancient times has had their own concept of the afterlife, and while many of these beliefs are quite different, they also intersect in really interesting ways. I was definitely inspired by that.

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

My Twitter is @Liz_Kerin and three writers I’d love to shout out to are Jacqui Castle (@JCastleWrites) who is writing a sequel to her award-winning book THE SECLUSION, Bridget Tyler (@CaliforniaB) a fellow NYU writing alum and badass author of THE PIONEER, and Matt Harry (@MattHarry) who has a sequel to his MG adventure fantasy CRYPTOZOOLOGY FOR BEGINNERS out this Fall!

6- Would you share a picture with us of your book among the trees or in another fun setting?

Liz Kerin's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome ~ The Phantom Forest
My amazing aunt took these woodsy pictures and the picture of me with the book is from the day it was released, while I was on my honeymoon in Europe. It was a pretty magical day!

7- In your opinion, can everyone redeem themselves if they truly regret their wrongdoings and genuinely try to make amends, or are a few people beyond forgiveness?

Without spoiling anything from the book, I believe that redemption is a bit of a spectrum. If you go out of your way to choose darkness, there might be no turning back. But if you find yourself lost in darkness and make some bad choices, that’s not quite the same thing. There’s a difference, and I think the book takes that stance, too.

8- What most motivates you to read a new book?

If all my friends are raving about it, I’m helpless against peer pressure. I am desperate to get in on the conversation! Thankfully, my friends all have awesome taste. Even if I don’t love something as much as they do, it’s always in my wheelhouse and fun to discuss.
Liz Kerin's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome ~ The Phantom Forest

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: Naomi Alderman @NaomiAllTheNews
Title: THE POWER
Love because: I finally picked this one up and I’m so glad I did (though I’m slightly ashamed that I’m 3 years late to this party!). It’s such a grounded, evocative speculative fiction about how the tables might turn if women were suddenly blessed with a supernatural, physical advantage over men. It fits beautifully next to Margaret Atwood on my shelf, another one of my all-time favorites.

Liz Kerin's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome ~ The Phantom Forest

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

I have no idea who my biggest fan is but if I had to shout out to anyone, it would be my awesome aunt who took my book on her trip to Europe and bookstagrammed up a storm! I think pretty much everyone who has read the book and enjoyed it is a Haben stan and you know what, SO AM I. He’s the weirdest and the best and there’s a reason we all love him. I also get a lot of comments about the three sisters and Norryn, people saying they hope they show up more in future installments (they totally will!).

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 readers are excited by the parallel worlds and the connections between the characters, this idea that love transcends the laws of the physical universe. I also love a great female-driven revenge story and I hope readers rally around Seycia’s quest, even if her motives might be a little questionable sometimes. The scene I hope resonates most with readers comes toward the very end of the book, when Seycia finally has to deliver on her promise to Haben. For me, this was the most poignant and cathartic scene to write and I hope it has the same impact on readers.

12- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?

I have a few! I really like the cozy shots Morrigan’s books takes. I also love the minimalist arrangements Sadie at Curioser and Curioser does. And just the other day I saw an awesome bookstagram of Phantom Forest by Dana’s Book Nook that was so beautiful and autumnal I had to share it ASAP!

13- How do you hope your book will help readers in their life?

I hope the concepts of the afterlife in this book might help people who are looking for a creative, out-of-the-box way to cope with loss. The idea that nobody is ever gone for good is really powerful for me. Writing this was very therapeutic in that sense. I hope readers feel similarly.

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

Probably the nasty double scars on General Simeon’s face: one left by Seycia, the other by her father. He wears their vengeance on his face wherever he goes. He’ll never escape what he did to these people, nor should he.

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

Seycia and the Khronasans are an incredibly diverse, vibrant community that reflects a futuristic version of the world we currently live in. While the Khronasan culture is fictional, I hope when readers picture Seycia in their minds, they take note of the way she’s described on the page. She is a female lead of color. Even though her heritage isn’t the focal point of the story, I think it’s important that the characters reflect the world around us—particularly in this futuristic setting where a new, spiritual awareness has united people across the world. Another example of this is the goddess Irem, a nonverbal character who is also the most powerful force in the entire story. She was written this way for a reason, and I’m glad readers notice.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

I adore Kaleena at Reader Voracious. She writes such insightful reviews and even if a book didn’t vibe with her, she is open to the idea that it might be someone else’s favorite and explains why it may work for them. She also has fabulous taste and I blame her for making my TBR explode! She was one of the first blogs to really support THE PHANTOM FOREST when the ARCs hit the town, and I’m eternally grateful.

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

I went with Inkshares because I was shortlisted for the 2016 Launchpad Manuscript Competition and they were the sponsoring publisher. I’ve worked as a screenwriter for several years before publishing a book, and their business model worked well with the readership I already had and my relationships in Film/TV.

18- Why do you think readers should write book reviews?

I think reviews, especially positive ones, help authors more than anyone realizes, in so many ways! Word of mouth is essential. Not everyone has the marketing budget of the big publishing houses. So if you love something, don’t keep it to yourself! We writers appreciate it more than you know!

19- Do you have one question or discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

What’s your favorite afterlife story and/or myth? I realize it’s not right to classify all of these as “myths” because many people of faith consider these stories to be part of their beliefs. But I would love to know if there’s an obscure, interesting tale about the afterlife I’ve never heard before.

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

I’m tinkering with the idea of a prequel podcast and of course, writing the next book in this proposed series, so please do follow along on Twitter and Instagram for news and updates. I’ll also probably be doing a few bookstore/library events on the West Coast in early 2020, so stay tuned!

Check out my review of The Phantom Forest on Goodreads. Goodreads.com/review/show/2952218899


The Phantom Forest by Liz Kerin