Monday, November 11, 2019

First 50 Critique - YA Contemporary #2

Thank a veteran today

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 Contemporary #2

The insistent bell for first period clanged, but first, I had to remove the banana peel from my head. I gripped the slimy fruit remnant, chucked it backwards, and wiped the sticky residue off my hair. This was not my first trip into the dumpster thanks to Brittny and her minions.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

An O'Abby tip for NaNoWriMo

I guess everyone is writing novels this month instead of emails to O'Abby...

So, we’re a week into NaNo. How are you going? Are you sleeping? Are your kids getting fed? Is the laundry piling up in the laundry and the dishes on the kitchen counter?

If so, don’t worry. It probably means you’ve been writing. Or at least I hope you have!

This week I want to give you a tip that might help you if the initial rush of starting your new book has worn off and you’re starting to feel like writing is just too hard.

It is tempting to give up once that initial burst of excitement and productivity wears off. Once you’ve written that startlingly original beginning you’ve been imagining since you first came up with the idea for this story. Maybe it didn’t come out on the page the way you imagined. Or maybe it hasn’t sparked the next scenes in a way that makes you excited to sit down and write.

Don’t stop.

There’s bound to be a scene somewhere further in the book you are excited to write. A kissing scene, maybe? A piece of action you have choreographed in your head? An emotional moment that brings a lump to your throat each time you think about it?

Write it.

Now is not the time to be precious about writing in a linear way. Write the scenes you want to write, the ones you are excited about. The ones that made you want to write this particular story. You can fill in the stuff that gets your characters from the beginning to that point later on. I know a lot of writers don’t like to write out of sequence, but if you’re struggling to get to your word count, or feel stuck in your story, this is a way to push past that block and possibly free yourself up to move on.

The great thing about this technique is you can use it over and over again through the writing of your project. Any time you get stuck, just leave your characters where they are. They’ll still be there where you get back to them. And often writing through scenes later in the book will give you ideas that will help push past that sticking point.

Remember this isn’t a final draft. It isn’t even a first draft. If you hit your 50K words at the end of the month and there are still holes in your story, it doesn’t matter. You can fill them in. Or maybe you’ll find you don’t actually need all the connective tissue you thought you would when you started writing.

Hopefully this will be helpful for you. It’s something I use all the time when I’m drafting, during NaNo or any other time. I’ll let you in on a secret too. I almost always write the ending of my books really early on. I don’t do much plotting ahead of time and having an ending there gives me something to aim for. If you have an ending in mind now, but aren’t quite sure how to get to it, maybe you should try writing it. It might help you to find your way.

Happy writing!

X O’Abby

PS.  After 6 days my word count is sitting at around 11K.  How are you getting on?

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

K H Canobi's Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Mindcull by K H Canobi

1- What's your favorite format to read a book in?

Paper. Some studies suggest that people learn from and remember books better in paper format and I think that’s true of me.

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

Write, rewrite and don’t give up. Persevere through the knockbacks and self-doubt – revise, edit, and use feedback to make your manuscript stronger.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

Books thrill me! I have been diving into the magical, exciting world of fiction since I was very young. I find reading good books moving, addictive and inspiring.

4- How have the notes for teachers and offering to speak at schools and libraries impacted your book sales?

Whatever you can do online or in person to get your name and your book out there is helpful. I think teacher notes are expected for sales through school bookclubs, which have been important for Mindcull in Australia. Ford Street Publishing has a strong relationship with school communities, so it usually provides teacher notes for its books.

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

@khcanobi . Shout out to @michaeljpryor, @wallysbooks, @joeldeane.

6- Would you share a picture with us of your book in a classic Australian setting?

I left reading this question too late. Last week I could have put Mindcull in front of a wallaby at the beach. This week you get Mindcull under the spotted gum at the bottom of my garden.

7- Did being a cognitive scientist help you to write Mindcull?

Yes. My research and teaching in cognitive developmental psychology involved exploring how people learn and change as a result of different experiences. Developmental psychology helped me understand the teenage years as an important time for shaping identity and forming authentic interpersonal connections so I could consider the impact of technology on my teenage characters. My background in cognitive science gave me a head start in thinking about how scientists of the future might use computer modelling and biological and behavioural measures to try to work out what’s going on inside a person’s head. Psychology also gave me a framework for imagining what might go wrong if virtual and augmented reality become so much a part of daily life that people’s virtual and real worlds get intertwined.

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

Getting attached to the characters. If I really care about a main character, I lose myself in their world and have to keep reading to find out what happens to them.

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 Epstein @SarahLEpstein
Title: Small Spaces
Love because: It’s a compelling psychological thriller for young adults by a talented Australian debut author.

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

My kids have been keen on Mindcull from the first draft and very supportive.
My daughter likes Eila, because she is a strong, flawed female main character and they all enjoy high-concept thrillers and like Mindcull’s fast pace.

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 worked hard on making the book suspenseful so readers feel compelled to turn the pages to see what will happen next. The scene I put the most time into was the opening scene because that was my first opportunity to draw readers in. I tried to recreate that feeling from a nightmare where someone is chasing you and you are not quite sure who they are, but you know you have to get away. And no matter how fast you run, they keep gaining on you.
When a friend of mine who does not usually like sci fi novels messaged me to say that she had been up until 1am reading Mindcull because she had to find out what would happen next, I felt like I had done my job. There are places in Mindcull where I want readers to laugh, smile, feel sad or get angry but I think I worked hardest on building tension.

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

The #LoveOzYa community that celebrates Australia’s youth literature.

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

I hope Mindcull will help teenagers who are struggling to work out who they are and develop meaningful relationships in a world where technology can be used in powerful ways to escape reality and distort reality. I hope that entering Eila’s world might help them to think critically and creatively about our lives now and about what is to come.

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

The memorable thing about my main character, Eila is that the disconnect between how she appears in the virtual world (popular, spontaneous, funny, successful) and who she really is (disconnected, shy, anxious, serious.)

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

Eila’s best friend, Mei has a Chinese family background and Pita Henare, who is the CEO and founder of Pearl (the global tech company that runs the competition that shortlists Eila’s virtual reality clips) is Maori. Each of the short-listees in the Pearl competition is from a different continent. The most important of these to the plot is Hugo, who is Columbian. The issue of neurodiversity is very important in Mindcull and impacts on various characters in different ways.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger? and

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

I like the way small publishers seem more open to taking a chance on an unknown debut author.

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

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.

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?

The tagline for Mindcull is, “Who can you trust when nothing is as real as virtual reality?” and the world is a lot like our own but people rely on virtual reality headsets for entertainment and communication the way we rely on smartphones now.
If you think about the way technology has changed our lives in the last twenty to thirty years and how being a teenager has changed over that period, what do you think it will be like to be a teenager in twenty or thirty years?

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


Eila is in the running to star in a global marketing campaign for a new virtual reality skinsuit. But now a fierce battle is raging for control of her mind. Secrets and deceptions abound. Activists reveal a murderous plot then someone fills her head with a stranger’s thoughts. Who are Eila’s true allies and how far will she go to protect innocent lives?


K H Canobi is a cognitive scientist who writes fiction for young adults and children. Her debut novel, Mindcull, a futuristic thriller for young adults, came out in June, 2019 with Ford Street Publishing. Prior to writing Mindcull, Katherine worked as a researcher and university lecturer in developmental psychology in Australia and the UK, completing a PhD and postdoctoral fellowship at Melbourne University where she is now an honorary fellow. Visit her online at
Twitter: @khcanobi


"Mindcull is clever, with twists that feel organic and unpredictable. . . . Tech-savvy readers searching for sophisticated YA science fiction with a contemporary cyberpunk twist will find Canobi’s debut a must-read." Catherine Moller, Books + Publishing ★★★★☆
"Mindcull is a fast-paced, intelligent, high-concept science fiction novel that is completely impossible to put down." Marie Alafaci, Magpies Magazine
"Mindcull is a great young adult future thriller with a touch of romance. It is an exciting and fast paced book with a strong, flawed female protagonist and deals with issues such as family loss, technology addiction and mental health." Libby Boas, Reading Time, Online Journal of Children's Book Council of Australia

The cover art is by @KAIllustrations

Mindcull by K H Canobi

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

NaNoWriMo: Silencing Your Inner Editor

In my local NaNoWriMo group this week, someone asked, "How do I kill my inner editor?" After another writer recommended not to kill the inner editor but to send it on a month-long spa retreat instead, I let my mind drift to what my inner editor is up to this month. If I had to put an image to it, I'd have to say mine is tied up in a closet with duct tape on her mouth - and I know she's going to come out of the closet in an angry whirlwind the moment I open the door on December 1st.

Not revising as I go is always a struggle for me during NaNoWriMo. I don't have as hard a time with writing during the month as I do with not looking back - vomiting the words onto the paper and not saying to myself, "well, that sentence could use a little tweaking, what if I changed this phrasing around? Oh, but I used the same word in that other sentence, that one could use some work too..." and before I know it, I've spent an hour revising what I've already written and I have 137 fewer words than I did when I started. I mean, the other day I wrote this gem:
The metal melted at her touch, the soft metal weaving its way around her wrist into a series of interlinking cuffs with a pleasing sound of singing metal.
Gross. It's like it was a challenge to see how many times I could use the word "metal" in one sentence.

Over and over, like an inner mantra, I keep telling myself that NaNoWriMo is just about getting the words on the page. It's just about writing something with reckless abandon and not caring too much about the prose. One of my writer friends is struggling with prose that's too flowery. I've got clunky "telling" phrases everywhere you look, and I've seen no sign of that letting up anytime soon. One lucky friend is getting things pretty darn near perfect on the first try. (I swear she sold her soul or something.)

Allowing myself to write badly is hard. When I was growing up, every time I'd sit down to write, I'd start at the beginning of the manuscript and revise as I went until I got to where things left off. Of course, as the manuscript got longer, this meant I'd run out of time to put any new words in the document and I ended up revising the same first 50 pages over and over without having a good sense of where those 50 pages were going.

Fighting fifteen years of habit is hard, but this year, I think I've finally found a work-around. Every time I leave off writing, I leave a comment for myself about what just happened in the plot and where I see it going next. This keeps me from going back to read what I wrote yesterday and getting caught up with critiquing my writing. Refreshing the barest outline of yesterday's words is enough to get me going again, and I'm not tearing my hair out because my word count suddenly dropped. There are eleven months every year that aren't NaNoWriMo; I want to use this one for its intended purpose.

I hope all of your inner editors are on a warm, sandy beach somewhere far away from your works in progress, and I hope you'll be able to welcome them back without too much of a reality check when December gets here!

Monday, November 4, 2019

First 50 Critique - YA/Contemporary #1

Looks like none of you awesome OA blog readers are writing Adult SFF at this time, because we received no entries last week.  So, let's move on to another online friend who I threatened begged asked to let me use her first 50 words.
Happy November!

We are accepting your entries this week!

Category/genre:  Young adult [YA] contemporary

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/Contemporary

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 November 6, 2019. All entries will receive a confirmation email from us by Friday November 8, 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 November 9, 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.

First 50 Critique – YA/Contemporary #1

Hot anger spiked through Sam when he arrived at the bridge and saw her.

How dare she be there.

How dare anyone be there.

Being there, now, was no accident. He’d planned to the minute, choosing exactly this time because he knew the bridge would be deserted.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Flash Fiction Contest #43 WINNER!

For the Prompt: "Deceptively Terrifying"

Congratulations to Ikmar for winning this week's Flash Fiction Friday!

Humans fear the unknown most of all. Well done, Ikmar for masterfully building up the suspense of the unknown in what turned out to be quite funny!

Thank you for participating and keep an eye out for the next Flash Fiction Friday!