Monday, December 25, 2023

Week #52 – How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

Welcome to 2023!  On Mondays this year, let’s discuss and have fun with books. No I’m not writing book reviews. But this website is for writers, and writers like books right? So let’s have FUN with books!

Week #52 – How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss, 1957

On Christmas Eve, the Grinch, a cranky, solitary creature, works to “stop Christmas from coming” by stealing Christmas gifts, food,  and decorations from the homes of the nearby town of Whoville. The story criticizes the commercialization of Christmas.!

The original Grinch TV special from 1966, Grinch voiced by Boris Karloff

Jim Carrey as the Grinch in 2000, directed by Ron Howard

Best Christmas movies of all time

What's your favorite Christmas story? Tell us in the comments!

Curious about what we're doing in 2024 on Mondays? Come back next week to find out!

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Happy Holidays from O'Abby


I just wanted to wish you all the very best for the holiday season.  O'Abby has loved answering all your questions this year and I look forward to continuing to do so in the New Year.

For the next couple of weeks I will be on vacation, so there will be no O'Abby column until after 8 January while I relax, soak up the sun (O'Abby lives in the Southern Hemisphere so it's summer here) and read books is this beautiful spot.

Monday, December 18, 2023

Week #51 – The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

Welcome to 2023!  On Mondays this year, let’s discuss and have fun with books. No I’m not writing book reviews. But this website is for writers, and writers like books right? So let’s have FUN with books!

Week #51 – The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle, 1902

In London, Dr. James Mortimer asks Sherlock Holmes to assist with the legend of a curse that has run in the Baskerville family for generations. Sir Hugo Baskerville kidnapped a farmer's daughter. When she escaped, Hugo made a deal with the devil and pursued her. Hugo's friends found the girl dead of fear and Hugo killed by a demonic hound, which has haunted Dartmoor ever since and caused the death of many Baskerville heirs.

You can read it here

It was made into several movies, the most famous one in 1939

The complete works of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

The “hound” is a mixed breed, part mastiff and part bloodhound. The dog's jaws are covered in phosphorus so they appear to glow.


Baskerville is a font style

Baskerville is a dog muzzle

Sherlock Holmes fan page

Have you read any Sherlock Holmes original stories? What did you think? Tell us in the comments!

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Dear O'Abby: What's going on?

 Dear O'Abby,

I saw some stuff online earlier this week about an author who was in trouble for something she'd done on Goodreads?  I never caught the author's name or got the full story about what they did wrong, so I'm wondering what that was all about.  

Do you know?

Kind regards,


Dear Curious,

Yes, there was a big blow up on social media earlier in the week when it was discovered that an author had set up a bunch of fake Goodreads accounts and used them to boost her own book.  But even worse, she used these accounts to also trash other people's books, authors she saw as her competition.

Don't do this.

I know there are a lot of books out there and only a finite number of readers, but being dishonest and actively sabotaging other authors is not the way to get seen. Other authors are not the enemy.  Other authors are your community and for the most part, they've got your back.  I've found that the writing community is very welcoming, extremely generous with their time, and very willing to share the things they've learned along the way.

Don't repay this by stabbing the people who helped you in the back.

This particular author has apologised, but to me it feels too late.  She only did it after she got caught.  And after she set up another fake account to try and blame the whole mess on an "acquaintance".  And sure, more people know her name now, but I don't think that's going to help her book or her writing career.

Writing isn't a competition and there isn't a winner.  I know it sometimes feels that way, especially with publishing houses often doing little to no publicity and leaving all the work of getting readers' attention to the author.  But this isn't the kind of attention you want.  Make sure people are talking about you and your book because it's a great story, well written, not because of your appalling online behaviour.

So that's what happened.  Make sure you learn from her mistake.

X O'Abby


Monday, December 11, 2023

Week #50 – Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

Welcome to 2023!  On Mondays this year, let’s discuss and have fun with books. No I’m not writing book reviews. But this website is for writers, and writers like books right? So let’s have FUN with books!

Week #50 – Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, 1726

Gulliver's Travels, or Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships is a satire, a parody of the popular travel novel. It mocks English customs and the politics of the day. Gulliver has four adventures, (1) he travels to Lilliput where the inhabitants are only 6” tall, (2) he travels to Brobdingnag where the inhabitants are giants, (3) he travels to Laputa where the inhabitants have great learning but no practical application, and (4) he travels to the land of the Houyhnhnms, a race of intelligent horses who are more rational and communal than the humanoid race called Yahoos.

You can read it here

It was made into a movie in 1939

And in 1977

And a TV mini-series in 1996

And another movie in 2010 with Jack Black

Other stories featuring small people are The Borrowers, Horton Hears a Who, The Indian in the Cupboard, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Other stories featuring giants are David and Goliath, Jack and the Beanstalk, Harry Poter, and Clifford the Big Red Dog.

Have you read Gulliver's Travels or any other book with small people or giants? Tell us in the comments!

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Dear O'Abby: Does this contract clause sound okay to you?

 Dear O'Abby,

A small press has accepted my novel for publication!  I was over the moon to finally be on my way with the writing career I've dreamed about since I was a little kid. But then the contract arrived and now I'm not so sure.

Most of the contract looks pretty standard and nothing stood out to me as being a red flag.  Until I reached the termination clause and found that should I wish to terminate my contract with the publisher, they will charge me a termination fee.  Plus, they will charge me for any editing, cover design, formatting and marketing they have done to date.  And any other "title-related costs".

Is this standard in publishing contracts?  Or is it something I should be wary of and run as far as I can from this publisher?  I'm obviously not planning to terminate my contract early, but you never know what might happen in the future...

Kind regards,

Future Uncertain

Dear Future Uncertain,

A termination fee is not always a red flag.  Sure, it's hard on an author who wants out of their contract, but if a publisher does a good job publishing a book and invests time, money and effort into editing, design and marketing, they probably do have a right to try and make some of that cost back if an author decides to walk before the book has earned back the cost of producing it.

Where termination clauses cause issues, is when publishers use them as a tool to punish authors, or to hold them in house even when they are unhappy with the way the publisher has handled their book(s).  And to me, that very vague "title-related costs" does sound somewhat ominous.  Unless a publisher can outline exactly what costs you will you will be liable for, I'd be uncomfortable.

Ideally a publisher will work with an author if they are unhappy and try to resolve any issues without invoking a termination clause.  Generally speaking, if the contract period is for a reasonable length of time, a clause stating an author can terminate after a certain period is more fair in that it gives the author a way out, yet also gives the publisher time to earn back some of the money they spent on producing the book.  Do check that part of the contract too - a life-of-copyright contract with no clause to terminate once sales drop below a certain level is also a big red flag.

I'm not a lawyer or an expert in publishing contract language, so I would suggest getting someone with real experience in this area to look over the contract if you're worried.  I know it will cost you some money, but potentially less than if you get caught in a bad contract you may want to get out of later.

And for some more information, here's an article I found about publishing contracts and clauses to look out for.  Please check to make sure your contract doesn't have any of these clauses as well. 

Best of luck!  I really hope this isn't a bad contract and that your publishing dreams will come true.

X O'Abby

Monday, December 4, 2023

Week #49 – Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Welcome to 2023!  On Mondays this year, let’s discuss and have fun with books. No I’m not writing book reviews. But this website is for writers, and writers like books right? So let’s have FUN with books!

Week #49 – Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, 1899

Sailor Charles Marlow, captain of a river steamboat for a Belgian ivory trade company, journeys up the Congo River to meet Kurtz, an ivory trader. Marlow encounters inefficiency and brutality in the Company’s stations. The native Africans have been forced into the Company’s service and exploited.

You can read it here

Here's a fun animated summary

The movie Apocalypse Now was influenced by this book, with the setting moved to during the Vietnam War

The book would be considered racist if written today

There are two countries in Africa called “Congo”, separated by the Congo River. They are called the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the east side and the Republic of the Congo on the west side.

What's the difference between them?

DR Congo is the second-poorest nation in the world, after Haiti

Have you read Heart of Darkness? What did you think of it?

Thursday, November 30, 2023

All NaNo's Eve

Well, it's 30 November, so many of you NaNo-ers will have already passed your 50K mark, while others of you may be facing a late night as you try to get those last words in before the end of the month.  Others of you may have already realised you were not going to hit 50K and have accepted the fact.

Whichever camp you're in today, take a moment to congratulate yourself.  You may or may not have "won", but whatever you managed to do, you're better off than you were on 1 November.  You may have only just started your book.  You may have "finished" it.  You're probably still working through the last third of your story.  It doesn't matter. You have words on a page, words that didn't exist 30 days ago.

That's an achievement!  A huge achievement.  How many people do you know who have even started writing a book, let alone finished one?  Compare that with the number of people you know who have said they'd love to write a book one day and you'll realise which group is bigger.

And the best thing you've done this month is get into a writing habit.  Keep it up.  Don't stop writing just because November has ended.  Most books are more than 50K words, so unless you've been writing at an awesome pace, you've probably got another 15-40K to write to actually hit the end.  So keep going while you have the momentum behind you and writing time factored into your day/week.  

Then, when you're done, put the book aside to rest and take a well-deserved break.

Leave that book alone for as long as you can - a month or more - then go back to it with fresh eyes to revise. You'll be amazed how different it looks with a little distance.

But right now, just take a moment to feel proud of what you've already achieved.  It's a long journey, but you've made it through the first leg already.

X O'Abby

Monday, November 27, 2023

Week #48 – War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Welcome to 2023!  On Mondays this year, let’s discuss and have fun with books. No I’m not writing book reviews. But this website is for writers, and writers like books right? So let’s have FUN with books!

Week #48 – War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, 1869

Set in Russia during the Napoleonic Wars beginning in 1812, the book mixes fiction with chapters discussing history and philosophy. It details the French invasion of Russia and its aftermath through narratives following five Russian aristocratic families. It is 587,287 words.

You can read it here

Famous quote: “All we can know is that we know nothing. And that's the highest degree of human wisdom.”

It was made into a film in 1956

Books with more than 400,000 words:

418,053 – Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
445,134 – It by Stephen King
455,125 – The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
471,485 – The Stand by Stephen King
530,982 – Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
561,996 – Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
587,287 – War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Here are word counts of popular books

Have you read any books with a high word count? Have you WRITTEN any books with a high word count? Tell us in the comments!

Thursday, November 23, 2023

From the Archive: Dear O'Abby, I'm going to win 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? 



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

Monday, November 20, 2023

Week #47 – The Time Machine by HG Wells

Welcome to 2023!  On Mondays this year, let’s discuss and have fun with books. No I’m not writing book reviews. But this website is for writers, and writers like books right? So let’s have FUN with books!

Week #47 – The Time Machine by HG Wells, 1895

A scientist builds a time machine and travels to the year 802,701. He finds that humanity has evolved into two races: the childlike Eloi and the savage Morlocks. His machine disappears, so he explores the future world to find it.

It was made into a movie in 1960 and also in 2002.

Time travel books/stories

A Christmas Carol
The Time Traveler's Wife
Back to the Future
The Terminator
Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

Dystopian books/stories

Hunger Games
Maze Runner
Red Queen
The Road

Do you like time travel or dystopian stories? Tell us in the comments!

Friday, November 17, 2023

Query Friday: What is High Concept?


 High Concept

You're scrolling through twitter and an agent you're following tweets that their looking for High Concept ideas.

What does that even mean? Are they looking for stories set in the Alps?

Alps Mountain Range

Only interested if the writer has entered an altered state of consciousness?

Waves through Brain

Well maybe? But unlike the phase "I was unable to connect with the character," High Concept can be defined a bit more easily.

At it's core a high concept idea is one that can be pitched and understood in one to two sentences.

In my opinion one of the best examples of this is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen, Seth Grahame-Smith,  Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

You don't even need a sentence to understand what this is about, it's all in the title.

Or looking at television, Smallville is a great example.

 Smallville (TV Series 2001–2011) - IMDb

Concept: What if Superman spent his teen years in small town America?


Both these examples lean on very well established bases- Pride and Prejudice and Superman- and that can be part of a high concept pitch, but you can still have a high concept pitch without an established character as long as something is familiar and relatable to the audience.

The Hunger Games could be pitched as a dystopian society where children are forced to fight to the death as part of a reality TV show.

High concept is about commercial appeal and ultimately a marketing term, so a high concept idea will immediately tell your audience what they are in for and hopefully pull them along.

Happy Writing!





Thursday, November 16, 2023

From the archives: O'Abby's ways to push your story forward

There were no questions for O’Abby this week.  I guess everyone is busy doing #NaNo! So I dug this handy bit of NaNo advice out of the archives

We’re past the halfway point of November now, and if you’re working at the pace to finish your 50K by 30 November you should be hitting or passing the 30K mark around now.  But don’t worry if you’re not there yet.  There’s still time to catch up.  Personally, I don’t get a lot of writing time during the week, so I tend to blitz my word count during the weekends.  I have also been taking one day off work per week to write, and that’s definite motivation to crank out those words.

Just do whatever works for you and make the most of whatever time you can scratch together.

Around about this time is where I often feel like my story is stagnating so I thought I’d give you a few ideas for ways to shake things up a little in your story.  Ideas for how to push your characters into doing something new that might move things along in a significant way.

  •  Someone from the past shows up unexpectedly
  • A character close to your protagonist dies
  • A potentially life-altering secret is revealed
  • Your protagonist loses something valuable
  • Some kind of natural disaster occurs
  • Someone has an accident 
  • Someone moves to a new city/country/house
  • A monster – human or otherwise – enters your protagonist’s world
  • A random act of kindness
  • A crime is committed

These are just some ideas that might help push your characters.  They don’t need to happen to your protagonist directly – sometimes something dramatic happening to one of your secondary characters will motivate your MC more than if it happened to them directly.

The point is to shake things up to propel your MC into some kind of action.  And whatever obstacle you put in their way, whatever challenge, make sure it isn’t easy to overcome.  Your characters need to struggle.  They need to make the wrong decisions more often than the right ones.  Every choice they make needs to make things more difficult for them, throw up more challenges for them to face.

Hopefully this will be helpful if you reach a point where you feel flummoxed and can’t move on.  If there are no questions for O’Abby next week, I’ll share some more tips for getting past potential roadblocks to finishing.

Monday, November 13, 2023

Week #46 – The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Welcome to 2023!  On Mondays this year, let’s discuss and have fun with books. No I’m not writing book reviews. But this website is for writers, and writers like books right? So let’s have FUN with books!

Week #46 – The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, 1886

Dr Jekyll is a kind, well-respected, and intelligent scientist who experiments with the darker side of science. He drinks a potion and transforms himself into Mr Hyde - his evil alter ego.

Jekyll can be seen as having bipolar disorder, multiple personality disorder, substance abuse, or other mental illness. Or, the story may just represent the good and bad in each human being.

It was made into a film in 1920.

Did you know we have many common English words and phrases which we obtained from books and movies? Here's a few:

Jekyll and Hyde
Go down a rabbit hole
Pound of flesh
To be, or not to be, that is the question
Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.
I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse.
Go ahead, make my day.
May the Force be with you.

Do you commonly use words or phrases from books or movies? Tell us in the comments!

Friday, November 10, 2023

Flash Fiction Friday: Writing Prompt


It's Flash Fiction Friday! For this week's contest, go to HuffPost's Weird News page and write a short piece based on a headline! 

Catching my eye this week is:


This feels very dystopian to me!

You can read all about it here.

And if you want to share your story below, please do! 

Alternately, if you're working on NaNo and don't have the brain space for a writing prompt you can share a short, out of context snippet from your WIP.

Happy Writing!