Wednesday, September 28, 2016

September Pass Or Pages Entry #3

Time for our favorite part of Pass Or Pages, the feedback reveals! We hope that everyone following along will get something out of these reveals that they can apply to their own writing. I did!
We are so grateful to our agent panel for critiquing these entries. We would also like to give a shout-out to the authors for being brave and willing to improve.






Entry #3: EUPHORIA'S DESIGNS

Query:


Euphoria's Designs, a YA science fiction novel complete at 68,000 words, can be likened to A Court of Thorns and Roses meets the real science of The Martian.[RN1]

Seventeen-year-old Lottie leads a complicated life. Ensuring the survival of her alcoholic father, absentee mom, and disabled little brother forces her to sacrifice all[RN2] [KA1]. So when her father sells her to an advanced city to avoid punishment for his crime, it should have been an opportunity to start a new life.[SN1] [KA2]

And it was for a little while. With his beautiful brown skin, cocky smile and uncompromising attitude, Lottie meets her match in Eros.[SN2] At least, until Euphoria intervenes. Supercomputer Euphoria ensures all her people are chipped, tracked, genetically altered, born and bred warriors, and Eros is one of the elite.[RN3] [SN3] [KA3]

To make matters worse, Lottie alone uncovers an uprising against the warriors, only to have her family forsaken in the ensuing lockdown[RN4] [SN4]. Now the warriors, and possibly the boy she loves, will hunt her down if she flees to save her family, but if she doesn't, her little brother won't survive.[RN5] [SN5] [KA4]

************
Renee's Notes:
[RN1]The comps are CRAZY different. Which isn’t bad necessarily, but could you find a YA scifi title to bridge that gap? Perhaps something by Beth Revis?
[RN2]Unnecessary backstory. I recommend deleting.
[RN3]It is unclear to me how the supercomputer is intervening here.
[RN4]But I thought she didn’t live with her family anymore. She was sold to a new city? How does she find out that they are abandoned? 
[RN5]I can really feel the motivation for Lottie here. But I need a little more framing of the revolution. I would like to know why there is unrest.

Sarah's Notes:
[SN1] Sells her to do what? Is she a slave?
[SN2] Her love match? This isn't clear.
[SN3] I don't understand what this is trying to say or how it ruins Lotties new life. Also, is Lottie a warrior now?
[SN4] I'm also unclear. What does it mean that her family is forsaken?
[SN5] This is a very short query. Concise is good, but brevity that creates confusion is bad. You've got a good start here, but you need to add in a few more sentences here and there to clear up the confusion and help the agent get a better idea for what is going on.

Kurestin's Notes:
[KA1] There's nothing wrong with this opening, beyond the fact that I see it so often it feels a bit formulaic. Mix up the introductory sentences, make them snappier and include more of the voice from your manuscript.
[KA2] I'm a little unclear on the logistics of this arrangement, and I feel like there's an interesting tidbit you're keeping from me.
[KA3] Who? What? Where are they, how do they meet, what is this city like, why is there a supercomputer, why does it control warriors, why does it care about Lottie, what is she doing in this city? You've left me with a lot of questions and not a lot of interesting detail. Again I feel like there might be some cool stuff going on, you're just not telling me any of it.
[KA4] I'm again unclear on the cause and effect here, which means I don't feel any urgency or concern for Lottie because I'm still five steps behind. If I don't feel that concern and drive to find out what happens, I'm very likely to pass.


First 250:


I looked behind, barely able to see Dad buried between the sacks, hoping against hope that he’d stay there. Grains of sand whipped around us, scattering as we neared West Gate. Turning back around sent a slow ache rippling through my shoulder blades. Everything hurt, everything always hurt, by the time we got to the gate. Even my hair hurt. I tugged at its knot, letting the tangled mess fall to my shoulders.

A ding on the transport’s front display called, igniting a faint orange glow. They identified us. Up ahead, the warriors stood erect with their backs against the chiseled stone, looking as greyed and weathered as the wall they guarded, but also as proud. Upon our arrival, their darkened silhouettes shifted, drawing electrified braided spears outward. Black synthetic leathers ran smoothly over their bodies, layered on top of the hidden source of their inhuman strength: exogear. More warriors, positioned at ready yet hidden from view, watched us from the top of the warded wall, lost in the depths of the sky. [KA1]

The automatic alert woke Dad and he wrestled a bit as he made his way to the front of the transport, reeking from whatever he'd hidden under his dusty layers. “Charlotte, I’ve got this.” He leaned forward, his groggy, red eyes squinting into the faded light, searching to see which warrior was lead tonight. “Ervard.”

My fingers twitched as I queued a couple controls, dropping the transport’s speed and letting it coast to the staging area.

**************

Renee's Notes:
These pages are really great! I love the world building.

Sarah's Notes:
This is a decent first page.

Kurestin's Notes: 
[KA1]This description feels more jumbled than vivid to me. Perhaps focus on highlighting the most interesting and pertinent aspect for this particular moment.


Results:
Renee Nyen: PASS
Sarah Negovetich: PASS
Kurestin Armada: PASS

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

September Pass Or Pages Entry #2

Time for our favorite part of Pass Or Pages, the feedback reveals! We hope that everyone following along will get something out of these reveals that they can apply to their own writing. I did!
We are so grateful to our agent panel for critiquing these entries. We would also like to give a shout-out to the authors for being brave and willing to improve.






Entry #2: VOID STORM: UNBOUND

Query:


For generations, the ancient demon Void Storm has terrorized the Southlands.

All Luo Sanniang has ever wanted was to wear nice dresses, have children, and marry the aristocrat Shi Jinyu. But when the only person who could've ended Void Storm's[RN1] reign, her brother, is murdered on her wedding night[RN2], she vows revenge against the masked fiend.[RN3]

Without her brother to protect the city, slavers begin kidnapping women and children. Sanniang sees how powerless the military is to stop them, so she defies tradition by secretly training in Valiant Crane style, a martial art suitable for women with bound feet. Near the end of her family's mourning period, the outlaw Xiang Su swears allegiance[SN1] to Sanniang, bringing her evidence of the conspiracy responsible for her brother's death — and Void Storm's mask[SN2]. In order to truly use what Su has brought her, Sanniang has to find a way to unbind her feet, learn Su's outlaw ways, and become the thing she hates most — Void Storm.[SN3]

When Sanniang dons the mask, its full powers reveal her as the true Void Storm.[RN4][SN4] While at Jinyu's estate, she learns of her betrothed's[RN5] involvement in the conspiracy[RN6]. Sanniang burns her wedding dress before setting off to re-form Void Storm's gang. As Sanniang and Su’s unlikely association grows into deeper friendship, they must unify their multi-ethnic band of outlaws and prevent chaos[SN5] from consuming Guangzhou.[SN6][KA1]


VOID STORM: UNBOUND is a YA fantasy novel, or more aptly a Chinese wuxia written for an American audience. Popularized in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, wuxia is a genre of high-flying martial arts, romance, chivalry, and adventure. The novel is complete at 84,000 words and would appeal to fans of Batman, anime such as Naruto, the "Tales of the Otori" series by Lian Hearn, and "Grave Mercy" by Robin LaFevers.[RN7]

************
Renee's Notes:
[RN1]First of all, I know nothing about wuxia, so please take this piece of feedback with a grain of proverbial salt, but all of the character names in this are obviously very Chinese, but Void Storm is not. I wouldn’t mention things like character names at the query level, except that it was jarringly different enough that it pulled me out of the query a little bit each time I came across it. I would love something a little more in line with the rest of the character names here.
[RN2]YA is a little tricky with marriages. It can be done (BREAKING DAWN, WITHER) but it’s very rare. I know it sounds ridiculous, but even if her brother was murdered on the night before her wedding, that would help this feel a little bit more YA.
[RN3]I love the ladylike girl with vengeance plotline. I’m always immediately compelled to read more.
[RN4]So she was Void Storm all along? Or she becomes Void Storm? This is very unclear.
[RN5]I thought Sanniang and Jinyu were married. 
[RN6]This conspiracy has been mentioned several times, but I had no idea why there was one. Was her brother murdered for power? Money?
[RN7]These comp titles are really interesting. I think they are well thought through.

Sarah's Notes:
[SN1]This is confusing. How did an outlaw know to swear allegiance to her if she was training in secret?
[SN2]Did he kill Void Storm? Wouldn't that be the end of the story?
[SN3]I don't understand this. If she trained in a martial art designed for use by women with bound feet, why would she unbind hers, and why does she need to train to be an outlaw or become the void storm. You haven't made the connection between these actions and bringing down Void Storm.
[SN4]Wait, so she's a demon?
[SN5]Chaos from who?
[SN6]So, it seems like chaos already consumes the area with a demon terrorizing the place for generations. What exactly is she trying to achieve, who is stopping her from doing it and what is at stake if she fails. These are the crucial elements of a query and I'm missing them here.


Kurestin's Notes:
[KA1]It feels like you've gone too far in this query. Ideally you'd stop right at the inciting incident that propels the action of the novel as a whole, usually what happens in the first twenty pages (give or take). This final bit feels more like something that happens in the third of the book or later. As a result, it doesn't feel powerful enough to propel an entire novel (likely because it does not). Refocus the query and leave us with the conflict that actually forms the beginning thrust of the novel.
Now, that all said, I would request because the concept is intriguing and our character sounds very driven, which I love.

First 250:


Images from a rogues' gallery glared down at her, and all Luo Sanniang could do was shake her head at them and mutter, "I could do better[SN1]." The hint of a smug grin crept across her slim face as she studied the array of yellow wanted posters pasted on the city wall. Tall, willowy, and well-dressed, Sanniang took pride in the attention and the wide berth everyone gave her.[SN2][KA1]

Shoppers shuffled across the flagstone streets, merchants called out the merits of their wares, horses clattered past leading a squeaky-wheeled carts, and armor-clad city guards leaned on their polearms. A trace of raw sewage lingered behind the more pungent licorice smell from an herbalist's shop. The constant haze of clouds had held back the mid-day sun's fury and made faint blobs of people's shadows. As the cover began to clear, Sanniang unfurled her parasol to protect her pale skin.

"Are you talking to the pictures, sister?" Xu Nianci dodged a slow-moving cart and waddled up, hands on her pregnant belly.

Sanniang pointed up at the posters. "Look how badly-drawn they are." A sudden gust disrupted the smoothness of her blue silk dress and pulled a long strand of hair free from her ornate headdress. It waved in the wind, slow and ephemeral, as if it were some sort[KA2] of ghost.

Nianci snorted and inspected the posters. "I don't think creating fine artwork was the goal here. Who would honor these lowlifes with talent such as yours anyway?"[SN3]

**************
Sarah's Notes:
[SN1]It's unclear if she's suggesting she could be a better rogue or could have done a better job artistically.
[SN2]This sentence feels tacked on and not part of the first paragraph.
[SN3]There's nothing wrong with this opening, but it's a little forgettable.
 
Kurestin's Notes:
[KA1]I do really enjoy this establishing shot of her character, we get a lot about her very quickly.
[KA2]Try to avoid hedging language like this, it really weakens an image and can kill the tension of a scene.

Results:
Renee Nyen: PASS
Sarah Negovetich: PASS
Kurestin Armada: PAGES!

Monday, September 26, 2016

September Pass Or Pages Entry #1

Time for our favorite part of Pass Or Pages, the feedback reveals! We hope that everyone following along will get something out of these reveals that they can apply to their own writing. I did!
We are so grateful to our agent panel for critiquing these entries. We would also like to give a shout-out to the authors for being brave and willing to improve.






Entry #1: THIS IS HOW WE FALL APART

Query:


THIS IS HOW WE FALL APART is a 94,000-word young adult fantasy novel told in four points of view. It is a standalone with series potential that would appeal to readers of Jennifer A. Nielson's THE FALSE PRINCE and Rachel Neumeier's THE FLOATING ISLANDS.[RN1][SN1][KA1]

When Nytes first appeared twenty years ago, gifted with supernatural powers, inhuman strength[KA2], and the ability to breathe freely in the toxic wasteland Outside[SN2][KA3] the domed cities, they were labeled as demons. Now, the only way to survive[SN3] is to pretend to be normal. But not all Nytes are content to continue hiding.[RN2]

Seventeen-year-old Lai Cathwell is good at keeping secrets. Being a mind reader and having to feign insanity to escape military service has only improved her ability to deceive others.[KA4] And as a supernaturally gifted Nyte, this skill is essential to survival.[RN3] But when the rebel Nytes' latest attack on the city ends in multiple deaths, Lai is asked[SN4] to return to the military[SN5] in order to fight with a new team of Nytes. Wanting to bridge the gap between Nytes and normal humans by taking down the ungifted-hating rebels, she reluctantly agrees, but the team is hardly what she imagined.[RN4][KA5] She butts heads with Al, a short-tempered fighter lying about her identity for the sake of revenge; Jay, a self-conscious perfectionist obsessed with being accepted; and Erik, an amnesiac hell-bent on finding his memories and his place in the world.[SN6] And if this team can't learn to work together, the entire city will be plunged into war.[RN5]

Together, these four unlikely soldiers will have to come to terms with their pasts and each other before they have any hope of stopping an all-out civil war. But trust isn't a currency that's easy to earn or spend[RN6], and the more these teammates learn about each other, the less reason they have to invest. No one can be trusted—especially among themselves.

************
Renee's Notes:
[RN1] This is a solid paragraph. I personally prefer it at the end of query, but it’s not really that important.
[RN2] This paragraph, though interesting world building, doesn’t add to the immediacy of your character’s journey. And you mention most of the important points (supernatural skills, living in secret, etc.) in your next paragraph anyway.
[RN3] The only necessary piece from your first paragraph is that Nytes are feared as demons and shunned. All you would have to do is add that in one of these sentences.
[RN4]I don’t get a real sense of what is at stake for Lai. No idea of what’s driving her. To me, that’s essential for a good query.
[RN5]These supporting characters are super interesting! I feel like I know more about them than I do about Lai.
[RN6]I like this turn of phrase.

Sarah's Notes:
[SN1] This is a classic example of a great opening to a query. Some agents prefer for this type of info to go at the bottom of the query, but some like it at the top. Since you are establishing that there are 4 POV characters, I like it at the top. Well done.
[SN2]So I'm assuming that this is capitalized because it is a proper noun, but they way you are using it in this sentence it isn't and that threw me. In general, you want to avoid using as many proper nouns as you can in a query, so I would suggest changing this to lower case.
[SN3] Sounds like they are actually really good at surviving. I suggest being more specific. What happens to the ones who aren't hiding. Are they killed? Sent to prison? Forced into experiments? Consider: The only way to avoid capture and certain death is to pretend to be normal. This is a stronger sentence that tells us what exactly they are hiding from.
[SN4]By whom? And why would she do it? You say to bridge the gap between these rebels and humans, but if the humans are killing Nytes, and she is one, why would she want to help them.
Keep in mind these aren't all questions that you have to answer in your query, but right now there is some world building confusion that is making it hard for me to understand and care about the journey your character is about to take.  
[SN5]So this is where I'm a little confused. In the first paragraph you establish that they only way for a Nyte to survive is to pretend they aren't one. But this makes it sound like the government has established a special wing of the military just for Nytes. So not everyone is pretending?
[SN6]  This is really well done

Kurestin's Notes:
[KA1]I would suggest moving this to the end. While it's not necessarily a problem to have it up front, it is often a stronger choice to lead with something that will hook me into your manuscript. Housekeeping details tend to engage my "skim" instinct.
[KA2]It seems like inhuman strength would qualify under the supernatural powers heading
[KA3]Capital letters on Significant Nouns feels a bit cliche nowadays 
[KA4]I had to retrace my steps a couple of times on this sentence, which isn't good. Make it more clear and more gripping, with a less awkward rhythm.
[KA5]More awkward phrasing, and I'm not very drawn in by the motivation here. I'd like to feel a more specific connection to what Lai wants out of this and out of life, beyond just a general peace. Or why that peace is so personal and specific for her, if it is.

First 250:


Somehow, sneaking back into the asylum is always harder than sneaking out of it.

Normally I wouldn't worry, but I've never come back this late before. Past the reflective cover of the overhead dome, the sky is already a weak gray, steadily infecting the clouds with a light shade of orange-pink. It feels like the whole sector is watching as I pick my way through the trees surrounding the mental hospital.

I absently run a hand through my hair, tangling the long, neat strands into bedhead[SN1] as I debate how to get in. The barred windows are a no-go. I can usually sneak in through the head doctor's office, but he's probably at his desk by now. Which leaves the main entrance.

From the shadows of the trees, I scan the front doors, but no one seems to be around. I can't hear anyone's thoughts, either, which is a good sign.[SN2]

Despite the fact that no one's in the nearby vicinity[KA1], I tread carefully, footsteps soundless from a lifetime of sneaking around. I pause by the doors, back pressed against the wall, listening again for anyone's thoughts. The receptionist is absent, but that's hardly a surprise. She's always disappearing to take care of odd jobs. There's a doctor off one of the hallways, but he seems to be heading in the opposite direction.

Okay. All clear. I slip inside and make for the hall that'll lead to my floor.

**************
Renee's Notes:
I’m not in love with this opening. I would definitely keep reading, but after a really strong query (especially after some tweaks) these opening paragraphs weren’t quite as compelling. I would like to see the first 5 chapters, please!

Sarah's Notes:
[SN1] nice detail
[SN2] Well done weaving this into the world instead of stopping the story to tell us she can hear other people's thoughts.
Good strong first page.


Kurestin's Notes:
[KA1]Try not to repeat information I've just read.
So nothing has grabbed me in this opening. It's fine, there's not really a specific thing I would say is bad, but it's just kind of boring and the descriptions and voice so far are a little generic. I'd keep reading, but I'd be skimming a bit until I found a bit that finally grabbed me. Or I became too bored, whichever came first. However, I would like to see more of this. After you revise the query letter, please send it and the first 50 pages of the manuscript to me.

Results:
Renee Nyen: PAGES!
Sarah Negovetich: PASS
Kurestin Armada: PAGES!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Flash Fiction Contest #19 Winner


Thank you to all our entrants! I really enjoyed reading each story. One had a unique narrator, one was super sweet, and one had a creepy twist. But there can only be one winner and that is...Barbara!! Congrats!


Winning Entry:

I walked beneath a sickle moon, placid waves lapping at my feet. The beach in autumn. It was silly to come. Autumn was the season of death and decay, ghouls and ghosts, not beach parties. But it was too far to walk home, and my ride was making out back at the bonfire. Everyone was. I couldn’t sit and watch.

A figure struggling from the water caught my eye. My heart quickened, and I glanced back at the bonfire. Would they hear me if I called out?

I turned and gasped. The figure stood before me. A girl. My age. She wore a thin nightgown, and seaweed dangled from her hair. But she wasn’t wet.

“Help me!” she cried. “We must save her!” She pointed at the island across the bay and offered her hand. "Hurry!"

“My friends. I should tell them—”

“Take my hand. Do not let go.”

She stared at me, eyes pleading, and I took her hand.
She led me into the ocean, neither cold nor warm, nor even wet, and we walked across the sea floor as if strolling on land.

“Why are there no fish?” I asked.

“They abide in the living sea. This is the sea of the dead.”

As if to prove it, bloated bodies began to appear. They swam past, their eyes pleading, too. I looked away, but even behind closed lids, I saw them stare. And then we rose from the sea and stepped onto a rocky shore.

The girl was dry as bone. I was dripping wet.

“There.” She pointed to a huddle of large boulders.

Another girl lay wedged between them, legs twisted, face bruised. I worked her out, the incoming tide helping in my task. I laid her in the sand, brushed back her hair, and gasped.

“It’s you.”

“Yes. I am free now. Thank you.” She began to fade away.

“Wait! Bring me back!”

“I cannot. I am no longer undead. I am spirit now.”

“But how—”

“Watch for the eddy,” she said, and vanished.

I stared across the bay at the flickering bonfire. It was too far. They would never hear me. I had to swim.

I removed my shoes and socks and dove into the water. Cold bit into my skin, took my breath and my strength, but I forced myself on.

The current suddenly changed, and the ocean pulled like a vacuum, sucking me back toward the island. Below me, the dead reached and groped. I thrashed and kicked, but my arms tired, my legs went weak. I sunk under the waves, struggled up again, and then I remembered nothing until I found myself struggling from the water.

Lyra raced toward me. “Dani, where’ve you been? We’ve be calling you for hours. Why would you go swimming alone at night and not tell anyone?” She looked at me strangely, brushed back my hair. “But, you’re not even wet.”

“Help me,” I said. “We have to save her. Take my hand and don’t let go.”

___________________________________________________

Once again, thank you to our participants! Everyone did a great job!!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Flash Fiction Contest #19

Now that fall is officially here (pumpkin spice everything!), you know what that means...September's #OAFlash Fiction word prompt will be all about: Autumn!


Rules for the contest can be found here
The winner will be announced Sunday night. Have fun!

_____________________________________________________


Also, as some of you may noticed, I'm new here--and would love to introduce myself. My name is Leandra Wallace, and I'm really excited to be a part of the OA team. I've been writing for eight years now, and can firmly say that writing is my passion, and what I was definitely meant to do.

Which doesn't make it any easier, unfortunately (wouldn't that be nice?). Some days the words flow and all is well. Other days, drudging up good words is as hard as extracting a tooth from a grumpy alligator (hmm...picture book idea?).  

I write kidlit (PB, MG & YA) and my three short stories "The Mad Scientist's Daughter", "Prina and the Pea", and "Leaves, Trees, and Other Scary Things" are featured in Brave New Girls: Tales of Girls and Gadgets, Circuits and Slippers, and the 2017 Young Explorer's Adventure Guide

I am married, have one son, and along with a small black dog and three fish, we all live happily together in a clay-colored house. Besides reading and writing, my next passion is party planning. I enjoy diet vanilla cokes, desserts, family trips, ampersands, old houses, and curling up to read a book without housework hanging over my head. 

Books I would eagerly press into your hands are: The Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud (seriously, completely amazing, I've reread these books a zillion times), The Three Times Lucky series by Sheila Turnage (middle grade, set in the South, fabulous voice and characters), The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (or anything that she writes), and Marion Chesney's Regency Romances (hello, London; lords and ladies!).

I'm looking forward to getting to know everyone! Oh, and I like to use parenthesis. ;)


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Heroic Authors: Defenders of the Weak, Champions of Meaning and Substance



Lindsey Leavitt, Rick Riordan, Anne Riley, 
Suzanne Collins.

There are many others in their ranks:

Authors who brought to light something important and quintessentially human that otherwise might have remained unknown and obscure. 

They could have told any stories, but they chose to tell stories that taught, enlightened, and inspired.




On the surface, Lindsey Leavitt's series about a girl who discovers she can act as a substitute for fanfare-weary princesses seems to be nothing more than a fluffy, pink book. One might be forgiven for assuming it held little of substance. But then again, we've been told never to judge a book by its cover, and for good reason. Through the clever, if silly, fantasy about princesses who just need a break, and the magical substitutes who replace them for such undesirable events as state dinners and arranged marriages, Lindsey Leavitt sneakily introduces young readers to diverse cultures they might never otherwise have discovered. In America, we hear "princess" and we think Princess Di and the Duchess of Cambridge. We don't think of a chief's daughter in an uncontacted tribe deep in the jungle. Or the royalty of small, all-but-forgotten provinces and countries throughout the world. Through each substitution story, we're given a glimpse into a way of life that includes unique culture, family life, and relationships. If you know of a teenager who could benefit from expanded horizons and increased empathy, give him or her this pink book.


On Goodreads
There are few populations more marginalized in schools and society than those labeled troubled teens and slow learners. Rick Riordan had tremendous sympathy for such kids, particularly because his own son suffered from dyslexia. What if, he imagined, what if dyslexia was something to be proud of? What if it only meant your brain was hardwired to read ancient Greek? And that because you were actually a demigod, half god and half human? This dynamic series took the marginalized and gave them a hero in Percy Jackson, a twelve-year-old troubled pre-teen with dyslexia. He is not only innately special, but he finds through his adventures that he is ultimately capable of making a very significant contribution to the world, even saving it from another war of the gods.

On Goodreads

Anne Riley's story about mystery, magic, and boarding school blends the mystic so smoothly with the mundane and miserable, you almost believe it's true. But in the midst of the magic, she takes page space to dwell on the real impact of bullying. The realism makes you want to cry for Natalie Watson who has already been through so much personal tragedy and who just needs a win. In fact, I cried a few times in the reading. In the interest of growing personal empathy, read this book. 



On Goodreads

Suzanne Collins did something that was nothing short of essential to this generation: she called us all out on our darkest obsessions in entertainment, our attraction to reality TV and ancient Rome-style gore. She showed us the disgusting excesses in which we'd indulged while others not so very far from us struggled for food enough to survive. She forced us to look hard at our relationships to war, fashion, entertainment, and family. She dared us to see through a well-crafted story and to see ourselves making the difficult choice between fighting for what really matters, or succumbing to a lifestyle of substance-less fluff; making the choice between self-sacrifice or betrayal of principle; making the choice between being brave and kind, vs. merely playing it safe. There are so many lessons and layers in this series--about community, government, human nature--you will likely learn something new every time you read it. By my definition, it's a classic.

All of these books/series are classics by my definition: a book that you can read over and over again throughout the years and continue to glean valuable insights from its pages. These authors are heroic because they used their talents at story-crafting to tell important stories, even the stories of the marginalized, the humble, the poor, the poor in spirit, and the forgotten.

I've written about them here in hopes of inspiring more of us to be like them, to write for something deeper than the fun of it--because it is so much fun! But when a writer takes on the challenge of telling an important story about seemingly unimportant, or forgotten, people... it changes the world.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Farewell Post From Donelle

Sometimes a leg of a journey is long and sometimes it's short. It’s not the length of time that matters, but the quality of the experience. I expected my stint on Operation Awesome to be longer than this, but life has a way of throwing things into your path that you hadn’t planned for.  I learned a good deal while part of this team and I’m grateful for the experience. 

I’m not disappearing. You can still find me blogging (mostly sporadically) on my own blog A Little Dversion. You can find me on Twitter and Facebook, and on my illustration website. If I'm not posting or tweeting, I'm somewhere writing and drawing, pursuing publication.

It was great to have this opportunity to connect with you all, and great to be part of a writing blog. Here's a sketch of Mr. Bean to brighten your day.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Independent Press Profile: New Growth Press

As I mentioned in an earlier post, last month I was back East visiting my extended family. My uncle asked me how my writing was going (standard answer: It's good!). He then remembered that one of his good friends from high school works in publishing, and offered to set me up with him.

This is how I got the opportunity to interview Mark Teears, owner of New Growth Press. New Growth is a medium-sized Christian press that publishes almost entirely non-fiction titles. It's completely different from all the publishers I've ever researched as a Young Adult fiction writer. So for me, it was fascinating to see how New Growth acquires books and builds its list.

If you visit New Growth's website, you'll notice that it's devoted to selling the books it publishes, as opposed to soliciting work from new authors. I assumed that meant they weren't open to unsolicited submissions, and that most of their work was submitted by literary agents. Mark explained to me that New Growth has contracts with many different Christian ministries, who submit books to be published by New Growth. New Growth started out publishing Christian counseling books, but has branched out as more authors associated with these ministries have come on board.

As there are many different sects of Christianity that teach a variety of doctrines and practices, I asked Mark how they select the ones that they will publish. To Mark, it is very important that someone who reads books published by New Growth will know what to expect when they buy another New Growth book, and so they are careful to publish books that teach similar doctrines. The Chief Editor at New Growth makes sure that all of the books considered for publication teach the same doctrine, and will appeal to the same audience.

Once a quarter, the Chief Editor brings projects under consideration to an acquisitions meeting, where they discuss which titles to publish. So even though a ministry has a contract with New Growth, they don't automatically get all of their books published. New Growth is still a business, and has to choose those books that they think they can sell. Author platform is an important factor in these decisions, which is true for any kind of non-fiction book. New Growth publishes approximately 175 books a year.

Many of those books are "minibooks." As the name suggests, these books are shorter, and focus on one subject. Mark credits his wife with the idea of publishing the minibooks, which are a very successful product for New Growth.

Mark is an entrepreneur at heart; New Growth is not the first business he's owned and operated. When I asked him what contributed to his success with New Growth, he told me that "niche is important." New Growth knows what it does well, and works hard to appeal to that niche. When they do venture outside their niche area, they do so cautiously. For example, New Growth recently published its first fiction title. Before acquiring more, they will wait to see how this one does, to see if their customers are interested in fiction or not.

As a writer, the takeaways I got from my interview with Mark were these: Find your niche, and try different things within it. For me, I've written books in several genres, but the one I'm really hoping will go somewhere is Young Adult speculative. I want that to be my niche, but I can try different things within it beside novels; short fiction contests, anthologies, magazines, etcetera.

I greatly appreciate the time Mark spent talking to me about New Growth and publishing in general. While at first I didn't think I'd get much out of interviewing a publisher that was never going to publish my books, I was wrong! It was fascinating to get a inside look at New Growth Press and still learn things that are applicable to many aspects of publishing.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

#TackleTBR Challenge



Welcome to the Operation Awesome #TackleTBR Challenge!



You have you CHOICE of challenges!

Challenge A

- Comment about the best debut author book you've ever read. Every author had that 'first book' published at some point. Tell us which was your favorite, why, and if you've read other books by the author since then.

OR


Challenge B

- OA and Wishful Endings both love owls. Our Operation Awesome owl mascot, Oliver, wants you to find books with owls! Comment with information about an important owl character in a book. Be sure to include the book title and author.

OR


Challenge C

- OA and Wishful Endings both love owls. Our Operation Awesome owl mascot, Oliver, wants you to find books with owls! Publicly post an image* of a book cover that has an owl on it. You can use Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, your own blog, etc. Be sure to hashtag the image with #OperationAwesomeOwls #TackleTBR for credit. *Do NOT violate copyright laws while doing this.

THE PRIZES

Choose between:
  • A query critique from two members of the OA team. 
  • A weekend guest post on the OA blog. (*Post must fit our theme of books, writing, publishing, or other such literary interests. Available dates begin in October.) 
  • Owl magnetic bookmarks. 
Example:

HOW TO ENTER

Comment on this post with the following information:

  • For Challenge A, simply leave your answers.
  • For Challenge B, comment with information about an important owl character in a book, the name of the book, and the name of the author.
  • For Challenge C, comment with a link to your "owl on a book cover" image hashtagged #OperationAwesomeOwls #TackleTBR
  • Either way, include in your comment a (typed out) email to reach you!
  • AND include which of the three prizes you want to win. PICK ONLY ONE.

CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED


Contest is one day only-- September 18, 2016.

Sample comment:
Challenge B. 
I choose Errol, an owl from the Harry Potter series. He was a Great Grey Owl that resembled a molting feather duster. His loyalty was to the Weasley family in the Harry Potter books by JK Rowling. Errol provided comic relief and small stumbling blocks for the other characters. 
"That bloody bird's a menace!" —Ron Weasley
Email: OperationAwesome6 AT gmail DOT com
I want to win the Owl magnetic bookmarks, please.


COMMENT TEMPLATE 

Challenge Choice:
Challenge Answer:
Email: Handle AT provider DOT com
Prize:

Wishful Endings+

Friday, September 16, 2016

How to Infuse Tension into a Scene Without Vivisecting Your Plot

Hello there, writerly reader, and thanks for stopping by. Today I'm going to be talking about a little something called microtension, which was at one time mysterious and confusing for me, but that I'm pleased to say, upon mastery, is not that difficult to understand or incorporate.

I had heard the term floating around for a while, but one of Donald Maass's books finally explained it to me. I was about to go look up which one, but instead, I'm going to recommend all his stuff. The two I read this past year are Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling and The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great, and I have a couple more sitting waiting for my attention. If you want to be a better writer, gobble up everything he's published. I'm serious.

So what is microtension? It's any tension infused into a scene that keeps the reader wanting to know the outcome but that is not directly related to plot.

First I'll explain what it's not: What's the antagonist going to do next? How is the hero going to get out of this bind? What's the killer's identity? What's the resolution of this chapter cliffhanger? Those are all good things that make your audience read on, but they're not microtension. They're plot. If you removed them, you would lose a key piece of the story you're telling.

But sometimes you need to impart information that could be boring (back story, world-building), and you're not in a great position to enhance the plot while you do it. That's where microtension comes in.

Here are three examples, curated from movies and TV because it's easier to give those examples, and that's what I noticed when I was mastering this concept. Hey, you can learn a lot about storytelling from movies and TV.

(I have tried to leave out any spoilers that aren't absolutely essential to my explanation of microtension in case you haven't seen these.)

Example #1: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Rey and Finn have stolen a junk ship from the planet of Jakku. Something's going wrong with a gas leak below the floorboards, Rey is attempting to fix it with Finn and BB-8's help. If she doesn't fix it quickly, they're going to die. That is the microtension.

During this entire scene, in which we the watchers are worried that the poison gas is going to kill them, she and Finn talk about what they need to do. They talk about the map that BB-8 is carrying and where they could possibly go next. That is the boring but important plot information.

If the poison gas leak was removed from the scene, you would lose no vital plot information; however, if you removed the discussion about BB-8's map, you would. The microtension makes it (more) interesting than if they were sitting in the cockpit with their feet up on the console.

Example #2: The Sixth Sense

Child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe meets Cole Sear in his apartment for the first time. Malcolm wants to talk to Cole about the difficulties he's been having at school and elsewhere. All in good fun, Malcolm says he's a psychic and he can figure out what Cole is thinking. Malcolm makes a bet that if he gets answers correct, Cole will step forward, and when he gets to the chair, he must sit down and talk to Malcolm. That is the microtension.

As Malcolm asks questions, we unravel some interesting information about Cole. He's seeing and hearing things. We find out that what Malcolm is assuming about Cole (that he's a disturbed boy) is not correct; we discover that Cole does actually see dead people. That is the boring but important plot information.

During the scene, we want Cole to move forward and sit in the chair. Well, I did. Maybe if you're that kind of person, you didn't want him to, but the point is the same: you had feelings about Cole moving forward or backward. But if you removed the bet from the scene, it wouldn't make any difference to the outcome. Cole would impart some back story, and Malcolm would get stressed out about it.

Example #3: House, M.D.

I actually don't remember the details of this one all that well because it was just another House episode wherein House is being House. They're trying to figure out what's wrong with a patient, and for whatever reason, Dr. House decides to make Dr. Cameron (a female) come into the men's room while he pees in the urinal. She's obviously uncomfortable with this, but she goes along with it. That is the microtension.

She and the three other doctors talk about a possible diagnosis. That is the boring but important plot information.

I wanted to include this example even though the details have faded from my memory because it illustrates that microtension doesn't have to be something particularly intensive. Make a character uncomfortable and want something--to escape, to tell off the person being a jerk, to quit their job--and you've got microtension.

To Wrap Up

I hope that these examples helped illustrate what microtension is, and I hope you can see the immediate applicability to your writing. They're not a substitute for engaging plot, and I would always encourage you to trim away as much of the non-essentials that you can. But if you're got something that you think, "Ho, hum, this is important but sort of not interesting," you can use microtension to fix it.

In fact, you can use microtension to fix things that are already interesting. Don't have too much going on, but if something is just slightly saggy--hey, slap some poison gas in that room.

One Final Note

Thank you for sticking around to read to the end of this post. Before you go...

I didn't want to take up an entire blog slot with just this information, so hopefully the previous tidbits on microtension are useful to you.

It is with mixed emotions that I'm announcing that I'm leaving Operation Awesome. It's been a whirlwind year, and I'm glad for all the connections I've made and writers I've (hopefully) encouraged. Thank you all for your participation in the Friday flash fiction contests, and I'm sorry I didn't pick better books to engage more people in the monthly book club. ;)

I will be helping behind the scenes during the upcoming Pass or Pages, although I don't want to take credit for it or anything--our awesome team of Operatives that are sticking around will continue to be here and support that. We had a GREAT turnout this time, and we're all so glad this contest is beneficial to you.

I'm not going anywhere writing-wise. A stand-alone book in my Fallen Redemption series is coming out in October, I'm trying to finish up the last book in the series before the end of the year, and I'm looking to start writing a whole new series soon. I've got over a dozen short stories on submission, with several in second-look piles (oh great, did I just jinx myself?). I've decided to whole-heartedly pursue self-publishing, which means marketing replaces querying. I'm slush reading for Flash Fiction Online, and I'm volunteering as a Netgalley approver/other miscellaneous for SFWA.

So, phew.

Being honest here, blogging is really not for me--I tried this and I struggled, so I'm moving on to things that I am good at. HOWEVER, I really love helping newer writers, so I do definitely try to give back to the community in other ways! If you need anything at all, a shoulder to cry on, advice on writing, some eyes on your query, hit me up on Twitter @Saboviec.

Thank you all for this opportunity. Whatever it is you're working on--make 'em cry.

***

S. L. Saboviec grew up in a small town in Iowa but became an expat for her Canadian husband, whom she met in the Massive Multi-player Online Role-Playing Game Star Wars: Galaxies (before the NGE, of course). She holds a B.S. in Physics, which qualifies her to B.S. about physics and occasionally do some math for the sci-fi stories she concocts. Her dark, thought-provoking science fiction & fantasy contains flawed, relatable characters and themes that challenge the status quo.

Her short fiction has appeared in AE and Grievous Angel. She's a member of SFWA and a slush pile reader at Flash Fiction Online. Her debut novel, Guarding Angel, received an honorable mention in the 23rd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards. The sequel, Reaping Angel, is out now, and the stand-alone companion novel, The Impending Possession of Scarlet Wakebridge-Rosé, releases Oct. 3.

Grab your FREE copy of the short story "When Your Time Is Up" when you sign up for her newsletter.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Goodreads

Thursday, September 15, 2016

What I Have Learned About Failure From Author Beth Revis...

Every writer has her own journey, but of all the author success stories I have heard and read over my years as an aspiring writer, Beth Revis's journey inspired me the most! So I want to share with you what she shared with me, and the thousands of people who have already seen...

...this video:

Beth says: Everyone says, "It'll get easier!" But they are lying to your face.




Failure is really just success in training. 



Beth's first book, Across the Universe was much hyped when it first came out, and for good reason. It had one of those beginnings that is so absolutely, perfectly written you would wait in line just to read the next chapter, and you would read through the night just to find the resolution of the killer problem she introduced so beautifully in chapter one. I read her first chapter online and was immediately hooked. In fact, I can compare it with only a handful of other first chapters that have moved and shocked me to a similar extent. Her first chapter alone guaranteed her a spot on that bestseller list. Of course the rest of the series is killer, as well, so that helps!

But seeing this video after I read her first book really gave me the greatest gift I could have received as a struggling and aspiring writer:

The Gift of Perspective.

Thank you, Beth Revis, for being so real! That amazing first chapter, that beautiful prose and shocking intro was the master stroke of an artist who had been honing her craft for years. It wasn't a first draft. It wasn't a lucky step into the darkness. It was the hand of a practiced surgeon. The perspective she gave me saved me from making the mistake of saying, "Well, she's just so talented, and I could never do that." The knowledge of her nine previous unpublished manuscripts forced me to acknowledge the fact that I simply wasn't trying as hard, that I could be a better version of myself if I did.

One more lesson from Beth:



Always write the story of your heart. 

In the first installment of her book series for writers, called Paper Hearts, Beth explains what her particular objective was as a writer--to be published by a big press--and that she didn't regret writing any of her "practice" novels, except for one.

That was the book she wrote "for the market." The book was good, she explains, because she was up to date on all the trends in the publishing industry and she knew exactly what tropes to keep and which to avoid. But as she came closer to getting it published, she pulled it, and the reason was that there was nothing of her in it. It was empty.

Her advice to aspiring writers is not to make the same mistake by trying to please the market. Write the book of your heart, every time, no matter how painful it can be to let go if it's not "the one."

This advice came to me at a time when I needed to hear it, too.

(Her Paper Hearts series is chock-full of great counsel for writers in all stages of development. The video above came from the first free online writing conference ever, WriteOnCon, and is a great example of the many ways Beth has given back to the writing community. The founders of Operation Awesome were inspired by all the writers who put together WriteOnCon, and since our launch in 2010, our ever-changing team of operatives has been working toward that same worthy ideal.)

THANK YOU, BETH!

Have you ever heard the perfect writing advice for you at exactly the right time? What's the best writing advice you've ever received? 


Monday, September 12, 2016

Pass Or Pages September 2016 Entry Form

We are now accepting entries for Pass Or Pages! Before you enter, be sure to check out the rules. This month's round of Pass Or Pages is for YA Speculative Fiction novels. The entry window closes at 6pm Eastern time on Wednesday September 14th. Good luck!


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Stranger Than Fiction: Using Personal Experience

Have you ever played the game, Three Truths and a Lie? It's one of my favorite getting-to-know-you games because it requires people to think of three true things about them that are so unique they seem unlikely, and it teaches you something about how they lie. Will the lie be obvious or so detailed, it blends right into the truths? But what's really remarkable about playing this game is the discovery that TRUTH really is STRANGER THAN FICTION.

For instance, my three truths always include these: 

I survived a plane crash when I was two years old.
I went skydiving in Canada, and I jumped twice.
I never saw snow in real life until I was eighteen and went away to college.

My lie would always be somewhat lame. I'd exaggerate the number of kids I have (say 8 instead of 5) or say I've been to Hawaii (sadly, still a lie). It turns out I'm terrible at lying. I guess there are worse things! But each person's lie is true for someone else. One of my favorite friends in my neighborhood does, in fact, have 8 kids. And two of my siblings have lived in Hawaii. Did they fly me out to see them? Of course not. Everyone who lives in Hawaii is broke. But am I bitter?

So when we are writing fiction, basically telling lies we hope are convincing enough to convey ideas and themes, we actually rely on an ample portion of the truth, whether that truth belongs to us personally or not. If I were to write about Hawaii, my family's experiences there would factor into my narrative. If I were to write about a 19-year-old girl about to jump out of a small airplane that resembled the small airplane she crashed in with her family when she was 2 years old, I would draw on my own anxieties from that experience.

For this reason, I find that the best UNIVERSAL advice for good writing is this: live.

Living gives us scope and empathy, the ability to put ourselves in someone else's shoes that's essential to good fiction. In the absence of time traveling to China in the 1960s, however, you may find it preferable to read someone else's truth. Memoir should have a respected place on every fiction writer's bookshelves. Memoir is great writing because it's true and that truth is stranger than fiction.



The last memoir I read was Red Scarf Girl by Ji-li Jiang. If I hadn't been told it is a true story, I would not believe it. The happenings are so alien to my ideas of proper government and community action that it strains credibility. Why would people act that way?

Memoir brings us to the heart of all good fiction: the WHY, the motive of our heroes and supporting characters. Why would his sister betray him after spending all their childhood mothering him? Why would her lover kill himself on the eve of their anniversary? Why would the pull of glory be so strong it could make a young child change her name and give up a rich cultural heritage to act on a foreign stage?

And in every answer there is room for still more questions.

That's what makes the truth so much stranger than fiction. How do you infuse your stories with the clarion ring of strange truth?

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Love Triangles--Love Them or Hate Them?

Ahh, the love triangle. Some people love it, some hate it. I'm somewhere in between. I like a well
done triangle, but poorly done, and it's enough to make me put the book down. I just don't buy the "I love them both equally" trope. Maybe you disagree, but I don't think we're capable of being fully in love with two people at the same time.

So when I set out to write my own triangle, I knew I'd have to walk a fine line in order to for me not to hate my own work. I also had to consider the effect this sort of behavior would have on my protagonist. Would it make her seem immature, flighty, or undermine her integrity? This task was much harder than I'd first imagined. It was so easy to go too far one way or too far the other. I wanted the reader to feel the tension with my protagonist, so writing it blandly was not an option.

My second book, Subversion (One Bright Future #2), will launch on September 13, one week from today. The love triangle in this book was the greatest challenge of my writing career thus far. Every nuance had to be considered. Slight wording changes made or broke scenes. My protagonist's every word, every thought, every action had to be considered with care.

I hope what comes through is something that will make readers cheer, not drop the book, never to pick it up again. Time and readers will tell.

What do you think of love triangles? Let me know in the comments.

*********

Melinda Friesen writes novels for teens and short stories. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada where she works as marketing director at Rebelight Publishing Inc.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

September 2016 Pass Or Pages Agent Panel


September 2016 Pass Or Pages is all about Young Adult Speculative Fiction!

We have three fantastic agents this round who are ready to help you whip those query letters and first pages into shape. Let's meet them!




Kurestin Armada

Kurestin Armada began her publishing career as an intern with Workman Publishing, and spent time as an assistant at The Lotts Agency before joining P.S. Literary. She holds a B.A. in English from Kenyon College, as well as a publishing certificate from Columbia University. Kurestin is based in New York City, and spends most of her time in the city’s thriving indie bookstores. She reads widely across genres, and has a particular affection for science fiction and fantasy, especially books that recognize and subvert typical tropes of genre fiction.




Sarah Negovetich

Sarah Negovetich is fully aware that no one knows how to pronounce her last name, and she's okay with that. Her favorite writing is YA, because at seventeen the world is your oyster. Only oysters are slimy and more than a little salty, it's accurate if not exactly motivational. Sarah's background is in Marketing. She uses her experience to assist Corvisiero authors with platform building and book promotion.




Renee Nyen

Several years in the editorial department at Random House’s Colorado division provided Renee with the opportunity to work with bestselling and debut authors alike. After leaving Random House, she came to KT Literary in early 2013. She loves digging into manuscripts and helping the author shape the best story possible. Though this is great for her profession, it tends to frustrate people watching movies with her. With a penchant for depressing hipster music and an abiding love for a good adventure story, Renee is always looking for book recommendations. Even if that means creeping on people reading in public. Which she does frequently. She makes her home in Arizona with her husband, and their two children.




Details for September 2016 Pass or Pages:

Entry starts: Monday, September 12, 2016, at 6 a.m. Eastern
Ends: Wednesday, September 14, 2016 at 6 p.m. Eastern
Category/Genre: Young Adult Speculative, which includes all flavors of science-fiction, fantasy, and magical realism.
How To Enter: Fill out the entry form on the contest post when it goes live
What Is Required: Your query (NO BIO or personalization for agents), your first 250 words, a complete and polished MS

You can also read more about the rules here.


The winning entries with agent commentary will be posted on Operation Awesome the week of September 26th, one entry each day. If you aren't comfortable with having your entry (which will be anonymous) shared on the blog, please don't enter Pass or Pages!

If you have any questions, please ask in the comments or feel free to tweet @OpAwesome6. Also, feel free to chat about the contest with fellow participants on the hashtag #PassOrPages.



Friday, September 2, 2016

September and Final #OABookClub

Welcome to our #OABookClub for August! This feature hasn't been popular amongst our readers, so we've decided to retire it. However, before we go, this month, we wanted to give everyone our thoughts on:


J

I enjoyed the book, especially toward the end when Stephen King went into details about being hit by a van and the long road to his recovery. That made the book, for me, even more relatable and real. That's also when I felt the most hope.

The book is by Stephen King, so obviously, conservative readers, there's going to be adult language, a few sexual situations, and even a bit of violence. (You've been given a heads up.)

CV 22 and 23-- when he discusses meeting his wife-- that's great stuff.

In the On Writing- Section 15, there's a view of what a good query looked like in 1999. (Page 245 in the paperback 10th Anniversary edition.) I wonder what today's literary agents would make of it? Would it make it past our own Operation Awesome PASS OR PAGES? (Honestly? Not if I'm the one reading it. That one breaks nearly every query rule I know. What a difference 15 years makes!)

A story about his son, Owen, illustrates the difference between determination and passionate desire. (A determined person will do all the required work with diligence. A person overflowing with passionate desire will go above and beyond joyfully, perhaps even to the detriment of other bits of life.)

Kara

I found On Writing to be a fascinating mix of memoir and writing advice. Getting a peek into how a famous author became what he is today was exciting for me, even though I've only read one Stephen King book (too scary!). I love how he gives so much credit to his family and his wife for supporting him.

I appreciated that he gives writers permissions to just write for a while and see what sticks, plot-wise. I think the way he put it is coming up with a situation and just exploring what characters in that situation would do. Which is all well and good when you can write a 600-page book and no one will blink an eye, right? But even for a new writer who is very aware of that 100K word guideline, it can be a great way to flesh out possible plots. It just means doing a lot of cutting later, and that's okay! I'm actually going to try out this method with my current WIP idea that's floating around in my head waiting for a plot.

Overall, I highly recommend this book for writers. It's really cool to see that even Stephen King came from humble writing beginnings, and for me, was a real confidence-booster. And we all need that from time to time, right?

Samantha

This was the first writing craft book I ever read, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is starting out. Heck, I recommend it to any who's never read it because it's accessible and inspiring and interesting.

One thing that struck me as off, though, was the advice to try writing four hours (FOUR?) a day only after shutting yourself away from the world. Well, that's nice, Stephen, but some of us have family and jobs and commutes. So I would offer in its place this advice: Figure out what works for you and then do that.

But overall, it's great. Don't stop there, though. I recommend everything Donald Maass has ever written. And if you want some more recs, have a gander at my Goodreads writing craft shelf!

***

If you read On Writing or have other craft book recs, let us know in the comments!