Thursday, July 20, 2017

Everything You Need to Know About... The Synopsis!

Contest season is coming around the bend, and whether you're planning to submit to Pitch Wars, Pitch Slam, Nightmare on Query Street, or another contest, there are some common requirements for every submission package. Over the next few weeks, Operation Awesome will be giving and rehashing tips, advice, and 'lessons learned' about each of these required pieces of the submission package.

Take a look at last week's post on THE FIRST CHAPTER, and the post from two weeks ago on QUERY LETTERS. Now, let's turn our attention to THE SYNOPSIS.

Top Synopsis Tips from the Operation Awesome Crew

KARA: It's okay if your synopsis is boring. Be sure to hit the important story beats, and how your character gets to each one. And for the love of everything, include how the story ends. This isn't the place to be coy about it.

MELINDA: Don't overload your synopsis with the names of every character in your book. Mention the three main characters, four if you must. For those of us who read through synopses, a bunch of names is not only annoying, but  meaningless. I want the plot and a couple of important characters. That's it.

J: Make sure we know what to care about. The best examples include survival, hunger, sex, protection of a loved one, and/ or fear of death.

LEANDRA: Don't go chasing plot bunnies in your synopsis. Stick to the meat! (Jaime says it so much better below, lol!)

JAIME: Beginning, middle, and end. That should be your mantra while you're writing your synopsis. Make sure you're establishing your story's 'normal' at the beginning of the book, detailing what changes (the inciting incident), tracking all the main events of the plot, and then giving away the ending.

Operation Awesome's Library of Posts About The Synopsis

Tackling the Dreaded Synopsis: Part One
Tackling the Dreaded Synopsis: Part Two
How to Write a Synopsis for a Book with an Unusual Structure
Writing a Synopsis When You Have Two (or More!) Viewpoint Characters
Ten (so far) synopsis critiques between February and May 2017

As always, if you want your synopsis critiqued on this website, fill out the form here, or email your 1-2 page synopsis to me at, and I'll post one critique per week (NOTE: I'll email my critique to the author as soon as I'm done, so the author won't have to wait to see his/her synopsis on the site). Thanks for participating!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Meet Leslie Hauser in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Chasing Eveline

1- Is the band "Chasing Eveline" based off of any actual 80's bands?

Great question! The band Chasing Eveline is not based on any one particular band, but it is influenced by several of my favorite bands from the 80s: The Cure, Depeche Mode, and The Smiths. I channeled into my Chasing Eveline songs all the feelings those bands evoked in me.

2- Can you share a story from your life that shows who you are as a person and why you are a writer?

I’m only ready to do things once I have determined that I’m ready. I’m a bit stubborn, I suppose. So I can’t start writing a story until I’ve lived with it in my mind for a while and I’m certain I have a sense of the characters and where I want the story to go. This could be traced back all the way to my childhood. My mom tried to get me to read, but I refused. I crossed my arms and said, “No.” At some point—after the time when I should have already started to read—I walked into my parents’ bedroom with a book in my hand and said, “Okay, I’m ready to read now.” That book was Timmy Mouse. And I haven’t stopped reading since then.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

I can’t pinpoint an exact event or moment that ignited my passion for writing, but I think it stems from my imagination. When I was younger, I had two imaginary friends: People and Kikibrumbrum. I cannot explain the names J, sorry! But I seem to have always had wild stories and imaginary people swirling about in my mind, and that has led me to want to be a writer.

4- Have you been to Ireland?

Yes! It was amazing. The countryside is so beautiful, just like in the movies. And the people are fantastically friendly. One favorite memory of Ireland was sitting in a pub for hours chatting with all sorts of people, and another one was eating fish and chips wrapped up in newspaper by the side of the road!
Meet Leslie Hauser in this Debut Author Spotlight

5- Would you share a picture with us of Mr. Darcy posing with your book?

Mr. Darcy gives it two paws up! And he’s even started reading it!

6- What are some of your short and long term writing goals?

Each week I write a Photo Story on my blog. It’s so much fun to pen a story around a random photo. It also helps me work on my creativity and writing each week. Also in the short term, I’m working on a novel to be completed by August 1. In the long term, I hope to continue writing novels. Whether they get published or not, I want to make these stories inside me come to life.

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

So many people are cheering me on and helping me through this journey. So I’ll pick an obvious cheerleader: my mom! She’s so excited about my release. She’s handed out bookmarks to all her friends and talks up my book to everyone she encounters. She loves hearing about the process and wants to buy Chasing Eveline from every site where it’s available! Moms are the best, aren’t they?

8- I see you want to have a cookie delivery service. Do you have a favorite cookie recipe?

I love cookies, but I can’t eat just one. That’s why I wish there was a cookie delivery service that could deliver just one cookie to me on those nights when I’m craving a sweet treat! My favorite cookie is probably a snickerdoodle. And not just because I think that’s a fun name! I love the cinnamon-sugary goodness.

9- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

I hope people will connect with the difficulty of hanging on to memories as they start slipping away. I hope there will be a few tears in some of the scenes with Ivy and her dad. There are for me because those scenes developed out of real situations in my life. But most of all, I hope there will be laughter. Ivy gets herself into some very awkward situations, something that hasn’t stopped for me even in adulthood!

10- What are your feelings on dog-eared pages, breaking spines, and notes in book margins?

I looove dog-eared pages. One of my favorite bookish things to do is to go back into books I’ve already read and turn to one of those dog-eared pages and read the quote that resonated so strongly with me. A flood of memories washes over me, and I love that feeling. The same applies to notes in the margins.

11- What most helped you to improve your writing craft?

I took an online class through LitReactor when I first started writing YA. It was taught by an agent/writer, so I learned a lot about opening scenes, writing for the YA audience, and about what agents/publishers look for.

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

Ivy’s dad has the habit of tousling Ivy’s hair whenever he says hello or goodbye. He’s done this since Ivy was a kid.

13- #DiversityBingo2017 What's your favorite book that covers a square on the card?

I enjoyed Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy. Willowdean was a great character.

14- What are your feelings on the Gilmore Girls reboot (A Year in the Life) on Netflix?

I love everything Gilmore Girls. I have so many lines from all the episodes memorized. The reboot was fun to watch. I was so happy to get some more of Kirk and Rory and Luke. I wish there had been more Jess!

15- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

Ivy is both cynical and hopeful at the same time. Since her mom left her, she doesn’t have much faith in permanent relationships. Yet, her heart never fails to believe in love and happy endings.

16- What is your favorite band of all time?

I love so many bands, but the one I’d have to name as my favorite of all time is The Smiths. Those songs really captured so many of my feelings then and now. The lyrics, Morrissey’s emotional pleas, and Johnny Marr’s guitar…I love it all.

17- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?

I definitely am drawn to covers. But it can’t just be a beautiful cover. I’m most likely to buy a book if it’s YA contemporary or some comedian’s book. I love coming of age drama, but I also love a good laugh! I also stalk authors. So if an author I love has a new book out, I’ll buy it automatically.

18- How will you measure your publishing performance?

I don’t have any sales numbers expectations or review expectations. I just want my book to matter, even if it’s just to one person.

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

I’m really not good at being patient. I queried agents for about a year, but it bothered me to be waiting for someone to choose me, to validate my writing as publishing-worthy. So I wanted to take things into my own hands. I decided to start querying small publishers as well. I had a lot more success and ultimately signed with Pen Name Publishing. This has been the best decision I could make for my writing career. Not only am I not still waiting for someone to choose me, but I’m working with a very supportive publisher and have had a lot of input during the entire publication process.

20- What is one discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

I’d love to hear how music has influenced people’s lives and what their favorite bands are. That’s something I hope Chasing Eveline makes people think about.

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

Meet Leslie Hauser in this Debut Author Spotlight writer of Chasing Eveline
About Chasing Eveline:

Sixteen-year-old Ivy Higgins is the only student at Carmel Heights High School who listens to cassettes. And her binder is the only one decorated with album artwork by 80s band Chasing Eveline. Despite being broken-up since 1989, this rock band out of Ireland means everything to Ivy. They’re a reminder of her mom, who abandoned Ivy and her dad two years ago. Now the music of her mom’s favorite band is the only connection she has left.

Even though Ivy wavers between anger and a yearning to reconnect, she’s one-hundred percent certain she’s not ready to lose her mom forever. But the only surefire way to locate her would be at a Chasing Eveline concert. So with help from her lone friend Matt—an equally abandoned soul and indie music enthusiast—Ivy hatches a plan to reunite the band.

The road to Ireland won’t be easy, though. And not just because there is no road. Along the way they’ll have to win over their Lady Gaga-loving peers, tangle with some frisky meerkats, and oh yeah, somehow find and persuade the four members to play a reunion gig. It’s a near-impossible task, but Ivy has to try. If she can’t let go of the past, she’ll never find joy in the present.

Author bio:
Meet Leslie Hauser in this Debut Author Spotlight
Leslie Hauser teaches middle school English and history. She is a Midwesterner at heart—born in Cincinnati, Ohio—but currently resides in Los Angeles, California, with her dog Mr. Darcy. She loves cupcakes, coffee, and most of all—music. You can find her on Twitter or Instagram at @LHauser27 or visit her web site at

Chasing Eveline

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Put First Things First

I'm back with another habit from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that I hope will help you become a more effective writer!

Put First Things First means that you must decide which things are most important to you, and make time for them. 

I have always been the type of person who tries to find time in my schedule to write. "I'll write after I wash the dishes. After the kids are in bed. Once I've written my next Operation Awesome post." And this works. You can finish a short story, poem, or novel on found time.

But if you want to prioritize writing time in your life, it's not enough to just hope you'll find some time in your busy schedule to write. You must make time to write. "Writing time is from 9pm to 10pm. I'll wake up an hour earlier than normal and use that time to write. Kids' nap time is writing time, not chore time." You get the picture.

Sometimes this mean taking time from other activities to make writing time, which can be a struggle at first. But I've found that the more frequently I block out writing time, the more I get done at other times in the day so that I can write without distraction later. This is one reason that I love participating in NaNoWriMo and CampNaNo. In order to make my word goal, I have to make time for writing every night, and I usually don't feel guilty about the things I'm giving up to do so.

What do you do to make time for writing?

Friday, July 14, 2017

Picture Perfect Book Launch Party

I have an obsession with book launch parties. I regularly search #booklaunchparty on Instagram, checking out what fun parties authors are throwing. You see, after reading & writing, my third passion is party planning. Finger foods and desserts are my favorite kinds of foods, and then you add in themes & color schemes, and shopping trips to Hobby Lobby, and I'm in heaven!

So when I ran across Carrie Anne Noble's book launch party for her latest novel, The Gold-Son, I just had to share. I love how perfectly she incorporated a forest theme that goes along with the tree on The Gold-Son's cover, and the beautifully set up food table.

(picture by Carrie Anne Noble)

(picture by Carrie Anne Noble)

To see more pictures of the lovely event (there are rainbow cupcakes & bat cookies!), make sure to visit Carrie Anne's blog. And how good does The Gold-Son sound?!

“The story is, simply, beautiful.” —Fictionist Magazine

All sixteen-year-old Tommin wants is to make beautiful shoes and care for his beloved grandmother, but his insatiable need to steal threatens to destroy everything. Driven by a curse that demands more and more gold, he’s sure to get caught eventually.

When mysterious Lorcan Reilly arrives in town with his “niece,” Eve, Tommin believes the fellow wants to help him. Instead, Lorcan whisks him off to the underground realm of the Leprechauns, where, alongside Eve, he’s forced to prepare to become one of them.

As Lorcan’s plans for his “gold-children” are slowly revealed, Tommin and Eve plan their escape. But with Tommin’s humanity slipping away, the fate-crossed pair has everything to lose unless they can find a way to outsmart a magical curse centuries in the making.

Amazon | B&N

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Everything You Need to Know About... The First Chapter!

Contest season is coming around the bend, and whether you're planning to submit to Pitch Wars, Pitch Slam, Nightmare on Query Street, or another contest, there are some common requirements for every submission package. Over the next few weeks, Operation Awesome will be giving and rehashing tips, advice, and 'lessons learned' about each of these required pieces of the submission package.

Take a look at last week's post on QUERY LETTERS. Now, let's turn our attention to THE FIRST CHAPTER.

Top First Chapter Tips from the Operation Awesome Crew

KARA: I know I've talked about this before, but it bears repeating: If the inciting incident doesn't happen in your first chapter, then your book is starting in the wrong place. The inciting incident is the thing that happens, without which, there would be no book. It's the thing that changes the status quo for your main character and sets them on the course of events that form your novel. Give your first chapter to your CPs and ask them if they can identify what the inciting incident is. If they can't, you've got work to do.

MELINDA: Drop me into a scene. I get too many submissions where the first chapter is all inside protagonist's head, telling the reader how they met their best friend, about their relationship with their parents, about why their preferred type of cheese is Gouda. Something needs to happen in your first chapter and that something needs to be important to the overall story.

J: I should have a question in my mind driving me to read onward. Also, I should be able to figure out what genre your book is by now. (Something dramatic happened, something paranormal appeared, my heart jolted from a scary scene, I laughed, I lusted, there was a crime, I encountered something from days gone by, etc.) Finally, I shouldn't have too many characters to juggle in my mind yet. One to four is ideal. Five to seven is gray area. Over seven characters in Chapter One is a red flag.

LEANDRA: For me, I like to see something unusual in the first chapter. If it's the character getting out of bed, thinking about their day, eating breakfast--for me, nothing will have me closing a book faster. Give me something besides the norm.

JAIME: To me, the most important factors in deciding whether to read a book are the concept and the voice. Now, if I'm thinking about buying a book, I already know the concept (from the back cover, Amazon description, etc.). So the first chapter's job is to hook me with the main character's voice. I will follow a great main character almost anywhere, but I won't necessarily keep up with a great concept if I don't care about the main character. In other words, your first chapter needs to establish your main character's voice, first and foremost.

Operation Awesome's Library of Posts About The First Chapter

Weaving a Colorful Tapestry of Page-Turning Story
What First Impression is Your Character Giving?
Activate Your Story

Monday, July 10, 2017

Pass Or Pages July 2017 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 Contemporary Romance novels. The entry window closes at 6pm Eastern time on Wednesday July 12th. Remember, with great power comes great responsibility!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Everything You Need to Know About... Query Letters!

Contest season is coming around the bend, and whether you're planning to submit to Pitch Wars, Pitch Slam, Nightmare on Query Street, or another contest, there are some common requirements for every submission package. Over the next few weeks, Operation Awesome will be giving and rehashing tips, advice, and 'lessons learned' about each of these required pieces of the submission package.

So, without further ado, let's start with QUERY LETTERS.

Top Query Tips from the Operation Awesome Crew

KARA: Specific details are what make query letters stand out for me when I read them. "Character meets a horrible fate" is not as eye-catching as "Character will be kicked out of the house and be at risk of being eaten by zombies." Take out all the vague phrases in your query letter and provide specifics instead. Don't worry about a "spoiler," because query letters are meant to get an agent/editor interested in your novel, and specific details are what do that.

MELINDA: Please don't tell me you've been writing since you were a kid or that your book is sure to be a bestseller. You have no idea how many times I read those words. They scream, "novice." We've all been writing since we were kids, and we all have hopes of our books being bestsellers. Tell me something relevant that will make me want to read more. Leave out the fluff.

J: If you're going to compare your book to another book, that other book better
  • be in the same AGE market as your book.
  • not be a cross-genre seller (Harry Potter, Divergent, Hunger Games, The Shining... if it's a top 10 best-seller, NO, don't use it).
  • be in the same genre as your book.
  • have enough in common with your book that one can read your query and the online description blurb of the book and draw parallels.
"It's just like 'A History of the World in 6 Glasses,' except it makes no reference to real history, and it's about vampires, so the only drink is blood, and the target audience is pre-school. But otherwise, it's totally the same." No.

The purpose of book comparisons is to figure out which 500 people regular readers to market your book to first. Sure, everyone might love your book later, but all books have to start with a core audience. Sticking with my ridiculous example, "A History of the World in 6 Glasses" would first have been marketed to people who enjoy food history books. Would fantasy writers love the book for the new world-building angle? You bet! But they aren't the core audience, they're not where the focus belongs during the initial launch. The book isn't shelved with writing books, it's shelved with gastronomy history. If there were a magazine ad campaign, the ads would be in "Food Network Magazine" not in "Apex."

LEANDRA: Have an intriguing first line. You can't land the fish if you don't hook it first. ;)

JAIME: Make sure you answer three simple questions. What does my main character want? What's standing in their way? What will happen if they don't succeed?

Operation Awesome's Library of Posts About Writing Query Letters

Query Writing 101: Writing a Basic Query
Query Writing 102: Query Dos and Don'ts
The Ultimate Cheat Sheet on Query Letters

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

July 2017 Pass Or Pages Agent Panel

Meet the agents who will critique your Contemporary Romance entries!

Agent Tri­cia Skin­ner was raised in Detroit, Michigan. She obtained her undergraduate degree from the nationally acclaimed Journalism Institute for Media Diversity at Wayne State University and earned her graduate degree from Southern Methodist University. Professionally, she began her writing career as a newspaper reporter and wrote for The Detroit News, Investor’s Business Daily, MSN, and The Houston Chronicle. She’s covered small & minority business, personal finance, and technology.

Tricia has 20 years of experience working with the video game industry in various roles, including public relations, industry relations, and writing/editing. She is also a hybrid author of passionate urban fantasy (represented by Fuse co-founder Laurie McLean).

After three years as an agent at the L. Perkins Agency, Rachel Brooks joined BookEnds in June 2017. While at LPA she established a mix of romance, young adult, and cozy mystery clients. Prior to that she was apprentice to agent Louise Fury.

Rachel has been an avid reader and organization fan since childhood. In elementary school, she played "librarian" in her bedroom and forced her parents to "check out" her books, with the ironing board as her reference desk counter and a beloved thrift store stamper used on her homemade due-date cards. Her lifelong love of both books and business made the perfect pairing for entering the publishing industry.

Originally from Washington (and then from all over as an Air Force brat), Rachel now resides with her gamer husband and chatty rescue cat. When not working, her other interests include trying new recipes, playing World of Warcraft, and spending time by the ocean.

Kelly has spent her whole life with a book in her hands. Whether it's from reading, writing, or day dreaming, her mind has always been up in the clouds wishing her fantasy stories would come true. Down on earth, somewhere between reading during science class, writing while she should be sleeping, and spending her social hours pretending she wasn't actually a closet nerd, she finally realized that her life would be a lot happier if she just accepted her love of books.

A recent graduate of West Chester University, she earned her B.S.Ed. in English and went to pursue a career in teaching. Little did she know that despite all of her hard work, the environment she ended up in would be one she disliked. After taking a step back and reassessing her life, she realized that maybe she should have focused on the world of literary agents and publishing a long time ago.

When not working as a book nerd, Kelly can be found dancing, hiking, riding horses, perfecting her yoga technique, blogging, and writing her own manuscript. If you're lucky, you might even be able to catch her flying around the world, saving lives. She is superwoman after all!

Details for July 2017 Pass or Pages:

Entry starts: Monday, July 10, 2017, at 6 a.m. Eastern
Ends: Wednesday, July 12, 2017 at 6 p.m. Eastern
Category/Genre: Contemporary Romance
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 July 24th, 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 tweet @OpAwesome6. Also, feel free to chat about the contest with fellow participants on the hashtag #PassOrPages.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Understanding "Show Don't Tell"

Show don't tell is a mantra among writers. While the phrase is often said, it is seldom understood.

Telling feeds the reader information, while showing allows the reader to gain information through experiencing it themselves. Instead of telling the reader a character is sad, we show the sadness through the characters wrinkled brow and glassy eyes.  Instead of telling the read it's raining, we show the water droplets hitting the character's glasses and dripping onto her cheeks.

The reader wants to feel what the character is feeling. When we "tell," the reader may know what the character feels, but they don't feel it with her. We want to invite readers into the story, not as observers, but as participants. Telling creates narrative distance, while showing places the reader in the protagonist's shoes.

One easy way to tell if you're telling rather than showing is if you name a feeling.

Examples of telling:

The cast walked onto the stage and bowed as Angela clapped with excitement.

Clarence dug his shovel into the earth, exhaustion weighing him down.

In both cases, the feeling is named--excitement and exhaustion. We shouldn't have to tell the reader Angela is excited if she jumps out of her seat and claps and whistles. We know by the context that Angela is excited. In the same way, we can know Clarence is exhausted by the way he wipes the sweat off the back of his neck and how his muscles shake every time he plunges the shovel into the dirt. With that information, we know Clarence is exhausted because we experience the fatigue with him.

Go through your manuscript and find places where you've named the feeling and work toward eliminating those tells by showing the reader what your character is feeling.


Melinda Marshall Friesen writes YA and adult speculative fiction. When she's not writing, she's marketing books for Rebelight Publishing.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Flash Fiction Contest Winner #32

Thank you to our entrants! Both were very good pieces, but our winner this time is Audrey Rich, whose story had a nice little twist to it. Congrats, Audrey!


I bury my head in my mom’s body avoiding the fingers.
“Fiery, be brave. You’re almost up.”
“I don’t want to. Let me stay with you.”
She clears her throat. “You can’t. We’re all preparing to go. And the smallest are first.”
“I’m scared.” My body and hair jiggle.
“This is what we were made for.” Her body touches mine. “It’ll be fine.”
My voice rises two decibels, “It won’t. We’re about to die.”
She frowns. “We give mini-thrills, so step up, Firecracker.”
The fingers reach for me, holding me tight, before the excruciating heat consumes me.
I’m dying...

Friday, June 30, 2017

Flash Fiction Contest #32

Next week, the boom of firecrackers will be resounding all over the U.S. (or, if you live in my neighborhood, even longer after that) in celebration of the 4th of July. Write a 100 word flash fiction piece including the word firecracker somewhere in it (does not have to be 4th of July themed). Entries need to be in by noon on 7/2, with the winner announced later that evening. Rules can be found here.

For those celebrating the holiday, stay safe and have fun!!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Writing Legal Scenes: Top 4 Mistakes Writers Make

You've got a character who's a lawyer, law student, or judge. Or you have a character who's thrown into a legal situation: a defendant in a criminal trial, a witness being deposed for a civil case, or even someone serving on a jury. Legal scenarios arise in real life all the time, so it's not surprising that they also proliferate in fiction. Yet many writers get basic elements of the law and legal situations wrong, and this can be distracting for readers (especially readers who are familiar with and/or work in the legal field).

A guide on writing legal scenarios correctly goes way beyond the scope of this post, but I'd like to point out four common mistakes I see in novels, movies, and TV shows. If you can avoid these mistakes, you'll have a head start on writing a realistic legal scene.

NOTE: I'm restricting this post to the American legal system. Other countries have different laws and procedures, so make sure you research those legal systems (along with the American system, where applicable) thoroughly. And always have a lawyer beta read these scenes for you to ensure they are as realistic as possible.

Mistake #1: Courtroom scenes aren't generally like INHERIT THE WIND or TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.

Everyone loves a good trial scene, where the attorney waxes eloquent about civil rights, the human condition, and truth, justice, and the American way. This rarely happens in real life. Sure, a good attorney will advocate strenuously for her client, and lawyers are allowed a lot of leeway during opening and closing arguments to do so. But judges won't allow lawyers to go overboard, and most trials have set amounts of time for each portion (direct/cross examinations, opening/closing arguments, etc.). A lawyer going way over his time while delivering a stirring closing argument will be more likely to be admonished to sit down than applauded for his fervor. And, while it rarely happens, opposing counsel can object during opening and closing arguments, and if the objection is sustained, the judge may instruct the jury to disregard the objectionable portion of the argument.

Mistake #2: The basic terminology is incorrect.

Criminal and civil cases have a lot of similarities, but there are some major differences in terminology. Getting the basic terms wrong is distracting for many readers. For example, the parties in a criminal case are the State (or the U.S., in a federal case) versus one or more defendants. In a civil case, you've got plaintiffs versus defendants, instead. A defendant in a criminal case is found guilty, and a defendant in a civil case is found liable. There are many other differences like these, and it's worth finding a good legal dictionary to make sure you're getting the terminology right.

There are also differences between cases brought in the state court system, as opposed to the federal court system. Make sure you know which court the case you're writing about would have been brought in and research the heck out of the judges, local rules, and other information that can usually be found on the court's website.

Mistake #3: Most law students are not Elle Woods.

Don't get me wrong: I loved LEGALLY BLONDE. It's a fantastically fun movie. But it's also not a documentary. No 1L student (first-year law student) is going to get an opportunity to second-chair a high-profile murder trial, let alone take over questioning key witnesses. Setting aside the fact that first-year law students are still several years away from being licensed to practice law, there are many other reasons why this scenario is unrealistic. First-year law students spend a ton of time reading published cases (many of which are over 100 years old), outlining those cases, and talking about those cases in class. They generally do not have the practical understanding of the law necessary to effectively manage a case, run a trial, etc. When in doubt, consult with a lawyer or law student to find out what tasks would be realistic for a law student to take on.

Mistake #4: It can take years for a case to get to trial, and the vast majority of cases never go to trial.

Whether criminal or civil, most cases (well over 90% in some fields) settle before trial. While trials are dramatic and a great way to build tension, keep that fact in mind and make sure to include a reason your case is going to trial (a stubborn defendant, a plaintiff who refuses to settle, etc.).

Even if a case does make it to trial, most court systems are extremely backlogged, and it may be years before a trial date is set. Criminal cases do tend to move much faster than civil cases, but continuances (where the court decides to delay the trial date) and other delays are very common. When in doubt, contact a law clerk at the courthouse your fictional trial would be set in, and ask for the typical time-to-trial for the type of case you're writing about (many courts keep these statistics, and if not, the clerks will have a general idea). But make sure to account for several months (at the low end) between arrest and trial in your book.

Overall, when in doubt, do your research or contact a practicing lawyer. It never hurts to have a lawyer as a critique partner, either, especially if you've got courtroom scenes or other legal scenarios in your book.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Meet Beth Ellyn Summer in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

At First Blush

It's time to kick off summer with debut author... Beth Ellyn Summer!

1- Did #TeamCoco ever say something funny to you, and would you share it with us please?

Conan was always funny and kind in every interaction I had with him. His mind is constantly going and spinning and thinking.

A few conversations that come to mind: after my first couple of weeks there, it was Valentine's Day and I was wearing a shirt covered in hearts (it was actually purely coincidence). He came up to me at rehearsal and asked if I ever wear the shirt when it's *not* Valentine's Day, and said it must be nice to have clothes in my closet that match every national holiday.

Another time, repairs were being done on some of the east elevator banks. After taping, some interns were hanging in reception and there was this awful burning smell. When Conan and his producers came off the elevator, he asked me what the smell was and I shrugged and said "elevator repairs" and he said "That. OR we're all having the exact same stroke."

One night we took our intern photos and we did it in groups of four, and me and my three girlfriends were checking back our photos and he said "Give this to TMZ. CONAN'S WILD WEEKEND." And he used to tease us a lot about being young and tech obsessed. He'd make a nerdy voice and talk about us always tapping on our newfangled iPhones with all of our apps.

2- What five words represent your most notable characteristics or values? #In5Words

Persistence, routine, cardio, weights, yoga

3- Can you share a story from your life that shows who you are as a person and why you are a writer?

So when I was maybe four or five I remember my mom and I going to pick up my brother from school. On the road outside the school I saw something weird in the street. My mom told me it was a newspaper but as we made the turn I could see it was clearly a run-over seagull. I LOST IT. I'd never seen a dead animal before. I love animals. I cried for days. No one could console me. My mom drove me to parking lots to see soaring, swooping, happy seagulls eating from dumpsters. Even my grandpa got on the phone with me to try to get me to understand the bird was fine and in heaven. Then my brother surprised me with a stuffed Scuttle plush (the seagull from the Little Mermaid). That made me so happy (I still have it!).
Not sure if that tells you why I'm a writer (though I do love writing about animals in my current WIP) but it probably tells you how ridiculously overly sensitive I am tongue out emoji and how much I adore animals. 💕 animals mean the world to me, and it's my dream to start a special charity foundation for shelters someday.

4- What ignited your passion for writing?

Reading!! All the Babysitters Club and Sweet Valleys and Nancy Drews. :)

Meet Beth Ellyn Summer in this Debut Author Spotlight

5- Would you share a picture with us of the must-have summer lip products?

The Bare Escentuals Buxom lip glosses are life! Mudslide is my favorite color.

6- What are you reading this summer?

Currently reading an ARC of Romancing the Throne by Nadine Jolie Courtney. It's such a fun beach read! I also plan on reading Emery Lord's, Jenny Han's, and Sarah Dessen's latest books.

7- What are some of your short and long term writing goals?

I usually set word count goals (1K a day) when drafting, or if I'm revising, I tell myself that by each week's end, I'll have revised x number of chapters.
For long term, that's usually where I'll pick a month I plan to get a MS to my agent. But I also try not to make myself crazy with setting goals only because it's easy to beat myself up if I miss a self-imposed deadline.

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

My parents and brother haha. They've read multiple versions of AT FIRST BLUSH along the road to publication. I think they love seeing all the internship stuff, since they heard so many of the stories when I was interning. They recognized a lot of that stuff.

9- 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 want people to feel happy when they read my book. The world sucks sometimes, and I like escapes. I live for funny TV and happy books. I hope that AT FIRST BLUSH inspires people to think outside the box.

One of my favorite scenes (and one I hope resonates with readers) is where Lacey is helping with Tyler's photo shoot. Not just because of the flirtatious aspect (which I do love) but because it's the first time Lacey realizes that this internship isn't everything she dreamed it would be, and she finds herself craving the quiet of the makeup room. I want readers to know that it's ok for a dream to change!! And sometimes going through that realization and being open can lead you to a talent or dream you never knew you had.

I couldn't agree more! Dreams do change over time, and it's really important to realize that, especially when you're young.

10- What most helped you to improve your writing craft?

Writing! Practice makes, if not perfect, polished work. There are no shortcuts. And reading a ton.
Meet Beth Ellyn Summer in this Debut Author Spotlight

11- Could you please share a pic of Penny Belle with a copy of your book?

Asking me to share a photo of my Penny Belle=
we are now officially best friends wink emjoi

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

Lacey always swatches eyeshadows on the back of her hand, especially when nervous or contemplative. So she always has rainbow streaks of color on her hand.

13- #DiversityBingo2017 What's your favorite book that covers a square on the card?

POC on cover: When Dimple Met Rishi. Practicing Jewish MC: Josh from Stephanie Perkins' Isla and the Happily Ever After.

14- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?

Pretty much the idea I'll enter a new world. That's all I really need to know before I pick up a new book.

15- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

Cynthia!! I love her. She's chaotic and frenetic and dramatic but when she's interning in the most chaotic setting, she finds her zen and chills right out.

16- How will you measure your publishing performance?

I think just seeing the book out in the world and knowing it's resonating with readers tells me I've succeeded.
Having people take the time to review or tweet me telling me they enjoyed it is everything emoji raising both hands in celebration

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

I chose traditional based solely on the fact that I NEED people around me to help me out! I love having a partnership with my agent, and knowing I have the support of such a wonderful house such as Bloomsbury makes it all that much better.

18- Any favorite summertime tip you can share?

Summer is my favorite season so I have lots! But the biggest thing I will say is find the highest SPF you can get your hands on! (I use 70+) reapply often, and wear a big, floppy hat. Protect your skin, people!! Also don't forget to put SPF balm on your lips. And of course enjoy every second outside, because summer goes WAY too fast.

19- What is one question which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

I'd be interested to know what everyone is currently reading this summer Big smile emoji
Meet Beth Ellyn Summer in this Debut Author Spotlight

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


Beth Ellyn Summer writes contemporary young adult fiction that always includes the following elements: fame, makeup, and television. She graduated from Long Island University with a degree in print and electronic journalism, but the real highlight of her college years was interning for Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Fallon.

Meet Beth Ellyn Summer author of At First Blush in this Debut Author Spotlight
At First Blush

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

July Pass Or Pages Details

We are excited to announce our next round of Pass Or Pages! In July, we will have a round focused on Contemporary Romance. Note that these are novels intended for adults, not YA. There are genre expectations for Romance novels; be sure that yours fits before submitting! We hope to get many types of romance entries, with main characters of different nationalities, sexual orientations, and from any underrepresented groups.

Here are the important dates for this round:
July 5: Agent panel announcement
July 10-12: Entry window (via a form here on Operation Awesome)
July 24-28: Feedback reveals!

For a recap of the rules and links to previous rounds, click here.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Before You Send Your Query Letter

I'm waving at you from beneath the huge pile of virtual papers we refer to as the slush pile. It's massive. It's overwhelming. And yet, I know that it's also a pile of the hopes and dreams of writers like me and you.

When I approach the slush pile, it's with the hope of finding a gem that my company can bring to publication. I strive to give everyone a fair chance. However, time is not only valuable, but it's scarce. I can't devote a half hour to every submission. The pile would grow faster than I could pare it down. Writers only get a couple of minutes to grab my attention. While this can be disconcerting, I believe knowledge is power.

Put yourself the acquisition editor's or literary agent's shoes. What would you want to know about the story? What's most important about your manuscript and you as the author? Get them that important information as quickly as possible.

Here are a few things I want to know right away:

  • Genre
  • Target audience
  • Word count
  • Title

Surprisingly, these items are missing from many submissions I receive. To make matters worse, many writers don't read our submission guidelines to know we don't publish adult fiction, picture books, or non-Canadian writers. These folks are wasting my time and theirs by submitting. The Golden Rule applies. If you were the person feverishly going through hundreds of submissions, what types of submissions would you want to receive?


When Melinda Marshall Friesen isn't writing, she works as marketing director and acquisitions editor at Rebelight Publishing.

Friday, June 23, 2017

It's My Birthday & I'll Slack If I Want To

Today should have been a #OAFlash Fiction Contest post, but...I forgot to prep for it, and I'm going to use my birthday as a slacker excuse.

So instead, I'll just talk to you, how 'bout that? So I had a miserable Monday this week. Usually Mondays are just Mondays to me, and I don't buy into it the hype that they're some kind of cursed day. Except on this particular Monday, I got a parking ticket (at a whopping $40 bucks!), lost the key to the mower, and then flooded the kitchen because I forgot and left the faucet running.

I was...not in a good place. (as in, sobbing while I'm throwing towels down on our new indoor wading pool)

But the week improved and today is Friday, and my birthday, and I'm going to eat at the Italian restaurant next door to my work for lunch. So exited to get some yummy bread!

And then tonight is my birthday dinner at my in-laws. I picked chicken casserole, cheesy scalloped potatoes, salad, & crescent rolls. Then it's ice cream cake for dessert. Can anyone tell I like my food? ;)

Then the glorious weekend begins, and Saturday night, I'm dragging out our fire pit for the first s'mores of the season. (I did say I liked food...?)

Have a great one, everyone!!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Why You Should Write a Synopsis Before You Start Writing Your Manuscript

If you'd like a primer on how to write a synopsis, see my posts here and here. And if you want your synopsis critiqued on this website, fill out the form here, or email your 1-2 page synopsis to me at, and I'll post one critique per week (NOTE: I'll email my critique to the author as soon as I'm done, so the author won't have to wait to see his/her synopsis on the site). Thanks for participating!

For many writers, drafting a synopsis is the most painful part of the novel-writing process. You've finished writing, editing, polishing, incorporating critiques, and your novel shines! But now you have to go back and summarize your entire plot in a 1-2 or 4-5 page document? It's painful, it's difficult, and you'd rather spend the day cleaning your house or going to the dentist. Since this is such a common complaint, I found myself wondering if there was any way to make the synopsis-writing process more enjoyable.

As it turns out, there is: Write the synopsis before you start writing the book.

You might be thinking, "But I don't even know what's going to happen in my book until I start writing!" Or, "My synopsis is going to change significantly once I'm done with the book!" But hear me out. Even if you're not a strict (or even casual) outliner, you have some idea of what's going to happen in your book before you start writing. At the very least, you know something about your main character, what happens to her, what choices she is forced to make, and maybe even what happens at the end. 

So, using just that information, you can start writing a synopsis. You won't know all the plot details, and that's okay! Writing a synopsis is a great way to start brainstorming the types of scenes you want to include, what the main character's arc is going to look like, and how to incorporate a satisfying ending into your narrative. Seeing the most basic beginning-middle-end of your plot on a single page (or two pages) is the best way to see what the plot needs to be complete. Are you missing action? Tension? Resolution? A basic synopsis can tell you all of that.

Of course you'll go back and revise the synopsis as you write the book. And you'll need to revise it extensively when you're done writing the book, to make sure you're accounting for the entire plot. But you'll have the skeleton of the synopsis already written, and revising it tends to be far less painful than starting from scratch.

EXERCISE: Write a Pre-Novel Synopsis

1) Know who your main character is, the basic setting, and at least the most basic answers to the questions of 'what happens?' 'what does my main character want?' and 'who/what is standing in the way of my main character getting what he wants?'

2) Brainstorm a list of at least ten scenes you want to see in your book.

3) Using that list and the answers to the questions in (1), put the scenes in the order that makes the most sense for your narrative (usually chronological, but not always)

4) Add details (no need to include too many at this point) to each of the critical scenes, using a paragraph for each one (at least at this initial stage)

5) Flesh out transitions between scenes - because 'X' happens in paragraph 1, 'Y' must happen in paragraph 2, and that leads to 'Z' happening in paragraph 3.

6) Read over your synopsis and note areas where the main plot and main character arc are missing important elements (change, tension, action, resolution, etc.). Note where those elements need to be added.

7) Use this Pre-Novel Synopsis as your guide for writing your novel!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Meet Tiffany D. Jackson in this Debut Author Spotlight

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6


1- Do you have a pic of Oscar, the Chihuahua, posing with your book?

Meet Tiffany D. Jackson in this Debut Author Spotlight

2- Can you share a story from your life that shows who you are as a person and why you are a writer?

I don't take the anniversary of my Grandfather's death as hard as my Grandma's. He lived a full life and I was prepared vs. I felt my Grandma was violently ripped away from me. However, I'll never forget that I missed being there with him when he died. I was still working in television at the time and ignored phone calls from the nursing home, trying to tell me he would be gone soon. I will always remember that I chose to stay on a set while being yelled at by a belligerent producer and my Pop-Pop died alone. (Years later, that show aired and I wasn't even credited for it.). That was the moment I decided to change. 3 months later, I found a new gig, moved into my own apartment, wrote #allegedly, and started traveling more. I no longer put a job above my happiness, dreams, health, or family. I don't kill myself rushing to the office, I leave with a clear conscious. I take ALL my vacation days.

3- Which is your favorite R. L. Stine book?

Goosebumps series but my favorite would have to be from his Fear Street Series, Silent Night.

4- Would you share a picture with us from one of you travels?

This is me leaving the Taj Mahal in India. It’s one of my favorite pictures.
Meet Tiffany D. Jackson in this Debut Author Spotlight

5- What are some of your short and long term writing goals?

Short term, really want to co-write a book with someone. I love the thought of kicking ideas around with a fellow author. Long term, I’d love to write an adult book, somewhere down the line.

6- How important do you believe it is for a book cover to feel right to the author?

Even though our books are our babies, our books are also products we are pushing and we have to believe in the products. Thus, if authors don’t LOVE their covers, it’s hard to sell something you don’t love.

7- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

I hope this book elicits outrage for the treatment of girls in prisons and sparks the need for young advocacy. If I would’ve known then what I know now, I would have been fighting for my fellow peers a long time ago.

8- I read that you love fried chicken. Do you have a favorite recipe or favorite place to grab a bucket?

HAHAHAHA! Yes, it is my favorite food. My favorite place is from a spot called SOCO in Ft. Green Brooklyn. They have a delicious Chicken and red velvet waffle plate.

9- What most helped you to improve your writing craft?

Actively reading the genre I’m writing in. For me, particularly since I write thrillers, it’s important to study the work of masters.

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

You never see Mary without her gray hoodie.

11- #DiversityBingo2017 Which squares does your book cover on the card?

  • POC on the Cover
  • Book by an Author of Color
  • Black MC (Own Voices)

12- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

She’s quiet but her actions are loud. (That’s all I can say with spoilers)

13- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?

I’m always a sucker for a good hook and a killer premise. I love books that can engage me from the flap copy or the first five pages.

14- How will you measure your publishing performance?

I don’t look at numbers, the idea of them gives me too much anxiety. I rather focus on writing the best story I can.

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

I had a gut feeling that this story needed a broad reach that I only traditional publishing could provide.

16- What is one question which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

Did you like the ending? (insert evil smirk)

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

Definitely follow me on twitter and instagram! @Writeinbk


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Guest Post: Pitching to Agents, by Megan Lee

I recently attended a writers' conference in Seattle that focused entirely on publishing.  Since I was pitching that day, and was scared out of my mind, the class focusing on developing and presenting a good pitch was extremely beneficial and helped me to sort out my thoughts and ideas to develop a great pitch.  Now I am just crossing my fingers that the requests for my MS turn into something more!

Here is what I learned from the May 2017 Seattle Writer’s Conference about pitching to an agent.

The set-up of a perfect pitch: in order
-Introduce Main Character
-Flush out the Main Character (Tell us what they want out of life or what makes them interesting.)
-Inciting incident (What propels your novel into motion- The Hook)
-What is the major plot of the book about (What does the Main Character intend to do about the incident):  Part three should automatically lead to four.  State the incident and what the Main character intends to do about it.
-Complications (What stands in the way of what the MC intends to do.)
-What will the MC do to fix the problem (Do not say whether or not they will succeed.)
-Stakes: If the MC fails.  What will happen to them?

A couple of other great tips for your pitching session:
-Start with your genre, title, word count and any relating novels they may be able to draw from (never use the classics like Harry Potter or Hunger Games: personal pet peeve of almost all authors)
-Never end the pitch with a rhetorical question
-Although agents prefer you to memorize your pitch, if you don’t feel comfortable, do what you are best at.  If you need to read your pitch, then do it.  Represent yourself the best you can.
-If you are looking to write compelling pitches and first pages your BEST resources to find and study are successful debut authors in your genre.  They have learned to develop an amazing roadmap in order to get published so USE THEIR ROADMAP.

Personal things I learned about my pitching session:
-First pitch is the hardest. I was shaking like a leaf.  But once I started, I got comfortable and was able to pitch with a lot more ease the rest of the time.
-The agents are human just like you are, so talk to them like a human, not a robot.  During my first pitch I realized I had brought an apple with me (pregnancy and anxiety do not go well together.)  I sat down and just said “Obviously I am pregnant and nervous because I brought an apple to my pitch session,” she laughed and I immediately felt more at ease.  I realized after that, that she is human, and was able to talk to her with greater comfort and ease.
-Be prepared.  I studied common questions that agents ask in pitch sessions and I had an entire typed out page of well thought out answers that I could refer to.  The agents asked a lot of questions, and I felt well prepared to answer them because I had gone to great lengths to research and develop my thoughts, especially the break-up of my plotline.  When they asked specific questions about my plot, I felt prepared to answer.

I hope this helps future writers to be more prepared for their pitch sessions!  Good luck to all of us in this huge and exciting undertaking.


Megan Lee has a BS in Print Journalism and Law and Constitutional Studies and has published articles in several local and online resources where she has won small competitions.  She spent time editing talks for worldwide audiences and now spends most of her time nurturing two toddlers and dreaming up stories.
To find Megan Lee:
Facebook: Megan Sonderegger Lee
Twitter: @meganleewriter
Up and coming niche blog: