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Archive for April, 2010

The Facts and Factors of A Novel’s Word Count, II

April 29, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Q&A

Today’s post is the continuation of how authors responded to a recent question posted on The Divining Wand’s Q & A page:

Here’s another question for your authors: What is the word count of most of their novels?

I know that we here all sorts of estimates of what a novel should be, 70,000 to 100,000 words. But what is the actual count for the novels featured here, and do your authors think about word count as they’re writing?

Also please welcome The Divining Wand’s latest about-to-become author, Allie Larkin, who leads off with:

Allie Larkin (STAY coming June 10, 2010):

“The final version of STAY is around 100,000 words. The first draft was just short of 70,000, and then grew through the revising process, as the story became more layered and I developed the characters further. I don’t think word count should be a concern in the first few drafts of a book. Those drafts are about creating the framework of the story and getting to know the characters. Obviously, there are ideal lengths for books, but I think reaching an ideal word count should be more of an organic process than a goal to meet. You never want to add words just for the sake of adding them. So, even if it’s necessary to add 10-20,000 words to make the book a marketable length, I think the focus should be more about figuring out a way to grow the story and grow the characters, than trying to hit a certain number.”

Melanie Benjamin (Alice I Have Been):

“This is a good question. Before ALICE, I always aimed at 80,000; my earlier contract, for my 2 contemporary novels, stipulated that should be the approximate word count. When I moved to historical fiction, however, I found that there’s more leeway, and ALICE came in at around 100,000 words, and nobody blinked an eye. That’s the word count I have in mind for my next historical novel, too.

“However – word of advice. Let the story develop as it needs to and try not to obsess about the word count until it’s finished. Revisions always change things. If you finish and you find you’re way under the typical word count (which is, yes, anywhere from 70,000 to 100,000, depending on the genre as I said above), then you may have to decide whether or not the work would be better off as a short story. If you’re way over, you can edit and perhaps divide the work into 2 novels. So – try not to obsess while telling the story, but at the end of the day, word count does matter.”

Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers):

“Ooh, I definitely think about word count as I’m writing . . . my novels tend to be in the 75,000 word range, which is a bit on the short side. And I NEVER get to that in my first draft. My goal in a first draft is to get to 65,000 words because I know that in revising (which to me means mostly adding and rearranging), I’ll get in that magical realm of 70,000-80,000 words.”

Holly LeCraw (The Swimming Pool):

“Mine is about 80,000 words. I didn’t think about word count as I was writing, but assumed I would come in at 300ish pages. As it turned out, mine is 307. I tend to like books that are tightly constructed and not overlong, although there are always exceptions.”

Lauren Baratz-Logsted (most recent Crazy Beautiful YA, Sisters 8 series with Book 5: Marcia’s Madness coming May 3, 2010):

“Since I write for pretty much every age group imaginable, I’m all over the place on this. Each volume in The Sisters 8 series for young readers comes in at about 22K. My one middle grade was 35K. My adult novels range from 70-100K. Even within YA, I’m all over the place, with most coming in at 45-50K while The Twin’s Daughter (due out on Aug 31) is a whopping 96K! It all depends on what the individual book demands, how long it takes to tell the story right.”

Shana Mahaffey (Sounds Like Crazy):

“Sounds Like Crazy weighs in at just over 105,000 words. I wrote without regard to word count and was lucky enough to have my book published under an imprint that believes a book should be as long as it needs to be to tell the story.”

Maud Carol Markson (When We Get Home, Looking After Pigeon):

“I don’t have the exact number but I believe Looking After Pigeon was just around 80,000 words. The novel I’m working on now is about 85,000 words.”

Sarah Pekkanen (The Opposite of Me):

“The Opposite of Me is 105,000 words (give or take a few). My second novel is about 90,000 words. I do think a little about word count as I write, knowing it would be much harder to sell a book that came in at 60,000 or 200,000 words.”

Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars and The Life You’ve Imagined coming August 17, 2010):

“I had to look this information up. REAL LIFE & LIARS was 85,498 in the pre-copyedited version, and THE LIFE YOU’VE IMAGINED is a little longer at 91,171. My work-in-progress will end up about the same. Since I measure my daily progress in first drafts by word count I suppose I do think about it as I write, but only as a handy way to measure productivity. I do feel very pleased when I hit the big round numbers divisible by 10,000. It’s arbitrary, but it does feel like a milestone and since writing a first draft is so solitary it’s nice to congratulate myself on leaping those hurdles. No one else is going to throw me a party.”

Allison Winn Scotch (The Department of Lost and Found, Time of My Life and The One That I Want coming June 1, 2010):

“All of mine hover around the 85k mark. I do think about WC as I’m writing – I think about the book in a series of acts, and I know when to begin each one (generally), so I can time the action – and the necessary arc of that action – to the word count.”

Barrie Summy (I So Don’t Do Mysteries, I So Don’t Do Spooky and I So Don’t Do Makeup coming May 11, 2010, Ages 9 – 12):

“My novels (tween mysteries) are 52,000 to 55,000 words. Do I think about word count while I’m writing?

“Yes. Yes. Yes.

“I’m a HUGE plotter, and I know where I should be word-count wise for the major plot points, darkest moment, the resolution. This is how I keep the pace up.

“And also how I keep my sanity. I promise myself treats all the way through the first draft. For example, when I reach the first plot point, around 13,000 words, I get to have a package of licorice as a reward.”

Wendy Tokunaga (Midori By Moonlight, Love in Translation):

“I believe that my word counts come out to be around 85,000. I never think about this when I’m writing, though. I just write as much as I need to tell the story and it always seems to work out okay in the end.”

Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy):

“My publisher, Shaye Areheart, likes books to come in right at about 90,000 words, which is the word count for The Last Will of Moira Leahy.

“I keep tabs of word count using Word, but I don’t stress about it much while drafting a story. I tend to trust that the word count will fall near the right mark in the end. Word count definitely becomes more important during editing, though. I find it easier to edit a “fat” story down to size rather than add new beef.”

And a final word on just the facts….

Randy Susan Meyers (The Murderer’s Daughters):

“According to fictionfactor.com, ‘”Most print publishers prefer a minimum word count of around 70,000 words for a first novel, and some even hesitate for any work shorter than 80,000. Yet any piece of fiction climbing over the 110,000 word mark also tends to give editors some pause. They need to be sure they can produce a product that won’t over-extend their budget, but still be enticing enough to readers to be saleable. Imagine paying good money for a book less than a quarter-inch thick?”‘

“That said, there is much back and forth on this issue. I think the topic is very well covered by agent Colleen Lindsay in her blog, the swivet.”

If you have a question for our authors feel free to post it on the Q & A page or email: diviningwand@gmail.com

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ATTENTION: This site’s rather exclusive sidebar has a new addition under the category of Must See. ArounderTouch is an iPhone app from Arounder.com. The virtual reality site — featuring gorgeous 360-degree panoramas of the world — is what I frequently used on Seize A Daisy’s “Friday Getaways.” It’s a first-class ticket for your travel plans or imaginary flights of fancy, please check it out.

Announcement: The winners of Quick’s debut YA novel, SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR, are Keetha and Beth. Congratulations! Please send your mailing addresses to: diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com, and I’ll have your copy sent out promptly. Many thanks to everyone who entered.

The Revealing of Thaisa Frank

April 28, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

Critically acclaimed for her short story collections, ThaisaFrankThaisa Frank (A Brief History in Camouflage, Sleeping in Velvet) debuts with first novel, Heidegger’s Glasses, on May 25, 2010.

Set in the final days of World War II, the novel explores an underground compound of scribes hidden deep in the German forest. And, as imposing and dark as this book may sound, please think of Grimm’s fairy tales. The Divining Wand is scheduled to present/review Heidegger’s Glasses on Monday, May 17, 2010 but, for now, meet Thaisa Frank through her “official” bio:

Thaisa Frank grew up in the Midwest and the Bronx, the granddaughter of a Presbyterian theologian and a Rumanian Chassid, who consulted each other about Aramaic texts. Her father was a professor of medieval English and her mother a director of small theater groups.

Her fiction, characterized by the critic Rob Hurwitt as “domestic magical realism,” inevitably draws on a bi-cultural childhood in which, for two thirds of the year, she lived in a sedate suburb of Illinois and for a third of the year in the colorful, immigrant world of New York. In her stories, men glow in the dark, the letter writer for Howard Hughes reveals his passions, a woman camouflages herself as furniture, a child has too many mothers to remember, and two circus performers go through the eye of a needle. Her collections also include novellas that take place in the Midwest and reveal the journey of a family. Upcoming work is a novel about a nearly mythical haven in the holocaust the safety of which is threatened forever.

She earned an honors degree in philosophy of science and logic from Oberlin College, studied graduate linguistics and philosophy at Columbia and worked as a psychotherapist before becoming a fulltime writer. She has traveled extensively in France and England, and currently lives in Oakland, California.

With this impressive background and gifted talent, what surprises will Thaisa reveal:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Had it all but not all at once.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Somehow I get things done.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Great sex.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Falling from a great height.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Under the night sky of the other hemisphere.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Jonathon Swift.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: My son.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases
A: Totally. (And some expletives.)

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: The art of great tango dancing.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Getting out of my completely crazy family of origin.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: Impatience.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: Impatience.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Not having more children.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: A cat with a person’s consciousness.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: My sense of the absurd.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Piccoline in Par Lagerqvist’s The Dwarf.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A:I would like to meet someone who participated in the ancient Greek games. And I would say that I was amazed to meet them.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: People who play emotional karate.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Staring into space.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Doing something creative that involves other people but is also steady work. For example–being a great Off Broadway director.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Compassion
A sense of the absurd
Generosity

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Fresh tomatoes

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Dreams (the Cranberries)
One Arm One Love (Bob Marley)
Anything that Cat Power sings (don’t make me choose!)
Motherland (Natalie Merchant)
Solomon ( actually Saloman in German) Lotte Leyna)

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: The Dwarf by Par Lagerqvist
Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
The Axe (in four separate books) by Sigrid Undset
All short Stories and parables by Kafka
Remainder by Tom McCarthy

To read more of Thaisa’s fascinatig thoughts/writings, please visit her Redroom blog.

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[Book Giveaway:] The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR in a random drawing of all comments left on this post. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please visit tomorrow to possibly claim your book. Good luck!

The Revealing of Joëlle Anthony

April 27, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

GuestJoelleOn Thursday, May 13, 2010 Joëlle Anthony debuts as a YA author of Restoring Harmony. Addictive, adventurous, and amazingly honest are all adjectives that apply to this novel, however also read what Kirkus says: “Suspense dominates this absorbing and believable near-future dystopic novel about a girl sent to rescue her grandparents from the United States ten years after ‘”the Collapse.”‘ The author’s vision of a future America following the failure of the oil-based economy makes realistic sense and keeps interest high. Highly readable; very well done indeed.”

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of Restoring Harmony on Wednesday, May 12, 2010, yet — in the meantime — let’s meet the about-to-be author by reading her “official” bio:

Joëlle currently lives on a tiny island in British Columbia with her musician husband, Victor Anthony. As for the future, their only plan is to avoid real jobs, write and play guitar in front of the wood stove, and live happily ever after. Look for her debut novel, Restoring Harmony, in May 2010 from Putnam.

Did that pique your interest? Well here’s more of Joëlle revealed:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Blessed, happy, food, love, nature, books, writing, music

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Everything always works out for me.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: My life – more specifically, a life filled with the things I want to do, surrounded by people I love, with a couple of cats thrown in for good measure, and lots of homegrown food and live music.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Having to work in retail again.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Right here, right now. I’m pretty much a bloom where I’m planted sort of girl.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Well, Betsy Ray. I mean, I know she’s a fictional character, but we are a lot alike (from the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace).

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: That’s easy. My husband!

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases
A: To be honest…, I’m just going to read for a minute and then I’ll make dinner…, and If you ask me… (usually when no one has actually asked me).

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I would be able to sing really well.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Well, I’m still working on it, but learning to be quiet on the inside. I can do it when I really need to, but I’d like to have it be more of an everyday thing. I suffer from what is called “monkey mind.” In other words, my brain rarely stops for a rest.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: See above!

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I’m kind.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: I really try to live in my here and now, so regrets aren’t part of my life. However, if I could re-do anything from my past, I probably would’ve gotten a better education. Especially in high school. I really only did what I needed to do to get by.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: Me. No doubt about it. I love being me.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: My smile. I am almost always smiling.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Betsy, of course!

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Oh, that guy in Meg Cabot’s Mediator series. Paul. He is just so unbelievable horrible and arrogant.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: Oh, definitely Joe Girardi. He’s my favourite baseball player (now manager). I would say to him, “Why aren’t you working for the Cubs? You should be working for the Cubs.”

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: People (especially writers who should know better) who spell the words “a lot” as alot. Also, ok for okay, and alright for all right. I’m a traditionalist.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: It’s a toss-up between walking and cooking. I get a lot of peace from walking, but I get a lot of yummy food from cooking!

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Singing old-time ballads and music in a band with my husband.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Honesty, humour, kindness.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Well, I guess it would have to be salty, because that’s what I like, and somewhat nutritious if I were going to eat it for forever, so I’ll go with chips and guacamole.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: True Blue Baby – Victor Anthony
Picture in a Frame – Tom Waits
Brianna’s Reel – Sarah Tradewell
Whiter Shade of Pale – performed by Annie Lennox
Last Train From Poor Valley – Norman Blake

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
The Betsy-Tacy series counts as one, right?
Trustee From the Tool Room – Nevil Shute
The Summer People – John Rowe Townsend
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
And just to add something recent into the mix (because there really are so many anyway that five is just random) Dirty Little Secrets – the new YA release by C.J. Omololu

Diversely talented, clever, and very kind, Joëlle will surprise you in so many ways. Discover how by following her on Twitter and becoming a friend on Facebook.

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[Book Giveaway:] The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR in a random drawing of all comments left on this post. The deadline is Wednesday, April 28, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please visit on Thursday to possibly claim your book. Good luck!

Matthew Quick and SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR

April 26, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

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The fact that Matthew Quick earned both popular and critical success with his debut adult novel, The Silver Linings Playbook (now in Paperback), one might wonder why he would choose to switch genres and debut as a YA author of SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR, officially being released tomorrow?

The business answer is simple. Having already had written a second adult manuscript before The Silver Linings Playbook was published, Matt discovered that his adult-market editor was swamped and unable to read/work on the new book immediately. Rather than waste time in waiting, “Q’s” agent suggested he return to his high school English teaching experiences and reach out to teenagers by writing about them. And that led to the personal reason when the author realized, “I can do that.”

Indeed he did! For Matthew Quick’s perspective on young adults is a positive one, acknowledging that when at their best they still have “a beautiful innocence” about them. He also believes that though caught in between the desire to be thought of as adults and yet wanting to hold on to being kids, they are capable of doing amazing things while coming into their own. And those thoughts created the novel’s backstory as Matt says: “The teen years are sort of like a beautiful sunset. Brief, but powerful. I wanted Amber to represent this.”

SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR synopsis:

Amber Appleton lives in a bus. Ever since her mom’s boyfriend kicked them out, Amber, her mom, and her totally loyal dog, Bobby Big Boy (aka Thrice B) have been camped out in the back of Hello Yellow (the school bus her mom drives). But Amber, the self-proclaimed princess of hope and girl of unyielding optimism, refuses to sweat the bad stuff. Instead, she focuses on bettering the lives of her alcoholic mother and her quirky circle of friends: a glass-ceiling-breaking single mother raising a son diagnosed with autism; Father Chee and The Korean Divas for Christ (soul-singing ESL students); a nihilist octogenarian; a video-game-playing gang of outcasts; and a haiku-writing war vet. But then a fatal tragedy threatens Amber’s optimism—and her way of life. Can Amber continue to be the princess of hope?

With his zany cast of characters and a heartwarming, inspiring story, debut YA author Matthew Quick builds a beautifully beaten-up world of laughs, loyalty, and hard-earned hope. This world is Amber’s stage, and Amber is, well…she’s sorta like a rock star.

Of course Amber lives up to her title by being powerful, positive, and facing most challenges head-on, yet it is through the strong voice-driven storyline that the reader accepts, believes, and embraces her. TRUTH: Amber’s distinctive voice will fill readers’ minds, causing an almost instant connection from page one. The fact that the thoughts and feelings of a 17-year old girl could be expressed with such believability by a male writer is also fascinating.

However Matthew Quick has a simple explanation for this ability. First, the author notes that he’s counseled many teenage young women and listened to them. Then, with a bit of empathy and a good ear, he believes it’s possible to capture anyone’s voice.

On the other hand, Matt admits how much his writing needs that ability: “I write voice-driven stuff so I need to find a voice before I can write a novel. Amber’s voice just sort of popped into my head one day. I loved writing in her voice. It was a very emotional experience. I’m sort of an emotional guy, which people don’t get by looking at me. But I’m actually very intuitive and sensitive. True.”

TRUST: Simply read these Reviews and you’ll sense the critically high emotional feeling for this book. Please also read the 6 Comments to “Matthew Quick Shines A Writer’s Light”, giving special attention to:

Kent says:

“Sorta Like A Rock Star is considered a YA book. However, its message and story is so universal that even this 34-year-old male with a penchant for horror movies and punk rock records was left in awe. It leaves you wanting to be a better person.”

Yes Kent is Kent Green of Emerald Productions — one of “Q’s” friends and the filmmaker of the Book Trailer video — BUT his reaction and feeling are based on sincere truth.

Have you viewed the SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR Book Trailer yet? If not, do enjoy now.

After receiving the SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR Advanced Reading Copy from Little Brown to review, I fell under Amber’s spell as well. Her voice, her spirit, her hope and her faith are 100% contagious. She’s a teenaged girl in dire need and, though well aware of that reality, Amber chooses to help and buoy others rather than wallow in any type of pity. Why? Because she believes in the good of the world despite having experienced the bad. And, also, because she believes in God — JC, the ultimate sorta like a rock star.

Amber talks to God, prays to him and believes he’s listening to her most of the time. Her hope comes from this faith — a trusting belief. Matthew Quick’s writing is pure, realistic, and captivating as he manages to project Amber’s strength and optimism without a hint of Pollyanna. However this teenager did feel reminiscent of someone from my childhood tales…who?

The Pied Piper initially came to mind, only to be rejected. It wasn’t until the day after finishing the book that the answer came: Amber Appleton spread seeds of hope everywhere she went and, in time, those seeds grew and yielded much more than hope. Amber Appleton = Johnny Appleseed. Word.

What Matt has written could well become modern day folklore. And, if Amber Appleton is SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR then “Q” must be KINDA LIKE A GENIUS MANAGER! True? Please, whatever your age, read SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR and discover how true this is!

[Book Giveaway:] The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR in a random drawing of all comments left on this post. The deadline is Wednesday, April 28, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please visit on Thursday to possibly claim your book. Good luck!

The Facts and Factors of A Novel’s Word Count, I

April 22, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Q&A

A recent question posted on The Divining Wand’s Q & A page sounded simple enough and an overwhelming number of authors responded to answer:

Here’s another question for your authors: What is the word count of most of their novels?

I know that we here all sorts of estimates of what a novel should be, 70,000 to 100,000 words. But what is the actual count for the novels featured here, and do your authors think about word count as they’re writing?

Jessica Barksdale Inclan (Being With Him, Intimate Beings, The Beautiful Being):

“Great question (I can’t wait to see all the answers). My latest manuscript Swimming Lessons is 75,656. But some of mine go up 10 109,000. the shortest was 65,000 or so.”

Emily Winslow (The Whole World coming May 25, 2010):

“THE WHOLE WORLD was about 80k when I submitted it, and about 90k after editing. (I know for most writers, editing involves taking away. I write sparely, and am more likely to add scenes in editing.) I’m very conscious of word count as I write. I generally break it down to a certain number of words for each chapter, and sometimes even scene. I don’t force conforming to that goal, but it helps me keep a sense of proportion as I craft the whole.”

Jenny Gardiner (Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, Winging It: Twenty Years of Caring for a Vengeful Bird Determined to Kill Me):

“I’d say for commercial fiction around 90K words is good. Used to be they wanted lots of words but with publication costs, etc, over the past few years it’s been downsized–in fact something w/ 100K words or more would definitely give an editor/agent pause.

“I’m not sure about YA fiction but I’m thinking 45 – 60K (I’m sure YA authors can tell you more precisely).”

Eileen Cook (Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA ):

“My biggest advice for word count is to write your book and then when it is done figure out where you are in terms of word count. My two YA novels (What Would Emma Do? and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood) have been around 65k words. My adult title, Unpredictable was just under 80k words and the middle grade I am writing now will come in at about 27k words.

“The only thought I give to word count when I’m writing is measuring my progress. I have set weekly word count goals based on a rough idea of the estimated length of the book, otherwise I ignore word count until I’m done.”

Therese Fowler (Souvenir, Reunion):

“Word count “requirements” (I use the term loosely because there are always exceptions) vary by genre. I write mainstream/women’s fiction, aiming, as I write, for about 100k-115k words–which, if I’ve done my job, means I’ll have produced a layered, complex story with subplots in place. My first drafts tend to be pretty complete, but not every writer works that way. Some like to put down a fast “sketch” and then go back in to fill things out. I’m not saying that my first drafts don’t need a fair amount of revision, just that the word count doesn’t change dramatically from one draft to the next.”

Alicia Bessettte (Simply from Scratch coming August 5, 2010):

“I’m very word-count oriented, thanks to my magazine/newspaper background. Whenever I get a freelance assignment, my first question is, How many words?

“As I wrote Simply From Scratch, I stayed conscious of my goal of 80,000 words, give or take 5,000. My agent later told me 80,000 words is the perfect length for upmarket women’s fiction.

“A previous, unpublished fantasy novel I wrote was less than 60,000 words, and several agents told me that was far too short for the adult fantasy genre. Each genre seems to have what is generally considered an ideal length. But then again, there are notable exceptions. The Harry Potter books are often singled out as exceptions, because they’re longer than average children’s books.

“I’m curious to know whether other novelists keep word count in mind as they write, or if it’s more of an editing goal.”

Carleen Brice (Orange Mint and Honey, Children of the Waters):

“My word count for Orange Mint and Honey was something like 76,000 and for Children of the Water 81,000. I absolutely think about word count as I’m writing. It’s definitely helpful. One way it’s helpful is if parts of the book that should carry a lot of weight are much briefer than other parts. Or if you have more than one POV character that should have equal weight in the story, are their word counts about the same? ”

Robert Gregory Browne (Kill Her Again, etc. and Down Among the Dead Men coming May 25, 2010):

“My typical word count is about 100,000 to 125,000 words. And yes, I do think about word count because I’m contractually obligated to turn in a book at that length. Word count differs, however, depending on the editor and how he or she actually counts the words. Some still use the old method of 250 words a page, while others rely on computer count, which seems to be the trend these days. I consider this less accurate because it doesn’t take into consideration the space on each page, the way old method does.”

Meg Waite Clayton (The Wednesday Sisters):

“The Wednesday Sisters is about 93,000 words. And yes, it’s something I keep an eye on. When I was writing the first draft of my new one, The Four Ms. Bradwells (Ballantine, March 2011), I celebrated the halfway point at 40,000 words. At 80,000 I began to panic as the end was nowhere in site. At 120,000… And the complete first draft was 140,000 – yikes! My contract with Random House contemplates a novel of approximately 100,000 words. The final version – just put into production last week – is a bit longer than that, but closer far closer to it than to 140,000. I like to think I shoot for 80,000 words, although obviously I miss the mark on a regular basis.”

Tish Cohen (Town House, Inside Out Girl, Little Black Lies YA, The Truth About Delilah Blue coming June 8, 2010):

“I never think about word count. Nor have I had a single editor bring it up. The Truth About Delilah Blue likely runs about 90,000 words or about 450 book pages– the longest of my books so far.”

Katie Alender (Bad Girls Don’t Die YA):

“I write YA, and my first book was about 68,000, which seems to put me just on the longer side. My next book will be a few thousand words more. Some authors don’t think about wordcount at all, but I use it to gauge my progress and make sure I’m getting enough work done–typically on a first draft, I shoot for 2,000 words a day (and come out at about 1200-1600 most days).”

Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“Word count is one of those things that is in the back of my mind — but not something I’m aware of until the manuscript is finished and my computer gives me the number. The Summer We Fell Apart comes in at 115,103 words give or take and that final word count was based upon when I thought the novel was done — not some magic number I thought I needed to reach. When I was writing more short stories and submitting them — I was more aware of not exceeding a certain number since some journal requirements are fairly specific — and I have a tendency to cram a novel’s worth of information into a short story. Writing novels gave me the luxury of writing long and I suppose, given my word count on Summer, you could say I embraced it.”

To be continued…

Meredith Cole Creates A Sleuth and A Series

April 21, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

When mystery author Meredith Cole penned her first novel, Posed for Murder, she had two puzzles to solve: 1) Introduce an engaging and likable amateur sleuth and 2) Tell a good story. With the critical success of Posed for Murder, Meredith did just that and now her second book, Dead in the Water — coming May 11, 2010 –, will continue with Lydia’s (mis)adventures.

In today’s guest post, the author explains how it all began as well as offers a few clues to where it’s going.

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The Start of Something Special

When I wrote my first book POSED FOR MURDER, I knew Lydia McKenzie was going to have her own series. Lydia is an interesting character, an artist and photographer struggling to build a career in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She loves vintage clothes, music and spending time with her friends. In order to pay her rent and pay for her studio, she works as an administrative assistant to two private investigators.

Whether you like them or not, there’s no question that series dominate the mystery genre. It’s hard to come up with a good sleuth, and people don’t like to see them exit the stage when a book is done. Arthur Conan Doyle couldn’t kill off Sherlock Holmes: the public kept clamoring for more, even though he was sick of him.

That decision to make my book the start of a series gave me a couple of interesting challenges. As I wrote, I not only had to think about the arc of the book, but I also had to think about the arc of the series. Lydia couldn’t change too much in each book and become unrecognizable, but she also has to have room to grow. I don’t like characters that never evolve, but I had to give readers a character that also felt consistent.

The first book introduces Lydia, her private eye bosses the D’Angelos, the detective Daniel Romero and her best friend Georgia Rae. In the second book, DEAD IN THE WATER, Lydia has a boyfriend named Jack. A few readers have asked me about Romero and what’s going to happen with the two of them, so they may be disappointed when she dates someone else. But I wanted to see what Lydia was like in a relationship. She’s very independent, and I thought it would be interesting to see that side of her. I also gave her a cat, which presents its own challenges.

So far, I’ve tried to make each book a little different and show different aspects of Lydia. Both books reveal a lot about her art. In the first book, she’s photographing her friends and posing them as murder victims based on historic cases she’s researched. In the second, she’s photographing portraits of prostitutes. In both cases her art leads her into trouble and helps her solve the crime, so there’s a nice symmetry.

DEAD IN THE WATER comes out in a few weeks, and I’m hard at work finishing book #3. I won’t tell you whether she keeps the boyfriend or cat from book #2, but I will tell you that Lydia’s parents come for a visit in book #3. They’re traveling America in an RV, and they have a mystery in New York that they need to solve. I thought it would be intriguing to see what she was like with her family. Her parents have been lots of fun to write, and they’ve definitely helped me learn even more about Lydia. I hope readers will enjoy learning about her as much as I have.

Matthew Quick Shines A Writer’s Light

April 20, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

Given that author Matthew Quick (The Silver Linings Playbook releasing in Paperback on April 27, 2010, and SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR YA officially coming May 1, 2010) is also known as “Q,” one would expect that the lone initial refers to his last name. While that’s most likely, after reading Matt’s guest post, a case could be made that “Q” stands for “quirky”…in the very best way!

* * * * *

Messed-Up Fairy Tales

When Larramie (aka the Author’s Fairy Godmother) asked me to write a guest post, I immediately recalled the words of a filmmaker. Kent Green of Emerald Productions read both my novels in preparation for shooting the SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR book trailer. While planning, he said something like, “Q, I love your work. You write messed-up fairy tales.” I write realistic fiction—no magic, no Fairy Godmothers—but I knew exactly what Kent meant.

My stories have been called quirky. I usually write about people who are overlooked or ignored by others. My protagonists have good hearts and are generally likeable, but they also tend to be people others might label as freaks. The heroes in my novels try to fit into the world and often fail. So my stories are quirky, or as the filmmaker says, messed-up.

A fairy godmother is usually a kindly magical woman who comes to help an overlooked or unfortunate young person. In the case of Cinderella, a goodhearted young woman is down-and-out and seemingly without hope when her fairy godmother shows up and provides an opportunity. Magically, the fairy godmother conjures a carriage, a dress, and slippers. She transforms Cinderella, unyokes her from her low social ranking and highlights Cinderella’s admirable qualities, giving her the courage to attend the ball.

Metaphorically, the fairy godmother shines a light on something beautiful that no one else saw before, and empowers Cinderella.

My new book SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR is about a young woman who constantly finds beauty where others cannot see it. Even though Amber Appleton is homeless and in need herself, she looks after her classmates, performs comedy routines at the old folks’ home, uses R & B music to teach Korean women how to speak English, and trades haikus with a Vietnam War veteran. And in the process, Amber carries a metaphorical light with her everywhere she goes. It is the light of hope. Those who bask in the full glow of Amber’s hopeful outlook cannot help but be transformed for the better. She illuminates the best attributes of many people who were previously unnoticed.

When a fatal tragedy occurs, Amber falters, and falls into a deep depression. Her light goes out. At this point in the story, the people Amber cared for are called upon to be the caregivers, to lend her their collective light and to remind Amber that she can still shine.

I won’t give any spoilers here, but what results may surprise you—perhaps like a messed-up fairy tale would.

In my opinion, it is always the writer’s job to believe in seemingly impossible things and to shine a light on what was previously hidden in darkness. Projecting a light and creating a movie in readers’ minds—one that makes them feel, reflect, and maybe even act—that’s magical to me.

I would like to thank everyone’s favorite literary Fairy Godmother for posting my words here at The Divining Wand.

I hope you will read SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR and I hope it will fill you with a euphoric sense of wonder and goodwill, and maybe even increase your faith in seemingly impossible things.

Please visit me @ http://matthewquickwriter.com

And here again is the SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR book trailer.

News From and About Our Authors

April 19, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Advance News, News

This rare Monday, without a book to present/review, is a perfect time to catch up on our authors and their recent (or upcoming) releases.

Congratulations to Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy)

Although this debut novel crossed over many genres, The Last Will of Moira Leahy has become a RITA finalist in RWA’s Best First Book category, 2010. While yours truly described it as an “adult fairy tale,” if Romance Writers wish to embrace “Moira” as romantic, so much the better. And, if you have yet to read this novel, please treat yourself now!

Sarah Pekkanen (The Opposite of Me) was featured on April 7, 2010 in the USA TODAY’S New Voices: Sarah Pekkanen, ‘The Opposite of Me’ by Carol Manning.

And now Sarah is thrilled to announce she has a new, two-book deal with editor Greer Hendricks at Atria Books/Washington Square Press, an imprint of Simon&Schuster.

Her second book — with the current working title FROM THE HEART — is the story of 32-year-old Julia Dunhill, who wakes up one morning to discover her husband has changed into a completely different person because of an extraordinary experience. Julia, who also sees pieces of her life in the world’s great operas, has three weeks to decide if she should stay with her husband – or leave him. Publication dates are Spring 2011 for the second novel and Spring 2012 for the third.

Holly LeCraw (The Swimming Pool) and her debut novel are everywhere, including these sightings:

The Swimming Pool in PEOPLE.

Entertainment Weekly: The Swimming Pool is “difficult to put down.”

“A stunning debut!” The Swimming Pool is This Week’s Hot Reads at The Daily Beast.

And The Swimming Pool is featured in Marie Claire and Elle Canada – on newsstands now!

Alicia Bessette (Simply from Scratch coming August 5, 2010)

Alicia’s new Facebook Fan Page is up and running. She hopes you’ll become a fan! Alicia also cordially invites you to sign up for her email newsletter here to receive news related to Simply From Scratch.

Amy MacKinnon (Tethered) offers the following glowing endorsement for Alicia’s debut novel: “Readers will fall for the characters of this New England town who try to rescue the worn-through heart of one of their own. Told with equal parts warmth, hope, and humor, SIMPLY FROM SCRATCH is destined to be passed among friends who’ve shared in each other’s grief, and honored it with love and compassion. It’s a triumph of the heart.”

Allison Winn Scotch (The Department of Lost and Found, Time of My Life and The One That I Want coming June 1, 2010) is thrilled that The One That I Want has been chosen
by both Redbook and Cosmo as a summer read and will be in the July issues.

And then there are the literary reviews:

“[A]n aching, honest look into the death and rebirth of relationships….a wise, absorbing narrative.”-Publishers Weekly

“Scotch specializes in heroines at a crossroads, questioning their life choices and preparing to embark on journeys of self-discovery. . . . [She] creates eminently relatable characters, with a particularly excellent understanding of the way sisters interact, and has the ability to craft scenes of real emotional weight.” –Booklist

“Well-told, fast-paced, and packs a satisfying emotional punch.” –Library Journal

Before embarking on her book tour, Kristy Kiernan (Catching Genius, Matters of Faith and Between Friends) posted this Comment on Facebook:

“Just got this from a reader who finished BETWEEN FRIENDS: ‘”I am not proud to say this, but I am not currently an organ donor. I plan to change that after reading this story.”‘ Uhh, does it GET better that that?!”

Ah, the power of words…

More Authors, More of their Best Writing Advice

April 15, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

Two weeks ago, several of our authors/friends shared words of wisdom that help guide them through the writing process. And, in today’s post, those who have yet to be heard from, respond to:

What is the best advice about writing that you’ve received/read AND put to use?

Emily Winslow (The Whole World coming May 25, 2010):

“Things have to HAPPEN.

“My natural inclinations are toward character, premise and theme. I resisted plot. I hated limiting everything that could possibly happen to one measly thing that does happen.

“But it must be so. Things have to happen. Once I got that through my head, things started to work out for me.”

Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars, The Life You’ve Imagined coming August 17, 2010):

“My critique partner and friend, the talented British writer Eliza Graham (PLAYING WITH THE MOON, RESTITUTION, upcoming JUBILEE), advised me to sometimes hold off on a revelation and increase the tension by making the reader wait for the whole truth. I used to have a tendency to raise a question but then immediately answer it. Much more dramatic — and realistic — to let the answer emerge gradually.”

Lauren Baratz-Logsted (most recent Crazy Beautiful YA, Sisters 8 series with Book 5: Marcia’s Madness coming May 3, 2010):

“Nora Roberts says something like, ‘”I can edit a lousy page but I can’t edit a blank one.”‘ Even before I heard it, I was living it. Putting one foot in front of the other, or one word after another – it’s what being an author is all about.”

Jessica Barksdale Inclan (Being With Him, Intimate Beings, The Beautiful Being):

“I took a couple of classes from Anne Lamott, who wrote Bird by Bird, one of the best writing books ever. She told both classes, ‘”300 words a day, and in a year, you have a novel.”‘

“That’s it. 300 words a day, and maybe it’s a draft, but it’s done. And 300 words are completely do-able, and I most often find myself writing more.

“Simple and it works.”

Eileen Cook (Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA):

“Before I was published I took a writing course. I was worried about sending my writing out into the world because I was worried about rejection. The teacher sat me down and said. ‘”What do you have to lose? You’re already not published- the worst that will happen is that you still won’t be published.”‘ It was then I realized that I had more to lose by not trying than I did by giving it a shot.”

Carleen Brice (Orange Mint and Honey, Children of the Waters):

“The best advice I received was: ‘”Stop writing. It’s time to send the book out into the world and let it take it’s lumps.”‘ That was the best advice because I would probably still be “polishing”‘ my first manuscript otherwise!”

Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“Write beyond the closed door.

“I think for every one of us who sits down to write – there is a little voice that says: what if my mother/father/boyfriend/grandmother/husband reads this? What will they think about me? When we do that the scene stops. It’s like we reached the closed door at the end of the hallway and said, okay. It’s locked. I give up.

“To really write honestly we have to open the door and write the scene that makes us squirm even if it doesn’t end up in the final draft – you still have to allow yourself to go there. I think I did that in The Summer We Fell Apart and that’s what made the difference. I opened myself up fully to those characters knowing that in some ways they would be very controversial. The best thing about that? I’ve received wonderful letters from people who share their stories with me because they’ve experienced something similar to what the characters in the book have experienced. That is an AMAZING feeling.”

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Announcement: The winners of Eve Brown Waite’s memoir, First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria, are Suzanne and Trish. Congratulations! Since you’ve both won in the past, your mailing addresses are on file and the books will be sent out promptly. Many thanks to everyone who entered.

The Revealing of Meredith Cole

April 14, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

MeredithMeredith Cole (Posed for Murder nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Mystery Novel) offers readers another Lydia McKenzie adventure with Dead in the Water to be released May 11, 2010.

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of Meredith’s latest book for Monday, May 10, 2010, but between then and now, let’s meet the author through her formal, professional “bio:”

Meredith Cole directed feature films and wrote screenplays before writing mysteries. She won the St. Martin’s/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery competition. Her book POSED FOR MURDER, set in Williamsburg Brooklyn, was published by St. Martin’s Minotaur in February 2009 and was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Meredith’s short story “Exercise is Murder” was in the June 2008 issue of EQMM, and her short story “Out in the Cold,” is in the anthology MURDER NEW YORK STYLE. Her second book, DEAD IN THE WATER, comes out May 11, 2010. She teaches mystery writing and screenwriting and lives in Virginia.

Hmm, not much that you didn’t already know? Well then it’s seems the appropriate time for the revealing of Meredith:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Grateful to have happiness, love and many books.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Help out or get out of the way. I don’t like when people sit around and complain. Getting off your duff and jumping in is the best way to change anything in your life (or the world). And you actually feel a lot better.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Picnicking with friends and family next to a river on a beautiful day.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Losing someone I love. Not finishing what I start. Falling off something high. Do I have to choose one?

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: In an outdoor café in Paris watching the world go by.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Barack Obama. He’s a smart man, and I hope he becomes known as one of our greatest presidents. He has a lot of challenges ahead of him.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: Great. Sigh. Shrug.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I tried several times to play an instrument and never got very far. I love music and I would love to be able to play guitar or piano.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: My amazing kid.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: Stubbornness. I can’t be moved once I make up my mind.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: Stubbornness. I never give up!

Q: What do you regret most?
A: I regret the times when I haven’t been very patient with people.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: A dolphin. They look so beautiful and happy all the time, and they’re terrific swimmers.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: My eyes. People who knew me when I was two years old (and had no hair) still recognize me when they meet me again as an adult.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Elizabeth Bennett.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Professor Moriarty

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: My great-grandfather Harry J. Huff was an Olympian (a runner) and I would love to have met him. I just wish I could run as fast.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Whining.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Swimming. Reading. Being a mom.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Full-time novelist—with benefits.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Honesty. Cheerfulness. Helpfulness.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Strawberries.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” (trad.)
“It’s a Beautiful Day” – U2
“You can get it if you really want” – Jimmy Cliff
“Woke up it was a Chelsea Morning” – Joni Mitchell
“Angel from Montgomery” – John Prine (and Bonnie Raitt)

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden
Ten Little Indians by Agatha Christie
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

Wonder what more lies behind the mystery writer’s stunning blue eyes? Follow Meredith on Twitter, become a friend on Facebook and you may find out.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria in a random drawing of all comments left on this post. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to possibly claim your book.