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Go-to Writing Books

March 24, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Profiles, Q&A

At one time or another, before as well as during her/his writing career, a published author has likely read more than a few books on the art and craft of writing. Whether it’s for motivation or inspiration, favorites must exist to be read and reread whenever the need arises. With this thought in mind, The Divining Wand asked its authors:

What books do you keep nearby or go back to as you’re working?

And this week the following authors replied:

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

“Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott, Story by Robert McKee, Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.”

~Therese Fowler (Souvenir, Reunion, and Exposure coming May 3, 2011):

“I like to read John Gardner’s On Becoming a Novelist every now and then, along with Stephen King’s On Writing. They’re conversant and inspirational. I like Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer, Anne Bernays’ What If?, and Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway. Then there are the novels that I pull from the shelves when I need to remember what gorgeous writing looks like–we all need role models, after all: Bel Canto by Anne Patchett is a favorite.”

~Ann Wertz Garvin (On Maggie’s Watch):

“It changes. I fall in love with authors every week. I’m in no way a monogamous reader. I’d hate to be my reader girlfriend because I could never commit. So sometimes I read Erma Bombeck, Nora Ephron, Elizabeth Berg and other days it’s Jackie Mitchard, Jane Hamiliton, Elizabeth Strout. I use books to get permission for oddities in my writing. Since grammar and punctuation is often beyond me (my spell check program is so totally superior and snarky), I like to get the nod from authors who take liberties with language.”

~Sarah Jio (The Violets of March coming April 26, 2011):

“For fiction, nada. I rely on my brain and sometimes good ol’ Google to check a fact. (Though when I’m researching a new book (or even just a book idea), I try to get my hands on every relevant book I can find on my subject/time period. This is the fun part! For instance, recently, I have been researching the 1920’s and loving the book “Flapper,” for a new novel I’m working on). But when I’m doing a magazine story, I’m always referring to the latest and newest nonfiction books—self-help, diet, fitness, etc. I have a huge stack of these books on my desk at any given moment.”

~Caroline Leavtitt (Pictures of You, Girls in Trouble, Coming Back to Me, the rest in Bibliography):

“John Truby, The Anatomy of Story. Brilliant structural advice.”

~Kristina McMorris (Letters From Home):

“When it comes to an author’s voice, I connect most with Jodi Picoult. Her lyricism, analogies, and often simple statements that convey profound beauty are a great inspiration, specifically whenever I find myself struggling to write after being away from a manuscript too long. And the opening sentences of her novels? Wowsers. I dare any reader to stop after reading only the first line.”

To be continued….

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Announcement: The winner of Bent Road by Lori Roy is karenk. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be Pre-ordered for its release one week from today.

Fictional Characters as Best Friends Forever, V

March 17, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Profiles, Q&A

No matter the age or stage in life, a best friend forever could be made at any time and the same appears to hold true for bonding with fictional characters. Whether it’s in a children’s book or a chapter in a YA or adult novel, there are those characters who — if only real — would be chosen as our BFF.

With this in mind The Divining Wand wondered who the authors felt close to, and asked:

What fictional character would you choose to be your BFF and why?

And, in this final week, our authors replied:

~Stacey Ballis (Good Enough to Eat, The Spinster Sisters, Room for Improvement, the rest in Bibliography):

“Eloise. No question.”

~Eileen Cook (The Education of Hailey Kendrick YA, Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA, and Fourth Grade Fairy ages 9 – 11 coming April 19, 2011):

“There are so many great characters to choose from. How do I pick just one? I’ll go with Charlie from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory- he’s got a never ending supply of chocolate after all.”

~Dee DeTarsio (The Scent of Jade [Kindle Edition]):

“I cannot think of any better BFF than the lovely Luciana Vetra! She is the star of The Botticelli Secret by Marina Fiorato, and I have never been so captivated by any character! She is a part-time model and full-time prostitute in 15th-century Italy with the most hilarious look at life via her inner dialogue. She is irreverent, foul-mouthed and so earthy it is a sheer joy to see what she does next. I would love to share a cup of espresso with her at a little piazza in Florence…although I am sure she would give me three reasons, Ragione Uno, Due, Tre, why I should pay and then leave her alone!”

~Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt):

“Oletta Jones (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt) for her wisdom, and Tom Wingo (The Prince of Tides) for his wit and sarcasm.”

~Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers):

“I think Elizabeth Bennett would be a hoot. She’s smart and funny and sarcastic–and also, deep down, a romantic.”

~Lauren Baratz-Logsted (most recent The Twin’s Daughter YA, and middle grade addition The Sisters Eight Book 6: Petal’s Problems, The Education of Bet YA, Crazy Beautiful YA, Sisters 8 series Book 5: Marcia’s Madness):

“From my recently released novel The Twin’s Daughter, I’d pick Kit. He’s the most purely heroic character I’ve ever written.”

~Catherine McKenzie (Arranged, Spin):

“Elizabeth Bennett. Because she is awesome. And maybe I could steal Mr. Darcy from her.”

~Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars, The Life You’ve Imagined, and The Things We Didn’t Say coming June 28, 2011):

“Can I have all four of the Ya Yas from THE DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD? If forced to pick one I guess I’ll pick Vivi. I’d hate to be married to her, but she’d be a helluva friend. I’ve been a fan of that novel since long before my own publication.”

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Fictional Characters as Best Friends Forever, IV

March 10, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Profiles, Q&A

Since a best friend forever could be made at anytime as well as any place, it’s not surprising that they even might exist within a book’s pages. True, these are merely characters yet — if only real — would be chosen as our BFF.

With this in mind The Divining Wand wondered who the authors felt bonded to, and asked:

What fictional character would you choose to be your BFF and why?

And this week’s authors replied:

~Claire Cook (Seven Year Switch, Must Love Dogs, Life’s A Beach, and the rest in Bibliography, and Best Staged Plans coming May 31, 2011):

“The protagonist of the book I’m currently writing is always my BFF. If I didn’t like her that much, I don’t think I’d bother to tell her story.”

~Kate Ledger (Remedies):

“Maybe it’s the kind of books I read, but I think I’m still looking for a fictional BFF.”

~Randy Susan Meyers ( The Murderer’s Daughters):

“Wow, I have such a love of intense and dark books I’m not sure I’d want any of the characters of my favorite books to be my best friend. Maybe Atticus Finch—who wouldn’t want him there for advice and caring? Additionally, I’d love to see the adult side of him that was hidden from Scout.”

~Sarah Pekkanen (Skipping a Beat and The Opposite of Me):

“Bridget Jones, because she’s fun, funny, and would share her chocolates and wine.”

~Kim Stagliano (All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa: A Life Raising Three Daughters with Autism):

“Goldy Schultz from the Diane Mott Davidson catering murder mysteries. She’s fun, fearless and never fails to have something delicious to share with friends. Plus she drinks gallons of coffee. We’re a perfect match! I call my middle daughter “’Miss G.’” (her name is Gianna) because that’s what Goldy’s husband Tom calls her. I like it.”

~Leah Stewart (Husband and Wife, The Myth of You and Me, Body of a Girl):

“Elizabeth Bennett, because she’s sharp and funny.”

~Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy):

“Pippi Longstocking because she’s the eternal child, and Harry Potter because he has access to butterbeer. I was in Orlando recently and spent part of a day at the Harry Potter park at Universal. Believe me, you want to experience butterbeer at some point in your life, described as “‘reminiscent of shortbread and butterscotch.'” The whipped-cream head on a butterbeer puts any root beer to shame. Pippi would’ve had hidden trunks full of the stuff.”

To be continued….

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Announcement: The winners of Arranged by Catherine McKenzie are Wendy Burd Kinsey and Mary Ward. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be sent out promptly.

Fictional Characters as Best Friends Forever, III

March 03, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Profiles, Q&A

At times a book offers a surprise bonus — those special characters that create an immediate personal bond and, if only real, would be chosen as our BFF.

With this in mind The Divining Wand wondered who the authors felt close to, and asked:

What fictional character would you choose to be your BFF and why?

And this week’s authors replied:

~Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters):

“Less than specific people, there are entire fictional worlds I’d like to live in – the dramatic romance of Diana Gabaldon’s Scotland in Outlander, the rebuilding of America in Stephen King’s The Stand, the wild sadness of the Greasers in S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, the sweeping epic future of Atlanta in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind. Each of my favorite books is populated with amazing characters who live in a world too delicious to pluck just one of them from.”

~Tawna Fenske (Making Waves coming August 2011):

“I would probably choose Fred the dog from Jennifer Crusie’s ANYONE BUT YOU. I think he’d get along nicely with my menagerie of pets (two dogs, three cats) and his fondness for stealing lingerie could help me find my bras when they go missing.”

~Therese Fowler (Souvenir, Reunion, and Exposure coming May 3, 2011):

‘Ask me on a different day and I might have a different answer, but the character who comes to mind today is Linda Voss, the protagonist and narrator in Susan Isaac’s wonderful novel Shining Through. Linda’s funny and genuine and smart and loyal–and when you need her to, she’ll tell it like it is. Who doesn’t want a friend like that?”/

~Meg Mitchell Moore (The Arrivals coming May 25, 2011):

“I would like to be friends with most of the characters in Elin Hilderbrand’s novels. She *really* nails certain things about marriage, children, families in a way I very much admire.”

~Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing):

“Hal Incandenza from David Foster Wallace’s “‘Infinite Jest.'” I’m not sure Hal and I would get along so well now, but I’m sure we would have been best friends as teenagers. It takes one truly athletic nerd to appreciate another.”

~Rebecca Rasmussen (The Bird Sisters coming April 12, 2011):

“I would love to hang out for eternity with Jo March of Little Women. To me, Jo is the quintessential early feminist and, dang, she’s just so full of life and personality. Who else would say no to Laurie?”

To be continued….

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Announcement: The winners of Confessions of a Rebel Debutante by Anna Fields are Gayle Lin and Tiffany D.. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be sent out promptly.

Fictional Characters as Best Friends Forever, II

February 24, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Profiles, Q&A

As every book is opened, a new adventure begins. And sometimes, somewhere among the pages, there is also found those special characters that create an immediate personal bond — the ones, if only real, would be chosen as our BFF.

With this in mind The Divining Wand wondered who the authors felt close to, and asked:

What fictional character would you choose to be your BFF and why?

And this week’s authors replied:

~Meredith Cole (Posed for Murder, Dead in the Water):

“Nancy Drew. She always had the best adventures (and the best car). We could go zooming off and solve mysteries together, and hopefully some of her talent for picking up a skill fast would rub off. I would love to go scuba diving or surfing or skate in a roller derby, but only if I could learn to be an expert in just a few days.”

[On April 2, 2011, Meredith will be speaking at the Nancy Drew Convention while the sleuths are visiting Charlottesville.]

~James King (Bill Warrington’s Last Chance):

“Harry “’Rabbit’” Angstrom, because there’s the chance that hanging with him would make me, in comparison, look good.”

~Allie Larkin (Stay):

“You know, I think I still want to be friends with Pippi Longstocking.”

~Jael McHenry (The Kitchen Daughter coming April 12, 2011):

“Oh, I’m a Lizzie Bennet girl from way back. All of Jane Austen’s heroines are wonderful, but she’s my favorite, and just the kind of BFF we all need — smart but not superior (usually), insightful about human behavior, independent but loyal, and funny as all get-out.”

~Camille Noe Pagan (The Art of Forgetting coming June 9, 2011):

“It’s so tempting to take the easy way out with this one and say Marissa, the main character in The Art of Forgetting–if only because I deliberately wrote a character that I like and relate to. But I’m going to go with Rachel from Emily Giffin’s Something Borrowed. Yes, she slept with her best friend’s fiancé–but the friend deserved it! Seriously, though, of all the contemporary fiction I’ve read recently, Rachel stands out as a character who’s flawed in a way that makes you root for her, rather than against her. She’s practical and down-to-earth, too, which are great traits for a best friend.”

~Lori Roy (Bent Road coming March 31, 2011):

“I would choose Scout from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Scout embodied a longing to do the right thing, a passion for it. She was an intelligent, hard-headed tomboy who loved and protected her family and friends.”

To be continued….

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Attention: Beginning next Tuesday, March 1, 2011, MaNIC MoMMy is hosting March Madness Book-A-Day Giveaway! You’ll have an opportunity to win a book from one of many TDW authors as well as several other authors who may be new to you. Every day there’s a winner and, at the end of the month, a GRAND PRIZE WINNER. Interested? Please click the link for details.

Announcement: The winners of Letters from Home by Kristina McMorris are Elise and Keetha. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be sent out promptly.

Fictional Characters as Best Friends Forever

February 17, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Profiles, Q&A

One of the most enlightening aspects of reading is being introduced, getting to know, and gaining insight/understanding to a wide variety of individuals. Somewhere among the pages are also those special characters that create an immediate personal bond — the ones, if only real, would be chosen as our BFF.

With this in mind The Divining Wand wondered who the authors felt close to, and asked:

What fictional character would you choose to be your BFF and why?

And this week’s authors replied:

~Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“I’d like to spend time with Holden Caulfield; I’ve always found the dark, moody boys to be endlessly fascinating to have as friends, but never date.”

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

“I think I could be good friends with Davie Jones in 32 Candles because we’re both nerdy weirdos, and we’d make each other laugh.

The three adult sisters in Ugly Ways by Tina McElroy Andrews because they love books as much as I and I just love them so and can relate to them so.

I’d also like to be friends with Sally Owens from Practical Magic because I’ve always loved witches and I’d love to have a friend who could cook up something to make a bad man disappear.

Oh Myraleen and Lilian in This Side of the Sky because they have the type of lifelong friendship that is very rare these days, and Lilian is smart and Myraleen is funny.

Also, all these women have mother issues and I can relate!”

~Ann Wertz Garvin (On Maggie’s Watch):

“I think I can name a few. Love Bridget Jones and Kate Reddy (I Don’t Know How She Does It). Partly because they have a fabulous British accent and I would love to have a friend that said “bullocks” everything I said something ridiculous. I love how flawed and good they are. Nobody knows flawed like I do. Hermione Granger has such a good head on her shoulders, I think she could help me with punctuation and I could consult in ways of the heart. While being her BFF would be very difficult I know, Olive Kitterage speaks to me so strongly. I think she could tell me to get-over-my-self better than any one and I could hug her until she settled down.”

~Sarah Jio (The Violets of March coming April 26, 2011):

“Maybe Louisa May Alcott’s Jo March. I just love her spunk and spirit, but especially her principles and loyalty! Something tells me that if she were living here in the present day, we’d have a ton of fun!”

~Caroline Leavtitt (Pictures of You, Girls in Trouble, Coming Back to Me, the rest in Bibliography):

“Jay Gatsby. I think we could throw some really wild parties!”

~Melissa Senate (The Love Goddess’ Cooking School, The Mosts YA, The Secret of Joy, the rest in Bibliography):

“The bff of my dreams has always been my beloved Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables. True-blue, smart, and all that imagination.”

~Emily Winslow (The Whole World)

“Today? Mog the Forgetful Cat. I’m in the mood for playfulness and feline cuddles.” 🙂

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Announcement: The winners of Sarah Pekkanen’s Skipping a Beat are Jennifer B and Stacy. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be pre-ordered for next Tuesday’s release date.

Writing Rituals, Secrets, and Superstitions, Part I

January 13, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Q&A

During the fall The Divining Wand — in a series of six post recently honored by Suzannah Freeman of Write It Sideways — presented our authors’ best writing exercises. Tried and true, these exercises were designed to jumpstart both imagination and motivation, yet what about the intangible elements that set minds free while wrapping writers into their comfort zone?

To discover the answer our authors were asked:

Do you have any unusual writing rituals, secrets or superstitions that always work when all else fails?

The first in (hopefully) another insightful and helpful series begins with the following responses, including those new to TDW — ever popular Caroline Leavitt and debut novelist Camille Noe Pagan:

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

“Going for a walk almost always helps me get an idea or solve a problem. I like to tell myself the story as I walk as I would a friend or potential reader. That’s one of the things that is challenging about book-length work: keeping it all in your head. Yes, I use sticky notes and notebooks and cork boards, but still going over the story over and over and over again is necessary for me. And something about being outside and moving really helps.”

~ Claire Cook (Seven Year Switch, Must Love Dogs, Life’s A Beach, and the rest in Bibliography, and Best Staged Plans coming May 31, 2011):

“After decades of procrastinating, I wrote my first book in my minivan, which taught me that if you want it enough, you can write anywhere and under any circumstances. So I refuse to believe in rituals. I take a page from Nike’s book — and just do it.”

~ Sarah Jio (The Violets of March coming April 26, 2011)

“A clean office! I write so much better when my office is organized, dusted and tidy. I literally feel my creativity faltering when things are askew, so I tend to take a few minutes, before sitting down to write, to fix my piles (there are so many piles!), toss things in the recycle bin, etc. Also, I love natural light, so I like to keep my office window shade open. And, must have a big, tall glass of cold water! This trio works for me. ”

~ Caroline Leavtitt (Pictures of You, Girls in Trouble, Coming Back to Me, the rest in Bibliography):

“Yep. Magic thinking. I tell myself if I don’t do my four hours, something really bad will happen. Like demonic possession. That always works.”

~ Camille Noe Pagan (The Art of Forgetting coming June 9, 2011):

“When I’m stuck, I tell myself I’ll just write 250 words–even 250 horrible, nonsensical words. It seems more doable than, say, 1000. And nine times out of ten, it gets my creative wheels turning and I’m able to figure out a tricky scene or keep writing until I have several pages down.”

~ Rebecca Rasmussen (The Bird Sisters coming April 12, 2011):

“I write my novels at Starbucks – okay, I said it. There.

“I am a mess when I try to write at home.

“’I’m writing,’” I say to myself at home, which means I should be writing, but instead I’m looking for inspiration in the refrigerator, in the cabinets, in the stubborn wrinkles in my daughter’s dresses. I’ll iron before I write at home. I’ll ponder the vacuum. I’ll think Bach or Yo-Yo Ma will solve this distractedness. Then a cup of tea. Yes, nice green tea. Tea cookies? Do spiders get hungry for something sweeter than gnats or flies? Maybe I should Google that. Maybe I should Google the oil spill in the Gulf and watch the robots trying to patch together the future miles beneath the surface of the sea. Maybe it’s all utterly hopeless and I should just take a nap and hope I dream about ice cream cones and spun sugar.
It’s all so daunting. So I go to Starbucks and, miraculously, the words start flowing…”

~ Emily Winslow (The Whole World):

“If a scene or chapter is really resisting me, I resort to an all-nighter. I make coffee and tell myself I can go to sleep only when I’ve finished.”

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Best Writing Exercises, Part VI

December 02, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Q&A

As The Divining Wand’s quest to discover how our favorite authors/friends perfect their natural skills comes to an end, the last — but not least — responses appear to: What have been some of the best writing exercises you’ve used in your writing process?

This week’s replies offer a variety of exercises and also introduce e-book author Dee DeTarsio and about-to-become authors, Rebecca Rasmussen and Lori Roy.

Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“I write even without pad and paper or laptop. That means I’ve become very comfortable walking and talking it out. As a matter of fact the very first thing I do in the morning once my family is out the door is go for a long walk. I talk plot points to myself, snippets of dialogue, ask my characters a few questions. I’m sure I’ve had more than my share of strange looks from passing drivers – but it’s the most freeing way I know of working it out. Then I come home and sit at my desk and “’transcribe’” my notes from walking.”

Dee DeTarsio (The Scent of Jade [Kindle Edition]):

“In my writing group, we dissected Robert McKee’s book, Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting. While it can be an intimidating tome, it provides invaluable information on character, plot, action, beats, structure and place. Reading it in a group setting helped make it more manageable.

“One of my favorite takeaways from that is to always keep my eye on my character’s quest: What does she want? It also helps me to map out her journey and not make it easy for her. By looking over a scene, I draw an UP arrow after a sentence that moves her toward her goal, and a DOWN arrow against something that thwarts it. Conflict is king in any drama, and I better make sure I have a lot of DOWN arrows thwarting her desires!”

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

“When writing a long story or a novel, I am afraid of an outline. I usually get a “‘great'” idea and then write at it for a while. Then I can bog down. And I’ve noticed that this happens to my students. I’ve labeled this “‘bog'” as “‘the tyranny of page 156.'” The question is at this point–what to do next.

‘So I do a “‘Twenty Things That Have to Happen'” list. And this is a list that you can write at any time, even before you start to write. So when I land in the bog, instead of drowning in it, I write the list. I know that things need to happen, and there they appear on the list. I grab one, and pull myself out of the bog.

“Why I like this is because it doesn’t scare me like outlines do, and it’s not necessarily in chronological order, so I can even just write a scene and put it in somewhere else. It pushes me forward, even if forward is sideways for awhile.”

Keetha DePriest Mosley [formerly Reed] (Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern, More Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern):

“I am a big fan of John Dufresne’s writing books, The Life That Tells a Truth and Is Life Like This? Both books have lots of exercises in them. I find that when I really do the exercises, rather than just read them, my writing improves. Go figure!

“I also have Brenda Ueland’s 12 tips (from her book first published in 1938, If You Want to Write) on my bulletin board near my desk. I read them about once a day.”

Rebecca Rasmussen (The Bird Sisters coming April 12, 2011):

“For the last ten years or so, I have taught creative writing to high school students, college students, adult students – you name them, I have taught them. For a long time, I would assign exercises and then we would share in class. It didn’t occur to me to actually do the exercises along with my students until recently. (I know: duh, right?.) One of my favorite exercises is The Postcard Exercise. Basically, as the teacher I go around gathering up postcards (on vacations, business trips, at little local shops, gas stations, and grocery stores) and each student chooses one. Or me in this case. What I love about this exercise is that everyone ends up with some image/drawing/abstraction he or she wouldn’t usually invoke in writing, which is what makes the stories that follow so freeing and also so interesting. So here are the rules: 1.) pick a postcard, 2.) write a story on the back of it, and 3.) send it to someone. My last postcard story involved a salmon run in Montana. I sent it to my father.”

Lori Roy (Bent Road coming March 31, 2011):

“I have a couple of writing exercises that I use when working on a novel. If I find myself considering a major change in the novel–maybe rearranging the beginning chapters or adding a point of view character–I will save the novel under a new name before making the change. This removes some of the pressure. If I don’t like the change, I can always restore the original file. To date, I have never gone back to the original file.

“Another exercise I use, or perhaps trick is a better name for it, is to put away the computer and pull out a pen and paper if I am stuck on a particular scene. Stepping away from the novel in this way seems to always help when I find myself stumped.”

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Announcement: The winners of On Maggie’s Watch by Ann Wertz Garvin are Kristan and Tiffany D. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be sent out promptly.

Best Writing Exercises, Part V

November 18, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Q&A

In The Divining Wand’s seemingly never-ending pursuit to discover how our favorite authors/friends perfect their natural skills, they were asked: What have been some of the best writing exercises you’ve used in your writing process?

This week’s responses suggest that less is best. Also please welcome another new author, Meg Mitchell Moore!

Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt):

“None, really.”

Karen McQuestion (A Scattered Life, Easily Amused, and Celia and the Fairies for ages 7 – 11):

“I tend to be anti-writing exercises, not on principle, just for me personally. I never understood the benefit of doing “‘Morning Pages'” or “‘Character Work,'” or whatever. I just write and write and then write some more. I add things in and take things out, and somehow it all takes shape and becomes a novel. That’s the only way I know how to do it.”

Meg Mitchell Moore (The Arrivals coming May 25, 2011):

“I haven’t used a lot of writing exercises, though I’m always wondering if I should. The best piece of advice I heard recently was to set a timer and commit to sitting and writing for a certain amount of time without getting up, checking email, checking twitter, snacking, etc. It’s amazing how many words you can get down in just 30 or 40 minutes if you commit to absolute concentration. I use that trick when I can feel my attention wandering.”

Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing):

“I don’t really use exercises, but I tend to write and write and write excess background, excess scenes, stuff that I know will fall on the cutting room floor. This helps me know my characters better. I also try to rewrite scenes from another character’s perspective if something doesn’t feel right.”

Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars and The Life You’ve Imagined):

“I don’t have a good answer for this one, I’m afraid! I’m not one to use prompts and exercises. Nothing wrong with them, I just tend not to use them. I tend to just put my head down and plow through the current manuscript.”

Kim Stagliano (All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa: A Life Raising Three Daughters with Autism):

“Ignore the clock. Ignore the Internet. Move to a quiet room. And just keep typing.”

Emily Winslow (The Whole World):

“I have a confession: I don’t like exercises. I only get excited about writing words that are part of a larger project.”

To be continued…..

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Announcement: The winner of The Thieves of Darkness by Richard Doetsch is Jody. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be sent out promptly.

Best Writing Exercises, Part IV

November 11, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Q&A

As promised, The Divining Wand delivers yet another installment of what inspires or motivates our favorite authors/friends to perfect their natural skills, by asking the question: What have been some of the best writing exercises you’ve used in your writing process?

Also this post welcomes and introduces another new author, Ann Werrtz Garvin!

Meredith Cole (Posed for Murder, Dead in the Water):

“I wish I could remember what book I read it in, but I once advised to try drawing your story as a way to come at it from a new angle. I was stuck in my story trying to figure out why certain plot points hadn’t jelled. I wrote Lydia McKenzie’s name (my main character) in the middle of a giant piece of paper and then drew lines to all the minor characters names like some kind of flow chart. I then wrote a few words above the line about their relationship. I realized that I wanted her to have multifaceted relationships with the other people in the story, and drawing it out like that helped me see where I could make my story and relationships stronger and more complex.”

Claire Cook (Seven Year Switch, Must Love Dogs, Life’s A Beach, and the rest in Bibliography, and Best Staged Plans coming May 31, 2011):

“I’m not a big writing exercise person. I just pour all my energy into the book I’m working on. But once, I just couldn’t get the ending of a novel right, so I sat on the floor of my office and just kept pulling books of the shelves. I read the last page of book after book, thinking, “‘Okay, this is what a good ending feels like. And this. And this. And this.'” And finally my ending popped into my head! It was nothing like any of the endings I’d just read, but they definitely led me to it!”

Ann Wertz Garvin (On Maggie’s Watch):

“I like to take a phrase that strikes me as interesting or funny–something I’ve seen on a bumper sticker or heard in conversation–and figure out what is funny about it and what it relates to. Often, I can’t put my finger on it right away. So I do a stream of consciousness kind of thing. I’ll work on it like I’m whittling a log or playing cats cradle. I take a bit here, move it over there, make associations, until I figure out what I like about it. I find my subconscious is so much smarter than my conscious mind. Like it’s playing with my awareness, seeing if I can figure out the puzzle. When I do, I get a little cerebral pat and everything shuts down for an afternoon nap.”

Shana Mahaffey (Sounds Like Crazy):

“The best exercises, hands down, have been working with all the plot tools outlined in BlockBuster Plots by Martha Alderson. I used her tools for my first novel, this included plotting the book, discovering all facets of my characters, and tracking the scene progressions. I am using the tools again for my second novel, which is in progress. I highly recommend her process. It not only helps you focus your plot, but it also helps for when you get stuck.”

Melissa Senate (The Love Goddess’ Cooking School, The Mosts YA, The Secret of Joy, the rest in Bibliography):

“One of my favorite inspirational books says that if you seek clarity about something, some burning question, you should sleep on it for three nights and you’ll wake up on the fourth day with the answer. I know this isn’t really a writing exercise, but it’s my best way of working through plot and characterization problems, rough spots, and corners I’ve backed myself into. My other favorite is to just ask my character what she really wants more than anything else, heart, mind and soul–and what she’s most afraid of.”

To be continued…..

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Announcement: The winner of Chosen by Chandra Hofffman is Mavis. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be sent out promptly.