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Summer’s TBR Lists, III

June 16, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Q&A

With so many terrific books vying for attention, summer is the best season for a reason to relax and get lost in a new release or old favorite. And, since summer book lists are currently being published, The Divining Wand decided to ask its authors:

What’s on your summer “must/want to read” list?

This week the following writers replied:

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

“PYM by Mat Johnson
SILVER SPARROW by Tayari Jones
THE WEIRD SISTERS by Eleanor Brown
THE FOUR MS. BRADWELLS by Meg Waite Clayton
THE RINGER by Jenny Shank
THE FULL MATILDA by David Haynes

And if I could recommend a book I’ve already read that’s coming out this month: IF SONS THEN HEIRS by Lorene Cary. LOVED it!”

~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, Wishes for Beginners ages 9 – 11 coming June 14, 2011, and Gnome Invasion ages 9 – 11 coming August 16, 2011):

“My to- be read list is always long. A few I’m looking forward to include, Sister by Rosamund Lupton, Bumped by Megan McCafferty, Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen and The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

Populazzi by Elise Allen. I had a chance to read an advance copy of this and LOVED it!”

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

‘“A Visit From the Good Squad,” the new translation of “Madame Bovary” by Lydia Davis, “To the End of the Land” by David Grossman, “Skippy Dies” by Paul Murray

“The Pull of Gravity,” by Gae Polisner. (It’s a YA book.)”

~Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers):

“Oh, my goodness. There are too too many. EXPOSURE by Therese Fowler. THE FOUR MRS. BRADWELLS by Meg Waite Clayton. MRS. TOM THUMB by Melanie Benjamin. Not to mention the tottering TBR pile I already have next to my bed. And, anything about Italy I can get my hands on in preparation for my first visit there in September.”

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

“I’m urging everyone to read Dawn Tripp’s Game of Secrets”.

~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):

“Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand. Ever since I discovered her Nantucket-based novels last year they’ve defined summer for me.”

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

“So many books, but here are a few on my must-read list. Many aren’t out until the summer.
In a Treacherous Court by Michelle Diener

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Things We Didn’t Say by Kristina Riggle

The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead by Paul Elwork

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Happy reading!”

To be continued….

* * * * *

Announcement: The winners of Populazzi by Elise Allen are Dee and Sarrah. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be Pre-ordered to be sent on its release of August 1, 2011.

Favorite Fictional Worlds, III

May 19, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Q&A

As must be known by now, Eleanor Brown’s (The Weird Sisters) alternative answer for a fictional BFF inspired TDW to ask its other authors her question:

In what fictional world/neighborhood would you like to live? And why?

This final week features responses from the following writers, including Eleanor with a new answer:

~Katie Alender (Bad Girls Don’t Die YA, and Bad Girls Don’t Die: From Bad to Cursed YA coming June 14, 2011):

“I’m too much of a pragmatist (okay, I’ll admit it… I’m a homebody/hermit) to want to stray too far from home for any extended period of time–but I wouldn’t mind spending a week with the Darcys at Pemberley! I’d also be curious to drop in on Galt’s Gulch from “Atlas Shrugged.”‘

~Elise Allen (Populazzi YA coming August 1, 2011):

“Easy — I want to live in Harry Potter’s world. I’d opt for being Hermione — the perfect mix of magic and muggle. Plus I really really want her watch that stops time and gives her extra hours in the day.”

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

“I would love to live in the world JK Rowling created. Even with the evil Voldermort around, it’d be great fun to do magic and fly and see dragons and such. Alternatively, I’d love to create a literary world half as rich as the one she created.”

~Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters):

“Maeve Binchy’s Dublin, with all its warm, interconnected characters and cozy homes. Optimally, I’d have Maeve herself as my tour guide, too!”

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

“I’ve always wanted to live in Narnia. One of my favorite books is A HORSE AND HIS BOY. I loved the ideas of talking animals. And although there is war there (and nasty witches, etc.), the kids and animals were seen as wise and valuable members of society. Narnia is a true Utopia where all living things are respected (since the trees themselves could tell you that they didn’t want to be cut down), and any hardships are overcome with friendly help from neighbors.”

~Laura Dave (The First Husband The Divorce Party, London Is the Best City in America):

“I’d like to visit several fictional worlds — and live there temporarily! Top of my list: The fictional town of Meryton in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.”

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

“I’d want to live in Oz, but unlike Dorothy, I would STAY there!”

~Jael McHenrty (The Kitchen Daughter):

“For some reason the first thing that popped into my head is that I’d want to live next door to Meg Murry’s family, from A Wrinkle in Time. Although I suppose that’s cheating since what I really want is to go on all Meg’s adventures, and meet Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which, and Calvin O’Keefe… you get the idea. Basically, I want to be a Murry.”

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

“As I thought and thought on this, I realized why I was coming up blank. I am drawn to dark novels of dysfunctional families that they make me grateful to stay in my own dysfunctional world. Maybe that’s a blessing, or maybe that’s why I read them: there but for the grace of God go I, and thank God that my life isn’t that bad. Every sunny novel I read makes me incredibly jealous. I remember as a kid swooning in envy over LITTLE WOMEN and wanting to be in the bosom of that family. Another one was CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN. Having a tiny family, somehow that seemed like the height of happiness–being surrounded by 11 other siblings.”

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

“I’d like to live with the March sisters and their wonderful Marmee. I’d help Jo with the school, and Amy would teach me to paint.”

~Wendy Tokunaga (Midori By Moonlight, Love in Translatio , and ebook, Marriage in Translation: Foreign Wife, Japanese Husband [Kindle Edition]):

“When I think of a fictional world or neighborhood I go back to the books I loved as a child. And the one that comes to mind is “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I’d love to be able to stow away into a private, secret magical garden perhaps to write or just enjoy the sunshine.”

~Emily Winslow (The Whole World):

“I will now confess a guilty pleasure of my youth: Sweet Valley High novels! Okay, I wouldn’t want to *live* in Sweet Valley, but it would be a hoot to visit. I think I would be friends with Winston Egbert.”

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Announcement: The winners of Julianna Baggott’s (Bridget Asher novel), The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted, are Janel and Jane Cook. Congratulations!

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

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….

* * * * *

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

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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Our Authors Journey, IV

June 17, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

Beginning with a late January post, The Divining Wand has revealed how its successful authors have traveled their personal road to publication. And now the remaining five answer the questions of how they handled rejection and what kept them going to reach their destination?

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

“Years passed between the day I really got serious about writing, and the day I signed a publishing contract. There is no general time-line for when you “should” have something published. Everyone’s on her own path. It takes some writers decades to achieve publication.

“During the submissions process, I became very familiar with rejection. What kept me going? A husband who believes in me, and an inner refusal to quit. Too, I surrounded myself with positive people who made me feel as though I was bound to succeed. And I tried to avoid negative people whose comments, questions, or attitudes made me second-guess myself.”

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

“I’ve been very lucky. Very lucky. My first book was nonfiction and I sold it myself, getting a publisher only after a handful of rejections. My first novel was sold about 4 months after it went on submission. That is remarkably fast. However, it didn’t feel that way at the time, and the novel was rejected by about a dozen publishers. As those rejections were coming in, it felt awful. I started to lose hope. I am a Gemini so I feel uniquely qualified to be on submission. Half of me has complete faith that I will be successful and the other half completely believes I’m a big fat failure. What kept me going is the optimistic half of me. That and my agent’s belief in me, and my husband and my friends.”

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

“The answer to this question depends on when you want to start the clock ticking. I always wanted to write and my parents have one of my earliest “works” dating back to second grade. If we use that as the starting point then it took me a looooooong time. If we start from the time I finished Unpredictable, it took me about five months to find an agent and about six months with her between revisions and when I sold. Once I sold it was two years before the book came out. This is my way of pointing out that writing makes a lousy get rich quick plan.

“Rejection is a part of the publication process. When writers gather they show off their rejection scars like old war veterans. My approach to rejection was to feel sorry for myself for a maximum of 24 hours and then pull up my big girl panties and move forward. There is a saying that the difference between an unpublished writer and a published writer is perseverance. Rejection was just the world’s way of trying to figure out how serious I was about this publication plan.”

Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers):

“From the day I wrote the first sentence of my first draft, to the day my book was available in stores was almost exactly 7 years. I learned to have a very thick skin to deal with the rejections (teaching high school and having kids had already helped me with that!), and I even learned to use the rejections as inspiration to keep going, to get it right. My friends and family also helped, encouraging me every step of the way. And I also knew that giving up simply wasn’t an option–this mattered, my story mattered, and I had to keep going.”

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

“How long did it take before you finally got published? And how did you handle rejection, what kept you going? My first novel got published very quickly, but then it took me twenty years until my next novel was published. I handled rejection by getting very involved in other endeavors– not simply seeing myself as a writer.”

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Have you heard?

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

The Mother of All Giveaways

On her Wednesday, June 16, 2010 blog post, Allison writes:

“Yes, I use those words intentionally. Because today, I wanted to give shout-outs to some women writers (okay, they’re not all mothers) who have in some way been kind or helpful to me throughout my career, and well, throughout certain times of my life. Writing is a very solitary endeavor, but thanks to some of my friends, I always feel like I have a wide network of support. All of these women are generous – with blurbs, with advice, with open ears when we just need to complain, and just as importantly, all of them have (relatively) new books out. 🙂 And I’m grateful for them, not just for their brilliant words that go onto the page, but for their friendship.

SO.

Here’s the deal:

To enter the contest, click over to my Facebook page, where this contest is announced. Click “like,” on the giveaway or leave a comment underneath the announcement. You’ll be entered. Just like that. I’ll leave it open until Friday at 3pm EST, when I’ll choose the winners, each of whom will receive one of the fabulous books listed below. Oh, and did I mention that each copy will be signed? Yes, the lovely ladies will be sending their autograph too.

Here are the goods that you’ll be up to win:” (Scroll down.)

* * * * *

Announcement: The winner of Three Wishes by Carey Goldberg, Beth Jones, and Pamela Ferdinand is Stacey.

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

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…

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.”

* * * * *

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.

Our Authors’ Go-To Writing Books, II

March 18, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Q&A

Yes there are more of our favorite authors’ writing books for your consideration and, though duplications become more numerous, there are also thoughtful additions to this question:

I wondered, what do your authors read in the way of writing books? Do they have favorites they refer to again and again? Do they read the classics like, Bird by Bird, or Writing Down the Bones, or do they favor books on craft like, Save the Cat?

Reading (and writing) minds want to know!

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

“Definitely Bird by Bird, also Story by Robert McFee and This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley”

Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers):

“I love both of the books already mentioned, and I’ve also becoME a big fan of Donald Maass’ books: WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL and THE FIRE IN FICTION. And I also firmly believe my craft improves by reading lots and lots of fiction that’s already out there–both the classics and what’s new, which, of course, rocks because I can claim time spent reading is ‘”work!”‘

Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing):

‘”The Stuff of Fiction”‘ by Doug Bauer is essential.
I also like James Woods ‘”How Fiction Works”‘
‘”Bringing Down the House”‘ by Charles Baxter”

Randy Susan Meyers (The Murderer’s Daughters):

“If I MUST choose, my favorites would be:

On Writing by Stephen King for the most down-to-earth advice presently like a memoir.

Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner because she’s an instant shrink for writers.

Modern Library Writer’s Workshop by Stephen Koch because it’s an MFA in a book.”

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

“I wish I could help but I’ve honestly never read a book on writing! Instead I read what I enjoy.”

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

“BIRD BY BIRD is classic and amazing, as much for its practical advice as its humor and commiseration (operative root word being “misery” of course). Whenever I have a bad day I think of KFKD (you have to read the book to get the reference) and I have re-read the Jealousy chapter more than once when I’m chewing on my own spleen about something.

“I’m a big fan of Sol Stein’s books ON WRITING and HOW TO GROW A NOVEL. Also, I read the classic SCREENPLAY by Syd Field in preparation for writing a film treatment of an earlier book. I don’t plan to walk down the screenwriting road but there were lots of plot tips in that book which helped me focus on my novels.

“Really though, the best education is to write more. Writing is a ‘”learn by doing”‘ affair.

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

“Speaking for myself – I have a zillion craft books. Whenever I’m stuck I seem to buy a new one. I think I buy them in the hope it will help me figure out my problem! My favorites include:

On Writing by Stephen King
Save the Cat by Snyder
Writing the Breakout Novel by Maass
The Writer’s Journey by Vogler”

Kristy Kiernan (Catching Genius, Matters of Faith and Between Friends coming April 6, 2010):

“My top three: The Forest For The Trees by Betsy Lerner. On Writing by Stephen King. And yes, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.”

To be continued…

*****

Announcement: The winner of Jenny Gardiner’s memoir, Winging It, is Cathy Carper and the winners of Ad Hudler’s novel, Househusband, are Dera and Katie Alender. Congratulations to all of you! Please send your mailing address to diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com and the books will be sent out promptly.

Good News about and from Our Authors

February 25, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: News

The Diving Wand loves sharing good news about its authors and this post offers quite a collection.

For Wendy Tokunaga (Midori By Moonlight, Love in Translation) BookPage Reviews’ Friendship and family in a foreign land is a Web exclusive by Sheri Bodoh.

Katie Alender (Bad Girls Don’t Die YA) was thrilled and flattered by this terrific book trailer for Bad Girls Don’t Die made by a reader/fan. Do watch.

Melanie Benjamin watches her foreign rights sales soar for (Alice I Have Been), along with requests for essays, interviews, and op-ed pieces on “Alice.” With the movie of “Alice in Wonderland” coming out next Friday, Melanie is enjoying perfect timing.

Also to be noted: The Audio Book of Alice I Have Been was Audiofile Magazine’s hot pick for the week of February 10th.

Randy Susan Meyers and The Murderer’s Daughters is traveling the world too with the book now to be published in Turkey, Israel, France, Germany, Britain, Australia, Ireland, Scotland, Taiwan, Poland, Portugal, and Holland.

Would you like to hear Randy? Listen to her Author Magazine Interview

And the “hip and current” Daily Candy has chosen The Murderer’s Daughters as one of the Best New Winter Books.

Meredith Cole has received a 2009 Agatha nomination for Best First Novel, Posed for Murder. The Awards will be presented on May 1st with Meredith’s second novel, Dead in the Water, in bookstores May 11th!

Carleen Brice (Orange Mint and Honey, Children of the Waters) is overjoyed and thanks one and all because, according to BlackVoices Entertainment Newswire, “Sins of the Mother” was “the second highest rated program in key woman demographics in the network’s 12-year history — bested only by the 2009 ‘Natalie Holloway’ movie.”

And Alicia Bessette offers her literary website, her debut novel’s cover, and the opportunity to Pre-order Simply from Scratch coming August 5, 2010.

Congratulations and well done, everyone!