Dragonfly Words

How long should your novel be?

August 5, 2010
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I just found this great post by Sarah Webb on how many words a book should be. She, in turn, got some great info from kidlit.com. The general breakdown is as follows:

• Board Book — 100 words max
• Early Picturebook — 500 words max
• Picturebook — 1,000 words max (Seriously. Max.)
• Nonfiction Picturebook — 2,000 words max
• Early Reader — This varies widely, depending on grade level. I’d say 3,500 words is an absolute max.
• Chapterbook — 10,000 words max
• Middle Grade — 35,000 words max for contemporary, mystery, humor, 45,000 max for fantasy/sci-fi, adventure and historical
• YA — 70,000 words max for contemporary, humor, mystery, historical, romance, etc. 90,000 words max for fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal, etc.

You can also check out Chuck Sambuchino’s Word Count for Novels and Children’s Books: The Definitive Post

Looks like I’m closer to my target word count than I thought I was. Guess that means there will be some serious editing in the near future.

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More on Creating Characters

August 2, 2010
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The next best thing to attending the SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Conference is reading the conference blog. One blog post caught my attention today. It is an interview with Carolyn Mackler on Creating Characters That Come to Life. In the interview, Mackler stresses the importance of:

  • Thinking about your characters quirks – what makes them special? Does your character twirl his/her hair when nervous? Does he/she trip a lot? Is your character prone to worrying?
  • Reading your books/story out loud so you can hear your characters – the way a character speaks says a lot about who the character is
  • Research – talk to real life people who share traits similar to your character’s. If you’re writing a nurse, talk to a nurse.
  • Imagine what your character’s closet looks like.

The third point was probably my favorite. Usually I try to imagine what a character’s bedroom looks like, but a closet is even better. While a bedroom is private space, people do occasionally wander into them. A closet, though, is completely private space. Are the clothes organized by season and/or color? Does your character use hangers or is everything piled on the floor? Perhaps a secret alter is hidden away in the closet, or a stalker collage? Maybe it is so crammed with things that the door barely opens, like that wonderful scene in Mary Poppins when everything comes spewing out of the closet as the door slams shut (or did I imagine that scene). A closet can reveal so much about a character, bringing that character from words on a page to a living, dynamic being that your readers can engage with.

What questions do you ask about your character to gain insight into his/her life?


Online ‘choose your own adventure’ style books

July 30, 2010
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Simon & Schuster will be releasing an online, serialized novel, Loser/Queen where readers (young adults) get to vote on what will happen next. Having been a huge fan of the choose your own adventure books, I can see the appeal to such a format. But as a writer, it stresses me out.

Readers vote by 5 pm Thursdays. A new chapter is posted on Mondays. That’s pretty quick turn around. I assume that, like a television show, multiple chapters are already written, but the fact that there are two choices at the end of the chapter, and who knows how many chapters means that a lot of content would need to be pre-written that will never see the light of the computer screen. Additionally, based off of reader responses, minor characters could take on a more major part if the readers are particularly drawn to a character, which leads to even more changes. If writing a traditional book often seems like an out-of-control beast, I can’t imagine what this project must feel like to the author, Jodi Lynn Anderson. That’s a lot of creative control she is giving up. But then, the price is a huge platform ready and waiting when the book publishes. It’s not even finished and you can already pre-order the paperback edition.

Which leads to another question. Will people want to buy a book that they have already read for free? I’m inclined to say yes, because people like owning something they were a part of. The readers voting on the book will feel that they invested something into it, and they will want the hard copy to show their hard work. But will those who didn’t vote, or who came in on the final chapter, feel the inclination to buy it? Will potential readers who did not have the opportunity to vote feel left out? And isn’t this just adding to the technology addiction that’s running rampant across society?

I’ve gotta say though, Simon & Schuster did grab my attention, and I will definitely be following along with Anderson’s readers to see where it goes.


News for Kids

July 28, 2010
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In my attempts to enter the minds of kids, I’ve been spending a lot of time perusing children news sources, which are surprisingly abundant. One recent find was an article in National Geographic Kids, Beelzebufo: A Giant of a Find. Talk about great inspiration. After all, what’s cooler than a frog the size of a beach ball?

In other news, a bear in New Hampshire ‘rescued’ a stuffed bear being held captive by humans. Read about it here.

Finally, a boat made out of plastic crossed the Atlantic.

You’ve gotta love the inspiration you can get from bizarre happenings in the world.


Writing adolescents in a non-adolescent way

December 30, 2009
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I think many YA writers miss the mark when they write for the YA audience. Just because someone is a young adult, or an adolescent, it should not be assumed that they are uninterested in reading adult constructed prose. Quite the opposite