Saturday, December 31, 2011

2012

I don't usually make New Years resolutions. I figure, if I want to change, I'll just decide to do it right then, right? Well, there's something to be said about having a marker, about being able to say, that hour, that minute, that was the turning point. Many resolutions fail. But some don't, and let's hope mine are among them.

I've got books I've already read that I am excited to pester you about:

THESE WERE AWESOME. I CANNOT WAIT.

I've got books by talented friends that I can't wait to read:



WANDERLOVE by Kirsten Hubbard
MILA 2.0 by Debra Driza
HEMLOCK by Kathleen Peacock
NOBODY BUT US by Kristin Miller
A MIDSUMMER'S NIGHTMARE by Kody Keplinger
TOUCHED and IF I LIE by Corrine Jackson
INCARNATE by Jodi Meadows
TIMEPIECE by Myra McEntire
The sequel to LARKSTORM by Dawn Miller
The sequel to THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER by Michelle Hodkin

And books I'm going to go to the bookstore on release day to buy:



17 & GONE by Nova Ren Suma
CROWN OF EMBERS by Rae Carson
CINDER by Marissa Meyer
THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS by Claire LeGrand
Pretty much everything that Phoebe North is looking forward to.
And goodness gracious, so many more that I'm forgetting right now.

...it's going to be a busy year.

And heck, I've got the INSURGENT release to think about, as well as whatever is going to happen in DETERGENT (aka Book 3). I can't WAIT for you guys to read book 2. Seriously.

But I've got other things, too, other plans. Hard plans. It's time to be honest: the anxiety got much worse this Winter, but I'm grateful, because that means I really have to work on it this time. I don't know if you know that most anxiety is perpetuated by avoidance-- avoidance of the thing that scares you. Exposure therapy is what Divergent was inspired by, and finally, it's what I have to do myself. It's time. 2012, the year of learning how to think in a healthy way, the year of staring fear in the face and finding a way to overpower it.

You know, before the supposed apocalypse, and all.


2012 is also the year of learning how taxes work without step-by-step instructions, of reading more books, of leaving Romania, which I've come to love, and moving back to America, which I have also come to love, in a new way. La revedere/vislat, and hello.

2011 was the best year of my life, and the hardest. Why do we think those things won't go together? They do. I hope next year is just as wonderful, and just as hard.

I hope that for you, too, that if every day feels like a fight for you, you wake up every morning swinging your fists like a Dauntless badass. Let's go beat up some Peters together.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Best of 2011: Books Most Often Recommended (To Me)

I have to pack for ze trip to Jordan, so I won't be able to ramble on as I usually do, but here are the books most frequently recommended to me by friends, twitter followers, blog followers, etc. this year:

(from here.)

I should note that yes, I have read DoSaB, finally! The writing was gorgeous. 

(from here.)
(from here.)

I have also read The Maze Runner. And it was great. Suspenseful as all get out.

(from here.)
 I left this one unread in a storage unit in Illinois. And I'm sad about it.



So there you have it! Most often rec'd to me in 2011! Feel free to share what books were most often recommended to YOU in 2011...and whether you listened.

Annnnd everyone else said...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best of 2011: Top 5 Books (From Childhood)

I have posted about my top books of 2011 in a variety of places, not least of which is this blog itself. While I could talk about those books a LOT, I don't want to sound like a broken record, so I'm going to switch up the prompt a little. My apologies to our fearless leader, Sarah Enni. I will bake you something to make up for it.

But, in case you wanted a recap, here are my top 5 books released in 2011:

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin.

Rock on, ladies!


So, instead: My Top 5 Recommended Books from My Childhood

(These are probably more MG than YA, because I don't recall that distinction being so clear when I was young, although perhaps I just wasn't aware of it.)

1. Sabriel by Garth Nix (And all the Abhorsen books, actually)

Since childhood, Sabriel has lived outside the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who refuse to stay dead. But now her father, the Mage Abhorson, is missing, and Sabriel must cross into that world to find him. With Mogget, whose feline form hides a powerful, perhaps malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage, Sabriel travels deep into the Old Kingdom. There she confronts an evil that threatens much more than her life, and comes face to face with her own hidden destiny.

Now that I've read fantasy a little more widely, I realize just how unique the world of this book is. There are bells that summon people/things back from death. There's a race of people who see the future. There's a talking cat. I read these books over and over again. Suddenly I want to read them again...

2. The Trial of Ana Cotman by Vivien Alcock


New in town, Anna Cotman wants nothing more than to find a friend. But when bossy Lindy Miller persuades her to join her older brother's secret society, Anna becomes uneasy. She knows that beneath the secret codes, strange rituals, and frightening masks, the society is just a game. But when Anna breaks the rules and is threatened with punishment, she finds the game has gotten seriously out of hand.

Also incredibly unique. May have fed my obsession with categories.

3. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine


At birth, Ella is inadvertently cursed by an imprudent young fairy named Lucinda, who bestows on her the "gift" of obedience. Anything anyone tells her to do, Ella must obey. Another girl might have been cowed by this affliction, but not feisty Ella: "Instead of making me docile, Lucinda's curse made a rebel of me. Or perhaps I was that way naturally." When her beloved mother dies, leaving her in the care of a mostly absent and avaricious father, and later, a loathsome stepmother and two treacherous stepsisters, Ella's life and well-being seem to be in grave peril. But her intelligence and saucy nature keep her in good stead as she sets out on a quest for freedom and self-discovery as she tries to track down Lucinda to undo the curse, fending off ogres, befriending elves, and falling in love with a prince along the way.  

First of all: ignore the movie with Anne Hathaway. (Some of you may have liked that movie, but I did not.) Second of all: I remember getting so frustrated alongside Ella as her awful stepsister takes advantage of her, and cheering (maybe aloud) at the end. And in retrospect, I love how the author plays with "docile fairy tale girl" themes and turns them on their head.

4. Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech







Mary Lou Finney is less than excited about her assignment to keep a journal over the summer. Boring! Then cousin Carl Ray comes to stay with her family, and what starts out as the dull dog days of summer quickly turns into the wildest roller coaster ride of all time. How was Mary Lou suppose to know what would happen with Carl Ray and the ring? Or with her boy-crazy best friend Beth Ann? Or with (sigh) the permanently pink Alex Cheevey? Suddenly a boring school project becomes a record of the most exciting, incredible, unbelievable summer of Mary Lou's life. But what if her teacher actually does read her journal? 

Oh, Sharon Creech. You are amazing. Also, I remember a really strong "Odyssey" theme to this book, and it was really well done. (side note: this book is not silly, as that summary might suggest. At least, it sort of does to me.)

5. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card


In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race's next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn't make the cut--young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender's skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender's two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.


So. The author of this book? Not the kind of guy I want to hang out with. He's made some public remarks that I do not think are okay. At all. (Google it if you want to know.) But I do think the book is amazing and creative and disturbing in a good way, and it got me into reading sci-fi when I was younger, so I'm still recommending it.

Tomorrow I'll be talking about recommended books-- but this time, books that were recommended to me frequently in 2011.

Annnd everyone else said...

Caroline Richmond

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Best of 2011: Wonderfully Complex YA Heroines

I have a feeling I'm going to be talking about the same books over and over again in these lists, so hopefully you don't get tired of hearing about them. (You shouldn't, because they are awesome!) It's just that when I fall for a book, which honestly doesn't happen that often, I fall hard.


Today is all about characters, and I decided to narrow my scope a little so that I don't just start spitting out book titles like a crazy person. People are like onions-- they're many-layered, they become less harsh the more time you spend with them (on the stove, get it?), they sometimes make you cry...okay, you get it. Basically, real people are complicated. They have a variety of motivations, they have moods, they have flaws, and I'm not just talking about little quirks, I'm talking about deep, intense flaws.

Characters, when they are at their best, reflect this complexity, but that is a hard thing to pull off. So I'm going to list my Top 5 Wonderfully Complex YA Heroines.

1. Melinda, from Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson



At least one good thing came out of that whole Speak banning scandal, and it was that I finally got the motivation to read it. (Admittedly, that happened over a year ago, but I have already established that I'm breaking all the rules with these lists, right?) I was always a little afraid to read it, scared that it would disturb me too much. Well, it did disturb me, but this book isn't an excruciating slog through pain and depression. It is about Melinda, recovering from something she should never have had to go through, and finding the courage to speak up about it.

I don't know how to explain this-- but sometimes, characters that have been through a tragedy become narrowly defined by that tragedy, in books. It's all they think about, it explains everything about them. I am sure I've done this myself in my writing, somewhere. But real people who have been through tragedy don't become that tragedy. They have good days and bad days and really bad days. They have moments of humor and hope, and moments of crippling sadness. That's not to say that the horrible events don't transform every aspect of a person's life, because they do, but it isn't the only thing they are. Melinda feels like a person in that respect, whose ultimate victory is not the stuff of inspiring sports movies, but is nonetheless powerful because it feels grounded in reality.

2. Ruby, from Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma


Ruby isn't the narrator of this book, but she's so well developed that I can't help but put her in this list. On the one hand, Ruby is selfish, vindictive, controlling, narcissistic, and dishonest. On the other hand, she is charismatic, vibrant, loving, protective-- and ultimately, she's even selfless, when it comes to her sister. I read this book in March but I still remember everything about her. If you haven't read this book, you should read it just for her.

3. Sam, from Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver



I have to admit, this book sat on my shelf for awhile because I wasn't sure how the "she relives her last day seven times" thing was going to play out for me. I have the attention of a goldfish sometimes. But all I had to do was start it, last April, and I was in. Sam is fantastic because you start off the book hating her-- or at least, I did. But as she experiences her last day again and again, you get to know the good friend, the good sister, who lives under the surface somewhere. And not only that, but she learns, she transforms. By the last page, it's like she's taken on flesh and walked around in the real world, and I still didn't always like her, but I loved her, and for me, that's the sign of a complex character.

4. Elisa, from The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson


Elisa is an example of a powerful character transformation. In the beginning of the story, she's deeply insecure and unconvinced of her own worth. By the end, she's confident and fierce in her convictions. She, more than the plot or the world (which were both great), carried me through this book-- I wanted to watch her change.

5. Hermione, from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

More cheating, since I pretty much grew up with Hermione. But this was the Year of Rereading Harry Potter In Anticipation of the Last Movie, for me-- that's all that got me through draft two of Insurgent, I swear. So I was able to rediscover all the characters from my new adultish perspective. And Hermione is more complex than I remembered. She has so many different sides-- a caring, almost mushy one (Ron, anyone?), a know-it-all, clever one, a stubborn one... She's smart, and she's painfully aware of that, but not always sure of herself, not always cool under pressure. I love her, but I sometimes want to throttle her. It's fantastic.

So there you have it.

Let's see what everyone else said, shall we?


Tomorrow: Books of 2011!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Best of 2011: Writing Music

I don't know about you, but Best of 2011 lists are quickly becoming my blog crack now that the Christmas festivities have come to a close. I think this is for two reasons: they help me to remember what I loved (or, er...didn't like), and they make me aware of things that I missed. This year my friend Sarah Enni organized a blog circus in which me and some other wonderful people will be making our "Best of 2011" lists, including music, books, characters, the works.

Today is all about writing music. Not necessarily new music, but music that was new to us this year.

I am not at all particular about music genre when it comes to writing music. I don't care if it's bubble-gum pop or country or metal, I'll listen to it if it helps me to "see" the story, so to speak. I also don't always listen to albums, because while one song from a particular artist might work for whatever I'm writing, all the other songs may not. But there have been a few instances in which whole albums helped me with the writing process, so I'm going to list those for you here. (You may be able to tell that the things I've written this year have been pretty different from each other.)

1. Bon Iver (self-titled)

I didn't always like Bon Iver-- something about the mumbling, I think. But sometimes an album hits you in the right place at the right time, and last year, "For Emma" was that way for me. So when the new album came out this year, I was all over it. Several moody, thoughtful, or just plain sad scenes have been ushered along in their emotional development by this CD.

Best of the Best: "Holocene"

2. "Divenire" by Ludovico Einaudi


I've actually had this album for a long time, but it was one of those things I got and didn't listen to right away. And then a few weeks ago, while starting something new, it came on in the shuffle and BAM, instant mood-establisher. It's just piano, so it's like listening to your own movie soundtrack while you write. 

Best of the Best: "Primavera"

3. "Firecracker" and "40 Days" by The Wailin' Jennys



I'm cheating, because that's two albums. But I listen to them as a unit. Often I like to set things in the rural Midwest (obviously nothing Divergent-related), and these albums have a folky, countryish, quiet quality that makes me think of vast cornfields and straight roads and snowdrifts. These albums also got me through some hard times this past year, in a way. They helped me find the beauty in the difficulty.

Best of the Best: "Arlington" and "Glory Bound"

4. "Memento Mori" by Flyleaf


This is also cheating, because I've talked before about writing Divergent to this album. After I finished the rough draft of Divergent, though, I never listened to it again, because I was so tired of it. Then this year, while writing Insurgent, I put it on again, and there it was. Same inspiring effect. This is some intense music, perfect for an intense story.

Best of the Best: "Chasm"

5. "Sigh No More" by Mumford and Sons


This is another album that got me through the hard times last winter. I also wrote to it-- I'm pretty sure that each one of the stories I dipped into this year had at least one of these songs associated with it, at some point. It's pretty great.

Best of the Best: "White Blank Page" (if you don't like it at first, skip to about the 40 second mark, because that's when it really gets going.)

So there you have it: my top writing albums of 2011. Other honorable mentions are "Absolution" by Muse, "This Is War" by 30 Seconds to Mars, and "Invincible" by Two Steps From Hell.

Check out everyone else's responses!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

CoverLove: IF I LIE by Corrine Jackson

Awhile ago, one of my writer friends Cory (aka Corrine Jackson) needed someone to read the first thirty pages or so of her work-in-progress, and I volunteered. It was one of the only times when I've read a work-in-progress for someone and completely forgot that's what I was doing, because I was so absorbed. It was so beautifully written then-- I had some serious writer envy-- and I'm sure it's even better now.

Okay, I'm going to post the cover now:


Ah! So pretty and expressive! And an interesting spin on a "there are people on the cover" cover.

And here's the summary:

A powerful debut novel about the gray space between truth and perception. 

Quinn’s done the unthinkable: she kissed a guy who is not Carey, her boyfriend. And she got caught. Being branded a cheater would be bad enough, but Quinn is deemed a traitor, and shunned by all of her friends. Because Carey’s not just any guy—he’s serving in Afghanistan and revered by everyone in their small, military town. 

Quinn could clear her name, but that would mean revealing secrets that she’s vowed to keep—secrets that aren’t hers to share. And when Carey goes MIA, Quinn must decide how far she’ll go to protect her boyfriend…and her promise.

IF I LIE comes out August 28, 2012 (so far away, I know!). Here it is on Goodreads. And you can see her thoughts on it here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Little Round-Up

I've been taking a little break recently as I wait for Insurgent copy edits (that's right, it's still not done!), which is perhaps a bad thing because the e-mails are building up-- sorry about that, everyone who has e-mailed me!

Anyway, I've been writing non-Divergenty things so that by the time I sit down to write book 3, I will feel refreshed by Tris's voice instead of used to it.

A few things have occurred, however:

I have a guest post up at The Book Smugglers about my favorites of 2011 and what I'm looking forward to in 2012. (This may or may not include postulating that everyone is either a Pride and Prejudice person, a Jane Eyre person, or a Wuthering Heights person in their heart of hearts--or a "none of the above" person, of course.)

There's a little Q&A up at Best I've Read, as well as a Divergent giveaway that is open until the 23rd. My favorite question was "If Tris and Four had to describe one another in 3 words, what 3 words would they use?" So fun to think about.

Annnnd a Goodreads interview that reveals whether there will be a love triangle in book 2. (If you're fretting about that, it's at the very end.)

And the lovely people over at Epic Reads created this highly amusing e-card for all fans of Four.

Also, Ryan Gosling has something to say to you, girl.

Mulțumesc! La revedere!

-V

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Goodreads Choice Awards NEWS

So.

Thanks to the votes of my incredible readers, Divergent was named the Goodreads Favorite Book of 2011 AND Best YA Fantasy & Science Fiction! (In the words of my thirteen-year-old self, and sometimes my 23-year-old self: Holy. Crap.)

If you click on that link, you can watch my (short) video thank-you. But for those of you who can't watch it or would prefer to stare at gifs instead of my face, I'd like to summarize my reaction for you here:

First, shock and disbelief:

Thanks, gifsbyrachel!
And then, grateful happy dance:

Courtesy of...
I'm still sort of in disbelief, but so, so thankful for the Divergent readers for making this moment happen. You guys are fantastic.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Guest Posting for The Fab Life

I'm over on The Fab Life today answering the question: "what if you wrote utopian fiction?"

And I said I already had. (Sort of.)

Read more here

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Breakup Letter

Dear Macbook Air,

Remember that time I spilled a bunch of water on you and wiped it off and nothing bad happened? yeah, that was a good time. So why did you want to spoil it the second time around, Macbook? It was even LESS water this time, about three drops! I thought you said I could share anything with you--documents, web pages, music files. DOES THAT NOT INCLUDE BEVERAGES? It's not my fault you looked thirsty. Why did you become so darn sensitive? (Was it something I said? Or did?)

All I know is, you didn't have to go out like that. First your "y" key kept repeating so that I couldn't type anything else-- do you have a thing going with "y" that you weren't telling me about? I THOUGHT WE TRUSTED EACH OTHER-- and then your "y" key stopped working altogether so that I had to copy-paste it (as I'm doing right now), and then all your other keys went bonkers so I had to type really slowly (as I am AGAIN doing right now) to get any of the text down.

Now when I type on other computers (computers that actually WORK unlike SOME devices I know, ahem) I automatically copy-paste when I want a y, and I end up with copied web addresses in the middle of my paragraphs. Macbook, you have turned me into a copy-pasting y machine, and I am done dealing with your particular brand of berserkers.

In fact, I am done trying to keep any of your shiny apple comrades happy, because darn it, I break things a lot, and I don't want to shell out so much dough to fix them. So I have gone over to the other side.

His name is Lenovo, he's only slightly larger than you are, he's less sparkly, and moreover, he appreciates me. AND he has a little drainage system in his keyboard, so spilled water has very little effect on him. So there.
-V

P.S. Don't tell the iPhone.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bookanista Thursday!: The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab


Summary:
(From the author's website)


The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.

If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.  

There are no strangers in the town of Near.

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life. But when an actual stranger—a boy who seems to fade like smoke—appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.

The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him. As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi's need to know—about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

---

I have an Official Policy of Skepticism about books. This means that I try to enter every book warily, so as not to let my own unreasonable expectations change how much I enjoy it. I had read a lot of good reviews of this book, but I refused to let them change the Official Policy of Skepticism. Luckily the book changed the Official Policy of Skepticism for me on the first page, because the voice was just so lovely. Observe:

"With the candles all lit, I shake the match and the flame dies, leaving a trail of smoke that curls up against the darkened glass." (6)

Ah, delicious.

Another success of this book is the atmosphere it creates. The claustrophobia of the town, the mysterious emptiness of the moor, the creepy-beautiful rhyming song sung by the children, it's all fantastic. This is one of those books in which the setting is like a character. (It also feeds my obsession with large stretches of empty land. I am, after all, a Midwest Enthusiast.)

I also found the story engaging. I adored the aforementioned "nameless boy," particularly the descriptions of his strange physicality, and Lexi, who is definitely not a pushover but not so badass it's unbelievable, given the kind of environment she grew up in, and her father, who is there only in Lexi's recollections, but nonetheless has a strong presence in the story. There also weren't any cackling, mustache-twirling villains here-- every character was more complicated than that, whether you liked them or not (and I often found myself vacillating, which I love).

Definitely recommended.

---

Check out the other Bookanista posts!

Elana Johnson gives a standing ovation for
VIRTUOSITY
Shannon Messenger talks up THE PLEDGE - with a
giveaway
LiLa Roecker pines for THE GIRL OF FIRE AND
THORNS
Cory Jackson falls for UNDER THE NEVER
SKY
Carolina Valdez-Miller gives some love to
HERE
Nikki Katz praises LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR
Katy Upperman reccommends THE PLEDGE
Beth Revis interviews and has a giveaway for a signed copy of CROSSED by
Ally Condie

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Guest Post

I have a guest post up on Nova Ren Suma's blog today-- if you haven't been reading her "what inspires you?" guest blogs this month, go check them out. They are amazing.

Just a little peek, to give you an idea...

"Right now what inspires me is a slight, short girl with blonde hair and an attitude problem. Her name is Beatrice Prior..."

NCTE/ALAN This Weekend!

This weekend I'll be packing my bags and flying from Romania to SWEET HOME CHICAGOOOO, the Chi, Chi-Town, the Windy City, the Second City...okay, you get the point: I'm going to Chicago and I'm happy about it. I'll be attending the NCTE/ALAN conference in Chicago! (NCTE=National Council of Teachers of English, ALAN=Assembly on Literature for Adolescents). If you are also attending, and you want to say hi, get a book signed, get me to teach you how to say "goodbye" in Hungarian (...as if I'm qualified), or hear me talk about books, you can check out these places at these times:

HarperCollins Signing, Booth #513, 10:30-11:30AM on Saturday

Anderson's Signing, Booth #1301, 12:00-1:00PM on Saturday

"Future Worlds" Panel with Megan McCafferty, James Dashner, and Dom Testa*, Grand Ballroom (2nd Floor), 12:30-1:15PM on Tuesday

Let me know if you're going to be there and I'll be on the lookout!


*originally I wrote Beth Revis here, but that was just a misprint in my schedule-- sorry Beth! And Dom! And...everyone!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Writing Out of Order

Before Divergent, I wrote everything in order, beginning to end. As a result, I would hit a sticking place in my stories and stay there...not just for days, but for weeks. It was usually because I didn't know what would come next, but often because I knew what was next but didn't feel like writing it.

I should note that I've found that when you know what comes next but don't feel like writing it, it might be because what comes next is really boring and you should think of something else. Just think about it.

If what comes next isn't boring, and it's just that you don't feel like writing it at the moment, or you have no idea what comes next, try writing out of order.

The most common objection to writing out of order is that it will get too confusing. Understandable-- but not necessarily true.
Let's say I'm writing a story about zombie witch-kittens on a crusade across Nebraska to save their zombie dog friend, and I get the zombie witch-kittens to Omaha...okay, no. This hypothetical is way too confusing.

Let's go with a real example: I wrote the beginning of Divergent first, up until she chooses her faction. Then I got stuck. I knew I wanted part of her initiation training to involve weird, nightmareish simulations, but I couldn't figure out what they would feature, or what would come before them. I did know how I wanted her relationship with her instructor, Four, to develop-- I wanted the relationship to come from curiosity and developing respect that turns into attraction, rather than the other way around. And I had a plan for how to do that.

So I made a note of where I stopped, skipped a page, and wrote all the Tris and Four scenes that I could think of. And while I was doing that, I came up with ideas for the simulations and what came before them. For example, I wanted to start giving some insights into Four's family and how it was different from Tris's. So Tris and Four have a conversation about how he doesn't miss his family. And I decided that one of her simulations would feature her family, in order to spark this conversation (and since they're so important to her, there had to be a fear related to them, so it worked for Tris, too).

Whenever I came up with ideas, I put notes at the little hash tags separating the scenes. Notes like "scene with Al, Christina, and Will at the chasm here" or "scene with Tori here." That way, I kept track of my ideas and where they would likely fit. (This is even easier with Scrivener. I advertise because I love.)

Soon I had a beginning, and a late middle, and all I had to do was fill in the gap between them. Suddenly, skipping forward had not only maintained my interest in writing the story, but it had actually worked backward at getting me unstuck. I knew how to close the gap between where I stopped and where I skipped to.

My original objection to writing out of order was that everything would become inconsistent and I would have to edit more. What I've discovered is this:

A. I will always have to edit a lot. So who cares if I have to edit for inconsistencies at the same time I edit for crappy character development, plot holes, bad writing, and grammar problems?

B. Actually, the story can become more consistent, because if you've already written the middle but not the beginning, you can lay the groundwork for the middle more accurately in the beginning (because you already know exactly what groundwork needs to be laid).

If you write forward and in order all the time, you sometimes discover where the story is going to go but don't hint at it enough in the beginning, so you have to go back and edit for inconsistencies anyway.

Obviously if writing in order works for you, and you keep up your momentum, go for it. But if you get stuck and you need something to try, give this a shot. It sounds scary but it's really not.

The zombie witch kittens, however...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Links to Old Posts...By Category!

I updated the FAQ page (it was a bit out of date), so if you have questions you think might be Frequently Asked, check it out!

Also, I created a huge database of links from previous blog posts, so you can look up posts by subject instead of getting lost in the blog archives. The links are on the FAQ page, but I'm going to post them here too.

Back before Divergent came out, when most of you had not found this blog yet, I did a series of amusing stunts as kind of "tests of bravery"/general ridiculousness. They're the only vlogs I've done, really, and I thought it would amuse you to see how I celebrated getting the book deal (by jumping into a bathtub full of marshmallows) and how I freaked out when I was supposed to face my fear of heights, etc. So those are in the first section, below.

My Experiences
How I Got My Agent
How I Got My Book Deal
Film Rights Sale
The Reality of Film Rights Stuff
The Time I Jumped Into A Bathtub of Marshmallows (with video)
The Time I Jumped Into A Public Fountain (with video)
The Time I Slid Down an 18-Foot Vert Ramp (with video)
The Time I Drank Pop Rocks and Coke (with video)
Some Book Recs

If what you're looking for is actual practical advice about writing, those links are here:

Concrete Writing Advice
The Backpack, a.k.a Some of the Most Useful Writing Advice I've Ever Gotten
1st Person, and Why It's Not As Easy As It Sounds
Detachment From Your Writing
Trilogies Are Like Long-Term Relationships
Trilogies Are More Like Polygamy, Actually
World-Building
Dialogue, and How Grey's Anatomy Isn't So Great At It
On Sequels
Advice for Young Writers
Rules: Friends of Creativity
Redundant Sentences
Advice I Haven't Taken
How I Revise (Insurgent Edition)
Writing and Not Making Decisions
Draft-Writing Advice: Don't Look Back
Reducing Word Count
Characters:
Backstory and The Maze Runner, by James Dashner
Basic Human Priorities and Story Momentum
Thoughts About Villains
Knowing Characters vs. Knowing About Characters
Insta!Love and Convincing Your Reader

I don't talk much about querying or the post-writing, pre-agent process, but these are the posts I have done about those things:

The Writing Life (Querying, Beta Readers, Etc.)
Beta Readers
Reasons Why Your Non-Writer Friends Think You're Crazy
Patience Is A Habit, Not A Virtue
The Line Between Modesty and Self-Deprecation
Advice For New Writers (Who Want to Query)
Conference Tips
On College and Being Young

I occasionally get philosophical about writing and how it relates to life (or vice versa), and those posts are here (these are some of my favorite posts, by the way):

Abstract Writing/Life Thoughts
Genre Shame is a Waste of Time
Writing and Courage
A Christian Take on Banning Speak
Writing the Ordinary
Sonnets and Failure
Writing and Anxiety
Grow Thinner Skin
The Gift of Upheaval 
About Notwriting
Freedom and Life in Stories 

And some random Divergent stuff:

Some Divergent Stuff

Monday, November 7, 2011

Divergent Inspiration

(I did a lot of bloggery this morning-- I have a post about Harry Potter and humor and writing and whatnot on YA Highway today, too, if you want to check it out!)

What inspired you to write Divergent?

Without a doubt, this is the most frequently asked question of all the frequently asked questions, and that does not surprise me at all. I always want to know where my favorite authors get their ideas. And it seems pretty simple, because there was a precise moment when the writer started the story, and so it seems like there had to be a precise moment when they came up with the idea for it.

The thing is, for a lot of writers, it's more complicated than that. For those of us who didn't have a vivid dream, or ask ourselves a "what if" question, or any of the other concrete ways that ideas come to people, it's actually difficult to answer. That's why I give a different answer in every single interview I ever do-- because at the moment that I am asked the question, I think of another, equally important, source of inspiration.

So in order to answer it, I'm going to give you the overly detailed explanation. But I'll say, first, that Divergent really happened when a bunch of these pieces of inspiration suddenly coalesced in my mind as I was writing, and I got about thirty pages of a story from Four's perspective down, and then set it aside because it wasn't so good. It was only when I discovered Beatrice that I was able to write the full book, four years later.

Bits of inspiration for Divergent:

1. Psychology 101

I was taking it at the time. In Psych 101, you get an overview of the study of psychology, so you go through many things very quickly. I had just learned about exposure therapy in the treatment of phobias. Wikipedia explains this better than I do: "Exposure therapy is a technique in behavior therapy intended to treat anxiety disorders and involves the exposure to the feared object or context without any danger in order to overcome their anxiety." This is where the Dauntless initiation process comes from. I thought that a group of people whose primary goal was to overcome fear would probably use this technique.

I was also beginning to learn about social psychology and the Milgram experiment on obedience to authority figures, which made me think about how malleable our supposedly strict moral codes become in the right conditions. Something that Divergent grapples with.

2. That Damn Song

I was driving to Minnesota (I spent my freshman year of college at Carleton College, before transferring to Northwestern), and I get really stressed when I'm driving at high speeds, so my back was throbbing. I had to plug in the heating pad I had brought with me into the cigarette lighter thing, which mean I had to unplug my iPod, which meant I had to put in a CD instead. And the only CD I had was "The Open Door" by Evanescence.

Don't get me wrong, I really like Evanescence. But I was not fond of one song on that CD in particular: "Sweet Sacrifice." I listened to it anyway, because I knew I would be hearing the CD for awhile, and as I heard these lyrics: "fear is only in our minds/but it's taking over all the time," I got this picture in my head of a person jumping off a roof to prove their bravery. And when I started to think about why a person would do that, I came up with Dauntless.

3. Division Into Groups

I have a thing for groups, and I always have. It interests me in speculative fiction, whether it's the houses at Hogwarts or the armies in Ender's Game or the houses in Kushiel's Dart (which I didn't read all of, because it made me blush too much, but the house thing kept me going for awhile). I also have a long-time (now abandoned) obsession with personality tests, especially the Meyers-Briggs personality tests (depending on the day I'm an INFJ, INFP, or an ISFJ. I've forgotten what all those mean, though), and the enneagram (I'm a number 1: The Perfectionist. Now that one never changes. Ha). And I've always been interested in government systems that stick people in classes or castes (even if I'm also pretty horrified by them), or high school cliques, as depicted so well in Mean Girls:

So: groups. It was bound to happen.

4. Tris

I've said before that I always wanted to write a character who could convincingly deliver these lines from Agamemnon, by Aeschylus: "My will is mine...I shall not make it soft for you." And I also wanted to write a character who used only as many words as she needed to say what she needed to say. This is pretty much how Tris appeared: a smart, somewhat humorless girl with a voice that wouldn't leave me alone. And eventually, I decided I couldn't tell any other story but hers.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Goodreads Choice Awards

Just an FYI:

Voting for the 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards is happening now, and...

Divergent is a nominee in TWO categories-- Favorite Book of 2011 and Young Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction!

And I was nominated in the Goodreads Author category!

I am amazed and somewhat bewildered by this (have you seen the other books in these categories, right next to mine?! They are awesome), but if you are on Goodreads, I encourage you to go and vote for your favorites. Even if it's not for Divergent. I'll never know. Although I would really, really like your votes to go to Divergent. Obviously.

Have a good weekend, everyone! Here, have a kitten:

Friday, November 4, 2011

Divergent Fansites!

Several wonderful people have started Divergent fansites. I am so impressed by how thorough and well-organized and well-designed they all are! I thought I would link them in a blog post so everyone can check them out:

(Also, to the fansite people, thank you for being patient with me about this-- I've been saying I would do it for awhile! You are all awesome. And I scoured my e-mails for all the links and twitter handles, but if you have a fansite, or something to add, please e-mail me at veronicarothbooks[at]gmail[dot]com! I'd love to hear from you.)
Thank you all. It means a lot to me that you put in all the work to get those going.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Some NaNo Advice: DON'T LOOK BACK

Dear NaNoers,

As much as I would love to join you (and I really would, because I think that NaNo is often good for the perfectionist writer), I should probably stick to editing Insurgent. I know you're going to get boatloads of writing advice, so feel free to discard this as necessary, but here we go:

Don't look behind you. NaNoWriMo is a sprint-- a SPRINT, I tell you. It is full throttle, as many words as you can muster, every single day. You don't get to stop for water-- you have to throw water into your mouth as you run, and if you end up splashing yourself in the ear, SO BE IT.

So I think the sprint-race advice of, don't look back to see how close your opponent is, it will slow you down and you might lose, is applicable here.

Except this time, your opponent is not another person, it's your own draft, chasing you with its sloppiness.

I am familiar with doubling back to address the draft, fixing inconsistencies as I go, tweaking sentences, and so on. I wrote my first manuscript like that, and let me tell you something, and I swear it's true: that manuscript took me a year to finish, and it required more editing than Divergent, which I wrote in less than half that time, taking the "don't look back" approach.

My plan with Divergent was this: just. Keep. Going. I would think of things I wanted to fix later and make a note of them on the document and then just plow on through. Then when I was done, I went back to address the comments, but I never even looked at them until I had written the last word.

So, a few ideas:

1. Keep in mind that when you finish, your draft will be rough, as rough as any other rough draft, and you can't stop that from happening no matter how hard you wish it.

2. COMMIT. That means not even doubling back to check something. I mean it. If you forget a character's name, who cares? Make up a new one and fix it later. (In fact, that's REALLY easy to fix. Find/replace, anyone?) If you double back, even if it's just for a few minutes, you will mess up your momentum. (Probably.)

3. Write everything, everything that comes to mind, even if it's just pieces of different scenes. You can finish them later. You can even write, in brackets, [in this scene, Main Character has a food fight in the cafeteria with Childhood Foe, involving some applesauce in the eye] if you don't feel like actually writing out that scene. Then keep going as if you had written it. It helps.

4. Don't get stuck. Don't even allow yourself to believe you could get stuck. Just start generating ideas and jotting them down like some kind of crazy idea generating machine. Your brain will get used to spitting out five different plans at once, and you really won't get stuck. You may hate yourself when you revise, but whatever, that will happen anyway. The best feeling ever is when you realize that you are racing through a huge stack of scenes and you're still coming up with new ones.

5. Make notes to avoid the "ick, ick, I messed it up, it's messy!" feeling. I find that when I make a note to fix something later, I feel relieved, like I've packed a wound and stopped the bleeding, even though I still need to go back and get it stitched later. (Sorry, that's gross. You get it.)

Good luck, friends.

*salute*

-V




Thursday, October 27, 2011

Coverlove: Larkstorm by Dawn Miller

My friend Dawn has this book. She's releasing it as an e-book later this year, and I've been itching to read it since I heard about it, many months ago, but haven't gotten the chance to yet. Today she revealed the cover, and I have to say, it's one of my recent favorites. Check it out!

Gorgeous. So dynamic and interesting.

Here's the summary:

--

In the years following the destructive Long Winter, when half the world’s population perished, the State remains locked in battle against the Sensitives: humans born with extra abilities.

As one of the last descendants of the State’s Founders, seventeen-year-old Lark Greene knows her place: study hard and be a model citizen so she can follow in her family’s footsteps. Her life’s been set since birth, and she’s looking forward to graduating and settling down with Beck, the boy she’s loved longer than she can remember.

However, after Beck is accused of being Sensitive and organizing an attack against Lark, he disappears. Heartbroken and convinced the State made a mistake, Lark sets out to find him and clear his name.

But what she discovers is more dangerous and frightening than Sensitives: She must kill the boy she loves, unless he kills her first.

--

If that summary beckons to you, you can add the book on Goodreads here, or follow Dawn on Twitter here. Sweet!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Insta!Love and The Unconvinced Reader

One of the big problems people--especially avid YA readers--have with young adult books is the romantic love timeline. Often the term used (especially by me) is insta!love. But I'm starting to think that sometimes, we are feeling the symptoms of an illness without identifying it properly, like every time I get a cold and call it a sinus infection.

"People don't fall in love in a day/week/[insert short unit of time here]" is a phrase I often see, and have said in the past, but it doesn't match up with my current experience or the experiences of people I know. I fell in love in a short time at 22, which doesn't make me Old, Wise, and Adult, or anything, but it means this isn't a "silly teenager thing." And for every person I know who took their time falling in love, I know four or five who didn't, including my parents, and now my stepparent+parent combo deal. Yet before my experience this year, I myself uttered the phrase "people don't fall in love in a week" often, and I think I know why.

Those of us who have either been in a long-term, serious relationship before (or at least have "realistic" as opposed to "idealistic" views of relationships) tend to define romantic love narrowly. We have either experienced a quieter, deeper kind of love, based not on an idealized view of a person but on a more grounded view of them, or have an idea of it, and we believe anything that doesn't fit into our definition can't possibly qualify as love, it has to be infatuation.

I have thought that many times, and in that belief, I was a little arrogant. First, because it assumes that I know what it is not to have an idealized view of someone. Just because I'm aware that the person I'm with has flaws doesn't mean that I don't still idealize him. I mean, no one knows some of the awful things I think and then discard with shame. It's true that right now, one person knows them better than anyone else, but even he can't read my heart with complete accuracy, and he never will, even if he gets very close. So I try not to assume that I know him perfectly, either.

And second, it's a little arrogant because I am telling people who are in the early stages of falling in love that what they're experiencing isn't real, and that they're too blinded to know that. "You'll understand one day" is what I'm saying. Man, that's annoying of me.

If it's a little arrogant, it's also completely understandable. We look back at the obsessive need to be in someone's presence, the fluttering heartbeat, the daydreaming, and we think, "that was great, but it didn't compare to the depth of feeling I felt later." But the question I'm now asking myself is, just because I feel something deeper now, does that mean that I should discount what I felt at first? Does the presence of a deeper feeling negate the validity of a shallower feeling?

Or is love a kind of continuum that you move down, beginning with the moment you are aware of it, and progressing into a deeper and fuller and stronger version of itself?

I propose this: the symptoms of insta!love are disbelief and eye-rolling. But the illness is not the timeline, it's the fact that we remain unpersuaded by the author.

Most of the time, for me, the problem is "You're Hot, So I Love You." That is: the only in-text justification for the intense feelings of the characters is their physical attraction. We get many paragraphs dedicated to description, but none devoted to conversation or experiences that transcend the physical. Maybe the author even tells us something like "they talked for hours about this and this and this," but we don't get to see any of it, so we remain unconvinced.

So, for writers (and I'm reminding myself of this here): one of my writing professors in college said that often, when people say in critique that part of a story is not believable, the writer will say, "But that's what really happened!" And she told us, basically, that that response is total BS. It doesn't matter if something you write about happened in real life-- it matters if you convince the person reading it. And I think that's true of love stories. Yes, of course you can write a story in which the main characters develop a really strong connection in a week, because it really does happen--but the trick is, you have to make it feel real. You have to show the reader rather than insisting within the text that it's true, it's true, they really really like each other! Because otherwise, your reader is going to call your bluff.

Other thoughts for writers: A. Just because a character says "I love you" doesn't mean they have to mean it, B. just because your characters are ga-ga over each other doesn't mean they have to be in love yet, and C. ...I don't have another thought, I just like lists with three items in them.

And for readers, of which I am one: it's not that I think we should stop evaluating love stories for their believability. But I do think that it's important to make an effort to experience a story alongside the main character, rather than standing over the main character with our experiences or beliefs in hand like some kind of anti-insta!love weapon. And if, after we put the weapon down, we still read something and say "this is insta!love and it's annoying," I say, fair enough. Even if you say it about my books. I promise.

Because I am having a TOTAL BRAIN BLANK on all the books I have ever read, I asked some writer friends for recommendations of books in which a romantic connection develops quickly but not superficially, and I got these:
-Before I Die by Jenny Downham
-The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
-Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green
-It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (love story subplot)

Feel free to post other examples in the comments, if you have any!


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