Monday, December 10, 2012

Goodreads Choice Awards Giveaway Winners!

I ended up getting to the giveaway earlier than I thought, so I'm going to put this post up now instead of tomorrow. Thank you to everyone who entered! There were over 1,000 entries, which is amazing, particularly in just three days total, and so many lovely congratulatory messages among them. I wish I could give you all books, seriously.

I just e-mailed the winners, and there were six of them instead of five because I generated an extra random number by mistake and then said, to hell with it, I'll just give away six. (Also, Six of "Four and Six," you know.) So if you are not a compulsive e-mail checker like I am, go check the e-mail you used to send in your entry to see if you were one of them.

To everyone else, I give this consolation prize, which is a picture of a kitten that recently melted my brain with cute (thank you, cuteoverload.com, for many such brain melting incidents):

(original from here)
Thank you again for voting, Initiates of Goodreads! And, more importantly, for reading the books.

-V

Friday, December 7, 2012

Goodreads Choice Awards Giveaway!


I was SO excited to hear the Goodreads Choice Awards news earlier this week (but had to contain my excitement until I turned in my draft, which I did at 2AM this morning, YESSSS.) For those of you who don't know what I'm referring to: Insurgent won for best YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy, which is amazing, given that it was up against some of my favorite books from 2012! And I won for Best Goodreads Author, which is...well, also amazing, but mostly very touching. I'm so glad that I've been able to connect with you guys even over this strange interface of the Internet, and that you've been able to connect with me. (You can check out the other wonderful winners here.)



To celebrate my amazing readers (since it's your votes that made this awesomeness happen), I was desperate to give you SOMETHING from book 3, even if it's just a sentence, but since it's so early in the process still, I'm not able to do that. (Siiiiiiigh.) However, what I can do is give away some SIGNED BOOKS.

I'm going to be giving away five signed copies of the Insurgent Collector's Edition (I'll write you a little note, too), which is beautiful and shiny and also includes cool things like a poster and faction tattoos and Free Four. If you're interested in getting one of those, here are the giveaway rules, a necessary evil:

*Enter by Monday, December 10th at 12PM US central time.
*Entries should be sent to VRGiveaway@mail.com. Please put your name/alias in the email title and check back on Tuesday, December 11th to see if you won. (I'll also e-mail you.)
*Unfortunately, this giveaway is not international. (I hope to have an international giveaway sometime in the future, but I'm not able to right now.)
*One entry per person, please!
*Special Internet bonus points if you were someone who voted!
*If you end up winning but you already have the Collector's Edition, let me know and we can work something out.

I think that's it!

Thank you so much for reading and voting. You guys are awesome.

-V

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Revision Day Three: Mulling

My somewhat-less-rough draft! I'm so irrationally proud of its size that I had to post two pictures. Shh.
When last I left you, I was compiling my giant revision list of doom and preparing to run headlong into my draft, changing thing after thing after thing until there was nothing left. What really ended up happening is that I changed all the big things-- I wrote the new scenes I needed and edited the ones that needed heavy editing, and then what I was left with was a checklist that looked something like this:

1. Edit voice throughout.
2. Make sure group conversations aren't confusing throughout.
3. Etc. etc. etc. throughout.

Basically, I was left with a list of global edits that need to be applied to the entire draft, not just certain sections. So, rather than go through the draft once for all those global edits and then again for my basic line edits, I decided to do it all at the same time. And so: the mulling!

(Mulling: verb, meaning "to consider carefully.")

Without exception, every rough draft can benefit from a slow read-through, which is what I mean when I say "mulling." I want to emphasize the word slow because I tend to read my own drafts very quickly and in very short time frames, which means that I only read faster as I go because I just want to get it done. If you are like me, you could benefit from some mulling too, I think.

Some tips for the slow read-through:

1. Force yourself to read slowly. Set a goal like "I am only going to read one chapter an hour, and I'm only going to work for X amount of hours a day." Some of my chapters are only four or five pages long, so my limit will probably be something like three chapters an hour.

2. If you start to find yourself rushing, or annoyed with the whole process, STOP for the day. Rushing defeats the purpose of the slow read-through. You want to be careful, thoughtful, and thorough. If you can't do that on a certain day, put the draft aside and do something else. Read a book! Work on something else! Give your brain a break and come back to it the next day.

3. Keep a notebook nearby. Every time I do a read-through, certain parts of the draft remind me of later parts that need editing. At that point I am tempted to flip forward and edit those later parts first, which makes me lose my read-through momentum. Instead, I make myself write those reminders down and edit only when I reach that part of the story in my read-through, and that helps.

4. Print it out. You can send your manuscript to your local printer, pay to print at your school library (if they charge for that), or absorb the cost and print at home-- but whatever way you do it, printing the draft out can be a good way to make yourself read slowly if you tend to rush through words when they're on a screen, like I do. Also, it's fun to hold a fat stack of paper in your hand and say to people "I WROTE THIS!" (Not that I do that. *cough*)

5. Read tricky parts out loud. It will help. (I actually recommend reading the whole thing out loud, but sometimes that's just not practical.) You will notice awkward phrasing or inconsistencies better, and it's a lot easier to edit for voice if you're saying the words.

6. Decide on a good "input" plan. The point of printing the draft out, for me, is so that I can take notes directly on it-- but that means eventually, I'll have to input the changes in the actual word document. This can be tedious and annoying. My plan for this Mulling is to leave time each day to make the changes, rather than trying to do it all at once. But maybe you want to make a long day of making the changes-- that's great! Just make sure you know what works best for you.

Now I am going to stock up on chai tea and rice crackers and red pens and knock this baby out next to my Christmas tree.




Happy Mulling, everyone!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Getting Festive

We're going to get a real Christmas tree sometime this week, but I couldn't get rid of the itch to start decorating, so we got the lights today. These are the globe lights that will cover our Christmas tree:



I've always had a thing about lights-- when I was little I was allowed to decorate my bedroom for the holidays, so I always put up white lights on my walls or wrapped them around my furniture. Now that I'm an adult I get to do it to my living room instead! (AND I CAN EAT ALL THE CANDY I WANT AND STAY UP LATE READING BOOKS IN BED. So there.)


Last but not least: we've had this skeleton hanging up on our door since Halloween. His name is Phillip. (He has no lower jaw. It's very sad.) I thought it would be amusing to give him a Santa hat rather than take him down completely. There's also a small ornament hanging from his wrist:


As I said to the husband earlier, "Even during the holiday season we should be reminded of our own mortality." (Morbid jokes. I make them.)

Our neighbors are going to think we're so weird. And they're going to be right.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Some Changes of the Internet Nature

Let me say this up front: I love interacting with readers online. I love hearing your feedback and your stories, and answering your questions, and being open and honest with you. However, as things change (and they have been changing, rapidly), I am forced to come to terms with what I can and can't handle.

You guys know I have anxiety problems, right? I've mentioned them before, though I haven't shared that much detail about them. For the past year I've gone to therapy in the hope of better coping with the stresses of my job-- namely, my ability to receive constant feedback from others without letting it affect my love of writing. (I am one of those writers who requires total isolation in order to be truly creative, otherwise I find that the voices of other people-- even if they're positive voices!-- crowd out my own voice.) Therapy concluded several weeks ago, and since then I have noticed that I have much better control of my anxiety, I've been happier, I've been enjoying my writing. But only while I've also been on Internet hiatus.

Soon after I returned from my Internet hiatus (a couple weeks ago, when I finished the draft), it all started again, just as bad as it was before: the difficulty sleeping, the constant nervousness, and worst of all, the fear of writing. That's what really gets me-- the feeling that one of the activities I love most in this world, and the activity that helps me to process my own experience of the world, is now a source of dread? That feeling has got to go.

Therapy helped me with my anxiety, yes, but it also helped me to realize that I'm not superhuman. I have to operate within my own limitations. And that's why I've come to the difficult decision that I'm going to be disabling comments on my blog, and keeping my Tumblr ask box closed for the forseeable future-- not because I don't like to hear from you guys! (Because I so do.) But because I need to take care of myself, and by doing that, take care of the people around me and the work that I do. For some authors, this isn't necessary--they can leave everything open without many negative repercussions. I admire those authors very much for that! But they are not me, and I finally feel like I'm okay with that.

I hope someday this will change. Until then, you are still welcome to e-mail me (I try to read all my e-mails, even if I am unable to respond--e-mail address is on the FAQ page of this blog). And I will still be blogging-- telling you what's happening in the world of Divergent, handing out unsolicited advice to fellow writers, and being as open with you as possible-- I'll just be a little less available than I have been in the past. I do, however, look forward to hearing your feedback and your questions and all of that at events or conferences or wherever we happen to meet face to face.

-V

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Revision Day Two: The Giant List of Doom

In the interest of providing insight into my revising process (which is always the same), and possibly ideas for others trying to revise, I am blogging about revising as I go. This is a continuation of yesterday's Revision Day One: The Read-Through.

So I did my read-through, I noted all the problems I noticed as I went, and I made my giant list of solutions to the problems that came up as I read or that I identified later. At this point, I probably should be feeling overwhelmed, but since I've had a can of orange soda and half a bag of Baked Lays, I'm feeling okay, actually, if slightly ill, and ready to move on to the next step.

What do I do with my giant list of doom, you ask? First, I group my solutions into two categories: global issues and local issues.

Allow me to explain:

Global issues are problems for which solutions need to be applied to the entire draft, or to large sections of the draft, like "the dynamic between these two characters needs to be different in this way" or "the main character needs to think about this issue periodically throughout the story until this point."

Local issues are problems for which solutions apply to specific scenes or specific groups of scenes, like "I need to add this plot development right after page 154."

Local issues become global issues when you, say, add a scene and then have to edit the rest of the draft to reflect that scene, or when you delete a scene and have to remove all subsequent mentions of that scene.

After I've divided my list into those categories (and this will usually involve writing more global issues down, because usually when you change a local issue you create a global issue, if you know what I mean). I open my handy dandy Scrivener, but you can also use a notebook or another Word document, if you choose to use this method. (By the way, what you see in my screenshots is an early version of Insurgent, with all details removed. This is not my first rodeo.)

I divide the manuscript into "movements" or sections to make things easier, and for each section, I write a list of the global issues that I need to address in each section. Maybe I won't need to address them in every scene, but I do need to be aware of them for each section. (The reason I divide into sections in the first place is that a particular global issue may only apply to the beginning or the end of the manuscript, or something like that, so they won't be the same the whole way through.)



Then for each scene or chapter, I put a list of local edits on the right side, in the box labeled "document notes." (In Word or OpenOffice this can easily be replicated by putting a "comment" next to each chapter heading. That's how I did it before I got Scrivener.)

the arrow is pointing at the document notes box. You can type in there!


Then I usually go back to my list again and think about what the most difficult section of the draft is going to be, or what the most difficult issue I have to address is going to be, and I tackle that first. The reason I do that is that the fear or apprehension related to the most difficult stuff will usually haunt me through the rest of the draft, and it's much better for me to just get it over with. Rip off the band-aid!

I don't worry about editing out of order, either, though I will usually proceed through one section at a time so as not to get confused. Then, when I finish each scene in a section, I label it with a color to make myself feel good about it, and I delete the local issues I typed in the document notes box. (It's like checking off a box!) (Note: with Word you can just...delete the comment before each chapter you finish!)



When I finish with a section, I delete the extra document listing all the global issues for that section.

I try to set goals like "this week I will finish with section 1, which means I have to do one scene every day and two scenes on one day." This ensures that I stay focused and motivated.

I should note that I didn't always do it this way-- it depends on how many "global issues" you have. When I have written drafts that have very few global issues (like Divergent-- most of my edits for Divergent involved adding new scenes), I have just written a long list of scenes to write or fix, arranged them in order of decreasing difficulty, and went through the draft item by item. That is simpler and will work for some drafts-- it just depends on how you work best, and on what your manuscript requires.

And that's it for the Big Edits, folks. Next time I post about this I'll be talking about smaller scale edits, like on the sentence level, and with grammar and punctuation, and special read-throughs you might want to do (reading for specific problems, etc.).

Monday, November 5, 2012

Revision, Day One: The Read Through

After writing four complete manuscripts and several manuscript fragments, I can tell you with reasonable confidence that this is my drafting process: whatever works. Outline, no outline, partial outline, writing at home, writing away from home, writing in the morning, writing at night, having people read as I go, refusing to let people read as I go, I have done them all, and when I find The Thing That Works, I do it until it stops working and find something else.

Despite the wild variations in my drafting process, however, my revising process is always the same. I thought it might be interesting to share it with you in the next few weeks as I experience it with my initial Book 3 revisions (to be followed by several other rounds of revisions). I want to emphasize that I'm not advocating a particular system of doing things-- every writer is different and is allowed to be different. But, every writer is also welcome to try new things to see if they work, and it is in the interest of providing hopefully-interesting insights and also suggestions that I will write these posts. (Also, if you're participating in NaNoWriMo, and you're not sure how to revise once you're done, you can consult these posts later for ideas!)

Approaching revisions, especially the first round, can be pretty daunting. (Although perhaps not if you are DAUNTLESS, eh? Eh?) If your rough drafts are anything like mine, they are a "festival of crap," as I described it to a friend earlier. There are a few parts that are well-thought-out and put together, but far more parts that are poorly written or lacking in focus or just plain wrong for the story. There are also missing pieces-- scenes you didn't write but should, or characters you left out, or plot elements that require more development. There may be extraneous scenes, characters, or whole plot movements.

At this point the first thing I can usually coax myself into doing is a read-through. It may have been several months since I last read the first scenes I wrote, so it's a good idea to get a sense of what's actually there. Plus, while I read, I'll be able to jot down problems and possible solutions to those problems.

That there on the screen? It's a draft of Insurgent open in Scrivener. Just so you know.

I usually write a hasty list of issues right when I finish a draft, because I don't let myself edit as I go and I don't want to forget the problems I already know about. So for Book 3, I already have seven or eight large issues in my "problems" column. Some problems to watch for:

-Do all the characters, major and minor, have some kind of arc or clear, defined presence in the story? If they are supposed to be missing, is this something that is explained or wondered about by the main character? This is one of the problems I always have, because when I draft I focus very much on the major characters and forget that there is a large cast of minor characters waiting in the wings. In the rough draft of Insurgent, Christina disappeared for over 100 pages. Not good.

-Have you built to the ending effectively? Most of the time I discover the ending of a book when I'm right in the middle of it, so the first half of the book may be building toward a completely different ending.

-How is the pacing? Are there places where it is too fast or too slow?

-Are there any sections with "infodump"? (Meaning, sections in which information is unloaded on the reader all at once instead of revealed slowly and through plot movement.)

-Are there any extraneous characters, scenes, or plot elements? You can identify these by asking yourself (honestly) "if I removed this event or character, would I still be able to build to the end of the book without losing too much?"

-Are there any characters, scenes, or plot elements that you must add for the book to be rich enough or to make sense?

-Are there any logical issues or inconsistencies with the world-building or plot?

-And the lesson I learned from Insurgent: are there any inconsistencies that resulted from writing scenes out of order or from author confusion? (Like magically disappearing guns, characters who are in places they shouldn't be, characters with two different names, etc.)

With those questions in mind (and more of your own, I'm sure), I read through my draft quickly. I say "quickly" because it's not useful, at this stage, for me to address sentence issues or take notes about sentence or paragraph-level problems-- this is just the first read-through. What I want to notice are BIG things, and a quick read-through is good for letting me do that while helping me to set aside smaller concerns.

While I'm reading, I'm looking for both problems and opportunities. When I notice a problem ("Christina disappears after page 30"), I jot it down in the left column in my notebook, along with page numbers or other references. When I notice a place in which a problem can probably be addressed (like: "Christina could be present in this scene on page X, and this one on page Y"), I write it in the right column with page numbers or other references.

When I'm finished, I make sure that I have a solution planned for each problem I've recognized. If not, I brainstorm them. Then I arrange my solutions into a big long list, and...well, I'll save the next step for another day.

So there you have it: the "ah crap, this draft is le terrible" revision read-through.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Rough Draftiness

So, I struggle with Tumblr cross-posting-- I know some people think you should put different content on all your respective social media sources, but I also know that there are different people consulting either place, which is why I generally shift the same content back and forth. Just a random aside.

Anyway, there is a gif-packed post about the rough draft of book 3 on my Tumblr today, if you want to check it out: http://theartofnotwriting.tumblr.com/post/34834588269/the-end-of-my-torment-a-k-a-melodramatic-author-is

It's good news.

Have a good day, everyone.

-V

Thursday, November 1, 2012

NaNo, Tool for the Perfectionist Writer

Note: to those of you who are not writers or who don't know about such things, November is National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo, or NaNo). It is an event in which manymany people sign up to write 50,000 words before the end of the month. That is what this post is about. You can find more info at http://www.nanowrimo.org/

Dear NaNoers,

Last year I wrote you this letter about maintaining momentum, so I'm going to re-post it here in case it helps: http://veronicarothbooks.blogspot.com/2011/11/some-nano-advice-dont-look-back.html

This year I'm also helping out with a cool endeavor of YA Highway, which is a daily NaNo newsletter that we'll be sending out for the rest of the month. It will include writing advice and cute animal pictures and links to helpful stuff. If you're interested, check it out here: http://www.yahighway.com/2012/10/introducing-carpool-lane-inspiration.html

And now, onward to my thoughts!

I wanted so badly to participate in NaNo this year, but as has been the case for the past few years, my schedule just didn't allow it-- I'm going to be working on Book 3 for the next several months, and I'd like to really focus on polishing it and getting it right, so it doesn't seem wise to undertake something so involved at the same time.

The reason I'm so eager to participate is that I think NaNo is an activity particularly well-suited to writers like me, who live in paralyzing fear of drafting. (Or in other words: a particular kind of crazy perfectionist.)

For my entire writing life, I have tried to be any other writer but the one I am. I have tried to mull things over and to be very careful and deliberate as I work and to proceed slowly through drafts. I have tried detailed outlines and planning and story mapping. All that these attempts did for me is give me more time to doubt myself, more space to second-guess things, and the result was drafts that were just as messed up as all the drafts I had written quickly, that required just as much revision.

Some people need time and space and a slower pace. Other people need to churn out a fast, sloppy draft so they know what their story is before they try to make something of it. Some people relish their first draft. Other people pretty much spend all their drafting time with the fear of imperfection chasing them to the end, and proceed through revision with a much clearer head.

NaNo, I think, is an amazing opportunity for writers like me, who need to tear off the band-aid of first drafting so they can get to the sweet stuff-- the revising. NaNo is an exercise in daily forgiving yourself for the wild imperfections of your first draft. It can teach you to allow things in your life to be "good enough...for now," instead of feeling the frantic desire to tweak and prod and push before you even know what you need to tweak and prod and push. NaNo can give you a community to cheer you on when you're down, flail around wildly with you as you celebrate, push you when you lose your momentum, and give you directions when you feel lost.

It is a safe place to flub it all miserably the first time around and then-- shock of all shocks!-- celebrate at the end, which I think is a truly valuable lesson for life. Life is full of imperfect things--imperfect works, imperfect stories, and imperfect moments. You won't be able to fix them all, especially not rightthissecond. And I think us perfectionists need to learn to stay in that uncomfortable place where you know something needs work but you aren't going to fix it yet. There is a space between starting and finishing, and it feels a lot like when you notice that a picture frame is crooked but you can't straighten it yet, and that is where much of LIFE takes place. NaNo is like a tiny, condensed version of that experience of imperfection, and it will teach you to be patient with the flaws of your work (and yourself!), and I love that.

So NaNoers...use this month as a tool. Use it to help you get words on the page, to make friends, to make mistakes, to learn things, to make plans to revise, and to celebrate the hopelessly imperfect but wholly amazing accomplishment of writing a whole crapload of words.

The usual warnings: don't convince yourself that you don't need to revise at the end of the month. Don't submit your NaNo novel to agents in December, or even January, or February. Don't shy away from completely gutting your NaNo project and beginning fresh now that you understand the story better. There's no such thing as a wasted draft-- each one shows you your story in a new way and helps you with the next one.

But the encouragements: WRITE! Be imperfect! Be determined! Go forth and totally kick your draft's butt. I will be here, cheering you on as I beat the crap out of book 3 with my words.

-V

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

KidLitCares Auction!

Cool things are happening! Courtesy of the organizational skills of my fellow author Kate Messner, a lot of people in the children's literature (or "Kid Lit") community are donating auction items to raise money for the Red Cross disaster relief fund.

I have an auction item up myself, directed primarily at teachers, librarians, or people in book clubs (so basically, groups that read!)-- I'm offering up a 20-minute (or thereabouts) Skype visit with your group, during which I can: chat about book things! Give writing advice! Show you how to make paper hats!-- whatever you want, really. If that sounds like something you'd be interested in and you want to/are able to donate to Red Cross, please check out my item page here: http://www.katemessner.com/kidlitcares-skype-visit-with-veronica-roth-author-of-divergent/

If that's not exactly something you're interested in, but you want to look at the other auction items, you can do that here: http://www.katemessner.com/category/kidlitcares/

If you don't have the means to help out with these things, you can help anyway by spreading the word about the auction or by donating blood to the Red Cross, because I hear they need donations! http://www.redcross.org/support/blood-donation

-V

Friday, October 26, 2012

Box Set and Collector's Edition!

Some very cool things appeared on my doorstep the other day and I just wanted to share them with you. First of all, there was this:



Those, my friends, are the two faces of the Divergent Series Box Set, which is out on October 30th. (If you're interested in what exactly this set includes, there's more information on my publisher's website, here.) I think the case, which is half Divergent art and half Insurgent art, is pretty sweet. Those symbols are gorgeous.

Speaking of gorgeous, I also got this: 


That is the Insurgent Collector's Edition (also out October 30th), which does indeed feature copper letters, a ribbon bookmark, and a range of other things you can learn more about here, if you're curious. Also, something you can't see in that photo above but that I will attempt to show here...


It is SHINY! Man, I thought the regular Insurgent cover looked pretty good, but the metallic shiny-ness is sweet.

I know what I'm going to be giving people for Christmas now.

Okay, not really, because that would be just a tiny bit self-centered. But they are lovely nonetheless!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Breaksipoo

So, I spent today responding to feedback about the recent movie news and indulging my excitement about how things are going-- which was good! I'm always glad to hear from readers and it's fun to celebrate the high points in this process.

But! I should really be in the depths of the writing cave, getting words on the page, so I'm going to be going on an Internet break as I charge toward the book-writing finish line.

I'll of course pop back on to share if any exciting news comes up. And I'll still be posting fun things on theartofnotwriting.tumblr.com from my phone, because that tends to mysteriously help with my productivity. That said, I won't be responding to comments until I return, so as to limit my procrastination.

And I'll be back when I am FINISHED. Well, with one step. There are still many steps to go, and still about a year until the third book comes out. Yeah, I know.

Author out! *salute*

-V


Friday, October 19, 2012

Movie News: Director and Casting Update!

So.

I wasn't able to discuss this before because it wasn't official, but the Divergent movie adaptation has a director: Neil Burger!

Neil Burger directed The Illusionist and Limitless, both movies that I enjoyed immensely, both visually dynamic and interesting. Soon after the deal was closed I got the opportunity to speak with him on the phone. I was nervous beforehand-- handing over your work for someone else to interpret is always nerve-wracking, and I wasn't sure what to expect.

But by the time I hung up-- an hour and a half later!-- I felt very reassured. Neil knew the books remarkably well, and asked some amazing questions about the world and the story, and generally demonstrated tremendous respect for the books and for my answers.  I actually found myself wishing he had been around while I was writing, to help me think through the particularities of the world of Divergent! I'm sure I would have been more efficient if he had. Like I have before, I'm feeling like my work is in good good hands. (Cue the Allstate logo.)

(allstate.com)


Because I feel so reassured by my experience with Neil and his work, I've felt pretty calm about any and all casting news I've received, knowing that all the people who are working on this movie have a strong vision for it that is grounded in the books.

This leads me into our next piece of news: Shailene Woodley is in final negotiations to play Tris!

From the moment I heard that she was being considered, I have been nothing but enthusiastic.  My priority has always been, first and foremost, that the role of Tris be well-acted, and Shailene has proven how talented she is, as anyone who has seen The Descendants can attest. And physically, what's most important to me, far and away more important than other aspects of her appearance, is that Tris does not look like an action hero-- she looks like a slight person with youthful, delicate features, someone who shocks you with how strong and capable she becomes. To me, that is exactly the look Shailene has, exactly the look I've always had in my mind. From what I've seen, I'm confident she will be able to capture Tris's particular mixture of vulnerability and strength, and that surprising moment when a seemingly unremarkable girl from Abnegation transforms into a powerful yet flawed young woman.

I'm really excited to see what happens next! Can't believe this is actually becoming A Thing That Is Happening!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Occasional Crafter: Studded Glowing Pumpkin

Sometimes after a long day of writing, you have to do something to let loose or your brain will explode. Today, for me, that thing was creating a studded pumpkin.

I found the idea via a friend's Pinterest board (originally from Maicon Soares' Official Blog). It's been a long time since I carved a pumpkin, and I remember, as a kid, relishing that awful squishy feeling of pumpkin innards as you squeeze it between your fingers. I didn't enjoy it quite as much as an adult, I have to say. But I'm strangely proud of the end product.


Not sure what I was looking for, here.



Necessary items: pumpkin. Christmas lights. Drill. Ice cream scoop. Bowl for guts.

Avi was dressed for the occasion.

Actually, we match.

Because I don't trust myself to operate that drill without getting pumpkin goop in the mechanism.




Happy early Halloween, everyone!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

FAQs: Do You Have Any Advice for Young Writers?

Many have asked, and so I will answer.

First of all: I suspect some of you really mean to ask me for advice to writers generally, because a young writer is not some strange species of writer that can't benefit from general writing advice, and fortunately I keep a blog full of my thoughts for writers generally, with a small database of posts about various topics. I will copy that database at the end of this post so you can poke around my blog if you feel like it.

And if you want advice about how to get published, you'll have to frequently ask that question separately, my dears. (That is sort of a joke. You only have to ask once.)

Young writers! Guess what? I am one of you. Despite no longer being an adolescent, I am still 24, which is on the way low end of the writer age spectrum. I am not a source of great wisdom, because great wisdom develops over time, and quite frankly, I haven't had a whole lot of that. But I'll do my best.

When I was a teenager, I was in gifted/extended/whatever you want to call it English classes, which meant two things: 1. I had gotten external affirmation of my writing skills, so I was kind of arrogant, and 2. I was very defensive and insecure, because pretty much everyone in my classes was smarter than I was. (No, seriously.)

Maybe you are not like that, my young writer friends, but I know that at least some of you are, because I just do. It's okay, don't worry, I feel the utmost sympathy for your position! And I still like you. And in fact, it's my intimate knowledge of your position (well, our mutual position) that leads me to give you the following advice:

Cultivate humility, patience, and courage.

Oh look, three words. Let us see if they can form a list!

1. Cultivate Humility

Humility is a word that people are not sure how to define, I think, because for some it reminds them of the word "humiliation." When I say the word "humility," I am not talking about beating yourself up or convincing yourself that you suck. For our purposes, I am defining humility as "seeing yourself the way you truly are."

What I mean is: you are young. You have not had a lot of time to develop your skills. You may be advanced for your age, but that doesn't mean that your writing is well developed. I can say this because MY writing is not usually well developed! It's okay. It is okay to say that you are simultaneously talented and in need of help, because that's the truth of where you are, and it's the truth of where you always will be. You will never, ever get to a place where you don't need help or work or development as a writer, no matter how old you are.

So when your English teacher writes critiques all over your creative writing assignment or papers, don't spend your time after class bashing him or her and defending yourself against those critiques. Instead, hold these two ideas in tension in your mind: your work is not worthless. Your work could use improvement.

Become like a sponge that absorbs every piece of advice or teaching or criticism or praise that it can possibly hold. Realizing that you have a lot to learn is cultivating humility. The actual act of learning cultivates humility. When you hand your writing over to a friend or teacher to get their feedback, and you do it with the attitude of "here is my work. I love it, but I need your help to make it better," you are cultivating humility. And when you are proud of yourself for writing something you think is good, or happy when you get an A on an assignment, that is not NOT cultivating humility. It is embracing the truth of where you are, which is that you and your writing have succeeded in some way.

2. Cultivate patience

Sometimes young people are in a big hurry to do everything. You think, "If I don't get a book published at 17, I'm a failure!" Even if you know that's irrational, you might still feel it, and my advice to you is to ignore that feeling of urgency as much as possible. Basically, apply the brakes and give yourself some time.

I was always pretty good at patience, mostly because I was terrified of showing my writing to anyone. But I sometimes get messages from young writers saying "help! I can't finish a manuscript, what do I do?" or "how do you stay interested in a manuscript long enough to finish?"-- very perplexed people wondering what's wrong with them, that they can't stick it out until the end.

There is nothing wrong with you! I just went back and counted, and I have 48 unfinished manuscripts in my writing folder. 90% of them are from before I reached age 18. Some of them are two pages long and some are 150 pages long. Yes, that's right, it took me AT LEAST 48 tries to stick with an idea long enough to finish it, and I didn't worry about it, because I wasn't in a hurry.

Cultivating patience doesn't just mean that you're patient while you wait for query responses or critique partner feedback or what have you. It means that you are patient with yourself, and with your plan for your life. There are so many paths to take, and so many definitions of success, and so many second, third, fourth chances to get it right. Don't pressure yourself or badger yourself or other people to make things happen now now NOW. Go at a pace that feels comfortable, and that makes you love the process of writing-- because if you hurry so much to get to the finish line, you may not enjoy getting there, and that's where the writing IS.

In writing and publishing, you cannot usually control how fast things happen, or if they happen. What you can do is fall in love with writing, and that way, if the success doesn't come when you want it to, you still have something truly valuable, which is the time spent doing something you love.

3. Cultivate courage

The thing is, if you spend all your time trying to be humble and patient, you may never take any risks. And there must always be risks. All these things I'm telling you are like juggling balls-- it's a constant fight to keep them all in the air without dropping one. So seriously, don't drop courage. Courage will urge you to send your writing to people you trust to get their feedback. It will motivate you to send your writing in to contests. It will tell you to apply for tough schools or programs. It will make it possible for you to accept people's critique and still keep writing. It will help you to brave the bad critiques, the disparaging remarks, the raised eyebrows, and the internal doubts that tell you that you are not good enough and it's not even worth trying.

It is always worth trying-- and it's always worth failing! Courage will arm you against failure in a way that nothing else can. It is the little stirring inside you that says, "that person who hated my writing or told me it would never happen for me, or that bad grade, or that little voice in my head that thinks I suck, can all kiss my butt, because today I am going to try again." You need courage to face what's ahead of you, young writer, because it won't be easy. But if you love to write, and you love books, you can do it. So be brave and take risks.

So that's my advice for young writers. I can guarantee that even if you agree with it and want to take it, you won't follow it all the time. What I'm saying isn't, "Do this perfectly!" it's, "hey, here are some things that are worth trying to do." I hope it helps! Young writers, I salute you.

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Here are the links I promised. They are also on my FAQ page on this blog:

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

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 

The Writing Life (Querying, Beta Readers, Etc.)
Rejection and Hating the Book
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

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

RTW: Writing Seasons


Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. Check out the other responses here!

This Week's Topic is: How does your writing (place, time, inspiration) change with the seasons?

To answer this, I am going to quote George Eliot: "Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns."

(source: blmiers2)
Ah, autumn: that special, brief time between the soul-crushing heat of summer and the onset of my mild winter-related seasonal affective disorder! It's when I wrote the rough draft of Divergent, it's when I did my most successful revision of Insurgent, and now, God willing, it will be the season in which I finish the rough draft of book 3, provided my hands don't crap out first.

(Seriously, my right hand is all throbby and upset right now. It's making life difficult, since I can barely grasp a cup in my left hand without dropping it. In other news, I am a whiner.)

Summer is the season of sunshine (or at least, the season in which we most celebrate sunshine), and I hate sunshine. And heat. (No, I am not a vampire.) Yes, yes, I recognize the necessity of sunshine in promoting life and in keeping me from going crazy, but I usually groan when I wake up and it's all bright and perky outside, because that means I don't get the instant cozy feeling of a rainy day that I so cherish. It's hard for me to write without that cozy feeling, for some reason, so summer is always the worst writing season for me.

However, Instant!Cozy is what autumn is all about. Hot beverages and crisp air and scarves and the crunch of fallen leaves when I walk to my "office," aka a coffee shop, and the thoughtful reflections that necessarily arise when the world is dying around me-- these are the things that put me in the writing mood. (Oh, look-- more morbidity! No wonder people die in my books.)

(source: Zara Tcherneva)
(source: katebartnik)
Winter is almost a tie, because while it is also cozy and I love snow and blankets and seeing my breaths and winter holidays and all those things-- I even love winters HERE, which tend to feature below zero temperatures and slush and salt stains-- my emotional state does tend to take a plunge when the days get shorter, so I have to whip out my light therapy lamp and think cheerful thoughts to compensate. Which eats away at writing time.

And spring in Chicago is very drippy and cold and bare and gross and lasts a maximum of two weeks, so whatever, spring. Whatever. 

For me, writing feels the best when I feel calm and cozy and thoughtful, and that's during autumn and winter, for me. It's also the time when the Midwest feels most like the Midwest, to me-- more about that fascination/obsession here.

What about you? Favorite season, go!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Writing Music

Music has always played an important role in my writing process, mostly because it helps me to capture the right tone in whatever scene I'm working on. If I can't find the right song I spend a lot of time staring blankly at my music library instead of writing, and if I have the right one I can get lost in the word document for a very long time.

When I wrote Divergent I was in that hyperfocused zone for far longer than I've ever been before, and that was largely because I found an entire album that helped me with tone, and it was Memento Mori by Flyleaf. (Not all the songs, but a substantial portion of them.)

I never found an album that helped me with Insurgent, or any particular songs, really, which is perhaps why writing Insurgent was so difficult-- or the difficulty I was having was reflected in my inability to find songs. Or both. And for a long time, book 3 was the same way.

Actually, now that I think about it, I think my inability to connect with music during the drafting process actually suggests a lack of clarity in my own mind-- the plot and the characters get sort of muddled and I'm nervous that I won't be able to un-muddle them, so I can't find anything to listen to that will help me because I'm not even sure what I need.

However, I did stumble across a CD I've had in my library for several months, as if for the first time, while I was in Canada a couple weeks ago:

(source)
I'll bold the songs that have been particularly helpful:

Only If For a Night
Shake It Out
What the Water Gave Me
Never Let Me Go
Breaking Down
Lover to Lover
No Light, No Light
Seven Devils
Heartlines
Spectrum
All This and Heaven Too
Leave My Body

I don't know if this happens to other people, but when I listen to Florence I feel like everything I'm doing is epic, whether I'm washing dishes or petting the dog or tying my shoelaces. So that's sort of perfect for the end of a series, right? I think so.




I hope you enjoy. If you write, tell me about your music habits in the comments! I'm always interested in other writers' processes. (And in discovering new music, if you want to recommend something.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Movie Update!

Oh hi. Remember when I promised you that I would update you on movie stuff when there was information to update you about? Well, today there was this:

http://www.deadline.com/2012/09/divergent-scheduled-for-march-21-2014/

As with any movie-related thing, I feel that I should help out with interpreting the information since I, too, was helped to interpret the information. Here we go:

What This Does NOT (!) Mean: ALL IS SET IN STONE. Everything will happen exactly as anticipated! Everything in the universe is now in alignment and there will be rainbow glitter fairies floating around my head 24-7! Yay!

As we have learned together over the past few years, my darlings, Hollywood is a little tricksy because there are so many things to get in perfect order in order to make things happen. Nothing is final until your buns are in the movie theater chair. That is why I mostly keep my head down and work on book 3 and sometimes sleep.

What This DOES (!) Mean: We of the Divergent book/movie team are excited, enthusiastic, and have some momentum! Things are looking good, guys. So let's wait and see what happens next. (Possibly with nail biting. And that compulsive knee jiggling I love so much.)

Seriously, though: while not a guarantee (and really, is anything guaranteed in this life except death? WOW why did this blog post take such a morbid turn? I must be tired), this is a great sign and I am very happy about it.





Event in Edmonton Tomorrow!

I am writing this from Seattle, where I have spent my three hour layover between Las Vegas and Edmonton watching Pride and Prejudice (the one with Kiera Knightley) and writing things. Soon I will hop on a plane to Edmonton because there will be an event there tomorrow (September 13th) night!

So, without further adieu:

WHO: Me, Kelley Armstrong, Melissa Marr, Ally Condie, Charles de Lint, Beth Revis, and Margaret Stohl.

WHAT: Q&A, signing, and the fabulous LIGHTNING ROUND in which we answer fun questions very quickly.

WHERE: Chapters Westside

WHEN: 6:00PM

WHY: Um....amazing authors + Canadians + books = a really, really good time. I know this. I have experienced it before.

Side note: I've heard some rumors about me only signing books that are bought in-store for events? This rumor is not true. Sometimes authors have to do that because each store has its own set of restrictions for events-- there are reasons they do that, often very good ones involving crowd control, but it's not my guideline. If I am allowed to, I will sign ALL THE THINGS. I will sign shirts and pieces of paper and notecards (and sometimes, if I'm distracted and someone puts them in front of me by accident and I am feeling really pen-happy, I even start to sign other authors' books). That is all.

I hope to see you Edmontonians (?) there!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Las Vegas Tonight!

I'm typing this on my phone, so it will be brief: am going to Vegas! Tonight! With lots of authors: Kelley Armstrong, Melissa Marr, Rachel Caine, Kim Derting, Kami Garcia, and Richelle Mead!

Info on location and time here:

http://smartchickskickit.com/schedule.html

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Event Saturday in Aurora, IL!

The What: I'm going to be speaking on Saturday at the Aurora Public Library's "Catch A Bunch of Authors" Fair! Immediately afterward there will be a little audience q&a with me, Erica O'Rourke, Stacey Kade, and Karly Kirkpatrick. And then a little signing. There are a lot of authors participating! Also, books will be available for purchase at the event. More details here.

The Where: Prisco Community Center, 150 W. Illinois Avenue, Aurora IL

The When: 1:00-3:00 (my talk and the panel will not fill up two hours-- the remainder of the time will be for signing!)

The Why: Because books and libraries are awesome.

The How: Presumably with my vocal cords. Okay, this joke is officially done.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Event on Thursday in Naperville, IL, and Other News

NEWS ROUNDUP:

At 7:00 on Thursday of this week, I will be at Anderson's in Naperville, IL with four wonderful authors: Leigh Bardugo (Shadow and Bone), Dan Krokos (False Memory), Susan Dennard (Something Strange and Deadly), and Erica O'Rourke (Bound).  


Also, there are (only) 240 booklets with exclusive content from each author available to those who order 2 or more books, and there's more information about that here! (Get on it fast, because once those 240 are gone, that is it.)

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I will be at two stops on the Smart Chicks tour this year (which I am really excited about!): the Las Vegas stop (September 11th) and the Edmonton stop (September 13th). For more information about location and times, go here: http://smartchickskickit.com/schedule.html

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IF I LIE by writer friend Corrine Jackson came out today! I posted the cover and summary here awhile ago, but now the book is finally out in the world. I haven't read the whole thing yet, but I read a portion of an early draft and, whoa. Girl can write.

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I recently read two books that I really enjoyed: THE RAVEN BOYS by Maggie Stiefvater (out September 18th) and THE LIST by Siobhan Vivian (out now!). They're two completely different books, but the writing and characters in THE RAVEN BOYS were to. die. for., and I found THE LIST really thought-provoking and engaging (with an interesting exploration of the harm of reducing people to their physical appearances, even if the reduction is supposedly "positive").

I will probably discuss The Raven Boys at length in a later post, because there are some great things to learn about writing and character development from examining it closely.

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I am plugging away at book 3 and that's why I've been somewhat scarce for awhile, but I update my tumblr more frequently because it's easy (I can do it from my phone!), so if you're hungry for my random thoughts, go here: theartofnotwriting.tumblr.com

Monday, August 13, 2012

Loud, Ugly, Wild, Free

I was in my high school choir. I was a second alto. We had a pretty competitive choir program, packed to the brim with extremely talented singers. Was I one of them? Uh...not really. My voice is competent at best, the sort of voice that sounds good in a choir because it blends and there's very little vibrato, but not so great in solos. I also can't read music.

But I like to sing, so in high school I was also in a girls barbershop quartet and, what is more relevant to this story, I took voice lessons for four years. One of my biggest struggles in voice lessons, which should not surprise you at all if you know anything about me, was to loosen up. I tried to control my pitch and tone quality by bearing down as much as I could on my body and my voice, and, far from improving things, it made my tone quality and pitch worse.

My voice teacher, who was a patient man, devised many exercises that might help with this problem, and as I sat down to write today, I remembered one of them in particular. He told me to sing the scale as loudly as possible. As ugly as possible. He told me to go completely overboard, throw everything I had into it, without worrying about how awful it sounded or how loud it was or how "on" it was.

I sucked at this exercise. 

I do not willingly submit to error. No way, man. I am a perfectionist to the very core of my being. I scrutinize every single thing I do. That includes writing. That includes writing first drafts, which by their very nature are supposed to be shitty.

I use the word "shitty" because there's a wonderful chapter in Anne Lamott's book Bird by Bird called "Shitty First Drafts." Here is a quote from it (emphasis mine):

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it.

Here are several truths that I know but simultaneously cannot convince myself of:

1. A first draft will always, always, always need to be revised, and possibly rewritten. This cannot be avoided.
2. Perfectionism harms the creative effort, not just because it impedes progress, but because it restricts the creativity itself.

Or, to put it simply: perfectionism actually makes your art (whatever it is) suck more.

So, hilariously, my attempts to make my first drafts perfect actually make my first drafts more shitty than they would have been if I had just loosened up and let myself be creative.

Case in point: I wrote Divergent with all the wild freedom of someone who believes that their writing will never be seen by anyone. I wrote Insurgent with all the neurotic controllingness of someone who is aware that their writing will be seen by people-- a lot of people.

Guess which one required more extensive revisions?

If you guessed Insurgent-- DING DING DING, you are correct!

If we can return to the vocal exercise for a moment: yes, I was terrible at it-- I was terrible at being terrible! Who knew? But I always found that after that exercise, when we moved on to something else, I sounded much better than before. Even the tiny amount I was able to loosen up made me so much better at singing. Basically, the louder and uglier I was able to be, the better my voice became.

The crazier and wilder and freer I am with my first drafts, the better they turn out.

I have known this for awhile, so I try to write by just letting the errors happen, but I think that's maybe not the right way to think about it, for me. For me, it doesn't really help to decide to write a shitty first draft and let that be the end of it, because it goes completely against my nature and the core of my person-- it's too hard for me, in other words, to just say "oh well. It's going to be bad." That means traveling too far away from who I am.

I think, instead, that I should try to make it as BIG and as LOUD and as CRAZY as possible. Just like in voice lessons, when I was honking out those notes as loudly and as comically ugly as possible, like a goose with a throat infection, and somehow, I found my way to something more beautiful. The trick for those of us who are such strong perfectionists that we can't even conceive of writing something deeply flawed on purpose is not embracing error but embracing something else: freedom.

This is true of every single creative effort. My mother is an artist, and I have watched her migrate away from careful, meticulous watercolors and a kind of internal desire to make things pretty, and toward a style that is nightmareish and, frankly, a little weird-- and it is so much more beautiful. And how many episodes of So You Think You Can Dance does a girl have to watch before she realizes that the brave, free dancers who are able to let go of perfect technique are the ones that make Nigel tear up-- the ones that create something truly genius?

We think, somewhere deep inside, that we are helping ourselves by being perfectionists, but what we are doing is squeezing ourselves so hard that barely any air can escape.

I, for one, would love to stop doing that, but it's not as easy as wanting it to happen, is it?

Part of it is finding a way to get lost in the work, I think. To submerge yourself in it and let it get messy and ugly and insane and oh my god no one should ever read this and why did I write that paragraph and this section is downright hilarious and what does that word even mean and this is ridiculous and this feels amazing and somehow, from a particular angle and in a peculiar way and maybe only to me, this is

beautiful.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

On Erudite, Anti-Intellectualism, and the Overlap Between the Writer and the Story

*Divergent spoilers everywhere in this post. And mild Insurgent spoilers.*

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Oh, Erudite. You get a bad rep, don't you? Let's talk about why.

First: Divergent is written from Tris's point of view, so you have to keep in mind that the things you see, you see through her lens-- and she has biases. The bias against Erudite came from her father, who emphasizes only how power-hungry and corrupt they are. These biases seem to be confirmed at the end of Divergent when the Erudite do exactly what Tris's father taught her to expect-- they make a play for control over the city.

However, we also see that Tris's father is pretty close-minded. He just assumes that his children will choose Abnegation. He scolds them any time they fail to live up to their faction's ideals. When Tris leaves Abnegation, her mother is proud, despite her sadness, but her father is enraged. He won't even visit her on Visiting Day. So you have to take what he says with a grain of salt, even though Tris doesn't.

A lot of Divergent involves Tris waking up to the truth. Realizing that the Dauntless are more than just a pack of adrenaline junkies looking for a rush, as her father told her. That murder does actually happen within the city limits. That her mother wasn't always Abnegation. That not everyone fits into a faction. That selflessness and bravery aren't all that different.

Unfortunately, she doesn't really wake up to the truth about Erudite, which is this: that they are just like Dauntless. They have a morally corrupt leader, and a few seriously warped members, but there are many of them who hold to the real values of Erudite, which are open-mindedness, innovation, creative thinking, knowledge, and most importantly, using that knowledge to better other people's lives. This seems to me to be echoed in real life, with a lot of our groups in this country: a small minority happen to scream the loudest, and we identify the rest of the group with that minority without realizing the variation and the nuances of belief that exist beyond them. It's natural, I think, but also something we have to fight against.

Tris begins to realize the nuances in Erudite in Insurgent when she encounters Fernando and Cara and the others who have taken refuge in the Amity compound. That whole scene, really, is supposed to show how Erudite is when Jeanine is not around-- how its members strive for accuracy and clarity in their speech, and how they gently (or humorously) correct each other, how they make jokes, how they delight in information, and how they take an interest in what other people believe, even if they don't agree. Here's the quote I'm really referring to:

(Cara is talking about the stunner.)

"...I made it so that the Amity would have a way of defending themselves without shooting anyone."

"That's..." I frown. "Understanding of you."

"Well, technology is supposed to make life better," she says. "No matter what you believe, there's a technology out there for you."

What did my mother say, in that simulation? "I worry that your father's blustering about Erudite has been to your detriment." What if she was right, even if she was just part of a simulation? My father taught me to see Erudite a particular way. He never taught me that they made no judgments about what people believed, but designed things for them within the confines of those beliefs. He never told me that they could be funny, or that they could critique their faction from the inside.

Cara lunges toward Fernando with the stunner, laughing when he jumps back.

He never told me that an Erudite could offer to help me even after I killed her brother.

(p452-453)

To go a little deeper, I think it's interesting how our lives and our struggles creep into our writing. When I wrote Divergent, I did not have a particularly good relationship with the Erudite in my life. I was in the creative writing program, surrounded by (at least what I perceived to be) scorn for commercial writing, while also engaging in that scorned writing in secret. I was also struggling with my relationship to a family member whose intellect had made him elitist and condescending. If Divergent has an anti-intellectual bent, it's because of a combination of things-- because Tris is the protagonist; because if you're going to have a mastermind behind a take-over plan in the world of Divergent, the most natural mastermind ("mind," get it?) is an Erudite; and because I was wrestling with some things.

By the time I wrote Insurgent, I had found a way out of that place. I was dating my husband, who loved to read and think and talk about his thoughts, and I was re-learning my fascination with the world and everything in it. I have always loved learning, and found it to be one of the most valuable pursuits available to us. I think that knowledge can arm people against evil in a thousand different ways, each of them worthwhile. But this is a perspective I had to re-claim, and am still re-claiming. As I wake up, I find that Tris also wakes up--not because she and I are the same, but because I often work out my struggles in my writing, without really knowing it.

With things like this, it's easy to agonize over what I wish I had done-- I wish Erudite had been more nuanced in the first book, I wish there were more Erudite characters, I wish I wish I wish. I think this happens to every writer years after they write their first book-- it's something you finished and grew from years before, but that people are just discovering for the first time. But I try not to agonize-- I try to just know that every book will reflect a different part of my journey through life, and that means every book will be a bit messy in certain ways, because I am a bit messy in certain ways.

In the past few years I've learned that I need to develop a compassionate attitude toward myself and my work. It's in my nature to be very critical of myself and what I've done, and while that's necessary for growth, it needs to be blended with gentleness. So, if there are any writers reading this, remember to be kind to yourself and to your old work. Delight in the things you did well, and if nothing else, value your old work for the little pieces of yourself and your struggle that are buried in it. It's a piece of your personal history.

So, the Erudite: they are becoming one of my favorite factions, over time. But it's taken some time for me to get there.

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