Veronica Roth's Blog, page 4

February 8, 2013

[Before I get into it: this has been widely reported already, but just in case you haven't seen it, there's a Divergent extras casting call for Illinois residents over 16 tomorrow in Chicago. More information here (after the bold heading "casting call").]


A few years ago I went through a series of huge changes in my life. They were good changes, for the most part, but they left me strangely...blank. I was no longer sure what sort of person I was, or what I wanted, or what I enjoyed. It was nerve-wracking, but it was also an opportunity.

Not long after this, I started dating my current husband. When we were getting to know each other, he would ask me questions like, "Do you like this?" or "Do you like that?", about food or clothes or movies, etc., and my answer was always: "No. Well, maybe. Let's try it and see if I like it."

As I said, it was an opportunity-- an opportunity to get to know the world again, like I was an alien who had just landed on earth and needed to be introduced to everything for the first time. I discovered that I liked high heels and short hair and fashion and sausage pizza and Flannery O'Connor, and that I didn't really like watching television, or Mark Twain, or "that's what she said" jokes, or arguing for sport. I discovered a lot more important things than that, too, about the baggage I carried and the person I wanted to be and the way I wanted to look at other people. I'm different, now, because of those explosive, terrifying, jarring months.

Over a year later, during a therapy session, I learned about a concept in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy called "Beginner's Mind." Very simply put, beginner's mind is the practice of approaching things--even things with which we are very familiar-- without preconceived notions about them, with the openness and eagerness of a child. I had a beginner's mind in those months I was just describing. Periodically I have to remind myself to try to get it back.

When I read Emerson's essay "Self-Reliance" in high school, this quote stood out to me and has stayed with me ever since: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." I may be misinterpreting it, of course, but to me it means, you don't have to like the things you've always liked just because you've always liked them. You don't have to think the things you've always thought just because you've always thought them. Let yourself change, because it's better to be accused of inconsistency than to be closed to most experiences or ideas.

As with most of my life lessons, this is also a writing lesson. As I revise the third book, it seems more important than ever. When I received my editor's feedback about Book 3's manuscript-- and this happens to me every time I receive feedback-- part of me recoiled from it, frustrated and afraid of seeing my book in a new and different way.

Good feedback forces writers to re-envision certain parts of our work. To the stubborn, defensive writer, this new vision is hostile; it threatens us and our writing, and we try to come up with excuses or defenses for what exists in our work so that we don't have to change it. To the writer with a beginner's mind, though, this new vision is an opportunity to experience our work in a new, different way-- like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, offering a different path that may actually be more enjoyable than the first.

Example: when I first wrote Divergent, the scenes that showcase the positive aspects of Dauntless life (ziplining off the Hancock building! Capture the Flag!) were not there. My editor pointed out that without some evidence for the good parts of the Dauntless, it doesn't make sense for someone as determined and brave as Tris to stay there instead of just defecting to the factionless when it's clear that the Dauntless way of life is deeply flawed. She also pointed out that the manuscript as it was was sort of a grim slog through a truly horrible initiation experience-- without high points, the reader would never actually feel the contrast of the low points, would not mourn with Tris when bad things happened to her.

My initial reaction to this was that my editor had not understood my vision, not just of the Dauntless, but of Tris's story and what it meant. Still, I decided to give it a try, so I wrote the Ferris wheel scene, and I wrote the ziplining scene, and my vision of Dauntless life and Tris's story expanded rapidly. To this day, those scenes are two of my favorites in the book, because they took away the simplistic view I had had of the story and the world and replaced it with a more interesting, more nuanced one.

I dragged my feet finding my way back to a beginner's mind then; it wasn't so difficult the next time. The next time, I discovered that even though revising is difficult, it can also be fun-- fun, to see the story in a different way or to try out new things, to show different aspects of characters or places, to explore the world you've created as if you're a beginner.

And really, I'm not an expert at anything, particularly at my age-- not writing, not food, not relationships, not even my own brain. So why do I try to have an Expert's Mind instead of a Beginner's one?

The take away from this, I guess, is that when someone critiques your story, or asks you if you like something you haven't tried in awhile, or tries to get you to see something from a new point of view, it's okay (and maybe even good) to say, no. Well, maybe. Let's try it and see.
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Published on February 08, 2013 10:57 • 1,931 views

January 15, 2013

It's been awhile since I posted, mostly because holidays + stomach flu + more holidays + revisions = me not on the Internet very much. It seems like a good time to update you on some things that will be happening in the near future (or all of 2013, really). It's going to be an exciting year, Divergent-style!

So, here we go. The things that will happen this year:

1. Book 3 comes out in the fall! I don't have an official date to share with you, but I will let you know when I get one. This also means that you will find out the title and see the cover this year (obviously), but I'm not sure exactly when, because I have to get the go-ahead from my publisher and they have Plans for all these things.

2. Filming for the Divergent movie will be happening in the spring-- in Chicago! I am beyond happy that this worked out. I love Chicago. I've lived here for most of my life, and the city was obviously a huge inspiration for the books. I can't really express how cool it is that the city represented in the movie will be the actual city that I love. They're also reporting that this could create something like 1,000 local jobs and put some money into the Chicago economy, which makes me extra happy.

Also exciting, on a more personal level? Being in the local news! Check it out: here at the Chicago Tribune and here at NBC Chicago.

3. I have a short story coming out in the anthology Shards and Ashes, edited by Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong, which will be available February 19th. My story is not set in Divergentland, but I had a great experience writing it, and if you want to know more about what it's about, check out the Books page on this blog.

Exciting,  no? That's all I've got for now. I hope you're all having a great start to your 2013.

-V
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Published on January 15, 2013 10:49 • 5,206 views

December 10, 2012

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[image error]
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Published on December 10, 2012 15:40 • 2,134 views

December 7, 2012


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[image error]
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Published on December 07, 2012 15:02 • 2,606 views

November 29, 2012

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![image error]
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Published on November 29, 2012 15:41 • 1,226 views

November 26, 2012

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.[image error]
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Published on November 26, 2012 20:17 • 1,022 views

November 23, 2012

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 [image error]
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Published on November 23, 2012 22:59 • 1,932 views

November 6, 2012

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.).[image error]
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Published on November 06, 2012 06:00 • 1,442 views

November 5, 2012

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.[image error]
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Published on November 05, 2012 06:00 • 1,082 views

November 2, 2012

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[image error]
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Published on November 02, 2012 09:36 • 1,434 views