Monday, February 21, 2011

Really Quick: About E-Mail

I was crossing my fingers and hoping I wouldn't have to address this, but as time wears on I realize I probably should. Here goes: I am crap at answering e-mail.

Many of you have e-mailed me, either to ask for something in particular or simply to share your reactions to the ARC or the blog. The reasons I haven't responded are twofold:

A. I suddenly find myself getting a lot of e-mail, and by the end of the day, the collection of e-mails seems so large that I am almost certain it will congeal into an e-mail shaped monster with very sharp teeth that will eat me whole if I so much as try to respond even to one.

B. Because I am trying very hard to finish the rough draft of D2 (the sequel to Divergent, for those not In The Know), I have not had time to fashion myself a sword to combat that menacing e-mail monster. (Or, if you'd rather me say it plainly, I'm trying to prioritize: draft before e-mails.)

So I'm going to respond very generally here.

Question 1: "Can you send me an ARC?"

Lovely E-Mailer, I would love to send you an ARC. I really, really would. In fact, I would love to send you a free hardcover copy, even though those don't exist yet. But I just don't have them. If you would like an ARC, you must contact HarperCollins. I will try my best to forward your request, but that also takes a lot of time, so please be understanding if I don't manage to do that.

Question 2: "Can I interview you?"

Lovely E-Mailer #2, I would also love to do an interview. However, I won't be able to do every interview I'm asked to do. And I'm not sure how many I'm going to do. And I'm not sure how I'm going to pick which ones I do and don't do. So...give me a bit to figure that out. *flail* I will try to get back to you.

E-Mail 3: "I read your book! And it was [insert adjective here]!"

First of all, thank you so much for e-mailing me! I am really delighted to read reactions to the ARC. I'm even open to somewhat-less-positive reactions (though I don't delight in those so much, they are still important). And every e-mail I get, I do read, so I promise you that I got your e-mail, smiled at it, wanted to reply with a thank you and a few "what did you think of THIS part? Or THIS part? Did you get confused at THIS part?" questions, decided I needed to work on the draft first, put the e-mail aside, and promptly forgot about it. I'm going to try to respond to you all in due time, but I may not get to it, so I will say this here, now: I really appreciate hearing from you.

And for those of you wondering how on earth you can send me e-mail, my address is veronicarothbooks[at]gmail[dot]com.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Some Advice for Young Writers: Above All, Do the Work

I think I've gotten asked about what advice I would give to young writers a few times recently, so, here goes.

My advice to young writers is manifold. The first is: learn to love criticism.

When I was a young(er) writer, I never wanted anyone to read my writing because I was afraid they would tell me that it sucked. So I hid all my stories away until college, when I took my first writing class, and no longer had the option of hiding anymore. So I lovingly crafted my first short story, revised it a million times, and then submitted it for workshop, thinking, "I'm pretty good. Maybe they'll like it."

And I. Got. Smashed. To. Bits.


But this story has a good ending, or I wouldn't be telling you. I went through the obligatory period of mourning, involving some anger and some tears. And then, several days later, I finally sat down with my story and something interesting happened. I found that I was able to look at it honestly. To see what some of my classmates had seen in it.

Soberly I set about revising it, toning down its ridiculousness, refining its rough edges, and reworking some of its themes. And the story, while still not very good, got better.

I've always been awed by people who do extreme sports (you know: skateboarding, BMX, etc.) because they continually get injured (and not just injured, but REALLY freaking injured) and then, weeks or months later when they finally heal, they're right back on that giant ramp on that little board with wheels, itching to try again. Is it masochism? Or is it something else?

But the thing is, if you want to be a good writer, you have to be a little like people who do extreme sports. For me, critique always hurts. But I keep throwing myself back into it because I love to write-- and not just to write, but to see my writing improve over time. There was nothing more rewarding than taking another class with my first writing professor, about a year after The Story We Do Not Speak Of, and hearing her tell me how much I surprised her with the progress I had made.

So my advice? Let people read your work. Not just ANY people, mind you, but people you trust to give you honest and constructive feedback. And when you get that feedback, don't be so stubborn that you can't listen to it. You're young and you don't know everything; I know that because I'm young too. But that's okay, because you have time to learn.

One of the quotes I see most often from writers is this one: "Ever try. Ever fail. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." (Samuel Beckett) I'm not REALLY into inspirational writer quotes, but I take that "fail better" to heart. I find it extremely useful to think about my writing that way. Because I still get criticized. (The only difference is, now a lot of it is/will continue to be public!)

I just tell myself to fail better next time.

The second piece of advice is: be persistent. I will say this: if you're only writing because you like the idea of being published, or something like that, you probably won't be able to make it through all the criticism you're going to get before you reach the "published" point. If you write because you love stories and you love words, you will continue to write no matter how hard people hit you with critique. And you should. Write your adolescent fingers off. Write so much your family thinks you're turning into a recluse. (Mine did!)

And last: be patient. It's hard, because everything in life feels like it's hurtling along so fast when you're a teenager that you get used to it, and you want everything to work that way. But if you declare your book finished too soon, and send queries too soon, you will get frustrated too soon. Take the time to learn, not just about writing, but about the publishing world and how it works.

Really, it all boils down to this: do the work. Writing is fun, but it's also work, and improvement and success don't just fall into your lap. That's true of any profession.

(But ours is the best one.)

Monday, February 14, 2011

It's Like I'm SEVENTEEN Again...

So, in case you've all been wondering if I fell off the face of the earth and into some kind of dark abyss: I haven't, really. I have been hard at work finishing the first draft of D2, and will be depriving myself of most Internet usage until I accomplish that task. But this is an exception, because something COOL happened.

A little while ago I got an e-mail asking me for a photo, because...*dramatic pause*...Ann Shoket, the editor-in-chief of Seventeen Magazine wanted to include it in her Editor's Letter for the March issue. Immediately I ran to my computer (okay, I didn't run, because I was sitting right there) and e-mailed my sister, because she and I used to get Seventeen when we were younger (or rather, she got it, and I stole it from her.). And we had a little freakout moment together. It was wonderful.

The other day while I was in the glamorous town of Stockton, IL, I bought a copy of Seventeen in the local grocery store. Let me tell you: I have experienced nothing more bizarre than purchasing a magazine that has my face in it.

To Ann Shoket and everyone over at Seventeen: thank you for this extremely cool experience. And for liking Divergent!

And to everyone else, here's the page so you can see it:

If you're of Seventeen age, I encourage you to go out and get the magazine itself.

Heck, even if you're not.

I'm going to retreat into my writing cave again. Hopefully I'll be out soon!


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