Happy New Year!
I’m wrapping up some loose ends, running some errands, making a plan, and all-around preparing myself for a fantastic 2014… and no doubt a very busy 2014 as well.
In 2013, I revised and edited CRESS and wrote the second draft of WINTER. I also wrote one prequel novella and two companion short stories.
I also read 61 books, many of which blew me away. There were a gazillion on my TBR that I didn’t get to, including the sequels and conclusions to some of my favorite series, so I look forward to jumping back into some of my favorite fictional worlds this year!
My Fourth Quarter Picks
Without a doubt, the books that spoke to me most this quarter were The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater. I am so in love with these books, and I was left with such a book hangover after reading them. Everything from the story and history and atmosphere to the characters – oh! The characters. Some of the most dynamic characters and relationships I’ve ever read. If you haven’t started this series yet, I highly recommend it!
I also really enjoyed Nerve by Jeanne Ryan, which completely caught me off-guard with its intensity. My heart was racing for the last 100 pages and there were plenty of twists I didn’t see coming. Think Truth or Dare – meets – viral videos – meets – The Hunger Games. *chills*
I’ll be posting my Top Ten Books of the Year tomorrow. In the meantime, here is the complete reading list.
1. Style, by Lauren Conrad
2 Perfect Chemistry, by Simone Elkeles
3. The Archived, by Victoria Schwab
4. The Madman’s Daughter, by Megan Shepherd
5. For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund
6. Shades of Earth, by Beth Revis
7. Suite Scarlett, by Maureen Johnson
8. The Summer Prince, by Alaya Dawn Johnson
9. Fair Coin, by E.C. Myers
10. First Frost, by Liz DeJesus
11. Prodigy, by Marie Lu
12. Redshirts, by John Scalzi
13. Ashes, by Ilsa J. Bick
14. Article 5, by Kristen Simmons
15. Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality, by Elizabeth Eulberg
16. Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection, by A.J. Jacobs
17. Cinder, by Me!
18. Scarlet, by Me!
19. Don’t Expect Magic, by Kathy McCullough
20. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, by Jennifer E. Smith
21. Sailor Twain, or The Mermaid in the Hudson, by Mark Siegel (graphic novel)
22. A Midsummer’s Nightmare, by Kody Keplinger
23. The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
24. Antigoddess, by Kendare Blake
25. Texas Gothic, by Rosemary Clement-Moore
26. Spirit and Dust, by Rosemary Clement-Moore
27. The Tao of Martha, by Jen Lancaster
28. The Know-it-all, by A.J. Jacobs
29. Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale
30. This Is What Happy Looks Like, by Jennifer E. Smith
31. Populazzi, by Elise Allen
32. A Week to be Wicked, by Tessa Dare
33. A Lady by Midnight, by Tessa Dare
34. The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern
35. Dead is a Killer Tune, by Marlene Perez
36. Pluto, by Urasawa Tezuka (graphic novel)
37. Clarity, by Kim Harrington
38. The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate
39. Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong, by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks (graphic novel)
40. The Madness Underneath, by Maureen Johnson
41. Grave Mercy, by Robin LaFevers
42. Dark Triumph, by Robin LaFevers
43. This Song Will Save Your Life, by Leila Sales
44. Possess, by Gretchen McNeil
45. The Successful Novelist, by David Morrell
46. The Fallout, by S.A. Bodeen
47. Tumble & Fall, by Alexandra Coutts
48. Of Triton, by Anna Banks
49. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, by Holly Black
50. Unthinkable, by Nancy Werlin
51. The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater
52. The Nightmare Dilemma, by Mindee Arnett
53. The Dream Thieves, by Maggie Stiefvater
54. Allegiant, by Veronica Roth
55. The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant, by Joanna Wiebe
56. Adoption for Dummies, by Tracy Barr and Katrina Carlisle
57. Bossypants, by Tina Fey
58. Champion, by Marie Lu
59. Nerve, by Jeanne Ryan
60. United We Spy, by Ally Carter
61. The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin
My husband and I have just made the official announcement to our friends and families, and I wanted to share the exciting news here as well.
We are currently in the process of adopting our first child!
Though there are no guarantees with these things, we hope to have a new addition to our family by this time next year, and I look forward to sharing adorable pictures when I can.
We made the decision to adopt back in August, and since then have noticed some continuity in the questions people ask, so here are some…
Domestic or International?
There are certainly valid arguments for adopting both domestically and internationally. Jesse and I have chosen to adopt domestically, right here in Washington state.
Private or Public?
Private adoption typically refers to babies who are relinquished by their birth parents at birth. Public adoption refers to the foster care system. Jesse and I have chosen to work with Amara, an adoption agency that fosters both types of adoptions, and we are open to both. So we’re kind of letting fate decide on that one.
For our first child, Jesse and I are hopeful in adopting a baby (0-24 months). We have no preference on gender. Again, we’ll see what fate hands us.
What is the process even like to adpot a child?
The process varies based on a variety of factors (domestic v. international, private v. public, and more), but generally, adoptive parents complete a home study, either through an adoption agency or the foster care system. The home study includes a series of interviews, a home inspection, training and classes, and lots and lots of paperwork. It typically takes three to six months from start to finish.
From there, families undergoing private adoption will usually put together a profile that introduces themselves to birth families – their lifestyle, values, etc. That profile is given to birth families who can choose who they think is the best family for their child.
With public adoption, you work with a social worker who will find a child from the foster system that will fit your family, and that you will be a good home for.
(That is obviously a very, very simplified look at the process.)
Aren’t you worried about all the risks?
This question comes up a lot, but can refer to a multitude of different “risks.”
Risk 1: You have an arrangement with a birth family/pregnant woman, but when the child arrives, they change their mind and decide to keep the baby instead.
Risk 2: You receive a child from the foster care system, but then they’re reunited with their birth family before your adoption can be finalized.
Risk 3: Any number of health issues, both in the child and the birth parents, or psychological issues due to abuse or neglect.
Risk 4: The “you’re not my real parents and I don’t have to listen to you!” rebellion stage, and/or your child wanting to learn more or even meet their birth family at some point.
The fact is, the adoption process can indeed be a rollercoaster with lots of ups and downs, but we’re willing to weather the storms as they come. A lot of the training that adoptive parents go through is focused on making them more prepared for these potential heartaches.
(Not to mention that there are plenty of risks with having a biological child, too!)
It’s probably none of my business, but . . . why adoption?
This is my favorite question because everyone wants to know but everyone also recognizes that it’s probably rude to ask. But we are an open book and have no problem talking about our decision.
Obviously, it’s common for people to choose adoption after experiencing fertility issues, so that tends to be the first assumption. In our case, adoption is and was our first choice for having a child. Jesse and I recognize that there are a lot of children all over the world in need of stable, supportive families, and it was more important to us to offer our home to one of those children rather than have a genetic connection. Without negating the biological bond that forms between a parent and child, we feel strongly that the true value of parenting is about the love and security you give. So adoption felt like the best choice for us from the beginning.
That pretty much covers the big ones.
I am very, very excited to meet my child!!
With only 46 days (!!!) to go before Cress hits stores and I take off on my epic Cress book tour, it’s time for me to start brainstorming the all-important saying that I’ll write in the book during signings.
This is one of those weird things that kind of stresses me out every year. While a generic saying, such as “Enjoy!” or “Happy Reading!” would no doubt be perfectly acceptable, I really like to write something that relates to the book. Ideally I’ll also have a saying that is gender-neutral.
For CINDER, my go-to phrase is:
Once upon a future . . .
Though if I have more time, I might spice it up by writing:
May the glass slipper always fit.
May your fairy godmother always be on call.
Live long and charming.
For SCARLET, I usually write:
Beware the Big Bad Wolf.
But for CRESS, so far all I’ve come up with is:
Let down your hair.
Which is okay, but a little cheesy and feminine and, you know, what if I’m signing for someone who’s bald?
So I’m seeking your help, guys! Obviously, I know that most of you have not yet had the chance to read CRESS, but I’m open to any ideas that reference Rapunzel or the first two TLC books too.
I’m pleased to welcome three special guests today—the top three word-count writers from the Write Like Crazy NaNoWriMo Challenge! Each of these ladies wrote over HALF A MILLION WORDS, which is beyond amazing, and they were all kind enough to write a few hundred more to answer some of my questions.
I am super inspired by their dedication, and I hope you will be as well!
Please welcome Sam (561,921 words), Taryn (555,000 words) and Katie (500,005 words) to the blog!
Marissa: Do you want to tell us a little bit about the projects you were working on during November? I know some of you wrote multiple novels last month—which makes sense!
Sam: My novels were about a government training/ recruitment program for teens that wouldn’t be missed in the world. The government could train these teen soldiers to kill and go into war, and not have to answer to any surviving family members about the teen’s whereabouts or untimely deaths.
MG fantasy about two kids who uncover a monster smuggling ring
NA contemp about two girls who learn they’re dating the same guy
YA fantasy crossing Rumspringa with a Native American vision quest
Space opera retelling of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
NA romance retelling My Fair Lady
Katie: I wrote four novels last month. The first was about a high school senior who’s trying to figure out where to go to college while dealing with her dysfunctional extended family. The second was a college romance about a young woman trying to reconcile her desires with her feminist beliefs. The third was about a high school football player wrongly accused of murder. The fourth was about a high school dropout who tries to get over the death of her twin sister by hiking the 2,000+ mile-long Appalachian Trail. I also wrote several short stories and sort of “deleted scenes” featuring characters from different novels.
Marissa: What’s next for you and your writing? Do you plan to revise these projects? Any hopes for future publication?
Sam: I definitely plan to revise my first novel, Experiment Area 96, because I really am proud of how that one planned out. The two sequels are kind of iffy for me. I don’t think I like how my plot went and I may end up just rewriting both. I’m sure deep down inside I want my book published, but I have that little self-conscious voice in my head that’s spewing what ifs. What if they all reject it? What if they publish it and all the readers hate it? So. Maybe when I get this voice tied up, gagged in a closet somewhere, I’ll want my book published.
Taryn: I have an agent, and we’re subbing a project from earlier this year. A couple of these will be revised while that one’s out, so we’ll see!
Katie: I have two novels that I promised myself I would rewrite once NaNo was over. Once I’ve edited those, I will go back and edit the projects I wrote last month. I really want to be published, and I currently have ten completed drafts that I need to work on. My plan is to make 2014 the year that I focus more on editing the novels I’ve already written and less on writing new novels. (Of course, I also said that last year!)
Marissa: How many times had you competed in NaNoWriMo before this? Was this the first time you pushed yourself to this degree, or is your ability to rack up mind-blowing word counts old news to you and your family?
Sam: This was actually my first ‘official’ NaNo. I did fanfiction for almost two years, racking up almost 16 stories. I think my longest story was about 200,000 words.
Taryn: 7th NaNo! My first one just barely made it across the 50K line. Finished in 3 days last year, but this is the first year I kept that pace up the whole way through.
Katie: This was my seventh year participating in NaNoWriMo, and the fifth year that I hit at least 50k. It wasn’t until my fourth year that I learned that there were people who set out to write more than 50k. So the next year I set myself a goal of 75k and ended up hitting 222k. Last year I tried to hit 250k and ended up falling short at 242k. This year I thought I would be lucky to hit 250k. I never thought that I would be able to write half a million! I didn’t even make that my official goal until about halfway through the month when I realized that I was still on pace for 500k.
Marissa: Speaking of friends and family—what did they think during your November writing madness? Did you have a lot of support, or did they mostly just think you’re crazy?
Sam: I actually only told my mom that I was doing it! She didn’t really say much or understand the significance. As for madness, I usually spend most of my days in my room anyways. (Antisocial teen stereotype. I know.) So my family didn’t think much of it.
Taryn: I don’t have a roommate, so I basically spent most of my time in my room when I wasn’t at class or at the gym. No one was around enough to think I was crazy. My support system was twitter, and that was vital.
Katie: My family thinks I’m crazy, but they’re pretty much used to it by now. They got a bit annoyed at the constant writing, but they were still really supportive. My boyfriend constantly volunteered to make me more tea when I ran out, and he always cheered me on when I felt like giving up. And my friends are mostly fellow Wrimos, so they definitely helped cheer me on!
Marissa: Can you offer any tips or techniques for how to be such an efficient word-count machine? (In other words: How did you do it?!)
Sam: I used a technique that my shop teacher actually taught me. That is to retype a same sentence while you think of your next one, just so you don’t get stuck there staring at a blinking black line. I also planned. A TON.
Taryn: I have a ton of tips on my blog, but the most important one is this: Know how you write. Know your pace and how long you can keep it up and how long you need to recharge in between writing sessions. Plan ahead—A) in order to be excited about what you’re writing, and B) in order to not have distractions discourage you.
Katie: There are three things that I absolutely would not have won without. A) Write or Die. I don’t know what it is about that program, but it completely silences my inner editor about 98 percent of the time. Best ten bucks I’ve ever spent. B) Word wars. I have an awesome chat group that ran word wars all the time, and those (combined with WoD) really helped push me to write more than I would have on my own. C) A friend really close to you in word count. I wanted to stop writing a lot in the beginning of the month when I was so far ahead of my goal, but every time I wanted to quit, a fellow Wrimo was really close to me, and I had to keep writing so she wouldn’t catch up. Those three things combined to keep me writing all month long, even when I wanted to stop.
Of course, it also helps that I had a lot of free time and have gotten to the point where I can easily type 3-4k an hour. I even hit 5k an hour once. That definitely was something that I worked up to, though. It was only a few years ago that I thought 1k in 30 minutes was impossible for me!
Marissa: How about any advice for staying sane during a huge writing marathon like this?
Sam: Outline. Outline. OUTLINE. It helps decrease the panic when you reach a word block. Just go over your outline and try to get a feel for where your story is going.
Katie: Remember to have fun. I have a lot of friends in chat, and I would never have made it if I didn’t have them there to cheer for me when I did something awesomely crazy, to motivate me when I felt down, and just to joke around when I needed to think about something other than my novel. Writing is clearly important, but it’s also important to make sure that you have people around—either in person or online—who can make you laugh when you need it.
Marissa: What was your favorite part of the Write Like Crazy Challenge, or NaNoWriMo in general? Least favorite part?
Sam: My favorite part of NaNo was just the community. I grew to love checking twitter to see how everyone was doing and connecting with others going through the same thing I was. My least favorite part was having self doubts and stressing over wanting to win the challenge so bad. My own mind was freaking out on me when I didn’t type fast enough for all the information it was spewing at me.
Taryn: I love the atmosphere of NaNo, where creating is of #1 importance. Too many people get caught up in the minutiae of writing, but without a full picture, the details don’t matter.
Katie: I loved the Write Like Crazy challenge because it really helped push me to write more than I originally intended. NaNoWriMo is great in general because it pushes me to write in general. I’ve always loved creating stories, but I was always afraid to write them down because they were never as good on paper as they were in my head. And NaNo helped me realize that that’s okay, that there’s always another draft to write that can make it better, that a first draft doesn’t have to be good.
My least favorite part of NaNoWriMo is all the hate that comes with writing more than 50k. People on the forums can be really nasty sometimes. A bunch of people have gotten hate mail, and we have a bunch of people who come into the “Beyond 50k” forum (designed particularly for people who write more than 50k in a month, or 50k in less than a month) and start telling us that we must by lying or cheating or writing stuff that is of substantially lower quality than all the other drafts. Of course, there are also a lot of great people on the forums, and those people definitely outnumber the bad ones. The trick is to learning how to ignore the haters and just to keep doing what we love doing—writing.
Marissa: Would you do it again?
Sam: My gut is telling me NO! Even though it was an awesome experience, my school work decreased drastically! I already have school anxiety, and not completing school work really killed some of my grades. But have no fear, I managed to complete almost all of my work on time. Most of it. It was a sacrifice I was willing to make.
Taryn: Probably not >500K. Writing 16,667/day left me creatively exhausted. Still, I plan to stick with 2 full MSs each NaNo. Having thousands of other writers doing the exact same thing—challenging themselves—is so motivational.
Katie: Maybe. Somewhere around week three, I told myself that I would never, ever do this again. But then I hit 500k a day early, and then I started to think about how much I could have written if I had actually aimed for 500k the entire time instead of just sort of half-aiming for it most of the month, and now I really want to see if I can write more, or at least hit 500k faster. But that will have to wait for a month when I have more free time. I’m hoping to start my first year of teaching next year, and while I’ll still be aiming for at least 100k, I doubt I will be able to write 500k and teach. Although I guess I’ll never know if I don’t try.
Marissa: I am so inspired after reading your answers! Thanks for answering my questions, and I wish you the best of luck with your revisions and future writing projects… and catching up on that school work!
I have a couple announcements for you on this fine, frosty December morning.
Many of you have been asking where the prequel short stories, “Glitches” and “The Queen’s Army” disappeared to a few weeks ago. Not to fear! They are now posted again, totally free and open to international readers!
“Glitches”: In this prequel to Cinder, we see the results of the plague play out, and the emotional toll it takes on Cinder. Something that may, or may not, be a glitch….
“The Queen’s Army”: In this prequel to Scarlet, we’re introduced to the army Queen Levana is building, and one soldier in particular who will do anything to keep from becoming the monster they want him to be.
That link also includes the first five chapters of Cinder, Scarlet, AND Cress—so happy reading!
I was interviewed for yesterday’s GoodReads YA Newsletter, where I talk Cress, the Lunar Chronicles, and even read a poem that I penned when I was sixteen.
(Confession: video interviews always kind of freak me out, but this one was so much fun, and in my opinion turned out really cute. Thanks to GoodReads for the awesome interviewer!!)
My first industry review for CRESS is in, and it’s a star! *GIDDY*
The full review is below:
Marissa Meyer. Feiwel and Friends, $18.99 (560p) ISBN 978-0-312-64297-6
This third of four books in Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles has no shortage of humor, action, or romance, and the author still delivers the clever fairy-tale twists her readers expect. Cress, a self-proclaimed “damsel in distress,” has been imprisoned in an orbiting satellite for more than seven years, and has never been allowed to cut her hair, which has grown to Rapunzel-like lengths. Though Cress—an expert hacker—is supposed to be tracking down the fugitive Linh Cinder for Lunar Queen Levana, Cress has been secretly aiding her. When Cinder and her crew try to rescue Cress, the plan goes awry, leaving Cinder’s group scattered and fighting for survival. Meyer continues to show off her storytelling prowess, keeping readers engaged in a wide cast of characters while unfolding a layered plot that involves warring governments and a fast-spreading plague. The momentum Meyer built in the first two books continues to accelerate as the stakes grow higher for Cinder and her friends. The next installment cannot come fast enough. Ages 12–up. Agent: Jill Grinberg, Jill Grinberg Literary Management. (Feb.)
As you may have noticed, I finished the second draft of WINTER, the fourth and final installation of the Lunar Chronicles, just over a week ago. And whoa boy, am I be happy to be out of that draft! This book, you guys. Here’s hoping I can make it epic and awesome before it kills me.
I am happy with this draft, though. Sort of. I think. We’ll see how I feel after I read through it. BUT – while I still feel that there is lots of room for improvement, there are also a lot of parts that make me giddy when I think about them, and how excited I am for you guys to read them, especially the Big Scenes that have been rolling around in my head since I first started coming up with these books.
I know you’re all still holding your breaths for CRESS, but I thought I’d share a little non-spoilery info about WINTER anyway, while it’s all fresh in my mind.
Title: Winter: Book Four of the Lunar Chronicles
Fairy Tale Inspiration: Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
Word count: Top Secret (but it will be the longest book of the series)
# of characters who get their own POV chapters: 11. Unless I’m forgetting some.
Combined months I’ve been working on this book so far: 10
Semi-randomly selected teaser sentence:
“No. She will never be queen.” She swayed toward him, and he felt like he was being encircled by a python, smothered and choked.
(Dun dun dun . . .)
So, What Now?
Unfortunately, my second drafts are still usually a long ways from being finished, and this book is no different. At this point, I have dozens of notes left for myself throughout the manuscript—word choices I want to clarify, descriptions I want to add, things I need to research. So that’s what I’m working on this week while I’m still in Nano-recovery mode.
Then I’ll start reassessing the bigger picture items and figuring out ways to fix the still lingering issues that I have with plot, characters, and themes. In particular, there is one subplot that I am really unhappy with at this point and I know I need to give it some serious consideration before the next round. There were also a few subplots that got pushed aside in this draft that I need to bring back to the forefront and tie in to some of the other major plot arcs.
Once I’m satisfied (more or less) with those big elements, I’ll conduct a read-through to check for general consistency, before sending it off to my editor and beta readers for feedback.
With any luck, this will happen before the Cress tour kicks off in February! *fingers crossed*
I am still speechless at how successful this challenge was! I was honestly afraid when I posted about the challenge that I would hear nothing but crickets back at me. That I would post my final word count and no one would respond.
INSTEAD, you guys blew me away with your determination! (And, let’s face it, kind of made me feel like a slacker.)
Some Challenge Statistics
# of words you had to write in order to beat me / win: 133,917
# of participants who did just that: 21
# of participants who are probably cyborgs: 21
# of participants who breached the half-million words mark: 3
Most words written by one participant: 561,921 (Way to go, Sam!)
Which breaks down to: 18,731 words per day
# of words written between me and all 21 winners: 5,131,353 (THAT’S RIGHT. FIVE MILLION WORDS.)
All winners have been contacted about claiming their prizes.
I’m also hoping to host some interviews later this month with the challenge’s top word-count success stories. Because I think we could all glean a little bit of advice, tips, and morale-boosting from them!
Congrats again to the winners and to everyone who met their personal writing goals during November. Good luck with your revisions or future writing projects, and may December bring you many well-deserved naps!