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Friday, October 29, 2010


Yesterday, we unveiled the names of the Delirium sequels in Publisher's Weekly for the first time ever! Check it out!


Congratulations, Lynsey Newton and BookChiq!! (Also, BookChiq--send your email address/mailing address to laurenoliverbooks@gmail.com so I can hook you up with your prize!)

So, the trilogy titles will be:

Pretty cool, huh?

Thank you to everyone who entered. You are all so pretty and nice! (And much, much better at titling than I am!)


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Writing Challenge--Scary Halloween Edition!

Time for an extra-special, last-minute, oh-so-scary Halloween edition of the Lauren Oliver Blogspot WRITING CHALLENGE!

This writing challenge is inspired by the fact that I recently moved into a brand-new apartment, which is spacious and cozy and beautiful in every way...except that literally in the past two months every single appliance has broken and required replacement. My friend and I have decided that the previous owners must have had some traumatizing early life experiences involving all things electric, and so been engaged in a kind of constant warfare with the microwave, oven, washer/dryer, and refrigerator.

In other words: the previous owners were obviously terrified of these appliances, and trying to beat them into submission.

So your Halloween writing challenge is this: write a submission of no more than 400 words (longer than usual) in which you describe an encounter with an evil/possessed/sentient appliance! A vampire refrigerator! A cannibalistic oven! A poison-spewing microwave! A TV with aspirations to world domination!

Submit to me at laurenoliverbooks@gmail.com and I will, as always, post submissions on the blog. Also, one person who submits will get a scary book of my choosing! (It will probably be The Replacement, by Brenna Yovanoff, as I love that book and it is SUPER SCARY.)

Now go forth and write! (And stay away from that refrigerator....)

Monday, October 25, 2010


Did you think I forgot about my titling contest??

Well, I most certainly did NOT.

Thank you so much for everyone who participated--if I could, I would hire each and every one of you as my Official Titling Assistant.

I have, in fact, selected a title for both the second and third books in the DELIRIUM trilogy, and everyone--from my editor to my publicist to my sister--is completely wild about them. I will be giving prizes to the first person who selected each name, as many of you suggested similar titles (great minds think alike!). I'll also be giving prizes to two people I select at random.

What will these prizes BE? Well, books, of course! And also, a fabulous DELIRIUM tote bag. Wear it with pride, people.

I will be announcing the winners once I officially announce the titles, which won't be for just a teensy while longer...so please be patient!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

VERY SPECIAL BLOG POST!! Rebecca Serle, and Why She Can't Sleep At Night

Greetings from the land of silicone, movie stars, and train-wreck child actresses (I'm in LA, y'all). Since arriving in the West Coast I've had no time to blog, since I've been zipping between meetings and losing business cards and then GETTING MADE FUN OF FOR LOSING BUSINESS CARDS BY ASHTON KUTCHER. (I love how my first-ever celebrity encounter entails me being a complete stress ball.)

Point is, my gracious friend, sometimes-yoga instructor, Huff Po blogger (check out one of her fab articles here), and fellow YA author REBECCA SERLE volunteered to do a guest post. Earlier last week, Rebecca's debut novel went out on submission, meaning it was sent around to various publishers in order for them to squabble over who gets to publish it. I remember when I was out on submission for Before I Fall, I was convinced that no one was going to buy it, and so terrified I had no choice but to cut my grad school class (Sorry, NYU!) and eat about a pint of ice cream on the couch. Want to know how Rebecca's coping? See below!

So my book is out on submission. People who don’t know too much about publishing get very excited when I tell them this. “It’s out!” They exclaim. “Where can I BUY it?!” Then I have to sit them down and tell them what I tell myself every night in the mirror: We will get there. We are just not there yet.
Here are the facts:
1) I wrote what I think is a good book.
2) I have a great agent.
3) I pace my apartment for hours on end with no real sense of time or space.
Turns out, being on submission is kind of stressful.
I was having lunch with another YA author friend of mine yesterday who had been through this process about a year ago. She told me that she was a total mess but that if she could do it over again, she’d enjoy it. “Enjoy what?” I asked her, my eyes bloodshot from lack of sleep (yes, sometimes the pacing occurs at night). “The anticipating,” she said, “the not knowing.”
Now I love this girl, I really do. I value her as a peer and a critic and a friend and a writer. But I also know her to be someone, like myself, who wants all the facts. Enjoying the not knowing? Come on.
But then she explained more and what she said was that this time, before I have any answers, is one of infinitive possibilities. “Think about it,” she said. “Right now you’re a bestselling author. You’re number one on the Times. You have no information to tell you otherwise.”
“Or to tell me so,” I pointed out. “What, exactly, are we working off here?”
“Nothing,” she said, smiling and going back to her French fries.
Nothing. So often that word is one we avoid. It can be fear inducing. It’s empty, black, barren. It’s unknown and scary. But it’s also new, and, admittedly, full of possibility.
Starting a book is never too easy for me. There are a million things to figure out and explain and catalog. But it’s also my favorite part. When everything is ahead and plot points are endless and absolutely, positively, anything can happen. It’s nothing, but that nothing isn’t empty. That nothing is bubbling over.
There are times in our lives where we are forced to wait, where something that we need in order to move forward we just don’t have yet. But instead of seeing these times as ones in which to shut our eyes and misery our way through, it might not be a bad idea to enjoy them. Am I still pacing my apartment? Absolutely. But I’m also dreaming. Haven’t you heard? I’m a bestselling author.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Evil of Adverbs

"You look beautiful," he said nervously.

"I can't wait for tonight," she said excitedly.

"I can't believe you," he said angrily.

What do the bolded words have in common? They're all adverbs, and they're all evil. Like, Lord-Voldemort evil.

Kill them now, or your writing career is in great peril.

Here's why:
We've all heard the old adage "Show, Don't Tell." In some cases, of course, that's not feasible. Sometimes you just want to give us some factual information about a character--so-and-so is fifty-four, such-and-such has blond hair gone prematurely gray. Whatever. Occasionally telling is fine. In fact, "telling" is an essential part of narrative.

But when it comes to revealing what your characters feel, the beauty of fiction lies in the discovery.

The best fiction is greater than its parts. in other words, all fiction consists of action, exposition, and dialogue (although I tend to include dialogue as part of action). But in great fiction, the juxtaposition of these three things allows you, as the reader, to discover emotional truths not just about the characters in the book, but about yourself. You get to "read" yourself into the book, and see yourself reflected there; but in order for this to happen, you need room to insert yourself, mysterious spaces that don't TELL you how to feel, but allow you to grope your way in on your own.

That is why showing and not telling is so important.

Take the second example above:

"I can't wait for tonight," she said excitedly.

This sentence, written as is, establishes with the reader the relationship of strict teacher to unruly child. In other words, this sentence says: here is everything you have to know, and don't ask why. It's just because I said so.

On the other hand, take this sentence:

"I can't wait for tonight," she said, wrestling a t-shirt over her head. She didn't seem to notice that she'd put it on inside out.

In this case, the reader has to do work--unconsciously or consciously--to determine the emotional state of the character. She's excited--she even says so--but she's also excited to distraction. Something big is going to happen tonight, or at least the character expects it to, and the anticipation is totally consuming her.
All of this work has occurred in a fraction of a second in the reader's head, probably without him/her even realizing it. So the relationship here is one of cooperation: I wrote a sentence, but it must be interpreted and enlivened by the reader. I have reached out my hand; in order for the sentence to work, the reader must reach out and grab my hand back.
We are now connected.

That is, of course, also one of the roles of good fiction: it connects you to something outside yourself.

So let's all agree: Down with adverbs!!

Dialogue Tips: A Balancing Act

Last week I spoke about the importance of adding physicality to dialogue, because people tend to communicate as much (if not more) with their bodies and their actions as they do verbally. In fact, it might be helpful just to think of dialogue as another variant of action: your characters are in the act of "doing" communication, and that communication should both physical and linguistic forms.

One of the things that's critical, I think, about showing the interplay between what a character is saying and how a character is behaving is that it often enables you to show contrast or tension between the two. People often don't say exactly what they mean. Think of all those times you've been around your secret crush, and not a peep about your abiding love for him/her has come out! Think of all the things you've wanted to say to your parents, or the times you've accidentally let slip a cruel comment to a friend whom you resent for one reason or another, etc etc.

So think of it like this: You have a variety of ways to show action. Your character can "do words", and your character can "do behaviors"--cut up cucumbers, look away nervously, chew fingernails, etc. It's the interplay between these two forms of "doing" that allow you to show the reader your character's complex feelings, characteristics, and emotions.

But how much is too much? Pamela Harris rightly points out that too much physical description in the middle of a spoke exchange can pull the reader out of the moment, and she's absolutely correct. However, I think there are three basic principles that can be helpful when determining how much or how little physicality to include:

1. The key is "interplay"--make sure what your characters are doing is meaningful. This applies, of course, to both the doing of words and of behaviors. In real life, you have exchanges all the time that are meaningless, in the sense that they just pass the time and don't become relevant. In books, every spoken exchange must either advance the story or our sense of the characters (preferably both). Similarly, your character's behaviors must be relevant. Don't just write in little physical details for the sake of it.

In other words, DON'T do this:
"I really like you," Debbie said, while cutting an orange in half.
WTF does an orange have to do with her confession of like?

But DO do this:
"I really like you," Debbie said, scuffling her feet.
Okay, you should do something better than that, but at least you know that the fact that she is scuffling her feet connotes nervousness. In other words, because of the interplay between the words and the behavior, we learn something additional about the character, without having to be "told" that she is nervous.

2. Think about real-life situations in which you would notice someone else's physical behaviors, and real-life situations in which you wouldn't. Adjust accordingly.

For example, if you find yourself at a party, sitting next to your long-time crush and having the first spoken exchange with him you've had since he got cute in sixth grade, you would no doubt be noticing everything about his body language. Is his knee brushing yours? Is he tapping his foot? Biting his lip?
OMG does that mean he likes you????

Okay, you get the point.

On the other hand, when you and your best friend are screaming at each other because you've just discovered she has been secretly hooking up with your longtime crush, you no doubt wouldn't care that there was a lock of hair hanging down over her right eye or that her fingernail polish had begun to chip. In fact, you wouldn't care about anything about anything except pushing homegirl off a cliff.

Your writing should reflect the emotional intensity of the moment--people tend to lose perspective and a sense of detail when they're extremely angry, or terrified, or overwhelmed with joy.

3. This isn't so much a tip as a truism--remember, it's much easier to cut physicality down than to add it later. Part of what focusing on physicality does is force you, as the writer, to vividly imagine the moment--to slow down and truly understand what your characters are thinking, feeling, doing. It forces you to understand them better so you can better evoke them for the reader.

James River Writer's Conference--My Very First Time!

This weekend I flew down to Richmond, Virginia to speak at the James River Writer's Conference. It was my first-ever conference and it was AWESOME. (Here's a link to this fabulous organization's website--you should definitely check it out.)

I spoke on three panels: finding your inner teenager (with the luminary Jacqueline Woodson); how to create convincing dialogue (which, ironically, has been a major preoccupation of my blog recently); and the importance of social networking, with the amazing Harper publicist Joseph Papa, who confessed to finding twitter "life-giving." It was really awesome to meet so many other people professionals in the field, and I loved speaking with the attendees, as well. (And, let's face it, getting put up in a nice hotel with extremely efficient room service ain't the worst part of a writer's life!)

And Richmond turned out to be such a cool city! There were tons of gorgeous old cobblestone and brick streets, and I got to geek out over the house where Edgar Allen Poe lived during his early years. PLUS, PEOPLE REALLY HAVE SOUTHERN ACCENTS HERE. A guy called me ma'am in the elevator and I giggled about it for at least fifteen minutes. I could so get used to a down home way of life...if they could just figure out how to make NYC-style bagels.

I'll be returning to the issue of dialogue later this week, because I feel the topic has not been totally explored, and I have not yet addressed Pam's excellent question about balance, which you can find in the comments section of my He Said/She Said blogpost here. (Incidentally, I met Pam, and her writing-partner-cousin, at the conference. They were both lovely. That's called The Blogisforreal, people...when blogs and real life intersect!)

For now, I wanted to turn over to you a question that came up during my social networking panel: what are some of the faux-pas of the social networking world, in your opinion? How much is too much tweeting, for example? Asking someone to retweet--declasse?

This is why I am a total conference convert already--I love that attending JRWC gave me the opportunity to think more deeply about these issues.

LMK what you think!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Dialogue Writing Challenge: Your Responses!

Oh, my pets...

I received SO MANY incredible entries in response to Friday's Writing Challenge. It was wonderful to read such a variety of interpretations on the short spoken exchange, and really underscored how creative it's possible to get with a limited quantity of basic materials: from the same pretty run-of-the-mill back-and-forth between characters, we've ended up with different characters, settings, atmospheres, and tones.

I can't possibly post all of your responses, so I've selected some at random (and check out the "posts" section of the challenge for some equally excellent entries). And thank you to everyone who emailed and posted your responses! I hope you enjoy the writing challenges as much as I do--you all are really inspiring!

From Kate of I Just Want to Sit Here and Read:

Brian’s subtle cough was unheard so be blurted out, "Hi."
Ried nearly jumped out of her Jimmy Choos, "Oh! Hi. God, you scared me."
"Sorry." He looked down at his poor excuse for work boots and anxiously tapped his toe on the ground.
She turned to straighten the rack that nearly fell, trying to hide the heat that was steadily creeping up her face."No, that's fine. I just wasn't..." She stammered, embarrassed that after all of this time she still could not help but want this man who broke her heart.
He took the opportunity to press her,"What?"
She shrugged. She fingered the ends of her long blonde hair, force of habit,"I just wasn't expecting anyone, that's all." She had to pull herself away from him, thankful to see a customer at the cash register.
He followed right behind her, "I ran into Caitlin recently. She said you were working here." He realized his hands were shaking and willed them to stop.
"Yeah. Three times a week." She practically jogged around the counter to help the young teen with her purchase.
"You like it?"
Her eyes flicked to the girl, not wanting to exploit the fact that she loathed working here, "It's a job. Money's not bad." She finished with the teen and once again they were left alone only with a counter between them.
"You look good." His mesmerizing sea green eyes stared into hers.
"Thanks." She tore her eyes away from his and looked toward the door, hoping that someone would come in to call her attention away from this conversation.
"Is that weird to say?" His hand reached from the counter yearning to touch hers if but one last time.
"No. No--you look good, too. Did you cut your hair?" She asked, staring at the military buzz cut. She smiled to keep herself from crying, soon enough he would walk away from her to go back overseas and who knew when she would see him again.

From Bethany Beznos:

I rested my elbows on the counter. Cheri was turned around making a smoothie “Hi." She flipped around her eyes bugging out making them seem larger then they already are. "Oh! Hi. God, you scared me."
I shrugged "Sorry." Cheri shook her head.
"No, that's fine. I just wasn't..." she was keeping her eyes down. Cheri seemed to be determined to put the cap on that smoothie just right. "What?" I said
"I just wasn't expecting anyone, that's all." She twirled her dirty blond hair through her fingers.
I know I have a stupid grin on my face but I can’t help it. It always happens when I’m with her "I ran into Caitlin recently. She said you were working here."
"Yeah. Three times a week."
"You like it?" I asked
"It's a job. Money's not bad."
"You look good."
She smiled shyly “Thanks."
"Is that weird to say?" I ran my hand through my newly buzzed hair nervously; I’m still getting use to it.
"No. No--you look good, too. Did you cut your hair?"

From Zoe MacDonald:
, "The Job"
I was sitting by myself alone on the dirty old park bench when I heard footsteps behind, which I promptly ignored, focusing on the glow my computer screen.
"Hi." The only sound beside the cars and the pigeons and the far away squeal of children playing on the playground.
"Oh!" I exclaimed, turning around and faking surprise. "Hi. God, you scared me."
Conner was standing behind me, looking down at me, or more likely, at my computer screen as he flipped his hair out of his eyes. He then nervously patted his hair and squinted as he tried to read - something I knew he couldn't do without his glasses, which he wasn't wearing.
"Sorry," he said and blushed. Things hadn't been the same since I had gotten The Job a couple weeks ago and he hadn't.
We had spent three years together, working as interns at that terrible newspaper. Then The Job came along and we both wanted it. I wanted it so badly me teeth literally hurt. He wanted it so badly, he'd stop at nothing to get it. All in vain, I suppose, because he wasn't the one sitting there with a brand new laptop, finishing up to meet the first deadline.
"No, that's fine. I just wasn't..." I said, hoping that he'd drop it, as I shut the laptop so he couldn't see what I was writing.
"What?" he asked and I groaned to myself. I just wanted him to leave me alone but I knew that wasn't happening anytime soon. Good thing the laptop was being put away.
"I just wasn't expecting anyone, that's all," I lied. My mom usually brought me lunch around this time.
"I ran into Caitlin recently," he told me and I nodded - I could tell he was just trying to fill space, until he got the courage to talk about why he was really here. "She said you were working here," he said nervously, and I rolled my eyes to myself. Cait couldn't keep a secret if her life depended on it. Even when I told her not to tell anyone - Conner in particular - where I was working.
"Yeah," I said. Then I added on: "Three times a week." That was what the bosses would let me. They didn't really mind where I worked, but liked me being in the office at least two days a week.
"You like it?" he asked, kicking a pile of dirt with his boot. I could tell just how badly he still wanted the job.
"It's a job. Money's not bad," I hinted, mainly just to taunt him. I tried to seem nonchalant, like it wasn't that big of a deal. Remind him that I was better than he was - good enough to get the job that he wanted.
"You look good," he said with a sneering smile that I knew was being used just to mock me back. We both knew I looked terrible.
"Thanks," I said with a smile to bug him back.
"Is that weird to say?" he asked and I shook my head, still giving him my workplace smile.
"No. No--you look good, too. Did you cut your hair?"
He touched his hair nervously and I knew I had hit a nerve. Conner hated anyone talking about his hair.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Want to Hear Me Talk About Things??

...If not, why do you follow my blog, silly-billy! Go read The Superficial. :)

But if SO, check out these video interviews I filmed for Romantic Times Book Reviews. There are actually four mini-videos:

On the Nuances of Being a Teen
Advice for High Schoolers!
On my upcoming projects!

See?? It's just like I'm TALKING STRAIGHT TO YOU, THROUGH YOUR COMPUTER. (Actually, that's kind of creepy! I'm waaaaatching....)


Friday, October 1, 2010

Friday Writing Challenge!

I've had a lot of great responses, both on the blog and via email, to this week's musings on dialogue, so I'll probably keep pushing the discussion to next week, especially I have some questions to answer (see Pam Harris's excellent question about equilibrium in response to my last post, He Said/She Said Helpful Hints.

This challenge was partly inspired by Ellie H., a 14-year-old writer (notice I do not say "aspiring writer"--you either ARE writing or you AREN'T, peeps!) who emailed me recently after reading Before I Fall, and who asked me very nicely to keep up with the challenges.

So, this week's challenge runs thusly. I am going to write out some lines of dialogue, below. I will NOT specify anything about the characters who are conversing--I won't even specify sexes. That's up to you. Your job, in fact, is to flesh out the dialogue by making choices about the interlocutors, and by adding physicality and dimension to the scene.

Make sense? You can make the characters a stepmother and a daughter, or two best friends, or two ex best friends, or two exes, or a brother and a sister who haven't seen each other in a while, or whatever the heck you want. But we must see them, and we must see them in the CONTEXT of the dialogue. In other words, don't just describe them, and then have them speak. Their physical descriptions and interactions should be interwoven WITH the dialogue.

Sound difficult? That's why it's a CHALLENGE, people! :)

Okay, here's the dialogue for you to play with:

"Oh! Hi. God, you scared me."
"No, that's fine. I just wasn't..."
"I just wasn't expecting anyone, that's all."
"I ran into Caitlin recently. She said you were working here."
"Yeah. Three times a week."
"You like it?"
"It's a job. Money's not bad."
"You look good."
"Is that weird to say?"
"No. No--you look good, too. Did you cut your hair?"

Okay...go forth and write!!

Content by Lauren Oliver - Copyright 2011. Blog designed by Ella Press Studio - 2011.

Author Photo by Jonathan Alpeyrie - Copyright 2010. Original Font Idea by Erin Fitzsimmons - 2010.