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Why I hate writing, Part 10: writing, reading and ranting

If you’ve read this blog for very long, you know that I prefer Twitter to Facebook. Having said that, I will also say I’ve found some great links and conversations on Facebook which don’t lend themselves to the 140 character limitation on Twitter. Such was the case last Saturday when I found the following quote via Sarah Reck’s Facebook status update:

Found this quote online today. It’s attributed to Stephen King but I haven’t found a source.

“Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend.”

Like Sarah, I was unable to find the original source of this quote, but I have found a couple of articles where King has been openly critical of Meyer’s Twilight series, including an interview published in USA Weekend in February, 2009:

“…when (Richard) Matheson started to write about ordinary people and stuff, that was something that I wanted to do. I said, ‘This is the way to do it. He’s showing the way.’ I think that I serve that purpose for some writers, and that’s a good thing. Both Rowling and Meyer, they’re speaking directly to young people. … The real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good.”

Mr. King’s criticism isn’t just directed at Meyer, however. He goes on to say:

“Somebody who’s a terrific writer who’s been very, very successful is Jodi Picoult. You’ve got Dean Koontz, who can write like hell. And then sometimes he’s just awful. It varies. James Patterson is a terrible writer but he’s very very successful. People are attracted by the stories, by the pace and in the case of Stephenie Meyer, it’s very clear that she’s writing to a whole generation of girls and opening up kind of a safe joining of love and sex in those books. It’s exciting and it’s thrilling and it’s not particularly threatening because they’re not overtly sexual. A lot of the physical side of it is conveyed in things like the vampire will touch her forearm or run a hand over skin, and she just flushes all hot and cold. And for girls, that’s a shorthand for all the feelings that they’re not ready to deal with yet.”

I’ll admit I was caught up in the Twilight series when it first came out. Meyer is certainly no Steinbeck, or Rowling for that matter, but I did get caught up in the story. About halfway through the second book however, the story wasn’t enough. I finished the second book and began reading the third but didn’t finish it. Life’s too short to read bad books. I realize what constitutes a good or bad book is subjective, and what compels one reader to keep reading is different from another. I tend to relate to characters in the stories. I found Bella so completely annoying and self-absorbed that I no longer cared what happened to her. I don’t necessarily have to like the main character, but indifference is a real buzz kill for me. I don’t begrudge the millions of readers who loved the Twilight series and cudos to Stephanie Meyer for the incredible success of those books. I’ll save my true book snobbery for autobiographies written by celebrities and quasi-celebrities writing about themselves via a large pool of ghost writers trying to make a living. And I certainly don’t begrudge ghost writers trying to make a living.

What I’m wondering is if you think Stephen King serves the writing community by being openly critical of other writers. King has been the recipient of some of the same kind scathing criticism of his own work, and while I think he’s an incredible writer–probably the best of his generation–he’s written a few dogs himself. My personal opinion is that King’s criticism is less about professional jealousy (as some have suggested) and more about his love of the craft. He takes bad writing personally because he’s done the work, bled on the page and sacrificed so much for the love of the story.

And hey, he’s Stephen King…

What do you think about writers being openly critical of other writers? (I know they’re privately critical of them, because I know how you are, writers.)

What writers have inspired you? (Besides me. Snort!)

Reading Backwards

I’ve spent the better part of the past two days going through, line by line, the final page proofs of a novel which will be released later this year.

All told, I have read this book ten times. The first time I read it as it was being sent to me in parts – chapter by chapter – from a then un-agented writer with dreams of publication. What a difference a year makes.

I’ve lost count of how many edits it’s been through, but the stack of paper sitting in front of me represents countless hours of hard work and attention to detail.

When I received an email from the author asking if I would help with the final proofreading, I was a bit surprised this would be necessary. As I’ve said, I have read and re-read this book several times, and I’m not the only one. People who actually know what they’re doing – people like published authors, agents and professional editors have read through it as well.

But this was it. The last chance to catch any errors before it goes to press. So, I tried a novel approach (pun intended). I read the book backwards.

It was near perfect. A few very minor typos somehow missed in all the previous readings. I think reading it backwards forced me to read the words rather than the story.

Because when a wonderful story is written, we tend to get caught up in it. We see what we want to see. We’re mesmerized and taken away from the day to day. That’s what a good story should do. Reading it backwards forced me to take a more critical eye to the details, the imperfections I missed while I was following the story.

But it also did something else. It made me see the beauty of the small moments, which when strung together by the pen of a great storyteller combine to make the whole of the book more meaningful and compelling.

Such is life.

Each day we have the opportunity to turn the page. We can look back, recognize the flaws and try to correct them, Remembering our lives are made up of small moments, of different chapters. We can learn to live in the moments as the story unfolds. It’s best not to skip ahead or attempt to find out what lies ahead.

Because our stories are still being written. And the Master Storyteller has already assured me of my Happily Ever After.


Speaking of writers, Part Two of Billy Coffey’s interview by Linda Yezak will be posted on Author Culture today. Y’all should check it out.