If you haven’t heard of Stephenie Meyer or the Twilight Saga, you must have been living under a rock during the past few years. Stephenie was writing Breaking Dawn when she spoke at the BYU Symposium I attended. The series of books, movies, and assorted licensed fandom paraphernalia that have been released through this series has made her a very successful author, and she shared several of her secrets.
“I love to write, and I can’t do without it,” Meyer said. “One day I was not a writer; the next day I was.” Her overnight success came, of course, once her agent sold the first book, Twilight, a book she originally wrote as a present for her sister, Emily, who said, “You have to get this published.”
“Nine out of ten people say they want to be an author, but the only way that happens is to actually write a book,” Meyer says. Too often people are unwilling to put in the work it takes to actually meet their dream when it comes to this publishing goal.
“Unrequited love is a popular theme,” Meyer told her audience, and the sales figures prove her theory to be true, “but the writing is the joy. Putting it out there is scary. I’d give back my advance to have the chance to rewrite Twilight. The story was very personal.” Meyer is not alone when it comes to the desire to revise a published work. Hemmingway was quoted as saying he would like to have one more rewrite of everything he ever wrote and sold.
Meyer says, “Rejections hurt, but everybody gets them. I got a rejection on Twilight (originally titled Forks) after Little Brown made their offer, and it still hurt.” Of course, since Little Brown published the book, that rejection means nothing now in the history of her career. At least she kept a positive attitude about rejections. “I have a scrapbook of my rejection letters,” she said.
“NO does not mean they are right,” she says. “The books that break the rules are the ones people love.”
“Agents are worth their 15%,” Meyer says, “but when you deal with them your word is your bond. I got a three book deal via phone, but it took 9-12 months to get the money to prove it. Long time, no pay,” she joked.
“Then comes the agony and the ecstasy of writing,” she said. “The editing process tries to change everything that you’ve done. Learn to balance between listening to yourself and your editor. Stand up for your characters.”
She adds, “Editors care be wrong, but they can be so right. It forces you to write so much better.”
Meyer thinks the copy editing stage is fun, but seeing the book on the shelves brings “the joy of panic and second-guessing.”
“Writing after you’ve been published is a whole new experience,” she said. “You need to continue to write the story for you. Turn off the red pen editor/agent voices in your hear. If you can’t put your own book down, then that’s what it should be.”
She suggests that authors distance themselves from reviews and reader feedback somewhat. “I was offended on Bella’s behalf when an Amazon review said ‘I never found vampires so boring,’ she said.
“Putting the words down is where the magic is,” she says. “Doing what I love and getting paid for it, writing in a room alone with the characters, that’s the magic. But when you have an idea, that’s when you must write it down—right then.”
“Once you have an editor, once you’re under contract, editors like books a little rough,” she says, “but it must be clean before it’s published, especially the first chapter. The first page is a make or break point to capture a reader.”
“Writing is a reward I give myself,” Meyer says. “Thank you for reading what I write.”