Interview with Shannon Hale – On The Writing Process

SH: I think you must write much better first drafts than I do.
SM: I doubt that.
SH: Really? Are they pretty bad?

I think dyslexic wombats write much better first drafts than Smeyer does.

 
SM: I think so. I have to go over them again and again, because I don’t always flesh it out enough.

Except for sexualized descriptions of people she wants to bang, and middle-class white-girl angst. Supporting characters, logic, plot, action… those she doesn’t flesh out enough. Or at all.

I tend to use the same words a lot, and I have to consciously go back and take out things like that.

HOLY FUCKBALLS. Does that mean that words like “chagrin” and “perfect” were used even MORE in the original draft?

I… I gotta wonder, what was the original draft like? Just hundreds of pages of “perfect white topaz perfect perfect Adonis chagrin perfect perfect perfect…”?

 
SH: How do you go about rewriting? With Twilight, did you send it off immediately, or did you go back and start revising it?

Given that it’s a sloppy plotless mess filled with whining and teen lust, I sort of assumed that Smeyer shat it onto the page and sent it out immediately.

But no, Smeyer assures us that she read it LOTS AND LOTS before she sent it, an she can’t read anything without wanting to revise it.

 
SM: I probably read it, I don’t know, fifty to a hundred times before I sent it anywhere.

… there’s a large gap between “fifty” and “a hundred.”

 
oh, I’d love to revise it. I could do such a better job now.

I doubt it. None of her books have grown a plot yet, and her writing is still shit. Actually, it may have gotten worse because now she is famous enough to spurn actual editors, and they’ll publish whatever shit she shovels out.

 
I like to experience the stories again, because I see it like I did the first time I saw it.

“Of course, I have to hold the book with only one hand.”

 
But sometimes it’s hard not to be like, “Oh, I hate that now. Why did I do it that way?” [Laughs]

“Why did I give Rosalie a cool backstory and make her a sympathetic character? I should have made her the devil!”

So they talk for a little while about how they feel weird about the stories, and how they don’t feel like they belong to them anymore once they leave for the editors. Hale mentions that she listens to the audio books, and it feels like she’s listening to a play.

 
SM: See, I can’t ignore my mistakes as much when I hear it on audio. I have tried to listen to my books on audio, and I can not do it. Because I hear the awkwardness in a phrase when it’s spoken aloud, and I just think: Oh, gosh! I shouldn’t have phrased it that way. And there’ll be other things where I hear the mistakes a lot louder than when I read through it and kind of skip over them with my eyes.

… so just read them to yourself. It’s a simple solution: if hearing it out loud helps you pick out the crappy… well, crappIER parts, then just read it out loud.

And holy crap, her books are just exploding with cheese. How can she pick out just a FEW phrases?!

 
But then it’s the book that’s perfect for you, because you wrote it for yourself, and so it’s everything that you want it to be.

“If you wrote a weird amalgaphilic porn fanfiction starring yourself, then that is the perfect book and everything you want it to be!”

Also, she was complaining about all the awkward phrases a minute ago. How can you do that and then claim it’s “everything you want it to be”?

 
And then I thought maybe there was a reason I’d done all this, that I was supposed to go forward with this.

“Because Satan had decreed it so! His gospel will spread across the world!”

Maybe there was some greater purpose, and I was supposed to do something with it.

Maybe Twilight was intended to cure all disease! Bring about world peace! Deposit fluffy kittens everywhere!

Seriously, how mammoth is this woman’s ego? Apparently if she writes a sexual fantasy fanfic, she thinks destiny has guided her or some crap like that. What “greater purpose” does she think prompted her to write about how she wants to bang a sparkly asshole?

Tell me, Smeyer: what are you supposed to “do” with your self-insert sexual fantasies? What greater purpose prompted the Twishite series, with its glorification of abuse and creepy no-free-will undertones? I would LOVE to hear how you think your crappy vampire romances deserve destiny, fate and God to intervene, and how somehow the tale of sparkly vampires and bitchy teen girls is going to make the world any better?!

 
Because it was such an odd thing for me, to write a book over the summer;

Winter or spring would have been totally normal, but not SUMMER.

 
it was so odd for me to feel so compelled about it.

Which I guess explains her extremely, extremely long gap between Breaking Dawn and… anything new.

 
The one person who knew what I was doing was my big sister Emily. But my sister’s so: Everything’s wonderful! Everything’s perfect! You shouldn’t change a single word!

I don’t even know this woman and I hate her.

 
She’s so supportive; I knew that it was not a big risk to let her see it.

  1. Which is EXACTLY the sort of person you want to give feedback: mindless sycophants.
  2. Clearly Emily has very low standards.
  3. A REALLY supportive sibling would give you critical feedback… like, “Grow a fucking plot.”

 
So then I revised with a purpose.

Unlike those silly authors who revise aimlessly, without planning to get their books published.

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