Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Taking Stephenie Meyer's Advice

by Anna Jones Buttimore

I had a lovely Christmas. Can't wait for the next one!

I finally succumbed to pressure from my eldest daughter and two best friends and - gasp! - read Twilight. I know you don't need me to tell you this, but it's very, very good. It entirely captures that dizzy intense feeling of first love and, because it's written in the first person it's hard to read it and not be drawn into those feelings yourself. (On Christmas day I noticed that our Ward Young Women President was wearing socks emblazoned with the logo "I love boys that glitter".) I know it's not to everyone's taste, but I loved the first two books. I'm about to embark on the third one.

I am thrilled that a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has done so well and written this wonderful blockbuster series. For one thing, my daughter is now proud to be a member of what is viewed in our area as a small obscure American sect, and is telling everyone that Stephenie Meyer is a member of our Church. (Donny Osmond may be cool again now, but he just doesn't pack the same punch when it comes to street cred, especially since Sister Meyer mentioned Muse and Linkin Park in her acknowledgements.)

For another thing, I can be confident and happy that Gwen won't find anything untoward in these books. However deep their love, Edward and Bella never do more than some light kissing and hand-holding. OK, so that's because Edward is worried he will eat her, but he still proposes long before there is any hint of friskiness. What a great example to today's youth - look how much Edward and Bella were in love, and they still waited!

I am also thrilled because the books have inspired me to get on with my own writing endeavours. I looked at Stephenie Meyer's website, and it only took her four months to write Twilight. The book I am writing at the moment has taken me about eight years so far. She has three children too, and she could still find time to write. On her website, she also gave two excellent nuggets of advice for would-be (and already-are-but-struggling) writers:
  1. Read good books. The more you read, the more you will recognise, and be able to emulate, good writing.
  2. Write something every day. Knuckle down and do it.

Now, this is pretty standard advice. I think I've read it a thousand times before, and passed it on to others. But now I'm actually taking that advice. Twilight is a good book, but it isn't full of complex artistic metaphor or erudite prose - the narrator is a seventeen-year-old girl, after all. It reminded me that I don't have to be clever and use long intellectual words and inspiring narrative all the time. Twilight has lots of dialogue, which I'm not good at, and it showed me that dialogue can be used to flesh-out characters and set scenes. So reading this particular good book has helped me to write my own.

And if Stephenie Meyer can write a masterpiece in four months, then I should at the very least be able to finish the book I am working on. So now I am writing at least 1,000 words each day. My reward for reaching this goal is to allow myself to read a chapter of Eclipse. Now that's motivation!


Annette Lyon said...

Slight warning: Assuming Gwen is your daughter--the 4th book probably has some stuff you might not want her to read. It's not really graphic (especially by books published by regular NY houses and the like), but there is rather "hot" content I wouldn't want my daughters to get their hands on when as teens. Meyer is rather good at evoking hormonal responses, and when Edward and Bella are married . . . well, yeah. :)

But good points!

Jennie said...

Sian couldn't get her comments to post so I'm posting them for her. I can't personally comment on Meyers' books because I haven't read them. Nothing I have heard about them has led me to want to pick one of them up.

Anna, I just read your post on the V-formation blog. I don't seem to
be able to comment there but wanted to add my caution to Annette's.
I'm glad you enjoyed 'Twilight' but I wouldn't promote Stephanie
Meyer's series as one that has squeaky clean moral values for young
girls until you've finished the series. Personally, I was very
disappointed that she didn't hold the standard higher because there's
no way she's kowtowing to her publishers' requests at this point. My
oldest daughter refused to read past book 2, my second daughter read
the last book and threw it away. I glanced through a few chapters and
saw enough to know that neither I or my youngest daughter will read it.

I don't mean to sound negative, but I felt betrayed when an LDS
writer, marketing to youth, put out a book that made my 14 year old
daughter feel sick about having read it. And call me old fashioned,
but I think it's a little disturbing that thousands (millions?) of
girls are now idolizing vampires and werewolves.


Nancy Campbell Allen said...

I also agree that as the series progresses it's wise to use caution, but in regard to the writing advice itself you cited, Anna, I couldn't agree more.

Read good books, and write something every day.

This is the most sound advice I can think of to give an aspiring (and accomplished!) writer. Sometimes the hardest thing in the world for me is to just sit down and do it.

Your comments on dialogue are interesting too- I've found that as a reader and writer both, I love the way dialogue will move a story along quickly. Keeps the pace going and propels the action forward.

Your reaction to Twilight was just like mine- I loved it. The lady knows how to tell a good story. I also have the snotty privilege of saying I read it before it became the phenomenon it has, and I found it unique and, yes, clean. As for the 4th book, I actually have yet to read it so I can't weigh in with my own two cents, but I would suggest reading it before Gwen does and you can judge for yourself whether or not it's something you want her to read.

So much controversy surrounding this series, and I love and trust the women who have commented on this post. I, personally, enjoyed the story and have a daughter whose personality doesn't lend itself to flights of fancy that concern me. Does that make sense? I knew that the series wasn't messing with her view of the world. In fact, what I thought was interesting is that she quit the 4th book a quarter of the way in because she got bored. She also got irritated with Bella, so she formed her own opinions on it before I'd even read it. She is a little older though- it's not like she's 14 and trying to sort through it.

I've gone on and on! I think what I take most from your post is the reflection on positive inspiration that Meyer provides for writers. I, also, have used her to tell myself that it's about writing a good story, and about just getting it down on paper. Without a doubt, it's such valuable advice!

Anna Buttimore said...

Thanks for your input ladies. It's too late to tell Gwen not to read the fourth book - she has read them all many times - but to be honest, she hears worse things than that at school every day. (She is the only Latter-day Saint in her school of 1,000 pupils). My point was that it was nice that she finally had a popular example of a young couple who waited until marriage, an idea most people around here have never even considered. My other point was that it is great that an LDS writer can inspire the rest of us to such heights. I'm still inspired by her writing.