Writer vs. Writer

In a recent article with USA Weekend, Steven King says that Twilight author Stephenie Meyer “can’t write worth a darn.”  He goes on to point out that young girls feel safe reading her books because they’re “not overtly sexual” and that they’re a “shorthand for all the feelings that [young girls are] not ready to deal with…”

I’ve got to tell you, I know lots of people who have read and loved the Twilight books, and not one of them is a teenaged girl.  Most of them are thirty-something married moms, but I also know a fifty-five year old woman who loved it and a thirty-seven year old guy who loves it. 

I’m not here to say that Stephenie Meyer’s writing is brilliant, but it is good.  She has a straightforward style without any flourishes or tricks.  She’s not going to win the Pulitzer, but she does know how to tell a story.  The books are impossible to put down.  I know that Virginia Woolf is a great writer, but I can put her down. 

It’s long been a debate in the writing community, would you rather be a great writer or make money?  Ideally, the answer is both.   But realistically, the two don’t always go hand in hand.   Is writing an art or a business?  There have long been rumors that some famous writers who crank out a book every year have teams of writers working for them that they oversee.  When I first heard this, I was aghast.  But it all depends on why you write.

I write because I love to write.  I need to write.  I need to create and be productive and tell stories.  And I want to share those stories with other people.  Lots of people.  I write historical fiction because the relationship between the past and the present fascinates me.  I think history is relevant and it has shaped who we are today, and I want to make people mindful of that.  I also love to read, and I love how good books make me feel.  I want to do that for other people. 

But I’d be lying if I said the money didn’t matter.  I would rather sell books than have critics love me.  I would rather have millions of people buy my books than win a writing award.  I would rather write a book that people talk about at parties than a book that makes college students groan. 

Stephen King has managed to marry good writing and commercial success.  Good for him.  But I’m pretty sure that, though Stephenie Meyer won’t be winning any writing awards for her prose, she’s laughing all the way to the bank.


5 thoughts on “Writer vs. Writer

  1. Heather J. says:

    I read this article earlier today, and (I hate to say it) I agreed with most of what King said. I do love the Twilight books and I read them voraciously however I also think that Meyer’s writing style is pretty bad. That doesn’t mean her *books* are bad though. She is an excellent storyteller – she catches you, pulls you in, then proceeds at exactly the right pace to keep you frantically turning pages. In my opinion there is a big difference between good writing and good storytelling. But hey, I’m not slamming Meyer here – she wrote a book that millions of people love and she’s making lots of money … no one said she had to get *everything* right. Let’s just be happy for her, shall we?

  2. Aaaaa–Steven King sucks anyway! And what matters is chasing what you love–few are the people at the end of the day who can claim that kind of success, and at risk of sounding pollyanna-staryeyes the results aren’t the point.

    But oh subtle irony! Even as I write this, it SURE WOULD BE GREAT to quit the damn dayjob!!

  3. O, I’ve gotta add, too–I agree wholeheartedly in the major difference between good writing and good storytelling. Both warrant success, and both spin my top. And as a myth lover the storytelling piece always brings me the finest warmth. And as a craftswoman, a journeyer–a devotee of the “process”–quality writing gives me such an inner buzz. The money piece is a third and seperate issue, maybe? But for sure, I believe it is totally right to get paid, and paid well, for doing what you love.

  4. damyantig says:

    I’m not sure money comes into the equation.

    There are quite a few people who write badly and do well, there are others who write well and do badly.

    To me, I’d rather not earn a lot of money writing like Stephanie Meyer. Storytelling is great, but shouldn’t a writer at least hire a decent editor? I’m really curious as to who her editor is, because a lot of Meyer’s shortcomings could be made up by a good editor..

  5. Lara T. says:

    I have to say something about the very content of his comments.

    First of all, what the hell does Stephen King know about what young girls are feeling?? I think many girls are grappling with ideas about being female and sex and what’s appropriate, boys and popularity and reputation, all in a catch-22 sucky kind of way. He makes girls sound like they are cowering in a corner, uncertain how to handle the metamorphosis to womanhood—has he been to the mall lately?? Girls are rocketing to physical maturity faster than their mental maturity can handle it, encouraged by clothing stores and ads. They HAVE to deal with it, whether they are ready or not! This book does the exact opposite, but more on that in a minute!

    Secondly, Stephen King (thank you Kelly!!) is a crappy writer himself, a commercial success with a huge list of books and only a few I would call “good writing”—he himself would be classified as a storyteller, not a good writer in my opinion. So he has some nerve criticizing another writer who is a commercial success!

    After his comments I was wondering what made it such a good read (and I agree, Stephenie Meyer is a great storyteller, an ace at pacing and a better editor would polish her right up!). First let me preface this by saying I am reading The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf right now which is coloring everything I read!! lol But I think the reason so many females like it is because for once, the girl described as “plain” gets the gorgeous guy, instead of the stereotypical other-way-round that floods the storytelling of our time, whether in TV, print or movies. I think every woman wants to be accepted for who she is, and not have her looks enter into the equation, and Edward seems to do that with Bella. And he has restraint, self-control for God’s sake! How often, as women, are we told that we are responsible for things like safe-sex? That we will have to be alert and in control and be responsible because the guy can get out of control? And here, Bella is constantly egging him on and he’s putting on the brakes! lol I think we love it because it subtly (or maybe not!) is a role-reversal for most women. It was a surprise and a laugh and a bit of relief, all rolled into one!

    And even though King is a commercial success, I would say he’s jealous, because a woman just rocketed to superstardom, cashing in on an audience he could never hope to corner!! 😉

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