Stephenie Meyer and the first draft

Hi Writers,
I’ve been editing a feature for an upcoming issue of Writer’s Digest. It’s entitled “Roughing up your First Draft.” There’s a quote from Ernest Hemingway in the lead:

“The First Draft of Anything is Shit”

In light of this quote, I’ve been thinking about Stephenie Meyer, author of the mega-selling Twilight series.

I’m not much for vampire stories myself, but I know a lot about Meyer and the Twilight series, due to being an industry observer, not to mention the mother of a teenage girl (Olivia who you may know as a frequent commenter on this blog). 😉

Meyer—who in just a few years has achieved rock star status among teenage girls—has been writing what is probably the bestselling YA series since Harry Potter. She’s selling lots and lots of books, not to mention movie options.

So you may have heard that this week, Meyer announced on her blog that she won’t be releasing her most recent book because the first draft was somehow leaked out to the Internet. Of course, you can guess what happened from there, it’s everywhere. Meyer is so distressed over the situation that she’s now refusing to release the book.

Wow, it’s difficult for any writer to imagine what they might do in that same situation. How about you, what would you do if your first draft was released on the Internet without your permission? Let’s hear it, drop me a comment or you can discuss on our forum.

Keep Writing,

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21 thoughts on “Stephenie Meyer and the first draft

  1. Jane

    I understand that she’s pissed, but she’s overreacting. She’s acting like a spoiled brat and worst of all, is punishing her fans for her own mistake. She’s the one who was handing around her un-published manuscript, and it got leaked. Meyer should’ve known, even if it was someone she trusted, that internet leaking is highly common, and that there was a possibility that it could happen. Also, her fans who’ve supported her, and who’ve contributed to her success, are miffed that their favorite writer won’t release MS. I think she needs to just get over it, and move on. She’s a writer now, and she needs to act more professionally.

  2. Corey

    Of course I can understand why she is so pissed. I would be too. It is like taking a baby from the womb after only 4 months gestation. It just isn’t ready to be seen by the world yet. I believe that she just needed some time to cool off. If she tries to go back to work on it before she is over the whole situation, the bad thoughts and memories might distract her. I think she will eventually release it. If she decides not to, I will be there to annoy her until she does.

  3. Maureen McGowan

    I understand why she’s upset. Even my critique partners don’t see my first drafts. On the other hand, reacting by refusing to release the book has only exacerbated the problem.

    As commenter Lori said, someone stole her work and pursuing them, and making sure her readers understand that it’s theft and think more about copyright protection, is probably the most productive way to channel her anger.

  4. Glee

    I would not share my entire first draft with anyone. If I thought I needed some feedback on it, I would select only the part that I was having difficulty with. I also think that any author that shares their first draft with anyone should have their head examined. First drafts are always rough and need extensive revision before they are ready to be read.

    I think this whole thing illustrates the immaturity of the author and those around her. Of course, it has also generated a lot of attention for this book, even if it is largely negative. Some famous guy once said he didn’t care whether the news was good or bad as long as they spelled his name right. This could work to her advantage.

  5. Lori Widmer

    I’ve been following this one because my own teenager (soon to be 20 – yikes!) is a huge Stephanie Meyer fan.

    If it were me, I’d be locating the guilty party and vigorously defending my copyright. While it may not hurt her sales in the long run, I’d be furious that my hard work was out there for free on the Internet. That’s theft.

    It’s interesting to me that some believe the author is acting spoiled or overreacting in some way. That’s a ton of working hours wasted and not paid for because someone literally stole her work and released it to the masses without her permission. Suppose that were your book and you just spent five months or so writing it only to find out that now it’s being passed around for free on the Internet. How would you react?

    That’s her work, her commodity. It’s theft.

  6. Lily

    I wouldn’t do what Meyer did. Get over it. Besides, the entire series is horrible. If leaking a story is what needs to be done to make Meyer stop writing then I would’ve started an operation to leak the other three, right after the first travesty.

  7. Benjamin

    One thing I don’t really understand is why Meyer would be handing out multiple, typed copies of this manuscript in the first place, whether to trusted individuals or not. And if rumors serve me correctly, ‘trusted individuals’ also includes Robert Pattinson and Catherine Hardwicke who are working on the Twilight movie (apparently even though Edward Cullen has been a central character for three and a half books we still need Midnight Sun to actually ‘get’ him). For an author as popular as Stephenie Meyer, letting anyone outside of your editors and publishers see a manuscript of a best-selling series, to me, is just asking for trouble like this to happen.

    I honestly feel that she’s overreacting about this leak, considering the steps she could’ve taken to prevent it in the first place. Her overall reaction and attitude about it, both on her news post about the leak and her FAQ for Breaking Dawn really lacks professionalism and makes her look like a writer on saying that they won’t write the next chapter until they receive X-amount of positive reviews. Musicians have had entire completed albums leaked on to the Internet weeks before they were to be officially released; the same with movies. Yes, it’s unfortunate that it happened, but I’ve never personally heard of a band, actor, director, etc. deciding to just up and quit the entire project because of a leak.

    All in all, it just gives off a vibe that it’s a publicity ploy to get more attention and love. She’s shown time and time again that she can’t handle criticism, coming up with excuses like, "Well I never wrote it for anyone but me" and "It’s fiction, it doesn’t have to make sense" not to mention coming up with ‘The Rob Effect’ to explain that people don’t actually dislike Breaking Dawn, they just have to get used to it. The big thing on Twilighter’s tongues right now is the Midnight Sun leak and how sad it is for Stephenie Meyer, even going so far as to attack people who disliked Breaking Dawn for it being their fault (I don’t really understand that train of logic but it’s happening). No one’s talking about the negative backlash over Breaking Dawn anymore. Everyone’s too busy sending her care packages, e-quilts, real quilts, letters, etc. to care about past incidents.

  8. Kirby

    I don’t think she’s overreacting. On the WD forum, there are so many new writers who are always asking about copyright worried that someone will steal their work. To me, what happened to Ms. Meyer was stealing. While her names was still on it, it wasn’t up to someone else to release. That was her novel. I would be upset, too.

  9. Scott B.

    I was a little startled by reading that word on your blog, Maria.

    I think this question only applies to published authors, to which doesn’t apply to me; but really, a draft is like a bootleg movie before release; regardless, the movie is still released and people go to watch. If anything, such a scenario would serve to bolster self-promotion.

  10. Kat B

    Personally, if my first draft got half as much attention I’d probably be thrilled (if a little red-faced). I’ve been at this for many years of near-misses. And still still at it. And I have to say with the self-effacing humility that I’ve learned when dealing with critique (and life) I’d still probably just chuckle over it publicly. And privately cut out of my life the person who betrayed me. On the other hand, my teen tried to read the first of the Twilight series and found it–in her words–about equal to bad fan fiction and overly dramatic. Which makes me think that Ms Meyer, with all her acclaim, should still be working on her craft a bit. Try Hooked. I hated that book as much as I loved it, and all because he’s pretty right on in everything but his examples.

  11. Benny Davis

    Meyers is completely over reacting. She’s saying that she’s not going to publish it to get her fans to beg her to so that her sales will go up.

    Personally if something of mine was leaked, I wouldn’t punish my fans (though its hard to believe that Meyers has any). She is being selfish and acting like a spoiled brat.

    (Though her books all look like sloppy first drafts any way).

  12. Kim Kasch

    I think Meyers was looking out for her fans by posting the chapters on her site. They were already "out" there and it shows that she values her fans and wanted to explain what happened. I feel sorry for her on the emotional side. It’s hard to accept betrayal at any level and this takes the cake for writers.

    I don’t know how I would react in the same situation – not well, I’m sure – but I hope I’m never put to that type of a test. I have a lot of respect for SM as an author – more now than ever.

  13. Olivia Schneider

    First of all, I have to say…

    Thank you, Thank you, THANK YOU so much for including me in today’s post!!!!
    I feel so incredibly momentous that you actually said my name on your blog!

    After reading all four of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series books I have to comment on the fact that even her final drafts are not exactly perfect as you would expect them to be. I think she may be overreacting a tad by refusing to make the book into a hard copy, however I can see how she would be incredibly upset that a close person to her let loose her story to the internet.

    I still feel like after revising some more, she should still get the book published, and it will not negatively affect sales for the most part.

    Thanks again for posting my name,

    LOVE YOU MOM!!!!!

  14. Sera Phyn

    Since only very close friends of hers had access to the printed drafts of Midnight Sun, Stephenie knows exactly where the leak came from; each draft was highly individual because of changes she made while working on it and handwritten notes on the printed pages. But it’s not just this that upset her and has made her put the book on indefinite hold (she hasn’t said it will never be published yet; it’s just on long hiatus).

    The major split in the fandom over Breaking Dawn–for many it’s either love it or loathe it–spilled over to Midnight Sun when it was released. In many place the draft was publicly bashed and people were claiming that it couldn’t possibly be Meyer’s work because it sucked so much.

    Personally, I loved Midnight Sun and Breaking Dawn. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Stephenie on several occasions and know just how sensitive she is about these books. She sees the characters as her babies (and, really, what writer doesn’t?) and she doesn’t have the heart to work on it knowing what half of her fanbase thinks about it. I have a feeling she might go back to it after a while, but I wouldn’t look for it on bookstore shelves any time soon.

  15. Xeque aka Blair on WD

    I have to say if I were under as much pressure as her, I might
    almost do the same thing. I only wouldn’t post my leaked draft up on my website.

    I would, like her, take a break, and work on another story for a while. And I would wait until the fandom or whoever’s talking about to quiet down, and when its no longer a big things anymore, and no one cares anymore, I would start work back up on that book. And, while I say that, I would probably little by little not be able to resist working on the title anyways.

  16. Daniel Cross

    I think Meyer is overreacting. A first draft is hardly the final product. Each draft changes the story more and more until it’s no longer even the same tale. Some writers actually release their novels in drafts as they write, such as Brandon Sanderson. His Warbreaker novel has been released in various drafts on his website and I doubt that it will affect his sales much when it gets released.

  17. Stephanie Allen

    I can understand her being upset. But at the same time, I don’t think it will hurt her sales much. Her dedicated fans will keep buying her books.

    I understand that the first draft was leaked by someone close to her. (I have no idea how accurate the source was.) And if that’s the case, then she’s upset at her "circle". If people find something like that on the internet they are going to attack it like a pack of wolves.

    If I were her I wouldn’t hold the book back because her fans have been wanting it for years. But I’d definately rethink the people I gave the first draft to.


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