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September 03, 2008

Comments

Lia

I'll just say that I am SO GLAD you write to your internal reader because it obviously works! I hope you never lose the focus you have now. Your internal reader and me are kindred spirits. I'll most likely read any book you ever write in the future. It makes me so happy to have a favorite author who didn't die a hundred years ago. GOSH it makes me happy.

And I agree -- it's not an author's job to write what she thinks the masses will want. It's her job to be the single most important reader.

Janssen

I wonder what books have been written with the masses in mind and what the response to those books were. I think of Orson Scott Card's article predicting J.K. Rowling's career and how, if she tries to write something to please those critics who said Harry Potter was juvenile and cliche, it will probably fall on its face, and that more success will come for her only as she writes books for herself, like Harry Potter.

Excellent posts - I can't wait to see the third.

Jennie

I think our internal readers are BFFs.

I have often thought about writing as a business model, but the author's client isn't the fans, the client is the story, and the author has to do his or her best to please the story and do write by that.

And if the fans don't like it... I believe there are one billion gagillion and four other books to choose from, right?

the dragonfly

I cannot even fathom what would happen to a writer who tried to write to please everyone. It's impossible to please everyone. I'd think the writer would go crazy!!

Enna-girl's girl

I keep meeting people who are absolute haters of Twilight, and take it to heart to deface those books 24/7. I'm not exactly a fan, but I don't pinpoint my efforts upon insulting Twilight, because I've got better things to do, and I know that, well, 'to each his/her own'. Maybe some books don't please you, but keep in mind that just because you, out of a billion people in over two hundred different countries, aren't satisfied with the writing of one author who is only trying to be true to herself and putting her story out there, and just because you choose to waste your time insulting those books when you could be using it to find new books that YOU actually like, doesn't mean you can make reading books a miserable experience for us all. You hate this book? Fine. That's no problem. Keep it to yourself. Authors are human, you know, and they have feelings.
xoxo
P.S. The above paragraph strayed off topic alarmingly, but everything I said, I meant, relevant or not.

venezia

What a great post. The whole time I was frustrated and disappointed in a certain book mentioned in the last post I kept thinking of you as an author and how you have never disappointed me. Your internal reader never fails!

Q

Thank you so much for writing this! I think I needed to hear it right now.

Shawn

My internal reader wants to send your internal reader a basket of fruit and a thank-you card.

The funny thing, though, is that it wasn't always true. I read _River Secrets_ the first time and could have thrown it against the wall. But I loved Razo, and I loved the other Bayern books, so I tried it again six months later, just savoring it this time. And it's one of my favorite books now. So I don't know if I grew up or the book grew on me or what, but...thank you for writing the sort of book that will do that. Whatever that sort of book may be.

Melissa

Thank you for another great post!!

I love your books and I am glad you write to your internal reader.

I am currently getting my masters in Library and Information Science - go libraries!! It is true that libraries give everyone an opportunity to sample books for free!

Heather Z.

Very well said. And I think that writing for yourself is the only way for a story to truly become real; living, breathing, and alive. "To thine own self be true," - it is so paramount, especially in writing when, in a very real way, through fiction we are supposed to speak truth. If you are not true to yourself and your vision how can it possibly be true for anyone else?

hwalk

Kindred spirits! Joy!

I love your ideas on how books aren't just "well-written," but there is a personal aspect to them. That idea has gotten hold of me and won't leave. It's awesome!

Enna Isilee

Your internal reader and I could be best friends, I think, Shannon. Heh.

I'm loving these posts! On with part 3! On I say!

Sasha

I wanted to write and apologize for hijacking your blog yesterday with my overlong comments. What can I say but thank you for inspiring me to write something that obviously wanted to get out. I will do my best not to be swept away again. :)

As for today's blog post...again, amazing. I will be more succinct with my response though. I agree with much that you say, and the only thing I wonder about is where you (and others) might see the editor/publisher responsibility as the "principal agent" working between author and reader. If we take your idea of author and reader responsibility as a given - where does the editor/publishing house fall within this relationship?

And, just another plug for people using their local library: library funding is based upon each library's circulation, the more you use your library - the more money they receive. Use your library as much as possible, they will thank you for it and most libraries are incredibly nice about ordering almost any book you might want to read.

Thanks again, Ms. Hale - I've bookmarked your blog as a new favorite.

Asha

That is all so true. When I read GG, it was one of the most beautiful, inspiring books i've ever read, and then my friend read it, and she thought it was boring and average (gasp!). You are such an inspiring person Shannon, in your novels and ideas. Thankyou so much!!!

Ruby Diamond

Thanks for writing up all of these things that I've been thinking but couldn't find the words for. :)

jenc

I definitely write for my own internal reader, and thank goodness, because I got yet another rejection letter last week.

The point of this being that I think another reason it is vital for a writer to focus on their work for it's own sake rather than external rewards, is that those external rewards are somewhat out of the author's control. Plus, as lovely as it would be to finally get my current project published, I'm not sure anything is going to top the elation I felt when I completed the first solid draft.

Dr. Sallie N. Cheinsteen

This kindred spirits business reminds me of Anne of Green Gables. And we are kindred spirits all the way Shannon!
Ahem. I am a writer. Ahem. Not published yet. Ahem. But I have analyzed a few things for myself as a writer. Ahem. Here they are.
As a writer, I try to thrill. If my heart doesn't beat like crazy in one area, if my stomach doesn't clutch in expectation, if I can't envision the breathtaking scenery, will the reader be able to? Heck no!
Another thing... If I am not pleased with my work, I go crazy. It's got to be just right. If it's not right for me, it won't be right for anyone else.
Last... I feel it's important to have a connection. There has to be a connection in what I write to the world I live in, whether it be large or small, else I do not understand it. No one else will either.
You need connection. And in that, and that thing alone, do I believe in catering to "Fans."
You need connection. But you don't find the connection for the fans, you find it for yourself. And when you find it for yourself, then you have a story worth telling.

Christen

I am astounded, shocked, amazed, and utterly delighted! As I read the last post (I was sad to miss such an interesting discussion), I paused at several posts that were attempting to form the idea of an author's responsibility and to assess your take on it. (Also, thank you Liesolotte! Fans are very fickle! Sometimes I need a little reminding that not everyone thinks the way I do.) I think the author has very little responsibility to the reader if any at all exists. They merely have a duty to write the story they envisioned and if fandom demands and society's wishes can tarnish or influence the quality, course, or nature of the writing, the author is allowing the masses to take their story from them. Writers live off their work, and not in a literal sense. Why would you live a certain way to gain approval? In the same sense why would an author write a book--which is an extension of themselves, their passions and ideas--to appease the appetites of the average reader. If authors wrote this way, there would be no new ideas, no different storylines, everything would be generalization after generalization. Authors can awaken new ideas in other people, broaden new horizons, which is one of the most rewarding aftereffects of reading and writing: being touched by a book and in turn, knowing that you have touched someone through your work. I've read many stories I have been dissatisfied with (The Metamorphosis, Ethan Frome, and The Sweet Far Thing, to name a few) but that doesn't mean that they didn't change me in some way as a person and as a reader! If the author were to write with that responsibility to the reader, this would never occur! (BTW, I reread Sweet Far Thing, after I'd matured considerably--only took a couple months--and I was able to love it beyond the emotional distress it caused).
And now... the most used example: Twilight. I was known, since I was aware of the book, to speak out against it (after reading excerpts of course) in a passionate fashion, border-lining rudeness. But it was not Stephenie Meyer's job to write her book to my tastes, and thank heavens! I read the whole thing recently and New Moon after that and learned that there were only parts of it I disliked, while others were creative, thoughtful, and well-rounded, in my limited opinion. I can't expect every author I read to be a Shannon Hale or a Terry Brooks or a Libba Bray. It just wouldn't be fair, to the authors or to myself.

Wooow... I went way off track on that one. :) Well, just thoughts, everybody.

So originally, I wanted to say thank you, Shannon, for expressing your opinion so openly. It really does open my eyes and honestly make me think about how I should approach reading, because sometimes I forget what an Experience (with a capital E) reading can be. It becomes a buyers and sellers market, a dangerous thing to reduce it to. Satisfaction never comes that way.

Oh and thanks for being so awesome, too!

P.S. Yeah, really, what's up with Enna Burning being least popular? It's definitely my favorite. :D

Heather Moore

I think you hit the nail on the head with the internal reader post. One of the best writer tips I've ever read was "Don't worry about what Mother will think." This of course goes with the topic of an author writing his/her creative novel and not a story according to what others are looking for or expecting. I recently read a best-selling book (2nd in a series), and it was so disjointed that I finally looked at the acknowledgements and found dozens (literally) of people the author thanked for giving her feedback. It was TOO MUCH feedback because the story didn't retain the purity of the first book. But I also think that with something like Breaking Dawn, there was so much build-up and expectation, that the fans had basically written the book themselves in their heads. So when the story deviated, they were shocked. But really, it amazes me how crazy people get. It's a work of FICTION, people. If you don't like a book, move on. You don't need to form hate cults. Puh-lease. Every author knows that you can tell the same story ten different ways, but there comes a time that you have to choose just one path or you miss the publisher's deadline.

Wendy

Your last two posts have been spot on--I have enjoyed reading them so much.

Thank you.

Tracy

I just want to say how much I appreciate the insight you give into the writing process, and thank you for the access into your writer's brain - knowing your struggles to tell the right story have made me feel normal.

I love your candor, and agree wholeheartedly about the whole responsible reader situation, as well as your comments on how a writer needs to tell the story they're happy with. I can't even believe there are those who blame authors for outcomes they don't like! While I may not necessarily agree with certain aspects of plot, or character, or what have you, I always have such great respect for the process. It is not easy to write!

I think all of the ruckus caused by BD is actually a good thing (not that I wouldn't be crying in a closet over some of the cruel comments, mind you - sheesh, some people are MEAN). I was one of the people who enjoyed the story, but it left me wanting. I saw that as a good thing though, because it told me a little more about what kind of a reader I am. I knew it was going to be a happily ever after story, but after reading it, I realized that I am more of a bittersweet ending kind of gal. I've been reading since I was, like 3, and here I sit, 32 years later, learning something new! I love that!

On a side note, I had to laugh at Heather Moore's post regarding not worrying about what your mother will think. I gave my mom (an avid reader, and IMO, a tough critic) a rough draft of the first 100 pgs of my first ever manuscript, nervous as all get-out about letting anyone see it. She finished it, and the first words out of her mouth were "Well that just sucks!" - to which my heart bottomed out - until she continued "I need more. You can't leave me hanging like that. I want to know what happens." I have since told her not to lead in with those kinds of comments :)

Phew, sorry about the long post. I'll go back to lurking now...

Laura Z M

Shannon: Does this mean I'm not going to be able to get your signature on this author/reader contract I've drafted?

Drat.

Jackee

Eh… everyone’s a critic with a voice like the Internet. And that’s why I’m glad you listen to your internal reader and not others—it’s right on. Never change.

Thanks for this post, it was expressed perfectly. Sometimes writing feels like ripping your heart and mopping the page with it, but then so does anything one is connected to passionately (like parenting). And I love ALL your books, as have the dozens I’ve recommended them to.

And over a hundred comments? Really? That’s got to be a record….

Laree

I very much agree with this whole reader/author thing. Everyone changes througout life. I would, however, add one thing: it is very likely that if you find yourself no longer liking an author's new books, that the AUTHOR's internal reader may have grown and developed in a way contrary to the way YOUR interal reader has. Because of this, even though the author has written to what his/her internal reader demanded, it may not jive with yours.

And Shannon, Thank you for taking time to write your blog (and your books!) I appreciate so much the fact that you give the world good, CLEAN books that I can escape into. I've enjoyed every single one of your books so far, each for diffrent reasons. You ROCK!

Angie

Shannon--I think that each writer must write to their inner reader. What makes a book great is the reader. As a writer, you have to be satisfied with the writing. Without readers, there are no writers.

Elizabeth

It's exactly right on. :)

Speed Reader

We had a discussion about an author's responsibility at our last book club. It was more in regards to whether the more mature content of the book was really appropriate for the age group that it was marketed to. And it became VERY clear to me that an author cannot be responsible to anyone but themselves. Even if they try to take a very specific group of people who have "the same" ideas on what is "acceptable", "good", "necessary", there will still be such a wide range within that group when it gets down to the nitty gritty specifics. So it's impossible.

But a good point was brought up: What about book series that start out one way and end up another? As an example, let's take the Bayern books. They are clean - no obscene language, no graphic sex, etc. So I start reading that series specifically because I am told that it does not contain things that I don't want to read. What if Bayern #4 is a much more mature story and suddenly is filled with profanity, graphic violence and sex? I realize this is an extreme hypothetical, but is there a responsibility for an author to stay to true to certain elements (included or excluded) of a story throughout a series?

In the end, I would still have to say that it's a reader's responsibility to find out if a book meets your individual standards, but I thought this was an interesting question in opposition to my argument.


Thanks for your internal reader! It's done a great job so far!

calandria

I don't know that you can compare most readers and books to the cult-like following of the Twilight series. I think most people's experience with most books is very much what you are advocating: If you like it, read more! If you don't, find something else!

books4mom23

OK, here goes my first adventure out of the relms of lurker. I find it interesting that fans of fiction can get as out of control as rabid sports fans! Books, stories really, can be disapointing or amazing, whether they are "quality literature" or "well written" or not. Sometimes the magic happens and sometimes it doesn't. It just works that way, and I don't think it makes much of a difference who's fault that is, reader or author. If every book read was a favorite, or even if every book written by the same author was the same level of rewarding for their fan base, how boring for us poor readers. For example, I am one of the readers that likes Princess Academy more than the Bayern novels. (Please no verbal nasties, I like them too.) I also was a big fan of Austinland. It was a different genre but what a fun read. I am not or never have been an aspiring writer, but I can't imagine how brave you would have to be to give such a huge and intimate part of yourself in story form and then send it out into the big bad world to see how it fares. I haven't even been able to admit to my fellow middle aged conservative stay-at-home-mom book club that I am a big fan of "high fantasy!" I am on pins and needles for the last of Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy. We're talking counting down the days. I don't know why. Sometimes I want a romance (oh no!) and I'll even read books that are "good for me" like self help. Throw in an occasional biography or one of my smarter-than-I-am children's textbooks or required reading and I can usually find something to connect with. Somethings resonate more that others. (I have Rapunzel's revenge on hold at the library so I am waiting to see if I will become a fan of graphic novels too:). There are books that I absolutely adore that no one else can seem to get excited about and books that sell zillions of copies that I am lukewarm to. Isn't that a beautiful thing about us humans? Most of all I am OVERWHELMINGLY GREATFUL for people who are willing spend so much of their time, share their creativity in such an intimate way, and then have the courage to put it out there for any reader to experience. Some authors and some readers won't treat the experience with as much integrity as they should but that shouldn't stop the rest of us!

Merry

You're so right! I'm taking Creative Writing classes this semester, and my teacher mentioned that if every author wrote what the masses wanted, then there would never be a novel that stood out. Everything would be dull and boring.

This is an AWESOME post! As I reader, I learned something. And as I writer, I learned something, too.

Thanks! :) And remember, keep on writing!!!

Erin

You're internal reader is so much like my own. I literally just finished reading Princess Academy. After being so swept away by the Bayern books, I didn't think I could possibly love this one as much, but I finished it with a smile and a hug and an urge to write to you and ask you to please keep writing, and writing how you want to write!! This post is perfect, and I hope that if you ever feel unsure of yourself, you will come back and read your own words of wisdom. I'm certainly going to keep them with me on my own trek to be a writer. This is going to sound very brown nosey, but I honestly hope that I will write books even half as good as yours.

Sasha

Just finished Goose Girl and Enna Burning. Loved, loved, loved both of them. Oy, I think I need to buy these (as opposed to just borrowing from the library) because these are going on my re-read shelf.

Kelsey

Wow. So many opinions, my head's about to explode. And here I plunge.

The whole Breaking Dawn controversy was really a surprise for me--for one, just discovering so many people didn't like it after I'd read it and enjoyed it as much as the previous three; for another, that the blame was immediately brought upon the author. I mean, I really can see, with some books, why you could be upset with the author for not working on it as much as they should have, but it's a rare case scenario. That's not to say I don't dislike some books that an author worked hard on (believe me, I have--merely because that genre or styling doesn't appeal to me, or for other more obscure reasons). I just don't see why they should be blamed for your own personal opinion. Especially when it's not entirely justified.

As for the whole author and fans thing...like Shannon said, internal reader. A book is the author's personal creation--why should they create it simply to please you and your own opinions? (Not sure who this mysterious "you" is...) Of course, authors should take into account, if they intend to publish a book, that there will be readers, and there's a responsibility that comes with that. Responsibility for the language and the message, and such, that is. Authors ought to consider who their intended audience is, or who it should be. But beyond that--it's their story, right? Move on.

Calliope1of9

I personally believe that an author doesn't have a responsibility to his/her fans; he/she has a responsibility to the book. And, of course, his/her internal reader, as established. I think the fans actually end up coming last. Now, there are certain aspects of said responsibility to the book/story at hand that which effect the fans and help the author gain the readers' trust (i.e., I know I'll never read one of Shannon's books that has excessive graphic violence or sex or rude language. She's just not that type of writer. And that actually comes back to the responsibility-to-self-as-writer thingy.)

Danielle

Wow... Another stellar post! And really good comments as well. I think it took me at least twenty minutes to get through it all! I appreciate the writing process of an author even more after having read the above.

I'm loving the term "Kindred Spirits" and as many have said, when it comes to your books I'm definitely one :)

For me, Princess Academy is what started it all. It appealed to my (hmm... checking book publishing date to see how old I was at the time, I'm thinking...) twelve year old self that needed a new world to escape into. Princess Academy was a transition book from the world of children's literature to young adult and classics. It showed me what a well written fairy tale could look like, and sent me chasing after my new all time favorite book, The Goose Girl :) Books like the BoB, The Chronicles of Narnia, Wildwood Dancing, Jane Austen, etc., set my standard of what qualifies a book as a favorite, and allow me to better understand what I appreciate and like in a book. But I don't think you could stereo type these books into one category. They're all vastly different and despite their parallels comes from different authors. It re-enforces that as a reader I do have to go the other 50% to truly enjoy the book.

I suppose the point of that long rambling paragraph above is to thank you for writing books that transitioned me into a new world of literature that is constantly growing and changing, but it just right for this time in my life :D

Stephanie Perkins

"I cannot write to anyone outside myself--if I tried, it would be a horrible story, flat and lifeless. I write to myself. That's the only person I'm trying to please."

YES.

These were both fantastic posts. Thank you, Shannon. Wise words as always!

(Rah rah rah!!!)

-- Steph, writer & librarian & Razo fan

Frogster

Shannon, you hit the nail on the head. If you write only to please the fans, you lose a sense of self, of your purpose. If you're happy with your writings after all is said and done, we, as your faithful readers, have no choice but to be happy with you. And with your Internal Reader, who rocks, by the way. I agree about the "kindred spirits" thing--some enjoy one book while another doesn't. If everyone liked the same books, then where would we be? Part of the fun is discussing what you liked or disliked with your friends or people on blogs. I just wish the people who draw up the list of what kids have to read in school would read your blog--then maybe we wouldn't have to go through the insufferable torture that is Great Expectations. When I become a teacher, I'm going to fight for my students to read Enna Burning. It has such a good plot, characters, message, everything...it's my favorite book because it helped me through some difficult times and because I can totally relate to Enna and her struggle. So thanks, Shannon, for making my day, and making the days of millions of your loyal fans out there.

Christine

There are some books I absolutely loathe but I think part of this loathing comes from the way the books are marketed.

If you don't mind my asking, how much say does an author get as regards to how their book is marketed? Do authors get a say on what age range their book is being marketed to?

Thank you for your wonderful posts and very wonderful books! I was able to get my hands on a galley of Rapunzel's Revenge and thought it was fantastic!

Sissy

all i can say (again) is
thank you =)

Valerie

"So, I write to my internal reader--you read to see if my internal reader and your internal reader are kindred spirits. If they're not, we go our separate ways. If they are, then what connection, what serendipity, what joy! We get to tell a story together."
This is so true! As you can tell even from comments on this blog and others too. Not everyone sees/reads things the same way. I just wish people could be more mature and kinder when they do have something to add.
Thanks for your post.

Alexa

brilliant post, yet again :)

Joanne Maria

I wish all of the "non-kindred spirits" would understand this. Shannon, I thank you again for your post. The TWILIGHT universe used to be a happy place, now there is too much angst. I hope we can re-collect our happy place and move on. It would be nice if that happy place could contain Midnight Sun...hopefully...only time will tell.

Dawn

I do really enjoy your books. your internal reader obviously has a good reading sense. thank you. and I'm thinking some girls here are my kindred spirits. keep up the good work. I think you are right about the reader's oppinion.
p.s. breaking dawn was very good. I love renesemee

cmar

I loved, your 1st post, the follow up is excellent too.
So refreshing to be able to read an article and a follow up with the civility and respect that only a good writer with experience and class (like you) can show to all the readers.
Thank you, Thank You!

Ani

Well said! I think all people who love to read for pleasure should read this. I at least wish I could make all those people judging Stephenie Meyer so harshly read it. Anyway, I love your books! I am so glad that you chose to write for yourself rather than your fans.

Cees

I loved this post, as well. And I want to thank you for not only shedding some more light on the author/reader relationship, but also for defending Stephenie (indirectly this time) in a thoughtful, mature way that (I hope) will help a lot in bringing more understanding to those who aren't being as mature and grown up about this.

Also loved the kindred spirits thing. I don't think I'll ever forget that now, and every time I finish a book I'll think of that from now on.

Ani

Well said! I think all people who love to read for pleasure should read this. I at least wish I could make all those people judging Stephenie Meyer so harshly read it. Anyway, I love your books! I am so glad that you chose to write for yourself rather than your fans.

Breanne

Wow. I've heard your name before, but have yet to read your books. Now they've skipped past others that have been on my must-read list for months, and I'm ready to get them. I like to buy my books, because I get so attached to them--a book is a way to skip to any place and time and picture things as you want to picture them and hear them. You have an amazing clarity and thought, and I admire that. Just these two posts have hit my internal reader, and as an unpublished, still-writing writer, I get so nervous, because if I ever did publish one of my novels, there's my college tuition. But all my friends say they'd want to read it and my teachers say that, and my PARENTS, and I get nervous. Because being an artist of any sort requires being able to accept that fact that not everyone's going to like you, but also that your own personal views and thoughts and ideas and emotions are all out there for everone to read. I totaly, unequivocaly, most emphatically agree with you. I just have to get past my own fear as a writer of the critics that are obviously going to be there, and remember this wonderful advice. Thank you. You are an inspirational person, and this has made me feel so much more comfortable as a reader and a writer.
Sometimes it takes a bit to realize you like a book, too. Lately, I've been giving myself a few days at least after I finish each book to reflect on it, to really think, after I hurriedly read the last twenty pages in bed under the covers, to really think what it's about, and did I like it or didn't. For some books, I close the back cover, done with the book, and don't know what to think. Give me a week to ponder over it, go back and think "OH! That's what they meant in the final paragraph!" and I realize I love it. It took me a while to realize that with The Host and Breaking Dawn, but when I reread them in a few weeks, which I will, I'll get more details out of it. So thank you for clearing up and putting into words what I have been feeling and thinking all along. You are an amazing writer--and to think, if this is what you can do with two blog entries, imagine what you could do in a book! *rushes to the bookstore*

Cando

I love what you said about having YOUR name on the book as opposed to having a reader's name. Author's have to have some kind of faith put into their story, but also in themselves, to have it published.
Shannon Hale, I just have to say that with you writing for your internal reader, I believe that we could be friends! Austenland is one of the few books that actually made me LAUGH OUT LOUD! I later read on your website that one of the reasons you wrote it was because you wanted to laugh. How else would you have made it funny without putting some of your own humor into it?
What a great personality and what a soul to share with readers!
You, along with Stephenie Meyer and some others, have really reached out to me with your writing. Thank you for giving me a some of that credit.

amp

That last paragraph was so beautifully worded. I'm so inspired to read your books now. I'm glad I stumbled upon these blogposts, and I think they'll change the way I read books, and consider my responsibility as a reader. Thanks for sharing a bit of your wisdom :)

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