Novelty Versus Quality

    My 18-year-old daughter finally convinced me to read Stephenie Meyer's hugely successful series about the love triangle of Bella, Edward the Vampire, and Jacob the Werewolf.  It took me a while because I'm not a vampire-werewolf kind of person. I prefer the characters in the books I read to be wholly human. But I suppose because I happily expanded that limitation to embrace Harry Potter, it was only a matter of time before I stretched my boundaries. Besides, since following the children's book industry is one of the things I do for a living, I really had no other excuse. So, I've spent my free time reading the first three books in the series over the last two weeks. And now I can start the final book, Breaking Dawn, which every Meyer fan has already finished, though the book was only released on Friday. 

    But I'm not looking forward to it. That's because my resident book critic has already informed me that Meyer's latest is being called an "epic failure" filled with "WTF" moments by the readers who matter most: teens. Fans aren't happy with Meyer right now. They say her 754-page final installment is about 400 pages too long. Then there's the issue that makes the editor in me twitch: I've already noticed in the other three books that there are many typos, misspellings and some sloppy writing. Fans say this book is worse and even teens are questioning if she rushed through it. Now that's harsh. 

    Why do I mention this? Because I'm amazed at what I see as a growing pattern among popular mainstream, successful writers to get carried away with their work and get sloppy, to put it mildly. Libba Bray did the same with the last book in her Great and Terrible Beauty trilogy, another tome that is about 400 pages too long. In this case, as with Meyer, the novelty of the author's ideas and her ability to capture teen angst and love and to tell a thrilling story definitely earned her the hefty advances and bestseller spot. But somewhere along the line, the writers seem to have gotten caught up in their own success, forgoing the good writing skills necessary to sustain fans. Bray's third book registered barely a blip, and the reviews were harsh. Meyer is already suffering the same fate less than a week from the release date. I question where the editors were in the process. After all, as an editor I know my job is to smooth out my writers' work so they look good. If I don't, I'm failing them.  Has the publishing industry become so caught up in their writers' successes that they and the writers think they can do no wrong? You will find no harsher critics than the female teen reader.  Just read some of the latest blogs about Meyer to see what I mean. I wonder if Meyer is surprised and I also wonder what will happen next. She takes her fans very seriously, so I have no doubt at some point she'll respond to them. And I wish her every success because the story of her writing career so far is a writer's dream. (In fact, her first book, Twilight, came to her in a dream. You can read more on her site,

    What does all this mean to the rest of us? I think it proves that as writers we need to be steadfast about our writing skills and not be swept up by the promise of stardom, because sometimes even our editors can fail us. Ultimately what wins out with our readers is the quality of our writing. Well-written books stand the test of time and aren't considered novelties.  Sure I'd like the $750,000 advance Meyer got for Twilight. But I also want to make sure that the books I write--and the books my children read--aren't produced solely for profit. I think it's our job as writers to take the quality of our work seriously at all times. In the end, those are the books that win the awards. 

Liza N. Burby
Liza is an award-winning journalist for some of the top publications in the country, a magazine editor, parenting speaker, children's book author and a motivational speaker/expert on getting your work published.