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December 05, 2008



(Do you mean Dec. 5?)

I'm so glad you make your books the best you can. They're beautiful, really, and I can tell that you care about your characters and your story.


I agree. You write until your heart is full and you feel complete. Then you have faith you find a place for your book and an agent/editor/readers that connects to that. That place is different for everyone.

Becky Newson

First, let me introduce myself, since this is my first time commenting. I only recently discovered your books within the last couple months, and ever since, I've been reading them as fast as I can get my hands on them. Without a doubt, you're my new favorite author! I'm glad to have discovered you.

I think what you're saying can also be described with a furniture analogy. You can have two lounging chairs, both perfectly comfortable and just your style. But one is well-crafted, with dovetailed joints, and special attention given to the quality of the upholstery, building materials, framework, and only uses the highest quality nails, glue, springs, foam, etc. The other is a knock-off, meant to mimic that craftsmanship-quality chair, and looks and feels almost as great the first day you buy it. It was built with plywood and particle board, put together cheaply with minimal nails and glue, cheap springs, and poorly woven fabric. Over time, the lesser-quality chair will get tattered and creaky, and you just won't want to sit in it anymore, or even have it in your living room. But the well-crafted chair will be there for years and years to come, enjoyed by the whole family, and passed down to the younger generation.

So it is with books. You can have a fun story that ignites your imagination and passion, but if it's not well-crafted, you won't likely come back to it. However, if the author takes care to craft her story well, using the most perfect words and phrasing, allowing just the right amount of foreshadowing, and so on... the end result is one that a reader will continue to enjoy for many, many years, sharing it with her family, friends and children, never growing tired of it.

All I can do, after I read your books, is sigh happily and think of what a *fantastic* book I just read. There's not a fault to be found in any one of them. They'll be something I treasure for years to come.


Your books are beautiful - I can read them at almost any time, no matter what mood I'm in. They feel familiar, like me. I love your books.

And so I'm glad that you write for your internal reader - it seems little like mine.

(but even if it wasn't, I'd want you to write for it)

Vicarious Reader

When I read any book, it is easy to sense whether the author did two very important in the time of creating the story. Loving the plot and individual characters is the first. (it is usually obvious within the first sentence). The second qualification for a "good" story is the capability for the author to do mean, heart-wrenching things to the protagonist. (this is very important for anyone who wishes to become a successful writer) The ability to make the reader love, then cry over the main character, hopefully in the same chapter, is vital. Charlotte Bronte, Louisa May Alcott, and (dare I say?)Shannon Hale all have this ability. And I like multiple grammar and style checks.


Shannon, I just wanted to say - I found your post on good books vs. bad books so interesting and insightful that I've been bringing it up in conversations all month. Including in my college creative writing class as part of our discussion on Milan Kundera's definition of "kitsch," where it met with some interesting opinions all around. Thanks for such a thought-provoking post!

I have also found myself less judgmental of the things I see other people reading!

Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit)

Writing is a very internal process and endeavor until it is published. While I agree that writing should be done to the best of each writer's ability, writers also must keep in mind the market they are attempting to enter and what those readers are looking for when they write. Without a mind for the market, the writing is not likely to sell and if it does, it may not reach a wide enough audience.


Serena, I both agree and disagree with you. I agree that you need to know the market in the sense of continually reading the latest books in your genre. But I disagree that you should directly write toward it. Publishing takes time, and what you write for today's market may be out of style by the time it's in print. I heard A.E. Cannon talk about how her latest book didn't work for the "current" market at the time she first sent it out, but then a couple years later it was taken up by the first editor she tried because the market had changed and was ready for it.

The point I think is to read voraciously but don't try to copy what you read. Write for yourself, write the book you'd love to see in the market, and I think eventually the market opens up and makes room for what's unique. Publishers will tell you right now they are sick of vampire stories, for example; they want what's NEXT. I love authors who set trends rather than slaving after them.

Lois Moss

I agree that, as a writer, you have to be happy with your work. You have to craft it until it is the best you can make it. It's totally obvious in reading your books that you have this philosophy. It's really appreciated by your readers. I'm hoping I can achieve it with my own writing.

Dr. Sallie N. Cheinsteen

Excuse me, but why didn't I check this blog over the week-end? Shannon, why didn't you call me and tell me that you would be at the library? Because we're not BFF's? Okay, okay. I understand. :)
But at least your post made complete sense and it makes me feel satisfied. Thank you. :)

Emily M.

Thanks for answering my question, Shannon :-). You write for your internal reader... and it so happens that your internal reader loves good writing. So all your readers lucked out. It is a delight to read your writing.

And now I have a follow-up question. Coming from the point of view of an occasional editor, and a wannabe writer I wonder this: what do you see as the role of the editor (or writing group) in all of this? I know that in my own writing, I have been grateful for people who guide me to what my writing can become. I have never, not once, been able to see my own writing with true clarity unless I had a good reader/editor/writing group helping me out. With every draft, though, I _think_ I'm writing what I want to write. But when I show it to others, they help me to see that the essay on paper doesn't match the essay in my head quite yet. I work it over, and rewrite until all of us agree that it's done.

As I've edited essays over the past couple of years, it's become harder and harder for me to read a book without wondering why in the heck the book's editor didn't catch stuff that seems obvious to me. From my perspective, it seems entirely possible that a book could be published which matched perfectly with the writer's internal reader _at the time it was written_, but which could have been much improved, and perhaps matched that internal reader even better, had the quality of editing been improved.

What say you? How much responsibility do editors have in all of this? (and thanks again for your thoughtful response to my first question)


Shanna Swendson, an author, has some interesting posts about writing and marketing. Her website is http://www.shannaswendson.com Her post on Nov. 21 "Readers and the Doom Loop" mentions some of the ideas of the comments above. I read her books and thought they were a fun read with good clean romance.

Jen K.

I just wanted to write a book. I promised myself I would and I did. What I didn't realize was that I would write and rewrite the SAME book five times and still have many more editions to go! It feels like finishing a manuscript is willing a mirage to turn into an oasis!
I was on the verge of tears, when I came searching and found the fountain of "Hale"... Thanks for your blog today and its shot of water. (I needed a good dowsing!) Now I can face the sixth rewrite. And the seventh and the eighth... Thanks for the hope!


Whenever I make a piece of art I've learned to take it at varying stages and look at it in a mirror. For some reason, flipping the image helps me to see my errors. I become so accustomed to seeing what I've already created, that my brain is shocked at some of the things I find. I think the same goes for editing and rewrites. When you rewrite and use those who edit and critique it's like you are using a mirror for your writing. The mirror doesn't necessarily change anything, it just makes you more aware of what's already there so you can more accurately portray what your inner reader was trying to create in the first place. Sorry for the run-on sentance. Does anyone have a mirror? No? Oh, well. You get the point, right?


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