Thursday, September 11, 2008

Leaky Trust

By Nichole Giles

The other day I happened upon an article that really made me sad. Someone had posted unedited, raw chapters of Stephenie Meyer’s newest work-in-progress on the Internet. Setting aside the fact that this is a highly anticipated book—which is basically Twilight from Edward’s point of view—and ignoring the idea that her readers and fans already know what happens in the end, this is a serious copyright infringement.

I read Stephenie’s statement on her website, and my heart hurt for her as I wondered how I would feel in her position. First of all, authors are (or should be) incredibly careful with whom they share their WIP. This is exactly why. But you know that whoever leaked these chapters was someone important to her, or at the very least someone she trusted. Which makes it a personal hurt as well as a professional one.

Then, there is the idea that this work was raw. I’m sorry, but I don’t even take my work to critique group without going over it several times—unless I’m in a massive hurry, which does happen on occasion. Usually, I do a quick edit of my chapter before clicking print. I can’t even imagine having the public—my hundreds of thousands of fans—seeing unedited work.

Embarrassing? Yes. Frustrating? Absolutely. Crimson-seeing-venom-inducing-infuriating? Oh boy, is it ever.

Yet she’s handled it with dignity and class. And that’s admirable. Rather than spill the beans about who posted her pages, rather than take out her hurt, and anger, and embarrassment on the person who caused this problem, she has issued a statement, and posted the chapters on her website.

But there is a downside to the whole mess. The book, Midnight Sun, is now shelved. Indefinitely.

Do you know what that means for her fans? It is entirely possible that this book will never be finished. And that is the biggest tragedy of all.

Not that I blame her. I wouldn’t be able to work on it either. They might as well have sucked her blood and left her empty. And she’s supposed to like vampires. Except…

The thing with writers is that we can’t just suddenly stop writing. Sure, we might be blocked here and there. We might take vacations, and/or breaks. We may even claim we’ve retired. But we just don’t stop writing. It isn’t possible for us. We write all the time anyway, weather we have paper and pen, computer, or just words imprinting themselves on our brains. And if one project stalls for a while, another one will rear its head. Another story will form, another character will cry to be heard, another villain will jump at us out of nowhere and we MUST write his story.

In that vein, I firmly believe that someday, Stephenie will finish Midnight Sun. And when she does, I’m fairly certain she will NOT share her chapters before they’re clean. If even then. In the meantime, I’d bet money that she is working on something else, some other brilliant idea, some other wonderful project. Maybe she’ll start an anonymous blog? (Hey, why wouldn’t she? It’s a great pastime!)

We should all learn from her experience. Critique is important, but trust is crucial. And no matter what happens, write anyway.

I think that says it all. Don’t you?


Jennifer said...

I've been thinking about this since I heard about it. It makes me think of the 116 pages of the BOM that were lost.

If we set aside the part where Joseph prayed and was told not to let Martin Harris take the manuscript, I think it's a good analogy.

Joseph trusted Martin. And I believe Martin was trustworthy. But the problem was that the people Martin trusted weren't trustworthy.

That's what happens when you tell a secret to someone or let them critique your manuscript. You can control who you give it to, but you can't control who they give it to. And on and on.

Now, I don't know the whole story, but my guess would be that the person who leaked these pages didn't just post them on the web and invite all the world to see it. I bet they were trying to share it with just one person or a small group of people. (Still wrong? Of course. But not the major betrayal of leaking it to the world.)

Maybe one of the people they trusted was the culprit. Or maybe the website they posted it on wasn't as secure as they thought or something along those lines.

Nichole Giles said...

Good points, Jennifer. You could be right. However it happened, it makes me sad. As I said, if I put myself in her shoes, I'd be devastated.

I guess we have to be extremely careful about sharing our work with others. Thanks for commenting.