Woke up, drove home. Slept for a very long time.
Today I learned something about listening to other people...
I wrote a story back in 1983. I showed it to a couple of people whose opinions I respected. One sniffed and said it was facetious rubbish and she thought I should try to grow up, and one said that it wasn't very good and that he couldn't think of anywhere that would publish it. So I put it in a drawer and forgot about it. When I thought about it, which was seldom, I remembered it as facetious rubbish, and felt faintly embarrassed to have written it.
A few weeks ago someone asked me for a Gothic story for an anthology -- let's call it Anthology B. In addition, I'd already signed a contract last year to write a Gothic story for another anthology -- which we can call Anthology A. I started thinking about the great Gothic titles -- Melmoth the Wanderer, The Castle of Otranto, and so on, and every book with a lady in a nightgown on the cover, clutching a candelabra and running away from a house with a light burning in the topmost room. And I found myself remembering the story I wrote all those years ago -- Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Nameless House of the Night of Dread Desire it was called. I wondered if there was anything in that old story that could be rescued...
My assistant Lorraine found the first two pages in a box in the attic. I found the rest of it in another box nearby. I read it through: a blue-typed carbon-copy typescript.
It wasn't bad. The funny bits were pretty funny, the style was solid, some of it prefigured things I'd do in Sandman four years later. It's about what fantasy is, and why we write it, and what it would mean to write fantasy if you lived in a Gothic universe. It contains lines like
"And Sir Frederick's first wife...?"
He shook his head, sadly. "Hopelessly insane, and but a mediocre harpsichord player. He put it about that she was dead, and perhaps some believed him."
and has a talkative raven, and a young man writing fantasy, or failing to, in it.
So today, after reading it, I ran it through the computer. It wasn't the big rewrite I'd expected to do -- some tweaking here, and tidying there. But mostly while I typed I was just proud of the nervous young man who wrote it, and wished I could have gone back in time and told him not to listen to two people who didn't like it. That he'd just shown it to the wrong two people. (It was better than many things from that period that did get published.)
Not sure that there's a universal lesson to be taken from that -- but I realised that, if I was fairly happy with what I'd done, then listening to someone who disliked it for reasons that had nothing to do with what I was trying to do and whether I actually got there or not was a deeply silly thing to do, as was deciding, because two people didn't like it, to shelve the story for ever.
So now I have a Gothic Story to write for Anthology A. If a new story gets done in time then "Forbidden Brides..." will go to Anthology B. If not, it goes to Anthology A. Either way it'll see print next year, a bit late.
The FAQ message system seems to be down right now -- I assume it's because the host is based in New York.
Dear Mr. Gaiman,
My friends, who know I adore your work, keep teasing me by claiming that you and Tom Clancy are actually one and the same person. Could you perhaps post a disclaimer so that they will have to find something new to tease me about? Thanks ever so much!
Love and stuff,
I'm just amazed that your friends figured it out so easily. What a pity. Now they must be killed.
1602 messages so far coming in seem to be split between people who read number one and enjoyed it, and people whose comic store had already sold out when they got there, and would like me to tell them where they can get a copy. (I have no idea, I'm afraid. But it was Marvel's highest-ordered title for the month, and it's only been out a day. There must be lots of copies out there.) One grumpy and too-long-to-post-here letter from a retailer complained in what English Newspapers used to describe as 'the strongest possible terms" that he didn't have enough information to know to order enough copies, that he thus could not have expected the demand for it, which he was unable to meet, and that he would be complaining to Marvel about this and my complicity in it.
Just spent a couple of hours reading through your journal and I'm impressed/amazed at the sheer amount you post. As you are primarily a non-blog writer (in that your primary writing is for other mediums), I'm wondering: why such commitment to it? Is it part of a larger commitment to write every day, regardless of projects or specific pieces, or do you consider it more of an outreach channel to your admirerers, or something else entirely?
I'm certainly not complaining, by any means, but as someone who finds writing online no faster than with pen&ink and can therefore find an hour's gone by writing an email to a friend, I'm stymied as to where you find the time to add to it at the rate you do, nevermind the why. It is A Project in its own right and must perforce give something back to you of comparable worth for your effort, and I'm curious about that.
I suppose one could ask why write at all and what do you get out of it, but the dedication to the blog amongst all the other demands on your writing life strikes me.
Well, it's easier and quicker than sending dozens of e-mails to people letting them know what I'm doing. Family and friends use the journal to keep track of my movements. It's the nearest thing I have to a diary. And it's a nice morning warm-up exercise, or a last thing at night note.
It's useful when things need to be announced fast. And enough e-mails and messages come in from people who just like having it here (some of them read my books and comics, and some of them wouldn't if you paid them, but they like coming here and reading the journal) that I feel like it would be missed if I stopped.
And I enjoy it, which is its main reason for being.
But it does have its downside. (I talk about part of that in the recent suicidegirls interview.) And it may go on hiatus in November when I move full-time into next novel mode (or it may not).
How do you work through gaps in your plots (assuming you experience them)? I'm trying to write my first novel, and it's the small, less significant, often transitional sections of plot that are giving me the most trouble and making me want to toss my computer out the window and switch my major to Art.
I'm a great admirer of your work, by the way. I'm sure you hear that all the time, but I know I wouldn't get tired of it, so....you're hearing it again. --Theresa
I know what you mean, and have no solutions to offer, other than, you do it. The only comfort I can offer is that the "small, less significant, often transitional sections of plot" may be obvious to you while you're writing the book, but by the time you've finished it you normally can't remember what was a bit of plot that only existed to link two scenes where you knew what you were doing, and what was an integral part of the story from the start. And often some of the best bits turned up in the transitional places.
How do you do it? You grit your teeth, and you do it. Some days it's about as romantic and magical as ditch-digging, but you carry on, because that's how you make it happen.
There's a Victorian sex-cries generator. Online. Honest. A Victorian sex-cries generator. It's at http://www.hootisland.com/cgi-bin/victorian.cgi .