Wednesday, January 08, 2003
Have now started typing the LEGENDS novella -- I've not quite finished it as a handwritten story yet, but I know enough about it to feel like I'd rather start typing the second draft now and put all the pieces in place for the end when I get there.

Am finding myself pleasantly surprised that so far, in the typing, that it's not the dull thing I was scared it was while I was writing it.


I really like your website, especially the way this technology allows you to engage in a non-overwhelming form of dialog with your fans.

I'm curious to know if you think that such a short feedback cycle affects your art in any major ways. I'm sure you have more artistic integrity than to, say, "screen test" your stories so that your audience is always happy with the ending, but do you think it affects you in more subtle ways?

Well, bear in mind that I come from comics, where a monthly letter page meant that, every month, I'd be sent a couple of hundred letters on Sandman. You had a short feedback cycle there, and it was very useful, but not, I'd wager, in the ways the people writing thought it was. (I was very happy that, by issue 6, we were getting a lot of letters reminding me that they wanted to meet Dream's brother, Death, for example.)

I'm not sure that there is a similar thing going on here, though. Mostly by the time I've done whatever it is, it's already too late.

In the book world, whatever it is that's coming out now was usually written years ago, and I long ago resigned myself to the fact that the next thing I'll write will be the next thing I want to write, and it doesn't really matter what people are waiting for. Readers mostly want more of the last thing they liked, anyway. I'd rather write something that nobody knows if they'll like yet or not, which may be perverse of me, but is how I'm built.

In comics (which is a medium that gets mistaken for a genre) my readers sort of understood that if they didn't like one thing I did, the next would be different, so it was probably worth sticking around. That's a harder lesson to teach people in books, who read one thing I write and assume that's what I do or that's all I do. But they'll figure it out eventually, or they won't, and it's not going to change what I write.

The knowledge that this journal has somehow attained a six-figure readership certainly affects what I'll write on the journal itself -- I'm a lot less likely to talk about other people than I was in the early days, when I probably knew personally half the people reading it. (I'm happy to put Maddy and Holly in as they lobbied loudly to be mentioned in the blog last week.) Which makes me feel more comfortable, as I don't have to worry that I'm putting anything someone considers personal out onto the web, although has the downside of occasionally making the whole site feel a bit like the end of The Wind in the Willows, when... soon as the door had closed behind him, Toad hurried to the writing-table. A fine idea had occurred to him while he was talking. He would write the invitations; and he would take care to mention the leading part he had taken in the fight, and how he had laid the Chief Weasel flat; and he would hint at his adventures, and what a career of triumph he had to tell about; and on the fly-leaf he would set out a sort of a programme of entertainment for the evening-- something like this, as he sketched it out in his head:--


(There will be other speeches by TOAD during the evening.)


SYNOPSIS--Our Prison System--the Waterways of Old England--Horse- dealing, and how to deal--Property, its rights and its duties-- Back to the Land--A Typical English Squire.

SONG . . . . BY TOAD.

(Composed by himself.)


will be sung in the course of the evening by the . . . COMPOSER.

If you see what I mean.