Friday, June 25, 2004

One to be going on with

So, after a week away I'm -- well not really back, but I'm home anyway, having seen The Magnetic Fields in Minneapolis last night (and chatted to Stephin about his plans for a musical stage play of Coraline), and tomorrow I fly in to New York, give the Harvey speech (which I will start to write as soon as I've finished writing this) and then straight home again, and back into my hole.

My only real news is that I assumed while I was handwriting that I was writing about 200 words on a page. It turns out I was actually averaging about 260 words a page, so have written about 13,000 words more of the novel than I thought I had. (I would hazard a guess that this is much more exciting for me than it is for you. For me it was like discovering that elves had left 13,000 words of novel in the night.)

Am currently still turning a handwritten half-finished zeroth draft into a typed first draft, and I seem to be managing around 7000 words a day. Which is nice in a monomanaical sort of way; which is to say, I'm sure there are other things in the world than the characters, problems and words of this book, but you'd have to remind me about them.

I'm starting to see places in the first half of the book where I obviously knew some things about my characters, and things that I needed to have happen at the end of the book that I wasn't telling myself -- one nice thing in particular. Patterns start to appear. And it seems to be quite funny.

The main thing I've stopped doing while typing the first half of the book is worrying so much about what happens in the second half of the book -- I suspect that by the time I get back there it'll all have sorted itself out, more or less. And if that sounds rather vague and amateurish, I'm sure it is. But at least it means that the plot may wind up feeling inevitable, which is a good thing, rather than imposed from above, which I'm always less of a fan of.

And other than that, it's been an interesting week, in a doing-absolutely-nothing-but-writing sort of way, because there are things you can do to avoid writing even when that's all you're doing. This was the week I fell in a lake, for example. And I made blueberry and banana jam. Both of these things seemed like good ideas at the time.

Also Nick Powell, who is writing the music for the WOLVES IN THE WALLS pandemonium e-mailed me an MP3 of the first song he's completed, a lullaby, which was waiting for me when I got home. It's lovely.


This was in my inbox when I got back, and made me smile. It's from author Kate Bachus:

Being a List of Ten Things to Do while the Author is Off Transcribing:

10. Check blog obsessively anyway.

He might decide to take a break and snowshoe the forty two miles to an
internet cafe and post something because he misses us all so very much after

9. Wail. Gnash teeth. Rend clothes.

Fortunately one's coworkers scarcely notice as this is normal behavior.

8. Buy a truck.

Get an exceptionally good deal because it's from a hockey teammate who loves
me. Take loan agent, wife, son and teammate out for Thai food. Then spend
a clandestine hour in the parking lot playing with all the buttons and
running the windows up and down and adjusting the power seat so it's in
Astronaut Mode and listening to six CDs at once and feeling smug.

7. Contemplate current pile of projects.

This includes a novel, an overgrown blog bodyguard noir thing that I really
need to finish, a short story (ditto) and the Unbearable Essay Collection,
which has reached Damoclean proportions and really should Just Go Away Now.
Fortunately contemplation isn't remotely related to actual writing, and so
far the pile remains safely untouched.

6. Play elevator games.

Pick an old elevator in the building, wait until a group of really stressed
looking people get into it, bound for the eleventh floor or higher. Get in.
Wait until the doors are closed and the elevator is in motion and say
"sayyyyyy, look at what this can do!" and bounce exuberantly, making the
elevator hydraulics joggle and the cab sproing around and everyone in the
elevator look like they're going to pass out with fear.

Repeat with next load of uptight office people.

5. Write silly email.

Not quite as good as reading Neil's stuff, but it will have to do for the

4. Work at office job.

Only advised as a last resort measure, when all other possibilities have
been exhausted and security has permanently barred one from the elevators.

3. Plan vacations we can't afford to take.

Almost as fun as going, and much cheaper. Send Becca funny emails with
pictures of places we'd like to go, with exes marking the spot on the
idyllic beach where we'd sit drinking mai tais. Feel very mature and
responsible for not actually spending all that money and staying at home and
planting begonias and drinking lemonade on the lawn instead.

2. Plan other people's vacations for them.

If you cannot go to the famous writers, the famous writers must come to you.
Amuse self sending out emails and inviting people to dinners and wondering
how many people of the people who are coming you can get away with seducing.
Cackle fiendishly. Send more email.

1. Pine.

Because really one doesn't grudge the Author any time needed away,
particularly to concentrate and do Good Stuff, but misses him mightily all
the same.

- K

and this one needs an answer...

My 9 year old daughter sent a note to Mr. Gaiman several weeks ago as part of a 3rd grade assignment. She was to pick her favorite author and send a note to them. She picked Mr. Gaiman. Unfortunately, he never responded to her. I was wondering why he did not respond.


Well, there are a couple of possible reasons: 1) I may not have received it yet. If it was sent to Harper Collins Children's Books, they tend to forward all the mail every few weeks -- it can arrive in a couple of days, or it can arrive eight or twelve weeks after it was sent. Mail from Hodder Headline or from Bloomsbury in the UK is even more intermittent. If it was sent to DreamHaven, I pick up the mail when I go in. I tend to go in every four to six weeks. Sometimes more if I'm travelling. (I was last there last Thursday, and picked up the last months' worth of mail, which leads us to reason two...)

2) I may not have replied to it yet. I haven't even looked at the mail from last Thursday from DreamHaven. In a normal week, my assistant Lorraine would by now have gone through it, and all the mail from children doing school projects or from classes of kids would by now be in the Children's Book Mail box, which tends to get more priority than the regular fan mail box, because if most kids who write to authors have deadlines. The ones who actually think to say "I get a better grade if I get some kind of reply from you" tend to go higher up the pile than the ones who just wrote to say they liked a book. But what with Lorraine's broken arm, she might not have done. (I expect she'll eventually read this and say "hah! I did" and then tell me where that box is...)

But right now, I'm off buried in the next novel. I'll not be answering kids' mail for a couple more weeks, at least.

And kids do rather better than adults. I used to send anyone who wrote to me a postcard back, on the theory that postcards are fun and personal, even if they couldn't read my handwriting, and if it's a postcard people forgive you for not writing a lengthy letter. And then one day I had to face up to the reality that all the mail was not going to be answered any longer. At least, not by me, if I wanted to do anything else at all. There was just too much of it.

Probably what I need to do is write a nice postcard-for-kids that I can cross off bits that don't apply and sign it and send it back, and then at least people would be replied to faster. Still wouldn't speed up the mail getting to me, I'm afraid. But that would only take care of half of them. (Where did you get the idea for Coraline/will there be a sequel and suchlike similar questions) it would leave out all the ones that want a bit more. Such as this one...

i'm doing an english report on you for ,yea, English and no matter how much i search and search for your bio online, it just goes straight to talking about your work. i know your one of America's most honorary writers, but i'd like the know about your hobbies, family, inspirations, and pretty much your background. so please please can you send me some info before July 9th (that's when it's due) ? you'll be ABSOLUTELY the BEST WRITER IN THE WORLD if you do:] <3 Carmelle, 11 grade

You know, I was pretty sure that the Contemporary Authors series "about the Author" biographical articles were still around on the web -- the FAQ links to one of them, but it's now vanished entirely. So I'll do my best to write something about my hobbies, family, inspirations, and pretty much my background by July 9th, and put it up either here on or over at, or in both places. No promises, but I'll try.