Sunday, March 13, 2005

four days.

So I've been home from New York for four days. In an hour or less I go off to work with Bob Zemeckis and Roger Avary on Beowulf for the next four days. Then home for about four or five days. Then into deep hermit-like hiding for the rest of March, in order to make the April 1st deadline on the second draft of Anansi Boys. [It's a great day for a deadline. It's really appropriate for the book, for a start, and whether I make it or not I can still call my editor and tell her I'm done. ("Really?" "Nope. April fool.")] And somewhere in there I'm also going to write a short piece on the Arthur C. Clarke Awards and a longer piece on M. John Harrison's Viriconium stories, and the thing for Voltaire, finish going over the restored text of Neverwhere (which Hill House will publish, but which will also become the usual text after that) and probably a couple of other things I've forgotten.

Sigh. There may be fewer blog entries over the next couple of weeks.

Hi Neil,As a writer, I think you may find this ( either sad of amusing, or just plain wrong. Mayra

Interesting. Well, if the kids are doing it as a vocabulary-building exercise, and someone tells them later that "by the way, using said is just fine" I don't have a problem with it. Learning what all those words mean and the shades of difference between them is good and useful.

On the other hand if they're actually being taught that "said is dead" and that randomly inserting a word from that list is better, then they'll find out the hard way that it's not. Unless they learn it, and then, not being writers themselves, they go on to wind up in positions where they can edit or teach writers, when they will unfortunately need to be hunted down and culled, for the good of the species.

You'll find my own comments on "said" at

It's odd -- I do run into people (particularly Americans, for some reason) who believe that Good Writing is impenetrable, and uses Lots of Long Words. I was taught, growing up, reading people like Fowler and Graves, that the secret of good writing was clarity and, where possible, simplicity, and that the aim was, above all, communication. By all means use any word you want, as long as it's exactly the right word for what you need to say.

Neil, A review of Mirrormask on the "Ain't It Cool News" site: Loved the covers of Anansi Boys, liked the UK cover better. merlot


Dear Neil,Question on Stardust that I haven't seen on your FAQ. When Tristran encounters the nymph turned into a tree she promises him she will tell him three true things; two of them right away and the other when he needs it the most. She gives him a leaf, which he is supposed to listen to when he most needs it... but he never uses it. Is that a loose end or was it intended? Good writing!

He listens to the leaf in the stables of the pub, on the mountain...


Hi Neil, I'm hoping you can settle a dispute I'm having with several co-workers. Is it "five years or less" or "five years or fewer"? I've read conflicting opinions in reference books and on the internet. I know that when the noun is plural and can be counted, then fewer is correct. However, does this apply to time as well? Any insight would be appreciated. Thank you. Jeanette

Well, I've never used "or fewer" with years in that phrase (and a quick google of "years or less" gives about half a million instances, as opposed to a couple of thousand of "years or fewer"). Possibly because time in that sense is, thanks to the "or", more amorpheous, like water, and the less would stand in for "in five years or (in) less (than five years)". I'd use fewer with years if I was talking about specific amounts of time. "He learned to fly in twelve years, two years fewer than it took him to learn to conjure ifrits."


Right. Off to the airport.