Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Tabs, writing and why writers should not carry portfolios

I'm sending a box of Good Omens scents off to Terry Pratchett today. We have to vote on things like War (with or without ginger) and Shadwell (with or without condensed milk) and tell Beth at Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs what we think. If you put on a dab of War (with ginger) to see what it smells like on your skin, a large white dog will come and happily try and lick it off.

(I liked reading the Tarts discussing the scents...)


It is time for the closing of tabs:

There's a New York Times article on Picasso, Nick Bertozzi and the case in Georgia that the CBLDF is currently funding and fighting: This is the permalink to the article in question.

A page of reviews for Rogue Artists Ensemble production of Mr Punch in Los Angeles at

Here's the round-the-world country by country release data for the Stardust movie:

Ken Hazlett wrote to point out that I'd never linked to these dead insects battling dead fairies ("The thing that intrigues me is that it seems sort of half fairy-undead and half fairy biology/osteology, the singularity where science and magic intersect," said Ken, and he's right) which then left me wondering if I'd ever linked to these beautiful hybrids of insects and watch parts: science fiction as art.

Stephen Frug wrote to point out a blog where he's posted an analysis of one page of Sandman 19.

Dave Mckean has finished the DVD of his short films, and it'll be out for San Diego. I see there are a few samples up at -- "Me and my Big Ideas" was a proposed TV series based on The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish, and the short film up was a sort of a sample piece done for it -- it uses Dave McKean art, but I don't think it was actually made by Dave.

I find the Antikythera Mechanism fascinating -- here's a slide show at the New Yorker site -

Here's some photos of the New York PEN World Voices Town Hall event:

Thanks for posting the new location of that Penn Jillette podcast. I feel bad for making you (or your assistant) search for it when I could have done that but I console myself with the knowledge that I'm probably not the only one seeking that information and this was really something that your readers wanted to know.

Thought you might enjoy the only comic convention report you'll ever need to read:

I hope you are stretching and warming up before taking the dog out for a run.


Agreed -- I should probably go and fix the original post. And I love Budgie's every-con-report-you-need-to-read post.

Hi Neil

I'm writing because I'm a big fan of your work, but also because I'm an equally big fan of the no-nonsense advice you occasionally dispense in your blog.

I've just had my first short story published (in The Sun Book of Short Stories), and have been invited down to an awards ceremony in London for the Quick Reads Learners' Favourite Award. I'm informed that this will be followed by lunch and an opportunity for "networking and discussion with partners involved in the Quick Reads campaign".

As I'm a total newbie to this sort of thing, I'm asking if you have any advice on the proper etiquette for 'networking' with publishing industry-types. Being polite and friendly is a given, but should aspiring writers carry around a portfolio of their work, or would that seem overly pushy? Should I have business cards? And in which order should I use the cutlery?

Hope you can help.


First of all, congratulations.

Secondly, you're not an artist, where having a portfolio might conceivably be useful if you're absolutely gob-smackingly amazing. You're a writer. There is no social situation in which producing a portfolio of your work will be acceptable or useful.

Business cards are your call. I've always meant to get around to getting some, but never have, in almost 25 years of writing. But they are useful and they save you having to find a napkin to write your address down.

If you're in a social situation with editors and publishers and other writers, go and meet them and make friends. Meeting other writers is fun. They have the same problems you have and they have different problems, and you can grumble together or support each other. Meeting editorial folks is good -- you learn that they are human, and nice and what they want and so on. They will relax considerably when they realise you aren't trying to sell them something. Possibly relax enough that, if you do ever want to sell them something, they'll be pleased to hear from you.

Don't go there to work. Go to meet people and enjoy yourself.

after deciding on writing a fantasy novel, how should i pick up the story line?i am a twelfth grader and i have decided to write novels in my forthcoming summer holidays..(for which there is exactly a year's time left !!)

I'm not quite sure that it works like that, or it doesn't for me. I rarely go "I will now write a ..." (whatever. Fantasy, or pirate story or detective story or ghost story) and then try and find a plot. Mostly, I go "This would be a story..." and then follow it where it goes. I think that's more fun. Worry more about your characters -- are they people you would like to meet and spend time with? -- and what you're trying to say, what the story's about, than you do what the story is. Because if you know what it's about, then you can simply inspect and use or reject ideas.

Enjoy yourself.

Dear Neil,

Being a Very Famous Author, you may not need to worry about this anymore, but when you had deadlines that absolutely needed to be met, how did you focus in order to force words to come out of your head? I'm trying to write my masters thesis right now (about a cow lameness detection machine) and was wondering if you could give some tips on setting the mood to coax a brain into writing. Also, having read Winnie the Pooh when I was younger, I noticed you sometimes write like Milne did. Instead of writing "very famous author" you write "Very Famous Author," minus the quotes. Do you know if that originated with Milne, or is it just something that writers do? Cool dog by the way!


It's what comes of reading too much Milne and Noel Langley and people as a boy, I'm sure although I suspect I was probably more influenced by Milne's adult essays and short pieces, from collections like The Holiday Round, (which contains the wonderful Little Plays For Amateurs) than I was by his children's fiction. The judicious use of capitals for humorous effect predates them, though -- W. S. Gilbert did it, and Jerome K. Jerome, amongst others.

As for deadlines...

Like a hanging, I find they concentrate the mind wonderfully.

The best suggestion I can make is to stop doing other things. Turn off the computer, or take a laptop somewhere they don't have wireless. Don't play solitaire or bring a mobile phone. Then write.

It's amazing how much time you can spend not writing, without even trying. Make a rule that you can either write, or not do anything at all. (No TV. No long baths. No reading New Scientist. Staring out of the window is okay.) Pretty soon, you start to write, because it's more interesting than staring vacantly out of the window. (I think I got it from a Daniel Pinkwater essay in Fish Whistle, and it's a wonderful concept.)

Do you have any updates on Coraline for us? It's been a while since you have mentioned it.

I've seen a reel of the revised opening ten minutes, which they've tightened and made so it gives more information, with a very spooky opening title credits, and then I've seen a five minute sequence of Coraline talking to her parents while it rains outside and going and looking around the house, counting doors and blue things and so on, which was partially animated, and the animation looked amazing. It's still on track for a release by Hallowe'en of 2008...

Hi, I have a quick question in relation to your newly acquired pet, and pet name. I for one know I chimed in with Cabal. But I imagine about a million other people did as well. I was curious about all the different names you got sent. Did you see one time come up much more than others? Might give us insight into the group psychology of your avid readers.


Barnabas and Daniel were out there in first and second place, but I didn't want to name a dog after a fictional character. Well, not from one of my fictions anyway. I think Cabal/Caval/Cafall variants collectively were in third place. After that, a few Barneys and then a madcap assortment of names from Bob to Ditch to Blank.

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