Tuesday, October 23, 2007

on being venerable

A couple of odd FAQ mails came in accusing me of either lying or "jumping on the bandwagon"when I mentioned the other gay Neverwhere character. So I thought I'd point them to (Odd, because they didn't actually seem to be from readers of my stuff, but seemed to be from people who'd been led here from some sites where people were arguing about other things.) (Shrugs.)

(And look! Neverwhere-inspired fashions from India! Who knew?)

The Scream 2007 Awards is on Spike TV tonight at 10.00pm Eastern -- lots of odd bits, and worth watching me get an extremely heavy award in order to see the Beowulf clip (from the race against Brecca, in which we see Beowulf's heroic battle with the sea monsters) and we also get to see Ray Winstone's (equally heroic) battle with the autocue. According to the organisers, the awards ceremony will also be repeated around the world on MTV-related channels for the next few weeks, and will be seen, I am told, by over a billion people. Most of whom will be going, "Who is that scruffy-looking man in the leather jacket and why isn't he Paris Hilton?" Anyway, worth checking your local listings.

(In as they report on the trip down the black carpet, I get described as a "comic book legend" and "venerable". I knew it. You blink for a moment, and voom! you got old. Venerable. Sigh.)

I was just asked if I'd be part of the London run of Beowulf publicity, leading up to the London Premiere on November the 11th. And I'm not sure whether to say yes or no right now -- on the one tentacle, having a daughter in the UK certainly makes it a much more attractive place to go. On another tentacle I've already been on the road for Stardust for 5 weeks, and I'll be going -- with my son Mike -- to the Philippines for a few days later in November. On yet another tentacle, I have things to write. On possibly a final tentacle, this is the last publicity-related thing I'd have to do until a year from now...

I'll find out how long I have to make up my mind, and see if I can push the decision back until then...

Dear Neil, I'm having an odd sort of writers block right at the moment and was wondering if you had ever experienced anything like it. I wrote the first chapter of a graphic novel and handed it to my friend who is going to do the art work (he has a lot more experience than I do in the world of comics and graphic novels) and he loved it. His wife then told me that they both loved it and said some really wonderful things. I've barely written a word since then. I know the answer is just write, the answer is always just write, but I feel positively frozen in place. Any suggestions?
Thanks so much,

I think the main thing you've learned is that you're not someone who can show things to people until they're done. And sometimes it can really throw everything off when people read a chapter and love it (or hate it) (or simply comment on it). Other people really need to have someone seeing something as it goes to drive them. You've learned that -- on this at least -- you're not someone who should be showing stuff around.

Suggestions? Put it aside for a few days, or longer, do other things, try not to think about it. Then sit down and read it (printouts are best I find, but that's just me) as if you've never seen it before. Start at the beginning. Scribble on the manuscript as you go if you see anything you want to change. And often, when you get to the end you'll be both enthusiastic about it and know what the next few words are.

And you do it all one word at a time.

Hello! I'm an aspiring librarian taking an archives course this term, and we've recently been discussing the deposition of celebrity and author papers into archival repositories. I was curious about your papers. I practiced some of my librarian magic to discover whether you were currently associated with a repository, but was unable to find anything (I am, after all, a librarian in the larval stage). Have you made arrangements for your papers? If you haven't, will you?

Many thanks,


PS. I think this sounds like a homework question, but it's really just curiosity. I truly feel that the world needs a place called The Neil Gaiman Archives. You know, for Gaiman scholars.

It's because I'm venerable, isn't it?

The Library of Congress made lots of happy and enthusiastic noises about getting the papers and manuscripts and handwritten stuff and printouts and everything, but it's never really managed to get off the ground there. (Then again, I've not done very much to make it happen, other than have the "We really must make this happen," conversation with the LoC people whenever I'm in Washington DC. And we all agree that yes, we really must make it happen, because otherwise the mice will eat all the Sandman archives. And then we all forget about it.)

Hey Neil,
I'm a junior in high school and recently they've (as in the school) really been pushing us to start thinking about what college we want to go to and what we want to do for the rest of our lives. I would really like to become an author, but pretty much every college I talked with told me that I can't make a living off of that on its own, and that I'd have to do something else on the side (which, I might add, is exactly what my parents have been telling me since I picked up a pencil and put it to paper). I really have no idea what else I would want to do with my life, and so I was wondering what you do to make money when you're not writing (or if you could give me any kind of advice). I'd really appreciate it because I have no clue what to do!

Well, if you're starting out as an author, you mostly can't make a living, because you need to write, which takes time, and you need to eat while writing, and have a place to write, and that costs money, and when you do sell your first book it won't be for much, because mostly first novels aren't sold for much, and often they aren't sold at all. (Stephen King made a lot of money from the paperback sale of his first novel. But he had, what, over half a dozen unsold books in drawers).

When I started, I made my day job writing. I was a journalist, I wrote a few short stories, I interviewed people, I wrote non-fiction books. It taught me a lot about the way the world worked, a lot about deadlines, and it meant I wrote enough to develop a style, a voice that sounded like it was mine. And it paid the bills, and I edged over towards prose fiction and comics and only gave up my last few regular columns when I could afford to.

That's how I did it.

When I went to talk to kids on careers at my old school, in the 80s, I advised anyone who was doubtful about writing as a career to do something else ("Johnnie wants to know if there's job security in being a freelance writer?" said one mother. And I told her that there wasn't, and if Johnny, who didn't say anything, really wanted job security, she should go and talk to the people from jobs in banking and hotel management in the main hall). It's not an easy thing to do. But I still wouldn't trade it for anything else...

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