Sunday, May 11, 2008

You put your (right-hand rear) leg in...

So, this just came in from Geoffrey Long, Communications Director of MIT Comparative Media Studies :

Hey, Neil --

Just saw the note on your blog about the tickets to the Schwartz event:

It looks like tickets for the MIT talk on the 23rd are going fast -- -- although I believe that MIT are keeping tickets back to sell on the day.

Alas, no -- it doesn't look like there will be tickets available at the door after all, due to their selling like hotcakes at the local shops like Million Year Picnic. ...I'm afraid when the tickets are gone, they're gone, and many of the local shops are already sold out.

The microsite for the event is here:

Thanks again, and I look forward to seeing you soon!

Which seemed a bit daunting, given that the hall seats 1226 people, and I'm taking it as a good omen for the first Julie Schwartz Lecture (who was Julie Schwartz? you ask. You can read about him here and you can read what Alan Moore wrote and I read at Julie's memorial here).

I've asked Geoffrey to let me know where any tickets may still be found for any of you, at MIT or in the Boston area, who want to come, and if there are any out there he'll let me know.

The Birdchick and her team won the Birding World Series, which is good news, and "Platypus" Bill Stiteler blogs yesterday's bee stuff along with what he did today (while I slept like a large, moss-covered, jet-lagged log) over at -- and because I'm rather proud of it, I'm putting up a dancing bee photo I took yesterday. (Bill put it up as well, but it's much bigger here, or it will be if you click on it, and I pushed the brightness up so you could see the expression on her little bee face as she waves her leg around. What good are bee photos if you can't see their expressions?)


Thank you for signing my books after the literary dinner in Melbourne, I get a sense that you were tired, but I appreciate how generous you were with your time. It is always a treat to meet you (that was the second time I have met you the first was a few years ago at comics r us in Melbourne) though I get a bit nervous, don't know why but I do.

The episode of "I should be writing" where they list one of the three pieces of advice is to find Neil Gaiman and he will look into your soul and tell you what you need to hear is Episode dated 9/04/08 the third piece of advice.

Your advice was "keep doing what you are doing" and that was exactly what I needed cos I had not been writing very much up until a couple of weeks ago so that helped me keep faith.

I really wish that I could find more advice on second drafts I mean I got a lot information on how to complete a first draft and now I have to get a second draft finished.

What is the best advice can you give a writer about the second draft of a novel. I mean you spend months on the first draft and you finish it and let it lie for a while, and now you have to work with this thing that is a rough lump of clay, how do you form the book out of this mass of intention and thought.

Thank you for your time.


The second draft is where the fun is. In a first draft, you get to explode. The objective (at least for me) is to get it down on paper, somehow. Battle through the laziness and the not-enough-time and the this-is-rubbish and everything else, and just get it written. Whatever it takes. The second draft is where you go and gather together the fragments of the explosion and figure out what it is you did, and make it look like that was what you always meant to do.

So you write it. Then you put it aside. Not for months, but perhaps for a week or so. Even a few days. Do other things. Then set aside some uninterrupted time to read, and pull it out, and pretend you have never read it before -- clear it out of your head, and sit and read it. (I'd suggest you do this on a print-out, so you can scribble on it as you go. )

When you get to the end you should have a much better idea of what it was about than you did when you started. (I knew The Graveyard Book would be about a boy who lived in a graveyard when I started it. I didn't know that it would be about how we make our families, though: that's a theme that made itself apparent while the book was being written.)

And then, on the second and subsequent drafts, you do four things. 1) You fix the things that didn't work as best you can (if you don't like the climactic Rock City scene in American Gods, trust me, the first draft was so much worse). 2) You reinforce the themes, whether they were there from the beginning or whether they grew like Topsy on the way. You take out the stuff that undercuts those themes. 3) You worry about the title. 4) At some point in the revision process you will probably need to remind yourself that you could keep polishing it infinitely, that perfection is not an attribute of humankind, and really, shouldn't you get on with the next thing now?

Does that help?

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