Neil Gaiman on Writing
Several great nuggets of writing insight from Neil Gaiman's introduction to the 10th Anniversary Edition of American Gods.
Like Carl Barks, Gaiman started with a locale:
A couple of weeks later, my editor sent me a mock-up of the book cover. It showed a road, and a lightning strike, and, at the top, it said, “American Gods.” It seemed to be the cover of the book I had planned to write.
I found it both off-putting and exhilarating to have the cover before the book. I put it up on the wall and looked at it, intimidated, all thoughts of ever finding another title gone forever. This was the book cover. This was the book.
Now I just had to write it.
I think about this often, because it feels so true. Each project really does take it's own path:
I remember when it was all done in first draft telling Gene Wolfe, who is the wisest writer I know and has written more excellent novels than any man I’ve met, that I thought I had now learned how to write a novel. Gene looked at me, and smiled kindly. “You never learn how to write a novel,” he told me. “You only learn to write the novel you’re on.”
And then, of course, a great reminder to ship imperfection:
I finished it, eventually, and I handed it in, taking a certain amount of comfort in the old saying that a novel can best be defined as a long piece of prose with something wrong with it, and I was fairly sure that I’d written one of those.