Chris Padilla/Blog / Notes

Neil Gaiman on Writing

Several great nuggets of writing insight from Neil Gaiman's introduction to the 10th Anniversary Edition of American Gods.

Storm's coming...

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.