I found a couple of excellent blog posts yesterday that offered some of Neil Gaiman’s thoughts on writing. I found the first post, Neil Gaiman on Plotting and Handwriting Stories, on Mike Shea’s blog. I enjoyed this one for several reasons, though mostly because he seems to have a similar writing routine as myself, in that he doesn’t use a very detailed outline and writes the first draft by hand. One quote, about the dangers of writing on a computer connected to the Internet, hit home with me:
“I love writing in longhand. Writing in longhand is a marvelous thing for a writer to do these days. If you have a notebook and a nice pen you can go off somewhere and write that’s solar powered. You can drop it or get it wet and pretty much all of your work will continue to be there. If you suddenly decide to look up a word or check a reference you will not look up four hours later, blinking, finding yourself somehow in the middle of an Ebay auction you never had any plans to be part of.”
The second post I found was on Neil’s website, in the essays section. In this post, he tries to answer the question of “Where do you get your ideas?“. A lot of this stuff we, as writers, already know but it is nice to hear the thoughts of an such an accomplished writer as Neil Gaiman. I will give you one quote here. Neil was talking about visiting his daughter’s class and being asked where he gets his ideas:
“This is what I told them:
You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.
You get ideas when you ask yourself simple questions. The most important of the questions is just, What if…?
(What if you woke up with wings? What if your sister turned into a mouse? What if you all found out that your teacher was planning to eat one of you at the end of term – but you didn’t know who?)
Another important question is, If only…
(If only real life was like it is in Hollywood musicals. If only I could shrink myself small as a button. If only a ghost would do my homework.)
And then there are the others: I wonder… (‘I wonder what she does when she’s alone…’) and If This Goes On… (‘If this goes on telephones are going to start talking to each other, and cut out the middleman…’) and Wouldn’t it be interesting if… (‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if the world used to be ruled by cats?’)…”
This is only part of his explanation. Check out his site for the rest. I found it very interesting and also inspiring. It really is true that the great ideas for writing often stem from asking a question.
Finally, I will leave you with one final quote from Neil Gaiman:
“All fiction is a process of imagining: whatever you write, in whatever genre or medium, your task is to make things up convincingly and interestingly and new.”
Well, I hope this post helps or inspires you. Any additional comments or sources are welcome as always.