Neil Gaiman demystifies writer’s block

Who hasn’t been there? The blank page. The blinking cursor. The author’s horrifically empty torture chamber: writer’s block.

Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman  in a snuggly sweater

Well, according to Neil Gaiman, best-selling author of the Sandman comic book series, Coraline and many more super-imaginative works of fiction, writer’s block is just as much a fiction as anything else that pours out of an author’s mind. In this fascinating interview on the Goodreads website, he talks about how his ambition as a writer has evolved over the years and offers these pearls of wisdom about the dreaded you-know-what (shhhh… don’t say it out loud or it might come true!):

Writer’s block is this thing that is sent from the gods—you’ve offended them. You’ve trod on a crack on the pavement, and you’re through. The gods have decided. It’s not true. What is really true is you can have a bad day. You can have a bad week. You can get stuck. But what I learned when I was under deadline is that if you write on the bad days, even if you’re sure everything you’ve written is terrible, when you come to it tomorrow and you reread it, most of it’s fixable. It may not be the greatest thing you’ve ever written, but you fix it, and actually it’s a lot better than you remember it being. And the weird thing is a year later when you’re copyediting and reading the galleys through for the first time in months, you can remember that some of it was written on bad days. And you can remember that some of it was written on terrific days. But it all reads like you. Fantastic stuff doesn’t necessarily read better than the stuff written on the bad days. Writers have to be like sharks. We keep moving forward, or we die.

So on that note, here’s a toast to all the other authors out there: have lots of fun over the holiday season and then sit at your desk and work. Cheers!

Photo credit: Lvovsky via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

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MI5 versus Noah Webster

This short article in yesterday’s Guardian about the spelling of the word Spectre in the most recent James Bond title is an interesting delve into a perceived cultural battle between American and British spelling. The title of the article, How James Bond rescued filmgoers from the Spectre of Americanisation, contains three Britishisms itself: “filmgoers” (which would be “moviegoers” in North America), “spectre”, and, ironically, “Americanisation” (which would be spelled “Americanization” in the US).

Does Spectre's left hand know what its right hand is doing?

Does Spectre’s left hand know what its right hand is doing?

The writer of the article says that, “The Commonwealth is home to more than 2 billion people, America roughly 318 million. Understandably, speakers of other languages tend to be more familiar with British English than with its younger counterpart, except in places like the Philippines, where American influence has held sway.” However the cultural influence of American English is proportionately far greater than those numbers would suggest. Movie making, just like publishing, is an industry, and ultimately it’s the size of the market (its spending power) that counts.

Of course there’s no right or wrong when it comes to spelling variations across cultures, although Brits do tend to get very touchy about these things. As a kid in England, I can remember my mother not allowing me and my sister to watch Sesame Street because she didn’t want me to grow up “talking American”, which is a bit strange, since American kids who watch Harry Potter don’t end up sounding like posh Brits!

And I should know how bizarre these discussions can get because I now live in Canada, where there are three different accepted spellings of the word yogurt. Or is that yogourt? Or yoghurt? Either way, I’ll take mine shaken, not stirred.

Photo credit: Tamsin Slater / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

A new honorific in the Mx.

No, that title doesn’t contain a typo. The New York Times has just used the newly coined honorific Mx. that identifies neither marital status nor gender.

Maybe Mx. could also be useful for sci-fi and fantasy authors when writing politely about aliens or supernatural beings of indeterminate sex? Should Time Lords/Ladies like Doctor Who henceforth be called Mx. Who? Or Missy be called Mx. Master? No, that sounds like a kitchen blender. I’ve been thinking about this for far too long, as you can see…

022015_DoctorWho_Missy-970x545

Mx. Master and the Blender Men

Photo credit: BBC

Homegrown sales from foreign soil

Author Elliott Katz details how he went about selling the foreign language rights to his book and then leveraged those agreements to produce promotional fuel like this back home: “Translated into 24 languages by publishers in Europe, Asia and Latin America.”

The series of dreadpunk novellas I’m currently working on is set in nineteenth century Montreal, so it would make perfect sense for me to sell the rights for a French translation (at minimum) when the time comes. I’ll definitely refer back to Elliott’s success story.

Any followers of this blog had experience with foreign-language rights sales? Let me know down below!