Sunday, December 02, 2007


It being Sunday, 'tis time for some quoteskimming. Without further ado . . .

On being a "famous author":

"[F]amousness is probably about as useful for an author as a large, well-appointed hiking backpack would be for a prima ballerina. Honest." ~Neil Gaiman.

On author appearances

When the books were first published, the publisher asked me a very sensible question, which was, if you're going to take on the persona of the narrator and not the writer, what will you do when you go out to speak to people? So I went to see another children's author speak and I thought it was very tedious. She said she wanted to remove the mystery from writing, and I thought, why in the world would you want to do that? I thought I would like to put more mystery into writing, and that that would actually be more interesting. So that was the angle that I went for. I just assume that if you're going to get up on stage, you might as well do something interesting. Even when I go to speak about my adult books, I try to be more interesting than I am in normal life. I mean, in normal life, people listen to me talk for free. Daniel Handler, in an interview with

On setting (specifically, the weather) in writing:

1. Never open a book with weather.

If it's only to create atmosphere, and not a character's reaction to the weather, you don't want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways to describe ice and snow than an Eskimo, you can do all the weather reporting you want.
Elmore Leonard, from his essay which was printed up as Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing.

Samuel L. Clemens, writing as Mark Twain, went one better than that. At the start of The American Claimant, he included this comment as a preface:


No weather will be found in this book. This is an attempt to pull a book through without weather. It being the first attempt of the kind in fictitious literature, it may prove a failure, but it seemed worth the while of some dare-devil person to try it, and the author was in just the mood.

Many a reader who wanted to read a tale through was not able to do it because of delays on account of the weather. Nothing breaks up an author's progress like having to stop every few pages to fuss-up the weather. Thus it is plain that persistent intrusions of weather are bad for both reader and author.

Of course weather is necessary to a narrative of human experience. That is conceded. But it ought to be put where it will not be in the way; where it will not interrupt the flow of the narrative. And it ought to be the ablest weather that can be had, not ignorant, poor-quality, amateur weather. Weather is a literary specialty, and no untrained hand can turn out a good article of it. The present author can do only a few trifling ordinary kinds of weather, and he cannot do those very good. So it has seemed wisest to borrow such weather as is necessary for the book from qualified and recognized experts-giving credit, of course. This weather will be found over in the back part of the book, out of the way. See Appendix. The reader is requested to turn over and help himself from time to time as he goes along.

For those of you wondering, the book did indeed include an Appendix entitled "Weather for Use in This Book", followed by exceprts of descriptions about weather from other sources. The final entry? "It rained forty days and forty nights.—Genesis."

And this week, some Jane:
How to respond to advice from "well-meaning" acquaintances:

You are very kind in your hints as to the sort of composition which might recommend me at present, and I am fully sensible that an historical romance, founded on the House of Saxe Cobourg, might be much more to the purpose of profit or popularity than such pictures of domestic life in country villages as I deal in. But I could no more write a romance than an epic poem. I could not sit seriously down to write a serious romance under any other motive than to save my life; and if it were indispensable for me to keep it up and never relax into laughing at myself or other people, I am sure I should be hung before I had finished the first chapter. No, I must keep to my own style and go on in my own way; and though I may never succeed again in that, I am convinced that I should totally fail in any other. From a letter by Jane Austen, and dated 1 April 1816, to the Prince Regent's Librarian, James Stanier Clarke, who had written with suggestions that she write either the story of his life (in essence) or an epic about the House of Saxe-Coburg.

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