All this, and the black marks on the page
Sorry, Raymond Chandler, I'll be back in a bit

Sharing despair with Neil Gaiman

Answering a cris de cœur - in a forum of mainly published writers - of 'I hate Book Two!', someone posted this, which came originally from Neil Gaiman. I hope he won't mind me borrowing it: as you can imagine from this piece, (which I gather was originally written for NaNoWriMo) he has one of the best writing blogs on the net, which is well worth dropping by.


The last novel I wrote (it was ANANSI BOYS, in case you were wondering) when I got three-quarters of the way through I called my agent. I told her how stupid I felt writing something no-one would ever want to read, how thin the characters were, how pointless the plot. I strongly suggested that I was ready to abandon this book and write something else instead, or perhaps I could abandon the book and take up a new life as a landscape gardener, bank-robber, short-order cook or marine biologist. And instead of sympathising or agreeing with me, or blasting me forward with a wave of enthusiasm---or even arguing with me---she simply said, suspiciously cheerfully, "Oh, you're at that part of the book, are you?"

I was shocked. "You mean I've done this before?"

"You don't remember?"

"Not really."

"Oh yes," she said. "You do this every time you write a novel. But so do all my other clients."

I didn't even get to feel unique in my despair.

So I put down the phone and drove down to the coffee house in which I was writing the book, filled my pen and carried on writing.


About ten other writers on that forum piled in to agree, and we all agreed that it's not just second book syndrome, it's a seemingly inevitable part of the cycle of writing novels. Looking back, I remember when a certain book called Shadows in the Glass - otherwise known as The Mathematics of Love - was driving me to tears of exasperation. Did I really have to plod on, when I had this brilliant new idea of how I could, after all, write Anthony and Elizabeth Woodville? It's hard to remember that time now, and Book Two - otherwise known as A Secret Alchemy - had more than its share of 'I hate!' stages, and I'm remembering why I wanted to write it, and enjoying the way it's come out. And ever since that I hate stage I've been steadily more excited about Book Three - otherwise known as Book Three - and now I would cheerfully kill to get everything out of the way and all the preliminary research done so I could start it. But I must remember, I tell myself, that in a few months I'll be crying 'I hate Book Three!' because sparkling at me in the mists of my mind will be Book Four. I must remember...

But just in case, I think I'll just go and print out that Neil Gaiman story, and pin it up on the wall, directly above the monitor.