I love writing in longhand. Writing in longhand, I think, is a marvelous thing to do for a writer these days. If you have a notebook and a nice pen you can go off somewhere, you can 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.
Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that—but you are the only you… There are better writers than me out there, there are smarter writers, there are people who can plot better—there are all those kinds of things, but there’s nobody who can write a Neil Gaiman story like I can.
If you are pointing out one of the things a story is about, then you are very probably right; if you are pointing out the only thing a story is about you are very probably wrong - even if you’re the author.
I watched my life as if it were happening to someone else. My son died. And I was hurt, but I watched my hurt, and even relished it, a little, for now I could write a real death, a true loss. My heart was broken by my dark lady, and I wept, in my room, alone; but while I wept, somewhere inside I smiled.
I tend to have a fairly loose approach to plotting in that I know kind of what I am doing, but it’s the kind of what you’re doing if you know you’re starting out in Seattle, and you’re going drive to New York, in an old car, and where you’re probably going to stop on the way, but you don’t know everything that’s going to happen, you don’t know where the car’s going to die on you, and you don’t know what’s going to happen with that hitchhiker. And so you try to put that stuff in and that makes it interesting.
With Anansi Boys it went great making up with a sort of general plan until I got half way through and then something unexpected happened and I stopped for four months. Either I could throw out those last two pages in which something really interesting but unexpected happened that shocked even me or I could keep them and keep going but then everything had to change, it had to get deeper and darker and I liked the idea of the latter but it took four months of walking around, walking into walls, and having the kind of conversations with my assistant where she’d come over and say “I’ve put a cup of tea in front of you.” and I’d go “Great.” All of my head was off somewhere figuring it all out.