What Neil Gaiman taught me about writing

I’ll start this by saying I’ve never met or spoken Mr. Gaiman. However, for the last 12 years, he has been my shadowed mentor.

When I was 10 years old, I picked up Coraline in one of my classrooms. I just wanted something to read. I was always reading. Years after the fact of middle school, teachers would identify me as the girl who always had her nose in a book. Coraline wasn’t the first book I’d read, and it wasn’t the last. But, Coraline was the most important book I’d ever and will ever read. I can identify the moment I first read Neil Gaiman’s writing as the moment I realized I wanted to be a writer.

Since I’ve read that book, I’ve attempted to collect anything and everything Gaiman has ever written. But it wasn’t only that I enjoyed his writing that I became such a fan. it was how much I wished to model my own writing after his. Gaiman is sparse – well, in everything but American Gods – and funny. He is whimsical like Alice Hoffman but with more thrilling ideas and fantastical worlds. He is everything that has made me a writer.

Gaiman receives questions all the time about writing, and my favorite thing about him is that he is also sparse in his responses. The conclusion Neil Gaiman usually comes to is that in order to write you need to just do it. Stop asking questions. Stop trying to bypass the process. Write. Write more. And keep writing. As a writer myself, I know that this is the hardest part of the process. But if you can’t write, you aren’t a writer, period.

Check out Neil’s online journal.

Defining the Graphic Era

If you wondered whether graphic novel means a larger work of comics you would be correct. But life isn’t always so simple.








First, let’s redefine the graphic “novel” and rather refer to these collections of narrative images as graphic books. The word novel implies that the work in question is fiction, which is not always the case (Dr. Rebecca Barnhouse, author of The Book of the Maidservant). Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is a cleverly illustrated memoir of her own childhood. Wheres as Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series is entirely fantasy.

Graphic books are either intended narratives that extend beyond the typical page number of a comic book and bound using a method other than the typical stapling, or they can also be a collection of comic books that form a sequence of a story and are also bound in a way other than stapling. The difference between comics and graphic books are relatively simple somewhat arbitrary.

The name comic book refers to a collection of picture panels that form a narrative. Therefor, what right do we have to call graphic books anything if not collections of comic books? This becomes problematic when we examine that I define a graphic book in two ways. In the sense that a graphic book is a collection of comic books bound in a different way, it is a comic collection. A book originally intended to be and published as a larger work extending beyond the scope of the typical comic book is still a comic book.

Unfortunately the word comic is associated with a number of juvenile ideas. The largest demographic for the purchasing of comic books are adolescent boys. Therefor we are hesitant to use the word comic to describe more serious works.

But each panel of art is in itself a comic. And each collection of panels is a comic book. And regardless of how it is bound they are a mutually exclusive idea. In the attempt to mature the world of graphic story-telling, we have evolved to use words that are exclusive to adults. You wouldn’t give your child a graphic movie or a graphic video game. The word graphic doesn’t just imply a picture of some sort. It implies that the content of what you are handling is somehow reserved for the eyes of an adult.

To embrace the new trend of the graphic book we usher ourselves into a new graphic era of literature. While some may be hesitant to accept the legitimacy of the graphic book they will very soon be quieted. We no longer live in a world wholly tolerant of information that isn’t quick and easy to access. We are a visually glutinous population of consumers. Literature, as everything else, must evolve as we do if it is to survive. Instead of holding this concept of literary evolution at arms length, we should embrace it as humanity once embraced the advent of the printing press. Sometime in the future, our quibbles will seem like archaic qualms to our descendants.