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Neil Gaiman: From 'Doctor Who' to blog to 'Doctor Who'

July 26, 2010 |  9:45 am
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Neil Gaiman writes just about everything: books for adults, young adults and kids; comic books; film and television scripts; short stories; poetry; posts on Twitter and a lively blog. But lately he's found that he can't write everything at once. In late June, he stopped posting on his blog in order to focus on a couple of scripts. He was writing a screenplay adaptation of his bestseller, "Anansi Boys," and turning in the sixth -- but not quite last -- draft of his script for "Doctor Who." After almost a four-week blog hiatus, Gaiman returned on Friday.

Just as the draft of Anansi Boys was handed in, the word came down from the powers behind Doctor Who that I was going to have to do another draft. The wonderful thing about books and comics is your budget is infinite: it costs the same to draw one thing as another, to write one thing as another. That’s not true of television, where a budget might stretch to prosthetics or CGI, but not both (quick! pick one! now rewrite to make it work) or you might find yourself being told that, no, we can’t make the Undersea Dancing Mermaids sequence work because the underwater cameras would blow the budget even before you factor in the mermaid tails but we already have a bird costume so could you just make all the mermaids into birds instead? And you’re sure you can, you can’t just quite figure out how...

"Doctor Who" has an avid fan base that parses such things, so Gaiman takes care to point out that mentions of mermaids and birds are purely coincidental and they (probably) don't really appear in the script. He's, you know, making a metaphor -- it's a writerly habit.

What's interesting is that while Gaiman's blog went dark, his Twitter feed stayed active. Gaiman has more than 1.4 million Twitter followers. He jokes, answers direct questions, posts links to photos, sends birthday greetings. It's not like he went off the Internet completely to write his scripts -- he just stopped blogging.

Gaiman is more inclined than many authors to engage with his readers, and to write revealingly about whatever he feels like -- including his pets and bees -- online. It's deepened his connection with readers, and has never felt forced or calculated. Nowadays, when publishers urge authors to begin blogging and get on Twitter to promote their work, Gaiman's example is one they hope every author might replicate.

What does it mean that Gaiman stopped blogging but kept the Twitter up? Do blogs detract from the real work writers are supposed to do? Should more writers follow Gaiman's lead and connect through Twitter, setting blogs aside? Or will Twitter's 140-character limit make blogging feel like a luxurious long form, one suited for complex ideas, and multi-part questions?

-- Carolyn Kellogg
twitter.com/paperhaus

Photo: Neil Gaiman in Wisconsin in April. Credit: Associated Press


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