N is for Neil – Raven Oak

N is for Neil

In today’s continuation of the A-Z Challenge, I give you:

N is for Neil…Gaiman

Unlike most folks in geekdom, I didn’t discover Neil Gaiman through his Sandman comics. In fact, while my high school friends were nose-deep in The Sandman, I was too busy reading and writing novels.

Neverwhere by Neil GaimanMy first encounter with the world of Neil Gaiman was the novel Neverwhere. While published in 1996, I didn’t snag a copy until 1998/1999 when an attendee of the North Texas ToriFest told me I’d be a fool not to read it. The word choice and worldbuilding blew my mind. I’d seen excellent worldbuilding and the smart turn of phrase by many-a-fantasy or science fiction writer before this, but Neil did something different. The eloquence of his language added a layer to the work that I’d never encountered before.

At that age, I was ambivalent about Good Omens and Stardust, so when American Gods was released, I wasn’t sure I’d like it.

I curled up in bed that night, determined to enjoy this new work. 3 AM rolled around when I finally came up for air and promptly called in sick to work. I had to finish this book.

For years, American Gods sat in the #1 spot as my favorite SF/F book of all time. When Neil released a new book, even children’s books, I bought them and devoured them at an unholy pace. Just when I thought the man couldn’t write a better book, he wrote The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

Neil is a master in his craft. Where it takes me 7-10 edits/revisions to tighten a manuscript, mine don’t even compare to Neil’s. He writes with perfect word choice and structure that comes with many, many years of practice and a brilliant mind.

When I edit my novels, I shoot for Neil. It’ll be many years (maybe decades!) before I can layer a story like he does, but I aim for it anyway. His use of words coupled with Connie Willis‘s devotion to characters and Patrick Rothfuss‘s gorgeous worldbuilding is what I hope to blend together.

What better role models in the craft could I have?

(Image of Neil Gaiman is used under CCL and is copyrighted Kyle Cassidy.)


This post is part of the A-Z Challenge. Every day (except Sundays) in the month of May, I’ll be posting about people, places, books, games, and other things that influence me as a writer or add a certain magic to my life. Join me in April as we explore a Hodge-Podge of Influences & Wayward Treks through the Fantastical.

Read more A-Z Challenge Posts here.


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