Last month, William Gibson wrote a short piece for The Guardian in which he discusses the writing process for his first novel.
This column is a bit short, but it provides some interesting background for Gibson’s early career, including the “sage” advice he received from Robert Sheckley, a writer and editor of Omni: “I should never, under any circumstances, sign a multi-book contract, and neither should I ‘buy that big old house’.”
For aspiring writers everywhere, Gibson’s mindset during the 18 months or so (of a 12-month contract) might be helpful:
I was late because I had so very little idea of how to write a novel, but assumed that this might well be my first and last shot at doing so. Whatever else might happen, I doubted anyone would ever again offer me money up front for an unwritten novel. This was to be a paperback original, for a very modest advance. My fantasy of success, then, was that my book, once it had been met with the hostile or indifferent stares I expected, would go out of print....But in low expectations lay a sort of freedom, and in fear (fear simply of never completing the thing, most of all) a brutish but workable self-goad. I would write, then, to the audience I imagined in the future of my discovery by friendly if unimaginable forces, and to them alone. A message in a bottle. It only mattered that I get it as right as I possibly could for them, while using everything I had accumulated, over my then 34 years, that would fit
There is a lot that ellipsis leaves out, so the rest is worth a look.
Image credit goes to Jason Warhola, the original cover artist.