Tag Archives: his dark materials

Advice for Writers: From Philip Pullman

Are you one of the intrepid souls riding the rapids of NaNoWriMo this year? If so, I commend you! It’s hard work to show up to the page day after day, slogging through a morass of your own making. You’re like a god shoving settings and personalities and destinies around, like a heroic, metaphysical terraformer. “No, no,” you say, “this chasm is in the wrong place! Jerry, I’ll need about 10,000 tons of fill dirt over here. No, I don’t know where you’re supposed to get it, just get it.”

You’re at the quarter-mile mark today, so hopefully you’re still feeling somewhat fresh and motivated. But just in case, I thought it would be nice to pull up a pep talk from the NaNoWriMo pep talk archives to give you a little lift. You remember Philip Pullman, don’t you? He wrote a little series called His Dark Materials that a few people sort of enjoyed a while back. Anyway, he’s excited that you’re writing a novel this month, and he wanted to let you know. Here’s an excerpt from his letter to you:

You know which page of a novel is the most difficult to write? It’s page 70. The first page is easy: it’s exciting, it’s new, a whole world lies in front of you. The last page is easy: you’ve got there at last, you know what’s going to happen, all you have to do is find a resonant closing sentence. But page 70 is where the misery strikes. All the initial excitement has drained away; you’ve begun to see all the hideous problems you’ve set yourself; you are horribly aware of the minute size of your own talent compared to the colossal proportions of the task you’ve undertaken; that’s when you really want to give up. When I hit page 70 with my very first novel, I thought: I’m never going to finish this. I’ll never make it. But then stubbornness set in…

Check out the rest of it.

One of his miserable experiments turned into this:

So you keep going, too. You never know what might happen.

Psst! If you’d like more creative inspiration, you might enjoy strolling through the FTF archives.