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Arts & Entertainment

Editing and Rewriting

Dan Brown

Lesson time 14:00 min

Dan shares his practical system for tracking the status of an edit and demonstrates how to strengthen your project through revision.

Dan Brown
Teaches Writing Thrillers
In his first-ever online class, best-selling author Dan Brown teaches you his step-by-step process for turning ideas into page-turning novels.
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I want to tell you about one of the most painful experiences I had as a writer. I had just spent about a year and a half on the opening 150 pages of "The Lost Symbol," and I was going to California and I printed the manuscript and-- and took it with me and I went down to Venice Beach. I rented a beach chair, I sat down, and I read this 150 pages. And I realized, they're not good. They don't accomplish what I need them to accomplish to be a successful thriller. I was devastated because it was so much work, and I went home and I threw the pages out. But I was committed to the idea of the novel for "The Lost Symbol". I had my world, I had my moral gray area, I knew what I wanted to write about. But I was also certain that I hadn't got there yet. So you as a novelist need to find that commitment to your idea, but temper it with an understanding that you're not going to get it right the first time. There's a difference between being committed to your idea and being a lazy editor. You'll often hear writers say that the difference between good writers and bad writers is that good writers know when they're bad, and that means a couple of things. It means that all writers are bad sometimes-- you're not going to get it right the first time. I certainly don't. It also means that the most important skill you're going to have as a writer is to know when you're bad. To be able to say, oh, that was an interesting idea, didn't quite work. Delete it. And having that critical instinct to know that it's not right and delete it without beating yourself up over it because guess what, that's part of the process. Editing is part of the process of writing. Saying, you know what, I just wrote 10 pages and three of them are great. The other seven go in the garbage. When you buy a novel, you're not paying for all of the words that the author put on the page. You're paying for all of the words the author deleted. The author did the heavy lifting of deciding what's important. The author gave what works room to breathe, and that means that your reading experience is pleasant. You're not hitting things that you don't need or you don't want to read. If you're setting out to write a thriller, that moves, that inspires, that gets people turning pages, you're going to need a lean and tight narrative. Now writing a lean, tight narrative doesn't necessarily mean that you're writing less, it means that you're editing more. You're going to have to create a lot of language, a lot of plot, and a lot of dialogue that actually doesn't make your final draft. Because by distilling a lot of information into those little gems, you will create a story that is nothing but the best of what you wrote. I live in New Hampshire-- we make maple syrup the same way. We pour gallons and gallons and gallons of this sort of diluted syrup into a vat, and we boil it, and we boil it, we boil it. And everything that isn't maple sugar candy evaporates and what you're left with is...

Craft page-turning suspense

Packed with secret symbols and high-stakes suspense, Dan Brown’s thrillers have sold more than 250 million copies and include one of the world’s best-selling novels, The Da Vinci Code. In his writing class, Dan unveils his step-by-step process for turning ideas into gripping narratives. Learn his methods for researching like a pro, crafting characters, and sustaining suspense all the way to a dramatic surprise ending.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Simple, direct, pragmatic approach to writing and getting it done. Especially noteworthy, Dan Brown discusses how to get over the usual hangups writers have around theme, process and dialogue. Just a great class I will refer to a lot.

Mr. Brown is exciting and energetic. His attitude promises a fun class and he delivers.

All of them just make it real and validating.

What a phenomenal course. I'm already looking forward to combing through the notes in review. Dan Brown has wisdom and a certain likeability that makes him an absolutely phenomenal teacher. Thank you to the author and thank you to Masterclass.



This is good stuff - it's like I'm sitting at a dinner party and he's across the table just answering my questions. It's what you'd want to know from such an accomplished author.

Fabio S.

I love this man. He got me so inspired I started writing again He's always my go-to when I'm stuck somewhere in the writing process.

Rosemary O.

This lesson made me wonder what word processor Dan uses for writing...Word, Google Doc, Scrivener, text notes, something else?

Katie K.

This colour coding idea is perfect for me! Why didn't I think of this?! Thanks Mr Brown!

Katherine Y.

These are very informative lessons! I'm taking notes and going through your downloads. I'm in the editing process with my second book. Learning a lot. Thanks so much!


I paused at 7:30 and thought about NOT diffusing the bomb at the last minute. I haven't read Inferno, but I imagined a virus bomb in the Museum of Natural Sciences. Lots of people in there, maximum contagion and a message. I imagined the heroes realising in the last paragraph of the chapter that there is NO WAY they can diffuse the bomb, that it WILL go off. WHAT A PAGE TURNER for the next chapter. Then I thought: what could two smart people do in 90 seconds? Could they get the museum locked down? There would be some casualties, and that 90 seconds could cover six or seven super dramatic pages as people struggled to get out, decisions were made, ethical positions were challenged. And a SUPER tight clock. MUUUUUCH better than simply cutting the red wire. Thank you for doing this.

David D.

I appreciated the part about committing to your ideas. My biggest problem is that usually around the 10,000 word mark I start to feel like the story idea I had sucks. So I start again with a different idea... and again and again.


The bit on commitment is so important. A novel is a huge project and making the decision to commit your time and effort to it is the first step in writing it. Without that, it's so easy to forget about it or fall into a cycle of restarting it every time something seems off.

A fellow student

Never took notes from a Master Class the way I did from this one. So many gems. Truly grateful.

Amber E.

The advice about knowing when to get input is so important. This is a confirmation of something I silently told myself. When I get input on my plot too early I walked away with a completely different book when I brainstorm with other people.