From Neil Gaiman's MasterClass

Editing

Neil gives advice about the editing process, including why it’s important to take time away from a project and to get feedback from a trusted reader.

Topics include: Pretend You’ve Never Read It Before · Ask Yourself “What Was This About?” · Take Feedback Wisely · Don’t Obsess Over Perfection

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Neil gives advice about the editing process, including why it’s important to take time away from a project and to get feedback from a trusted reader.

Topics include: Pretend You’ve Never Read It Before · Ask Yourself “What Was This About?” · Take Feedback Wisely · Don’t Obsess Over Perfection

Neil Gaiman

Teaches the Art of Storytelling

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To be an artist and particularly to be a writer, what you are doing is a twofold process. And to put it very simply, it's a process of creating. And then it's a process of fixing or of editing. The first thing you do as a writer is you explode. You explode like a bomb explodes. You explode onto the page. The story is an explosion. And you get to the end of it. And once it's done, then you get to walk around it. And you get to look at the shrapnel and the damage it did. And you get to see who died. And you get to see how it worked. And that's the point where you get to think about it. You get to think about what works and what doesn't work. [MUSIC PLAYING] For me, once I finished writing something, whether it's a short story, or a novel, or a script, what I do, if I can, is I leave it. Walk away. Do something else. And then maybe a week later, maybe 10 days later, print it out. Come back to it and try and pretend. And pretend like a method actor. Pretend like this is the most important thing in the world to me. Pretend that I've never read it before, and I know nothing about it. And then I read it. And it's very easy. It gets easier the longer it goes, I think. For me, just to pretend that I never-- I don't know anything about this thing. I'm reading it as best I can as a reader. And I do it, print it out, because I have a pen or a pencil with me. And I am not vicious, not cruel, but I'm a reader. And I will make notes in the margin of anything that doesn't work for me as a reader. Some of the time, it's things that I thought I could get away with as a writer. There's that point where you're a writer, and you go, "well, I don't need to write the whole battle, do I? I can just sort of-- I can imply that it's happening." And you go, "yeah, nobody's going to mind." And then you're sitting there as a reader going, "but I was expecting that battle. You've led everything up to this battle. And you don't even-- oh. Oh." And then it's like, oh. So you write the note saying, "needs a battle." And then you try and pretend that you as a writer and you as a reader are two different people. Because you're going to look at your notes at the end. And that's what is going to really guide you. That is going to be the primary engine through a second draft, through an edit, through a fix. [MUSIC PLAYING] When you get to the end of your first draft of whatever it is, whether it's a short story, whether it's a novel, then you read it. And you read it pretending you've never read it before. You read it with new eyes. And one of the questions that you ask yourself when you get to the end is, "okay, what was that about?" And that's the most important question that you can ask yourself. Because the difference between what you're going to do in the first draft and the second draft can often be tiny, but it's the most important draft. It's getting to that second draft. And the question, "what is this about" is what gets you from the f...

Unleash your imagination

Award-winning author Neil Gaiman has spent more than a quarter of a century crafting vivid, absorbing fiction. Now, the author of Stardust, Coraline, and The Sandman teaches his approach to imaginative storytelling in his online writing class. Learn how to find your unique voice, develop original ideas, and breathe life into your characters. Discover Neil’s philosophy on what drives a story—and open new windows to the stories inside you.

Reviews

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

Defining the characters' wants/needs helps me clarify what my characters are seeking. The workbook assignments for this class are especially helpful.

Neil Gaiman is an incredible storyteller. This is a gift to all writers.

I was amazed at the depth and scope of Neil's narrative, and experienced what it takes to be a successful author.

I actually cried through some of these lessons. Filled my notebook with gold ! Thank you Neil.

Comments

Christa A.

The story about Steve Whitaker's perfectionism was so painful. I'm sure it was also painful to share that story. But thank you for doing so. What a powerful reminder for all of us about the dangers of perfectionism.

Valentina

Everytime, I listen to Neil I love him even more. He's so honest when it comes to his craft. So intuitive. Thank you. I'm feeling so humble right now.

Alison M.

Hi Neil and All, I have not been praying because I've been off writing. Thank you for the inspiration and education. This had been my longest string of writing every day that I have had in years. I'll keep working through the exercises and also on my current project. Thanks for the reminder that it will never be perfect. I'll finish it anyway.

Theophilus W.

Many times in my writing journey I have underestimated the process, or didn't properly plan for the process, or allowed voices to interfere with the process. Like On-Writing, this class is great for enjoying and respecting the journey. I've experienced writer's block. I've also experienced what I call " writer's enigma " - a system where you can't stop writing and can't really understand why. In the former I believe all blocks can be removed or are figures of our imagination. Unless we try to ignore the feeling of it and just plow along with the words and it feels like we are dragging the block behind us. Great lesson.

Myriam B.

Every word of that was totally relevant to me. I edit myself when I'm still in my first draft, I'm too soft editing my second draft, I look for perfection to the detriment of the story because then it doesn't get done, I don't have faith in the process. This is exactly what I needed to hear.

Patricia B.

I also really enjoyed and valued the personification of story in the end..."I had no idea you were going to be so beautiful."

Patricia B.

The distinction between being creative and editing is the way out of writers block. One works at a time but not both. Together they fight. So exploding on the page...that idea was so powerful for me. I also liked the taking it further with the creator and the editor as two separate people. Pretending that the editor has never seen the story before. This goes so much further than fresh eyes. Thank you so much for taking everything much further and deeper! So. Much. Goodness!!

Valery B.

The conclusion reminds me of Chuck Jones saying: "Every artist has thousands of bad drawings in them and the only way to get rid of them is to draw them out." Thanks Neil.

Jenna G.

As someone who's in the middle of editing, this is just what I needed to hear.

Brendan B.

This is the most important lesson in the series. It may be the most important for any person in Art.