Chapter 17 of 19 from Neil Gaiman

Editing

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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

Neil Gaiman Teaches the Art of Storytelling

In his first-ever online class, Neil Gaiman teaches you how he conjures up new ideas, convincing characters, and vivid fictional worlds.

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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. 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.

Award-winning author Neil Gaiman teaches his tools for conjuring up original ideas, crafting characters, and bringing new worlds to life.

A downloadable companion full of supplementary information, creative writing exercises, and printable interactive resources accompanies the class.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Neil will also critique select student work.

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Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman Teaches the Art of Storytelling