All Writing Is Rewriting

Salman Rushdie

Lesson time 16:34 min

Discover Salman’s approaches to rewriting and learn how his work habits have changed over time.

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Topics include: Be Your Own Best Editor · Revising Language and Action · The Spider Web in Your Head · Step Away. And Then Come Back. · Have an Attitude of Dissatisfaction · Have a Good Shit Detector · Case Study: Working Through Midnight’s Children


- It's often been said, and I think it's true, all writing is rewriting. It's very rare that when you put something down for the first time that you don't need to look at it again. What's more characteristic is that it needs work, needs work, and rework. [MUSIC PLAYING] To be frank, the hardest thing of all is to make something out of nothing. You know, that the terror of the blank page. What do you put down on it? And very often, your first attempt to put something down on the blank page we'll be imperfect. And my view is, you should go with that. It's important to get something down. Because once you have something down, however rough it is, then another part of your mind kicks in, which is not just your creative imagination but your critical imagination. Because then you're looking at a thing that's actually there. And you can start thinking, what's wrong with this? And what needs, what needs to be cut? What needs to be added? What needs to be changed? You can look at it critically. And that becomes a process of improvement. You will do well to be your own best editor. What you should look at when you look at your own text is two things. One is, are there things that you are saying that are superfluous that you don't need to say? That it would be better if you didn't say them? And are there things that you haven't said that need to be said, and that would improve the text if you did say them? You have to look at both. Both having said too much and having said too little. And if you use those two tests on every page, it can be very, it can actually make you read your work very objectively. You should be revising your language, constantly. And sometimes, you want to revise the actual action. Maybe you think that something that you had planned-- that when you actually get round to doing it, it's kind of not satisfying to you. And you have to find a different way. I'm looking at the language and I'm looking at the development of the story all the time, and trying to see if it's going the way I want it to go. Or are there false notes? Are there some other things that I thought would be good that end up being less successful than I hoped they would be? This can happen also with characters. A character that you think is going to be an important character, when you actually introduce them, you realize that they're-- actually, you don't have that much room for them. And they can become a much smaller character, or they can, sometimes you can leave them out altogether. And vice versa. They can be characters which you didn't expect to be big characters, but who somehow force themselves upon you. They're too interesting when you start making them. You want more of them. You want to give them more scenes. And so they grow in the book. I always like that when that happens because it makes me feel that the book has a kind of organic life of its own. That I'm trying to stay in charge of, but I'm also interested that...

About the Instructor

To the delight of readers across the globe, Salman Rushdie’s genre-defying novels have brought surreal and magical realms to life for decades. Now the Booker Prize–winning author teaches you the art and craft of storytelling. Learn how to draw from your own experiences to build vivid worlds, authentic characters, and complex plots. There are extraordinary stories that only you can write—start sharing them.

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Salman Rushdie

Booker Prize winner Salman Rushdie teaches you his techniques for crafting believable characters, vivid worlds, and spellbinding stories.

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