Editing and Feedback: The Confidence to Share

Salman Rushdie

Lesson time 16:43 min

Get practical advice for working with an editor and discover the power of working past your inhibitions to receive feedback from an objective person.

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Topics include: The Objectivity of Another Pair of Eyes · Tell Your Early Readers Nothing · Working With an Editor · Editing Midnight’s Children · You Must Overcome Your Doubt · Working With Agents and Publishers


SALMAN RUSHDIE: I think it's quite normal when you are starting out on a life as a writer that you should be filled with uncertainty and doubt. And it's worst at the beginning. It actually never completely goes away. You always worry that what you're doing is rubbish. But at the beginning, you have to overcome that, and I did. [MUSIC PLAYING] If somebody says to me, "Can I see what you're doing?" and my reaction to that is to feel embarrassed, then I know immediately that it's not ready. I think embarrassment is an infallible test because, of course, what we're all trying to do is to write things that we want other people to read, you know, that we're happy and excited for other people to read. And if we are embarrassed to show it, it means we know, in our heart of hearts, that it ain't there yet, you know. And I have frequently found that, you know, my book editor has said, how are you doing with your new book and can I see something, and I go, you know, eh, just wait a bit because I know it's not ready to show. And then, there is another moment when I become excited to show it, when I think, OK, yeah, I now want people to read it, and that the embarrassment reflex has disappeared. And when that happens, I think you will know that the moment has come, you know, when other eyes need to alight on the page. There are writers who show people things all the time, you know, almost every day if they have, like, a significant other, or they have a good relationship with an agent or an editor. They're always sending pages to be told whether they work or not, to be reassured that the thing is going a good direction or to be asked questions which they need to resolve about what they've sent, you know. And there are other writers who hug it to themselves until it's much more complete. And, again, you have to work out-- that's a temperamental issue. I remember going to-- a long time ago-- going to a reading given by the writer John Irving, in which he prefaced his reading by saying what I'm going to read you now is a first draft of something I'm writing. And I want you to tell me where you think all the problems are. I thought, that's just terrifyingly brave of him, you know, to show work which he knows to be imperfect and to actually ask the audience to help him. That was extraordinary, I thought. I would be far too nervous to do a thing like that. My way of doing it has been always to take it as far as I can by myself without showing it. And I think one of the things you learn is when you're not making things better, you're just pushing things around and making them different. You know, I think you have to learn to see that moment, you know. And at that moment, that's what I would call finishing. At that moment, I become very, very interested in what other people have to say, what my editor has to say, what two or three good friends, who will tell me the truth, have to say. [MUSIC PLAYING] The most important thing is to know...

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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