Neil Gaiman’s Eight Good Writing Practices

Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman’s Eight Good Writing Practices

1. Write.

2. Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.

3. Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.

4. Put it aside. Read it pretending you’ve never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.

5. Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.

6. Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.

7. Laugh at your own jokes.

8. The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But its definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.

Neil Gaiman

I’ve actually talked to Neil by telephone while I was interviewing him for Cemetery Dance magazine, many years back. He was a very friendly gent and a great deal of fun. I’d ask him a question and he would simply pour his words over the telephone – all this while his assistant was poking him with a stick and telling him the “we really had to be going now”. He wound up talking for over an hour and a half – the man was just an interviewer’s joy.

I’d love to meet him in person some day and shake his hand.

I know that’s corny – but there is nothing wrong with corn. It makes good whiskey and even better fritters.

Here’s his wonderful commencement speech as he addresses the University of the Arts Class of 2012. It’s twenty minutes long – but it is REALLY worth listening to. I’ve got it playing in my headphones while I sit and type this.

And thanks to Kristine McKinley, who reminded me of this speech in the first comment to this blog entry. You see, that is something else a writer ought to do. He ought to listen to his readers.



And – if you don’t know who Neil Gaiman is you have REALLY got to go and hunt his stuff up. I’ve read and reread the Sandman series many times. I’ve read American Gods twice. Several of his short story collections, the Anansi Boys, the Book of Magic, Marvel 1602 – the guy is a fantastic fabulist.

Besides – what other author can you think of who has a Tumbler site dedicated to his HAIR?

The Sandman

Yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

9 responses to “Neil Gaiman’s Eight Good Writing Practices

  1. I love his novel Stardust, I’ve also read American Gods a few times, and his collaboration with Terry Pratchett, Good Omens, is so freaking awesome it’s ineffable.

    So I agree with this post lol Have you listened/watched his Make Good Art speech?


    • Thanks, Kristine. I love Gaiman’s writing, although I don’t think I’ve ever got around to reading Good Omens – yet.

      And thanks for reminding about his Make Good Art speech. I have listened and watched – but I’d forgotten all about it when I put this blog entry together – and I have added it as well – because it is well worth listening to.

      So there – we’ve collaborated. 🙂


  2. I love Good Omens, you must read it, Steve. It’s on my most recommended ever list. I’m reflagging this – thanks!


  3. Reblogged this on DA's Ephemera and Etceteras and commented:
    Steve Vernon is one of Atlantic Canada’s most prolific authors and the hardest working guy I’ve ever met. His blog is well worth a read…


  4. Number 8 is spot on! for deffo!




  5. I love Gaiman, I love his writing, and I love his general attitude towards the craft.


  6. I was recently introduced to Gaiman’s work through The Ocean at the End of the Lane and thoroughly enjoyed it, as suggested. It’s complex tale of imagination spun through adult story telling spoke to me on many levels.

    It’s amazing you had the chance to speak with him to learn and teach us!

    Thank you for interviewing, sharing and for reading,

    Sarah Butland
    author of Arm Farm, Brain Tales and Blood Day


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