8 Good Writing Practices: Neil Gaiman

Photo by Kyle Cassidy

Neil Richard MacKinnon Gaiman, widely revered as the modern “Rock Star” of writing, was born in 1960 in Portchester, Hampshire, England. His parents ran a series of grocery stores. The family is of Eastern European Jewish origins; his great-grandfather came to the UK from Belgium around 1914. His family studied Dianetics at the Church of Scientology, but acknowledged their religion as also being Judaism. Gaiman’s own statements reflect a more agnostic personal view.

Having read as early as age 4, Gaiman adored reading. His early literary influences included C.S. Lewis, Lewis Carroll, Tolkein, Edgar Allen Poe, Mary Shelley, Rudyard Kipling, Alan Moore, Harlan Ellison, G.K. Chesterton,and Ursula K. LeGuin. His favorite sci-fi writer was R. A. lafferty and the author whose work Gaiman credits as having a large influence is Roger Zelazny.

Early in his career, he worked in journalism, making connections in publishing and writing and publishing short stories for fantasy magazines. He left journalism in 1987 because British newspapers began publishing false news stories as if they were fact.

Since 1991, Gaiman has won over 50 awards for his work, including the Newberry Award, the Ray Bradbury Award, and numerous Eisner, Harvey, and Locus Awards. His best known works are perhaps “Coraline”, “The Sandman”, “American Gods”, “The Graveyard Book”, and “Stardust”. Gaiman has written numerous comics, many of which within the DC Universe, 12 novels, 14 children’s books, 6 non-fiction books, and over 100 short stories.

His first wife was Mary McGrath, with whom he has three children. He is currently married to Amanda Palmer, with whom he has a son. They reside near Menomonie, Wisconsin.

Here are Neil Gaiman’s writing tips:

  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 it’s 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.

(From an article in The Guardian.)



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