Neil Gaiman’s Top 7 Tips and Rules for Writing

Listening to the masters of writing can help to give you perspective on the craft. 

Neil Gaiman is one of the best writers currently working. 

Here are seven pieces of advice for tips and rules of writing with a bit of help by Gaimen.

Start Writing and Do a Lot of It

Like anything else in life, you must practice to get better at something.

To get better, you will need to gain some courage to sit down write.

Once you start, don’t stop. 

As Gaiman writes: “Write.”

Finish What You Start

Doubt, fear, and insecurities can all stand in the way of finishing what you start.

Even when you are capable of finishing it, it is easy to find excuses for why you should stop.

As Gaiman writes: “Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.”

Once you finish it, you will see how far you have come and how much easier it was to reach this point. So get out and do it all over again with your next project.

Read It Dispassionately

When you read something dispassionately, you aren’t pretending to like the thing you are reading.

You wouldn’t be writing it if you didn’t enjoy it, right?

Instead, you want to reread what you wrote without any attachment. Many writers get attached to their words. 

As Gaiman writes: “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.”

Every sentence can feel like the best thing you have ever written. But is it necessary? Does it slow down the story? Perhaps it isn’t as good as you thought.

Reading your work dispassionately will help you cut or rewrite what isn’t working.

To help you in this, find someone who loves the genre you are writing in and have them give feedback.

Be Careful About Advice

Just like this article and any other article about writing, we all have preferences and opinions. 

What works for one person may not work for you.

As Gaiman writes: “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.”

Each person is entitled to their opinion. If they don’t like it, ask them why. However, if they try to get you to change your writing to fit their preferences, turn and walk away. 

You want to write for yourself first, but be willing to take criticism and make adjustments that improve upon your writing without transforming it into something else.

Some People Waste Their Life on Perfection

You can write, rewrite, and rewrite again and again. 

It will never be perfect.

Don’t wind up like so many writers who feel so dissatisfied that they can’t make it perfect that they give up entirely. 

While you should always strive to get your facts right and be grammatically correct, when it comes to writing dialogue, describing a location, or plotting a narrative, no amount of fiddling will make you happy.

As Gaiman writes: “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.”

Enjoy What You Do

As Gaiman writes: “Laugh at your own jokes.”

What does he mean here? It might be up to interpretation, but it may signal that the ideas you put out into the world should bring you joy.

Don’t shy away from expressing yourself, even if you are the only one in the room who gets a kick out of your own style. 

As a writer, you are putting so much on the page. Embrace what you have written without fear or shame.

The Main Rule is “No Rules”

In Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods,” a world exists where gods of media, money, and sex have replaced the gods of old. These new gods seek to form an army for a coming battle. 

Gaiman’s books and many other writers who occupy the fiction genre have to write believing the story in their head is the truth of the world.

As Gaiman writes: “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.”

The reader’s suspension of disbelief can be quite strong and may surprise you. 

While plot holes and poorly laid out rules for the universe your characters occupy can cause the reader to stumble, the reader is likely to forgive you.

Write like it is the only truth you know and must be shared with the world. Do your best to tell it well.