Neil Gaiman’s Eight Rules of Writing

“Sometimes you wake up. Sometimes the fall kills you. And sometimes, when you fall, you fly.”

Neil Gaiman is one of the world’s foremost authors of fantastic fiction. In 2010, inspired by Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules of writing published in The New York Times nearly a decade earlier, The Guardian reached out to some of today’s most celebrated authors and asked them to each offer his or her commandments.

Some of Gaiman’s rules sound deceptively simple, enjoy:

Neil Gaiman’s Eight Rules of Writing
Neil Gaiman’s Eight Rules of Writing

Rule One


Rule Two

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

Rule Three

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

Rule Four

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.

Rule Five

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.

Rule Six

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.

Rule Seven

Laugh at your own jokes.

Rule Eight

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.

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