I’m always looking for new opportunities to improve my writing. As an author and businessman, learning and improving the tools that keep me in business are a high priority on my daily list of to-dos. After all, if you’re not growing, you’re stagnating. And no one can afford to be stagnant in the business of writing.
It can be challenging to find reliable sources and learning tools that make sense for authors. Sifting through the wealth of online information is . . . frustrating to say the least. Everybody’s got an opinion, from your Aunt Joan to the writers in your Facebook groups. So, who should you trust?
A professional. Someone who has experience and a proven track record. An individual who can share their experiences and knowledge.
That’s where MasterClass comes in.
Before we get started, I want to share a couple quick notes. First, I’m a writer, not a screenplay writer, and that’s how I’ll be evaluating this course.
Second, some of the links in this review are affiliate links. Those help fund my coffee so I can keep writing and sharing what I learn with you. Most importantly, they didn’t impact my opinions in this review.
Now, let’s get into the review.
What Is MasterClass and How Much Does It Cost?
MasterClass is a website that features online courses from leading experts in a variety of fields. The first time I saw an ad for MasterClass, I was excited—who wouldn’t want to learn tennis from Serena Williams or how to write short stories from Joyce Carol Oates?
Each course is held online and the curriculum is designed by the expert who’s teaching it. They usually run from between 2 to 5 hours in length, with individual class videos that you can watch anytime after purchasing the course.
MasterClass has two options when it comes to price:
- You can purchase each individual course for $90.
- You can purchase an all-access pass to all courses for $180 a year, or $15 per month.
You can also gift courses to your friends. There are a variety of courses just for writing alone (twelve at the time of publishing this article) which I believe is well worth the all-access pass. But MasterClass isn’t just for writers alone.
Now, MasterClass has some amazing offerings. There are classes from Gordon Ramsey, Christina Aguilera, Neil Gaiman, and James Patterson (who just so happens to be the most successful author in the world). What I really wanted to focus on was improving my dialogue. And I figured, what better way to do that than to learn from a fantastic, award-winning screenplay writer?
That’s why I chose Aaron Sorkin’s MasterClass.
Take a look at Aaron Sorkin’s MasterClass here. Now, let’s get into what works and what doesn’t.
Who Is Aaron Sorkin?
Aaron Sorkin is an Oscar-winning screenwriter, director, producer, and playwright. If you watched A Few Good Men and despised Jack Nicholson’s character, Jessup, you can thank Mr. Sorkin for that.
Who could forget this exchange, fraught with tension?
Aaron Sorkin has worked on everything from The West Wing to The Social Network to Moneyball. His experience as a screenwriter is profound, and that’s why I chose him for this review and to learn from as a writer. We all need to improve our dialogue if we want to keep readers coming back to our books for more.
Check out a few of his credentials in the screengrab I took below.
Will You Benefit From the Course?
Before we get into the meat and potatoes of this review, it's worthwhile to mention who this course would be best suited for. The short answer is: writers. Fiction writers, more specifically.
It’s geared toward screenwriters or playwrights, but, if you look at the lesson plan, you’ll notice there’s a lot that novelists can benefit from here. A few broader topics include creating story ideas, developing characters, researching properly, forming good writing habits, and understanding story arcs.
All of these topics should translate pretty well for authors of novels in all the genres of fiction.
But the jury’s out until we dive into what the course content is like and how much information is provided by our seriously over-qualified teacher.
My Review of Aaron Sorkin’s MasterClass
Aaron Sorkin’s writing course contains:
- 35 lessons, including, but not limited to, topics such as: crafting story ideas, character creation, story rules, story arcs, writing workshops revolving around The West Wing, writing scenes, and writing habits. Each of these classes is available to you at any time once you’ve paid for access.
- Lessons ranging from 4 to 25 minutes each.
- A class workbook.
- A Few Good Men screenplay.
- Steve Jobs continuity and spotting list.
- The Social Network Screenplay.
- A community of like-minded writers learning along with you.
That is a lot of information for $90 or $15 per month.
What I Loved About Aaron Sorkin’s MasterClass
Let me count the ways in which I loved the content of this course. Oh wait, I can’t. It was all awesome. Pretty much.
- Price. You get more than what you’re paying for, no matter which way you slice it with this MasterClass. Just this class alone is well worth the subscription. There are thirty-five lessons packed with information, and I was inspired by each one.
- ALL the lessons. There was valuable, actionable information in every lesson that improved my writing and even how I think about writing stories. He teaches you how to write stories that audiences actively participate in, thus keeping them engaged. That’s exactly what you need as an author. I found the “writing habits” and “developing characters” lessons particularly insightful. My favorite was the “writing captivating dialogue” lesson, as that’s really what I wanted to get down.
- The Screenplays. Uhhh . . . who doesn’t want to have actual copies of award-winning screenplays to go over? This was such a pleasant surprise for me when I first bought the course. I got excited at the prospect of going over them.
- The West Wing Writer’s Room. In a series of eight amazing lessons, Aaron Sorkin sits down with screenwriting students and plans to “break” episode one of the fifth season of The West Wing. Breaking something is basically figuring out the beginning, middle, and end of the entire story in your head. This was fascinating to experience and incredibly informative.
- Aaron Sorkin’s sense of humor. I found Aaron to be a fantastic teacher, easy to listen to and obviously knowledgeable about what he was teaching. He was funny too! Nothing sells me more than humor, and his funny style made it easy to pay attention. That’s what you need in a teacher.
- The Pitch Lesson. Pitching your story is vital for screenplay writers and for authors. We pitch in different ways and to different people, but the essentials are the same. In one of the lessons, Mr. Sorkin actually goes over how to pitch your story or idea and what questions you can expect to be asked afterward.
Overall, this is a thorough online writing course. It’s well thought out and covers questions you didn’t even know you had.
What I Didn’t Love
There were very few things I didn’t like about the course. I think I only had one main issue with it, and that was the community section. It wasn’t as intuitive as I would’ve liked it to be. It was sort of stiff and difficult to communicate with other students in the course.
I would’ve preferred something more like a Facebook or Slack group (though I know that’s not possible).
But that’s a minor complaint.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a community where you can bounce ideas off each other, but it’s in the format of a forum. It wasn’t bad per se, but it was the one thing I didn’t enjoy as much in this course.
My Verdict: Is Aaron Sorkin’s MasterClass Right for You?
The wealth of knowledge presented in the course far outweighs any minor setbacks it has. I highly recommend this MasterClass for budding or experienced writers who want to improve. We can all stand to learn from a master of screenwriting.
It’s well worth the price, and you can repeat the course, come back to the videos whenever you like, and talk to a bunch of other writers who are going through the course and completing the lessons with you.
Ready to take Aaron Sorkin’s MasterClass and master screenwriting?
The MasterClass is informative and fun. And it gave me motivation to get up and get writing in the morning. Let’s face it, we all go through periods where we’re stumped or demotivated, and Mr. Sorkin tackles that in the class too.
So, if you’re interested in improving your skills as a writer, not just a screenwriter, what are you waiting for? Check it out.
Have you taken Aaron Sorkin’s MasterClass? What did you think? Let us know in the comments.
It’s your turn to practice your writing wits. The format is up to you—write a scene of prose, like a novel or short story, or a scene of a script, your own screenplay for a hit TV show.
Regardless of the format you choose, the focus is the same: this scene is dialogue-heavy.
Your prompt: a character has just received bad news, and it’s up to them to deliver it to someone else. Maybe they’re a reporter at a news outlet, or an aide on the president’s staff, or a parent sharing something unpleasant with their spouse.
Take fifteen minutes to write. When you’re done, share your practice in the comments section, and be sure to leave feedback for your fellow writers.