Are you considering taking Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass? Neil Gaiman is a brilliant author, and expert-led MasterClasses are known for being informative and inspiring. If you’re wondering whether Neil Gaiman’s class is right for you, read on for my Neil Gaiman MasterClass review.
In this post, I’m going to share my personal Neil Gaiman MasterClass review. I’ll also outline what’s in the course, how it will help you with your writing, what homework assignments you should expect, and also what I didn’t like about it.
Before we get started though, I wasn’t paid to write this review, but I do want to be fully transparent and let you know that the links below are affiliate links. If you sign up for MasterClass, it will help me be able to keep writing (and help me continue sharing what I’ve learned about the writing process). Of course, this won’t affect your overall price, and it didn’t affect my decision on the course.
Take a look at Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass here. Now, let’s jump in.
Looking for Inspiration?
Personally, when this course was first released, I was wondering whether I would ever write another page. Family emergencies, extensive travel, and other shenanigans stole my inspiration, took up all my time, and left me gnawed down to the bone.
I’m a published author of four books and over fifty short stories. But in the weeks leading up to this course, I couldn’t write. I couldn’t even dream. The day before I signed up for the class, I freaked out. In fact, I actually said these words to myself: Maybe I’ll never write again. Then, Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass was released.
I love Neil Gaiman’s writing, so I was ready to love this class. But would it help me get unstuck? That was the question I wasn’t sure about. And for you, if you’re in a dry spell in your writing, will it give you the inspiration you need to get back to writing? That’s what I’ll be discussing in this review.
What You Get in Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass
If you haven’t taken a masterclass before, here’s what it comes with: you’re getting a semester’s worth of teaching and homework in one intense day of classes, followed by personal feedback and instruction.
In this particular case, there are nineteen videos totaling approximately five hours and numerous workbooks with tips and homework assignments in PDF format. The downloads contain a chunk of text from the lesson, titles of resources for further reading, and truly intense homework assignments.
1. Neil Gaiman Himself!
The class is full of Gaiman telling stories about his own writing experience. I’ve always found a good story told honestly sucks you in, rings your emotions like a sympathetic tuning fork, and reminds you why you love to write your own stories.
In this course, Gaiman demonstrated my favorite kind of teaching: he showed the thing done right before breaking it down for his students.
2. 19 Beautifully Filmed HD Lessons
Each lesson is beautifully shot in HD format with visually awesome backgrounds, like this one with Gaiman in a moody library.
Here’s an outline of all the lessons:
- Truth in Fiction
- Sources of Inspiration
- Finding Your Voice
- Developing the Story
- Story Case Study: The Graveyard Book
- Short Fiction
- Short Fiction Case Study: “March Tale”
- Dialogue and Character
- Character Case Study: “October Tale”
- Dealing with Writer’s Block
- Rules for Writers
- The Writer’s Responsibilities
3. Class Workbook + 19 Well-Designed PDF Lesson Downloads
I was expecting the videos, but the class workbook plus the downloads for each lesson surprised me. Each was well designed and helpful.
4. Writing Exercises for Homework
Most of the lessons come with some kind of homework exercise, and I found these to be especially helpful. I’ll devote a whole section below to talk about the exercises.
5. Office Hours + Class Interaction
The MasterClass also includes “office hours,” which gives you the opportunity to ask Gaiman questions personally and get a response via video. I’m too nervous to try that yet, so I’ll have to get back to you on that one!
You also have the option to interact with other writers taking the class, which I found to be a cool feature.
What I Like About Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass
There’s much to like about Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass. Here are some of the lessons that impacted me and my writing process:
- Hush the Inner Editor. Gaiman taught me to hush my inner editor by reminding me that no writing is wasted.
- Create Terrifying Characters. One lesson I loved talked about how to make truly terrifying characters by tapping into a small part of ourselves. Good characters, and all fiction, should be grounded in truth, because truth not only resonates with readers, it makes the fantastic believable.
- How to Subvert the Readers Expectations. We dissected fairy tales, looking at their inner mechanics (often learning how grim and grisly they were at heart), then used that knowledge to talk about how to subvert the reader’s assumptions and create surprise and mystery.
- Be Open to the Unexpected. One thing I appreciated about the course was how honest Gaiman was, sometimes uncomfortably so, especially when he talked about how the subconscious can influence our writing in beautiful ways. None of us really know where our ideas come from, and that’s okay. Instead, he taught how to be open to the unexpected, which instantly loosened the tension I was holding in my own writing.
- Show, Don’t Tell. I also loved how he tackled the common writing advice “show, don’t tell” using vivid examples while also giving you a good guideline to avoid “telling” at the wrong time.
- If you Write, Good Things Will Happen. Most importantly of all, he reminded me that what matters is that I write. I don’t have to write well. I don’t have to write a ten-book series with a cast of thousands. I just have to write, and if I do, good things will happen.
To paraphrase him, you can’t help but find your voice. Once you’ve written out all the wrong words, the only thing left will be you.
This is the beauty of this class: you are empowered to turn writing “lead” into writing gold without fully understanding how. Magic is like that.
The Negatives: Why Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass Might Not Be for You
This class isn’t for everyone. Here are five reasons you shouldn’t take the class.
- This is not a book writing course. This is a high-level course about the concepts behind great fiction. It is not a course that will help you start and finish writing a bestselling novel quickly. If you’re looking for something that will produce that kind of rapid, concrete return, this isn’t the course for you. But if you’re interested in studying the alchemy of storytelling, gaining insight into the writing process, and learning concepts that will enrich your future books, you’ll enjoy this course.
- This kind of course requires self-discipline. You won’t be graded, and there’s nobody leaning over your shoulder, so it’s entirely up to you to make the time and do the work and reap the benefits. The lessons and homework assignments will require a significant investment of time and writing focus to make the most of them.
- You have to read. This is an important thing; writers are readers. This course leaves no room for people who don’t feel like they need to read.
- It’s gut-level advice, not specific rules. If you’re looking for “how to outline” or nitpicky grammar tips, this class is not for you. If you are the type of person who struggles with advice like, “Make it taste sweet,” instead of, “Add four tablespoons of sugar,” this might not be for you. There are no specific recipes here. This is about training your taste buds. For me, that worked. For you, if you’re looking for a course about grammar, sentence structure, or story templates, then I would look elsewhere.
- It might feel familiar. If you’ve taken many writing classes, a lot of this information may seem familiar to you. Gaiman is not, technically, saying anything new; what he’s doing is putting it together in a way to make it effective. The reason these lectures and this homework are so effective regardless is that he takes the pithy sayings off the Hallmark cards and into the real world, shows how they work, and then prompts us to make them our own. Still, if you’ve already taken several writing classes, this might not add much new content to your knowledge.
If you’re okay with that, though, then this class could be perfect for you. Sign up here or read on for my final review.
Is the Writing Homework Helpful?
The homework is where the scientific method comes in. I admit had to rush it this time around because I wanted to get this review out, but I WILL be going through it again slowly.
Fair warning: The homework will take you many hours, but it’s okay because it’s the perfect homework, concrete steps to apply the magic we’ve learned, giving solid, simple assignments to deepen our craft, and they made me cry, laugh, and write like the Dickens.
In one of my favorite assignments, Gaiman asked us to take a fairy-tale character and plop them down in a therapist’s office. I succeeded, and I love what came out. I don’t really know who Dr. Ranier Blood is, but he’s not leaving my roster any time soon.
These homework assignments can be rough, and not because of the technical aspect. Gaiman truly believes in honest writing, in the kind of writing equivalent to walking naked down the street, so the questions and prompts often delve deep into personal issues and emotional topics. I can say you’ll be better off for following them.
Here’s another writing assignment I loved: Challenge yourself to tell a story in just one hundred words. This homework is a difficult one, but I believe it’s one of the more important assignments in this course.
One of the things Gaiman demonstrated was the power of brevity. In one hundred words or less, your job is to tell a story.
It doesn’t have to be a wild story. Here is one Neil Gaiman told in exactly one hundred words — and while I will not ask you to come up with anything quite that shocking, I will challenge you to meet that number.
The order of creation is key. Do not rewrite while in first-draft! Write your story out first without thinking about numbers, and only when it’s finished start whittling it down.
One hundred words. It’s a steep challenge, but transformative for your writing.
My Review: Is Gaiman’s MasterClass for You?
Should you take Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass? Absolutely! If you can sign up for it, do it. It is well worth your time and money, and will give you the creative boost you didn’t know you needed.
Ready to take Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass and transform your writing?
Even though much of the advice was familiar, Gaiman’s unique voice and engaging style unblocked me. During the course, I was able to write a brand new short story, and for the first time in months, I’m excited to write.
While it does require self-discipline, Gaiman and the producers of the class do a wonderful job making every moment engaging, from the beautifully designed PDF lessons to the high-quality filming. You might find yourself wondering when the work starts because you’re having so much fun watching.
And while the lack of specific rules to follow might not work for some, if you’re ready to be inspired by the magic of writing, this is your chance.
This masterclass is for writers who want to soar. This is for writers who want to hone their voice. This is for writers who want to create characters that stick in the reader’s mind and worlds that infiltrate the reader’s dreams. This is for writers who have felt creatively dead and are in need of some alchemical resurrection.
I won’t spoil this illustration, but if you take the course, remember Wile E. Coyote — and follow suit.
Final verdict: I love Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass. It gave me tools when I needed them and refreshed the basics I’d forgotten. It gave me so many practical steps that I won’t run out of bricks to build my castle in the sky any time soon. This is one for your permanent toolbox, fellow writers. If you’re able, sign up here.
Have you taken Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass? What do you think of it? Let us know in the comments.
I’ll not pretend your homework here is easy, but it’s incredibly valuable. In one hundred words or less, your job is to tell a story.
Remember, do not rewrite while in first-draft! Just get your story out first, then start honing it down.
One hundred words. It can be a single scene or a story spanning eons. There’s no wrong way to do it.