Very few fiction writers have as much range as Neil Gaiman. He has written some of my favorite novels, comic books, and even children’s books. So, before I even saw Neil’s masterclass on storytelling, I was already a big fan.
I made up my mind to take the class; however, I had my fingers crossed. Great writers do not always make good teachers. Also, being a complete beginner in fiction writing, I wasn’t sure I would be able to follow the class without getting overwhelmed.
If anything, my doubts spurred me on to take the class. That way, I could create this Neil Gaiman MasterClass review for you.
- Overview of Neil Gaiman MasterClass
- Neil Gaiman MasterClass Pros & Cons
- The Art of Storytelling – Course Content
- My Neil Gaiman MasterClass Learning Experience
- How Much Does Neil Gaiman MasterClass Cost?
- Is Neil Gaiman MasterClass For You?
- Alternatives to Neil Gaiman MasterClass
- Final Verdict: Is Neil Gaiman MasterClass Worth It?
The overview section comes next. Use it to find bite-sized info about the MasterClass platform, Neil Gaiman, and my comprehensive review of his class.
Overview of Neil Gaiman MasterClass
Let’s begin with some info about the platform that offers the course and the instructor in charge of it.
MasterClass is an online learning platform that offers courses on a variety of subjects. Two factors that make the platform stand out from other e-learning sites are the quality of the instructors and the production.
The majority of the instructors are well-known celebrities or thought to be experts in their fields. From seven-star chefs like Gordon Ramsay to world-class athletes like Serena Williams, MasterClass lives up to its name.
There are over 180 classes in the MasterClass library. About 86 of them fall within the Art & Entertainment category. Neil Gaimann’s course also falls within this category. It is one of several masterclasses on fiction writing. But is it the best? We’ll find out soon enough.
About Neil Gaiman
Even if you haven’t heard the name Neil Gaiman before today, there’s a high chance you’ve come across his work. He is the author of many bestselling books, including American Gods, The Graveyard Book, and Anansi Boys. If you’re not an avid reader, many of his works have been adapted for films and TV shows. American Gods and The Sandman series are two examples of such adaptations.
Born in England, Neil started out as a journalist before shifting careers into fiction. He co-created several comic books for DC Comics, with The Sandman being the most successful of them.
Neil went on to write best-selling novels that earned him several awards and critical acclaim. He writes books for adults and also for children, a testament to his incredible range as a writer.
Neil has also ventured into screenwriting. He created the TV series Neverwhere, and co-wrote the movie MirrorMask.
His works have earned him countless accolades. Below are some of his biggest achievements:
- 3 Harvey Awards
- 14 Locus Awards
- 18 Eisner Awards
- 4 Bram Stoker Awards
- 7 Hugo Awards
The list of awards goes on to this day for Neil Gaiman. He is the perfect candidate to teach a masterclass on storytelling. I was eager to find out if he would deliver.
Presently, Neil Gaiman teaches at Bard College as a Professor of Arts. However, this is his first ever online class.
Summary of My Neil Gaiman MasterClass Review
Arts & Entertainment
|Content Formats||Video Lessons|
|Spoken Language||English (subtitles available in other languages)|
|What I Liked the Most||Great content for aspiring professional writers|
|What I Disliked the Most||No active community|
|Pricing||$180 – $276 per year|
|Discounts||Available via limited time offers|
|Refund Policy||30-day money-back guarantee|
Neil Gaiman MasterClass Pros & Cons
- Great video and audio quality
- Lots of case studies
- Engaging work exercises
- Subscription gives you access to other classes on MasterClass
- Includes lessons for professionals
- 30-day refund policy
- No active community
- Workbook readability could be better
- No plan for monthly payment
The Art of Storytelling – Course Content
Categories: Writing, Art & Entertainment
Duration: 4 hours and 49 minutes
There are 19 video lessons in this nearly-five-hour class. Each of them touches on unique points, but some of the topics are related. I could review the lessons individually, but it would be better to group some of them if they are related. I’ve included their lesson numbers so you know where Neil talks about the topics. This is to make this section more concise for you.
Learning From Neil’s Experiences (Lessons 1 & 19)
I think the first and last lessons are the most personal. He talks about life as a professor and his love for teaching. The introductory lesson also gives you a glimpse into what to expect in terms of Neil’s teaching style.
In the last lesson, Neil talks about our responsibilities as writers. He gets really personal here and reveals what he thinks we owe the audience and ourselves as creatives.
Worldbuilding (Lessons 2 & 11)
Neilâs ability to build engaging and believable worlds is one of the traits that has made him so successful. He starts by teaching how to use vivid descriptions to make fiction seem real. In another lesson, Neil delves deeper into worldbuilding. You’ll learn why characters and descriptions are the two key components of a story’s world.
Finding Inspiration and Confidence (Lessons 3 & 4)
One of the reasons many writers believe fiction is the hardest type of writing is the constant need for inspiration. Neil Gaiman teaches how to find inspiration from old stories and your own experiences.
He also explains how you can find your writing voice and stick to it. You’ll get tips to help you remain confident in your work while you continue to develop your skills.
Story Development (Lessons 5 & 6)
In the fifth lesson of the class, Neil talks about the story’s big idea. This is what prompts you to start writing and what draws readers into your fictional world. He recommends drawing threads from your inspiration source and using them to formulate a compelling story with exciting conflicts and high stakes.
In the next lesson, Neil uses his young adult novel, The Graveyard Book as a case study. You can see how character motivations help with story development.
Short Fiction Writing (Lessons 7 & 8)
Neil Gaiman believes that short stories offer writers the perfect opportunity to take risks. He wants his students to do the same. In the lessons on short fiction, Neil emphasizes the need to make the most of each scene in a short story.
Using March Tale as a case study, Neil shows you how to introduce characters and conflict within the limits of the short fiction. He provides a smart way to get to the satisfying climax.
Characters and Dialogue (Lessons 9 & 10)
Memorable characters make stories so much better, and Neil is an expert at creating such characters. In two lengthy lessons, he discusses character and dialogue creation in fiction. One of his go-to methods is to place an important character in an unfamiliar situation. The tension it creates places the character in the reader’s mind. He demonstrates how this works using October Tale as an example.
Descriptive Prose (Lesson 12)
In the wrong hands, descriptions in prose can fall flat and bore readers. Thankfully, Neil offers a 10-minute masterclass on descriptive prose. He provides the following techniques:
- Withholding information
- Finding emotional weight
- Cold opens
- Choosing memorable details
Some writers tend to shy away from descriptions, but not Neil. He believes you have the power to do whatever you want in your story and get away with it.
Writing Humor (Lesson 13)
Neil refers to humor as the joy of the unexpected. You don’t have to be a funny or witty speaker to write humor. According to Neil’s masterclass, what you need to do is understand clichÃ©s and how to undermine the reader’s expectations.
He also reveals some techniques to help with writing humor, such as the following:
- Surprising the reader
- Using funny words
- Placing funny expressions at the end of a sentence
- Using contrast
- Sherbet lemon
Understanding Genre (Lesson 14)
Genre places you in a box in terms of what readers expect from your story. Neil teaches how to navigate and expand this box without completely breaking out of it.
You’ll learn about conventions and why they are the building blocks of any genre. These conventions also have several elements, and Neil explains them all. They include:
- Secondary characters
Writing for Comics (Lesson 15)
Neil shatters the myth that only illustrators can create good comics. He uses an issue of the Sandman to show how you can write compelling comics. He also reveals how he uses stick figures as private thumbnails when creating the comic story. This is a full-length lesson on writing for comics. He shares tips you may never have considered, such as what pages to place important story points.
How to Overcome Writer’s Block (Lesson 16)
Writer’s block is a problem that every writer faces at some point. Neil offers smart techniques based on his experiences. He talks about taking a step back, reviewing your work, and listening to your characters.
Editing Your Work (Lesson 17)
Neil recommends that you take some time away from the first draft before returning to edit it. This will allow you to view your work with fresh eyes. He tends to offer editing tips that would make the process a lot more effective.
Rules of Writing (Lesson 18)
Neil Gaiman shares some key rules about writing, rewriting, and getting published. He discusses what to expect when you send out your work and how to prepare your mindset. This lesson is valuable if you hope to be a professional writer in the future.
The class also comes with a downloadable PDF workbook. It contains in-depth learning content for all of Neil Gaiman’s lessons. There are also lots of writing exercises for you to use as practice material for the class.
My Neil Gaiman MasterClass Learning Experience
It’s time to explore what it was like for me to take the class. I’ll reveal my key takeaways, likes, and dislikes. Together, they formed
This should give you an idea of what to expect, so you don’t come across any surprises.
Neil Gaiman’s Memorable Quotes
Whenever I get a chance to learn from an expert, I always look for memorable quotes. Brilliant minds always have something to say. Plus, Neil is a seasoned writer, so you can expect some golden nuggets from him.
Here are seven of Neil Gaiman’s best quotes from his masterclass:
- “You learn more from finishing a failure than you do from writing a success.”
- “If you get stuck, you can ask yourself what your characters wantâand that is like a flashlight.”
- “When you’re writing short fiction, what you want, whether it’s true or not, is to feel like these characters didn’t just start to exist the moment the story began.”
- “Always know more than you tell.”
- “For me, humor, whether it’s broad or whether it’s subtle, is always vital.”
- “Try and pretend that you, as a writer, and you, as a reader, are two different people.”
- “As a writer, you’re always going to be rejected, and that’s basically healthy.”
Listening to Characters
Neil believes that the characters and not you should drive the story. In his words: “If you get stuck, you can ask yourself what your characters want – and that is like a flashlight. It shines a light on the road ahead and lets you move forward. It’s the only question that opens the door to ‘What do you do next?'”
So now, when I create characters, they tend to retain their core personalities throughout the story and feel more real.
I also like Neil’s tips on editing your first draft. I always thought that the sooner you start rewriting, the better. However, Neil advocates for taking some time away from the work before editing. This makes sense, and I felt the result when I tried a similar method on my new short fiction.
What I Liked
Lots of Case Studies
I enjoyed how Neil didn’t shy away from using his past works as case studies for some of his lessons.
Neil mainly used three of his best books as study material in his class. They were:
- The Graveyard Book
- March Tale
- October Tale
He also used an issue of Sandman to illustrate his point. All of the case studies were relevant. They helped me get a better idea of what it would look like to put his tips into action.
Engaging Workbook Exercises
Although I had some issues with the workbook, which I will get to soon, it was an extremely useful resource. The text contains several practice content in the form of “Writing Exercise” and “For Your Novel” sections. I guarantee that following this workbook will make you a better writer in days.
Fantastic Production Quality
The video and sound quality for this class were simply superb. High-quality production is a big part of MasterClass’ marketing, so I can’t say I was surprised. Nevertheless, I was impressed.
The video quality can go as high as 1080p for each class. You don’t even need to have a headset on to hear and understand the instructor, thanks to the amazing audio.
Neil Covers the Professional Aspect of Writing
This course isn’t just teaching you to write as a hobby. I could tell Neil was trying to help aspiring writers break into the industry.
In particular, the 18th lesson, titled “Rules for Writers,” covers key issues including staying committed, rewriting, and getting published.
19 lessons is a lot, and you may need certain tech features to make learning smoother. Thankfully, MasterClass offers those features. Below are my favorites for use during Neil’s class.
1. My Notes: I used it to take notes without pausing the video.
2. Playback rate control: Combined with My Notes, I used it to slow and speed up certain parts of the video so I could type.
3. Bookmark: It allows me to mark points in the lessons for future reference.
4. Audio-Only: This feature is only available on the mobile app, and it allowed me to listen to the lessons on the bus.
What I Disliked
No Active Community
There is currently no official writer’s community associated with the class or platform. I thought this would be helpful as it could allow students to critique each other’s work. You also don’t get access to communicate with the instructor, so you’re basically on your own after learning.
Class Resource is Not Very Readable
I mentioned earlier that the class resource workbook was very helpful. However, my major problem with it was the readability. There are a bunch of texts clumped together on either side of the page. The text fonts are not uniform, and there were more than a few typos. There were also no images or diagrams to aid in engagement.
How Much Does Neil Gaiman MasterClass Cost?
It would cost you between $180 and $276 to subscribe to the Neil Gaiman MasterClass. You can only do so with an annual plan that combines the costs for 12 months. This pricing starts at $15 a month and will give you full access to all of the content in MasterClass’ library.
The table below shows the differences between the three kinds of subscription plans available for the masterclass.
|No. of Simultaneous connected devices||1||2||6|
In case you’re looking for discounts, MasterClass does provide the occasional limited time offer. There is also a group discount available if you contact their sales team with the details of your intended group purchase.
Also, you can get a full refund within 30 days of your purchase if you decide the content isn’t good enough for you.
Is Neil Gaiman MasterClass For You?
Now it’s time to ask yourself if you should enroll in Neil Gaiman’s masterclass. There are several factors to consider, but ultimately, here’s what I recommend:
The MasterClass is for you if you…
- Are a beginner when it comes to writing fiction
- Want a course that teaches professional fiction writing in less than 5 hours
- Want a course that offers a lot of active exercises that sharpen your skills
- Want to explore other forms of writing within a year without having to pay for individual courses
The MasterClass is NOT for you if you…
- Need a certification to cement your status
- Must have a class community or feedback from the instructor
Alternatives to Neil Gaiman MasterClass
There are many other fiction writing masterclasses on the platform. I’ve compiled a list of these classes below:
- N. K. JEMISIN teaches Fantasy and Science Fiction Writing
- AMY TAN teaches Fiction, Memory, and Imagination
- SALMAN RUSHDIE teaches Storytelling and Writing
- WALTER MOSLEY teaches Fiction and Storytelling
- JOYCE CAROL OATES teaches The Art of the Short Story
- DAVID BALDACCI teaches Mystery and Thriller Writing
- DAN BROWN teaches Writing Thrillers
- MARGARET ATWOOD teaches Creative Writing
- R.L. STINE teaches Writing for Young Audiences
- JUDY BLUME teaches Writing
- JAMES PATTERSON teaches Writing
Final Verdict: Is Neil Gaiman MasterClass Worth It?
Yes, the Neil Gaiman MasterClass is worth it, especially if you take other MasterClass courses alongside it. I think Neil did a great job covering major aspects of fiction writing in under five hours. However, there’s a lot more to learn, and the platform has a dozen classes to help bridge that gap.
So I recommend that you start off with the Neil Gaiman MasterClass. Next, do some writing of your own, using the workbook instructions. After that, you can select from the alternative fiction classes to see what else they can teach you.