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I’m currently in lockdown in New Zealand and thought it would be a great opportunity to take Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass class.
With a total run time of 4 hours and 48 minutes, I was able to swiftly get through the course and write this review so you can get a little closer to answering:
Is Neil Gaiman’s Masterclass worth it?
Here is my totally unbiased Neil Gaiman MasterClass review to help you decide. (See our full MasterClass review here).
Who is Neil Gaiman?
Neil Gaiman is one of the greatest fantasy authors of our time. He’s a master of worldbuilding, having created fantastical universes in his hit books Coraline, American Gods, and The Sandman.
He has an amazing ability to twist expectations on their heads. Want a real headrush? Check out his short story.
A remarkably versatile writer, Gaiman has written for both children and adults, crafted film scripts, and created comics. For the past several years, he has been a professor at Bard College in New York’s Hudson Valley.
His enthusiasm for teaching shines through in his MasterClass. It’s no wonder that he’s one of the most beloved authors working today.
What is MasterClass?
The way I like to think of it is YouTube, Ted Talks and Netflix all rolled into one.
Seriously, the quality of production for these classes is amazing. What you end up watching is an interview produced at Hollywood level, all from the comfort of your own home.
Of course, that is especially useful during a lockdown.
MasterClass has a wide range of courses from many of the world’s greatest practitioners, including:
There is no doubt that the production and star-studded lineup that MasterClass has on offer is phenomenal. However, you still have to consider the price.
How Much does Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass cost?
As a one-off payment, Neil Gaiman’s Masterclass will cost you $90. However, for the price of two individual Classes ($180), you can get a one-year All-Access Pass.
As the name suggests, an All-Access Pass will give you full access to the 80+ classes that Masterclass currently has on offer as well as any other further classes that they regularly add.
So, should you buy the All-Access Pass?
I’ve personally found great value and watched many courses with mine. Although if you’re still on the fence, I’d suggest you look through the catalogue of Masterclass courses and see if there are three more that you’d like to take.
If such is the case, then you’re definitely going to save a lot of money by going straight for the All-Access Pass.
An Overview of Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass
When you purchase Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass, you get nineteen HD lessons with Neil Gaiman himself, a ninety-four-page workbook, and also access to the MasterClass community.
The Lessons in Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass
The nineteen lessons that make up Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass collectively run for 4 hours and 48 minutes. On average, each lesson is about 12 minutes.
So, what do these lessons look like?
As you can see, the videos are beautifully shot in a lightly-lit and book-filled room. It almost feels as if you are in the author’s home and directly speaking to him one-to-one.
Although, I can tell you that Gaiman’s MasterClass was, in fact, filmed at the Byrdcliffe Art Colony in Woodstock, New York.
What I particularly loved about these lessons is that they are said not to be scripted, and it certainly feels that way. They are filled with random moments that keep you interested and engaged.
For example, Gaiman is often pulling books from the bookshelves before dissecting sections and sentences from his own books.
There is also an instance where Gaiman spends a few seconds stumbling around in his pockets just to prove that he’s always carrying a notebook.
All of this makes Gaiman feel more real and reminds you that although he’s an incredible writer and has achieved many accolades, he is only human like the rest of us.
The nineteen lessons that Gaiman covers in his MasterClass are:
- 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
I found that lessons 1–4 are very much covering an introduction to Neil Gaiman and the fundamentals of fiction.
Lessons 5–14 cover the “nitty-gritty” or the more important/practical aspects of fiction writing.
While Lesson 15, titled, “Comics” is just that — it covers Neil Gaiman’s philosophy to comic writing and is the longest lesson with a total run time of just over 27 minutes.
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Lessons 16–19 cover a broad overview of many fundamental writing principals. As you can see, editing and dealing with writer’s block are just a few of the lessons.
Now, without trying to spoil too much, I’d like to quickly share a few of my highlights from Gaiman’s teachings:
In lesson 3, “Sources of Inspiration,” Gaiman introduces the idea of every writer needing a “compost heap” — a place where you throw all your pieces of inspiration to mature and grow beautiful stories.
As Gaiman said:
“I think it’s really important for a writer to have a compost heap. Everything you read, things that you write, things that you listen to, people you encounter, they can all go on the compost heap. And they will rot down. And out of them grow beautiful stories.”
Secondly, in his lesson on editing, Gaiman talks about the importance of stepping away from your first draft. He says you must edit your manuscript while pretending you’re someone who’s never read it before.
In his words specifically:
“Try and pretend that you, as a writer, and you, as a reader, are two different people.”
Indeed, you will be able to tell that the way Gaiman talks about writing is intoxicating.
The Workbook for Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass
The ninety-four-page workbook that accompanies Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass is the perfect complement to his spoken advice.
It covers much the same information as in the video lessons. However, I found the workbook to be more digestible and is also nicely infused with key quotes from the lessons as well as writing exercises, reading exercises and helpful aids to improve your novel.
Some examples of these include:
WRITING EXERCISE — Chapter 04 – Finding Your Voice
Choose an author whose writing you admire and read a few pages of their work. Now write a passage in a voice that mimics theirs, using characters, settings, and problems of your choice. What makes this author’s voice so appealing? How does it make you feel?
Now write a paragraph or more on any topic of your choice. Make an effort to use a voice that feels more natural to you. What sets your voice apart? What tone does it give? Do the characters and setting feel different when you write in your own voice?
FOR YOUR NOVEL — Chapter 09 – Dialogue and Character
Pretend a blind person is describing your main character after having met them. How would they explain your character using the other senses? How sympathetic would your character be toward their blindness? Would they be thoughtful, clumsy, rude?
These exercises were all great, and I found them to be immensely helpful. However, you really have to have access to the full course to find the true value in then.
Because I didn’t know any better, I simply watched all the video lessons and then completed the workbook afterwards.
I believe you would probably get more bang for your buck by watching each individual lesson and then completing the accompanying workbook chapter before proceeding to the next lesson.
These chapters are usually no more than 3 pages and are incredibly easy to read and digest. Not to mention, the workbook is beautifully and clearly laid out.
The Community in Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass
MasterClass has created one giant community, which is split into many different subsets of topics and courses.
However, for me, this was the most disappointing aspect of Neil Gaiman’s Masterclass.
For one, the platform and layout are hard to navigate, and I definitely feel something like Slack would have worked much better.
Secondly, there is very little interaction between fellow classmates in the community. Most often, someone will begin a thread, and a few people will reply. However, there is no back and forth conversation.
Of course, this is definitely not the end of the world, and nor does it spoil the rest of Neil Gaiman’s Masterclass.
Although, if you are wanting to have communication with other people who take MasterClass, you may have to find a community on other platforms like Facebook and Reddit.
The Positives: What I liked about Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass
I really liked Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass. There’s a lot of meat for an aspiring writer to sink their teeth into
- Compelling lessons. Great lessons teach you how to hush the editor, create terrifying characters, and subvert reader expectations. These lessons were really fun to tackle, and also taught me real, implementable writing techniques that any writer can use to boost their story at a tactical and strategic level.
- Neil Gaiman is Inspiring. He’s an inspiring teacher. His stories and lectures are, without a doubt, extremely compelling. While it’s true he’s a master of his craft, it never feels that he is unapproachable or that his talent is unavailable. Instead, he uses his talent to give back, making you feel like you can reach those great heights with some solid effort.
- MasterClass has Masterful Production. One of the things I like best about all MasterClasses is how excellent their production values are. Neil Gaimain’s MasterClass is no exception. The videos are all very high quality, you can speed up or slow down their playback to fit your needs, and it comes with an excellent supplemental workbook structure, allowing you to keep plugging away at making your writing shine.
The Negatives: What You Might Not Like About Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass
There are some faults in Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass:
- It’s Not Completely Original: Most writing courses often end up saying the same thing but in slightly different ways. And in this instance, I found that to be half true. However, as a writer, you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel, and I still felt it was a very refreshing course.
- It Requires Self-Direction: This course is not going to magically have you writing award-winning novels. Nor is Neil Gaiman going to hold your hand and walk you through every little detail in writing a book. Rather, this course will provide you with key lessons and advice from a master; you will then need to personally interpret and apply those to your own writing. Thus, it requires self-direction.
- There Are Long Excerpts From Gaiman’s Personal Work: As already mentioned, there are multiple instances where Gaiman pulls his own books from the selves and starts reading them aloud. This is for the purpose of illustration and usually goes for 1–5 minutes. Personally, I had no issue with this as they were always both topical and exceptional. However, I can see that some people may find it irritating.
Is Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass Worth it?
Absolutely! Neil Gaiman is speaking nothing but pearls of wisdom in his latest MasterClass.
For $90 or $180 if you choose to buy the All-Access Pass, you will get a boost of creative insight and inspiration that will take your writing to the next level — I know it did for me!
While most other writing courses tend to be long and dragged out, Gaiman’s MasterClass is the expectation. Personally, I found there wasn’t a single word that needed to be said or unsaid throughout his 19 wisdom packed lessons.
There wasn’t a drop of fluff or filling to make it drag out any longer than it needed too.
If you’re looking for some writing knowledge and inspiration while being stuck at home, I recommend taking Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass!
Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass FAQ
How much is Neil Gaiman's MasterClass?
As a one-off payment, Neil Gaiman’s Masterclass will cost you $90. However, for the price of two individual classes ($180), you will get a one-year Masterclass All-Access Pass.
How long is Neil Gaiman's MasterClass?
Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass has a total run time of 4 hours and 48 minutes. However, I watched it at 2x speed, and thus, it was only half as long.
Is Neil Gaiman's MasterClass worth it?
Absolutely! In his MasterClass, Neil Gaiman is speaking nothing but pearls of wisdom. While most other writing courses tend to be long and dragged out, Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass is the expectation. There isn't a drop of fluff or filling to make it any longer than it needs to be.
Does MasterClass have a free trial?
No longer does Masterclass have a free trial. That offering was discontinued in August, 2018.
Can you cancel MasterClass?
Yes, you can cancel MasterClass. Once you have purchased the All-Access-Pass, you can cancel it’s auto-renew at any time by going to your account settings. Also, note that MasterClass has a 30-day money-back guarantee, so there is no risk in trying it out.