Neil Gaiman Masterclass Review: Can He Teach You The Art Of Storytelling?

In this Neil Gaiman Masterclass review, I'll explain who it's for, what you can learn and what to expect.

I spent a month taking this writing course on my computer, iPad and my phone, taking notes and applying some of the lessons from the course. I also compared it to some other popular writing courses on Masterclass and elsewhere.

Neil Gaiman's Masterclass is one of the more popular writing online courses available today, in part due to Gaiman's fame as a writer.

It's for fiction writers and novelists who want to learn more about how Neil Gaiman tells his popular stories.

Who is Neil Gaiman?

Neil Gaiman Masterclass Review Is It Worth It

Neil Gaiman is one of the most popular storytellers in recent years. He's the man behind popular books like The Graveyard Book, his graphic novel series, The Sandman, American Gods and Coraline.

He writes for adults as well as for children and also for television. He's created films, popular novels, and comics, and he's also the partner of singer-songwriter Amanda Palmer.

He's also known for his ability to create a strong female character that readers identify with, like Death in The Sandman series or Coraline Jones in Coraline.

In short: he's a prolific and popular storyteller working across multiple genres.

Who Is Neil Gaiman Teaches the Art of Storytelling For?

This Masterclass course is for a fiction writer, aspiring storyteller, and anybody who wants to learn more about Gaiman's creative process.

It's also an excellent course to learn about how creatives collaborate and approach worldbuilding.

It's less ideal if you don't write fiction, dislike graphic novels and are unfamiliar with Gaiman's work, and you've no interest in writing stories for young adults.

In this Masterclass, Gaiman reads from and reflects on his most popular books, The Graveyard Book and his short fiction, March Tale. He also describes how he wrote stories for the graphic novel series The Sandman.

You don't need to read all of these works to get value from the course, but it helps a lot.

How much Does Gaiman's MasterClass cost?

Like any course on Masterclass, you can't buy this course outright. Instead, it costs $180 for an annual membership. For that price, you can get access to every course on Masterclass for a year.

To be honest, it's a good bargain. How else can you take writing courses from Neil Gaiman, David Lynch or James Patterson?

What is Neil Gaiman's Masterclass Like?

Neil Gaiman's Masterclass involves 19 video lessons filmed in HD. It's four hours and 49 minutes in length. These are:

  1. Introduction: 4.42
  2. Truth in Fiction: 20:10
  3. Sources of Inspiration: 16.14
  4. Finding Your Voice: 18.08
  5. Developing the Story: 08.05
  6. Story Case Study: The Graveyard Book: 14.01
  7. Short Fiction: 14.50
  8. Short Fiction Case Study: “March Tale”: 25.14
  9. Dialogue and Character: 15.52
  10. Character Case Study: “October Tale”: 15.52
  11. Worldbuilding: 23.00
  12. Descriptions: 10.15
  13. Humor: 18.20
  14. Genre: 13.13
  15. Comics: 27.04
  16. Dealing With Writer’s Block: 13.34
  17. Editing: 11.25
  18. Rules for Writers: 12.48
  19. The Writer’s Responsibilities: 07.57
Neil Gaiman Lessons
Some lessons from this writing course

I've taken several writing courses on Masterclass and Gaiman's is one of the longer ones on offer in terms of the length of each video and the course as a whole. The video lessons also include transcripts.

Tip: If time is short, increase the video playback speed to x1.5 or even x2. Alternatively, listen to the audio-only version of the lessons.

The course comes with a downloadable 94-page PDF. This workbook summarises each lesson and also provides additional readers and writing exercises. For example, the chapter about truth in fiction offers these exercises or homework assignments:

  • Are your descriptive details specific? Can you make them sensory?
  • Is your character’s behavior in line with their personality? Do their responses make sense for them?
  • Can you fact-check anything? If so, do it now
Neil Gaiman workbook
A page from the workbook

As you'd expect from Masterclass, Neil Gaiman's Masterclass is well produced. It's filmed in what appears to be a cabin in the woods and includes clever animations and transitions as well as callbacks to Gaiman's many projects..

You can watch the course on the go via the Masterclass app or online at a computer. I took the course by watching one lesson a day on my lunch break.

What I Learnt

Gaiman writes a lot of stories for young adults. He says stories should reveal some people on the world wish us harm no matter the audience's age. That's a valuable lesson for readers, even in kid's stories.

I also like Gaiman's approach to writer's block. He advises listeners or students to do something else, chop wood, go for a walk, a run, or a swim.

I used to write a lot of short stories, and I was fascinated to hear how Gaiman's writing process.

He says the stories we write today are formed by the short stories we read two years ago.

Gaiman also describes a good story as like a close-up magic trick rather than a grand illusion. He says,

“The problem I think that so many of us have, especially the process of writing, is because it creates magic because when you read the story, you are off in this wonderful, magical place, you can forget that it’s a craft. And you can also, especially as a young writer, forget that you simply do it by doing it.”

I got more value from the lessons related to books and works by Gaiman that I'd already read. For example, I was unfamiliar with the Sandman before taking this course. I rewatched this lesson after buying and reading The Sandman boxset.

A few lessons in, I realized I was already familiar with some of the writing advice on offer, suggesting this course is more suitable for new writers

Gaiman on the Business of Writing

I also particularly liked Gaiman's take on Robert Hyland's business rules for writing.

For context, Robert Heinlen's 5 Rules for Writers. These are:

  • You must write.
  • You must finish what you write.
  • You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
  • You must put the work on the market.
  • You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

Gaiman says he applied these rules at the start of his career as a young writer. He explains many of his early stories were rejected but he kept sending them out until they were published.

He continues to live by these rules today, saying,

“People ask me, “How do you cope with rejection?”…And there are only two ways to do it—one of which is you go down. You get sad. You put the thing away. You stop writing. You go and get a real job, go and do something else.
And the other is a kind of crazed attitude that actually the most important thing now is to write something so brilliant, so powerful, so good nobody could ever reject it.”

Whether you want to write a short story, a novel or a memoir, these rules are worth following.

Gaiman's Creative Process

If you're interested in learning more about Gaiman's creative process, you're in luck because he talks about how he's inspired by music, like tracks by his wife Amanda Palmer. He also references other inspirations like Leonard Cohen, JR and Tolkien and Ursula Le Guin.

Before taking the course, I was unfamiliar with The Sandman. I went out and bought a boxset of this graphic novel after watching his video lesson about it. I loved hearing about how Gaiman worked with a visual artist to turn his ideas into story storyboards.

My biggest takeaway from this part of the course is that successful creatives work with other people who compliment their strengths and weaknesses. He says,

“So there are geniuses in comics who write and draw and letter and color and do everything themselves. People like Chris Ware or Art Spiegelman. They are brilliant. I am not that brilliant. So in order to create comics, I need people who can do things.”

Office Hours and Community

Masterclass offers office hours and a Community where you can chat with other students and Masterclass employees.

It's more a means of meeting other writers and asking questions about specific lessons.

For example, Masterclass Community leads will post a homework assignment into the Community forum and students will reply with their answers.

Don't expect Gaiman, or the other popular Masterclass instructors, to appear and critique your work though.

I guess this Community could serve as a form of accountability but to be honest, you're better off writing a story and publishing it on a platform like Wattpad, entering a writing competition or even learning how to self-publish.

Neil Gaiman Community
An example of what to expect in the Masterclass Community

Is Neil Gaiman's Masterclass Worth It?

Neil Gaiman's Masterclass is an entertaining online course if you like storytelling, are familiar with his work or want to learn more about worldbuilding.

It's also a great writing Masterclass if you just like reading and listen to Neil Gaiman talk about his many books, stories and creative projects.

Bear in mind, the course is aimed more at beginners than advanced storytellers.

If you'd write nonfiction, you're better off taking a course by Masterclass instructors like Malcolm Gladwell, Steve Martin or David Sedaris.

FAQs on Neil Gaiman Masterclass Review

Which writing masterclass is the best?

The best writing Masterclass courses are by James Patterson, Neil Gaiman and David Sedaris. These courses cover writing fiction and non-fiction.


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Neil Gaiman Teaches The Art of Storytelling

The Bottom Line

Neil Gaiman's Masterclass is a great course for novelists, fiction writers and fans of Gaiman's work. It's one of the longer writing courses on offer and aimed at new and beginning writers.

Pros

  • Materials are well-produced
  • Includes practical writing exercises
  • Gaiman does't offer this writing advice anywhere else
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Less relevant for non-fiction writers
  • Appreciation of Gaiman's work required
  • Only available as part of the annual plan
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