Considering taking Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass course? In this review, I’ve highlighted what makes Neil’s course stand out and whether or not it’s worth the cost.
I’ve just finished up my second online course, the Neil Gaiman Teaches the Art of Storytelling MasterClass, and today, I’ll be reviewing it.
I really enjoyed the James Patterson Teaches Writing MasterClass course and I was excited to see if Neil Gaiman’s course could match it in quality of content and production. Like the James Patterson MasterClass, Neil’s course is also geared towards writing fiction, but the emphasis is a bit more on the storytelling aspect than it is on just writing. (Although, storytelling is covered in James’ course as well.)
So, if you’re not sure on whether or not Neil’s course would be right for you, keep reading my review to see if you’d find it worth taking.
Why Did I Choose Neil’s MasterClass?
I’ve always tossed around the idea of writing a novel and, after taking the James Patterson Teaches Writing MasterClass course, I was more inspired to do so than ever. James shed a lot of light on the novel writing process and presented the challenge of writing a novel in an inspiring light.
I’m a big proponent of immersive learning and diving fully into a single subject (rather than taking of a variety of different subjects at the same time).
So, since James Patterson’s course left me more intrigued by the idea of writing a book, I decided to follow up James’ course with another relevant writing/storytelling course.
And, that course happened to be Neil’s The Art of Storytelling MasterClass.
Who Is Neil Gaiman?
With recent TV adaptations of his popular books launching on Starz (American Gods) and Amazon Prime (Good Omens), Neil Gaiman’s mainstream popularity is at an all-time high.
But for avid readers, Neil has been well-known for his fiction writing since his release of his comic series, The Sandman, in the late 80’s. He’s had a wide range of success in writing comics, novels, graphic novels, and short fiction, as well as in screenwriting and film.
He has won multiple literary awards, including the Hugo, Bram Stoker, and Nebula, as well as both the Newbery and Carnegie medals.
Neil is very active on social media, with over 2.5m followers on Twitter and he has run a successful blog since 2001.
Neil Gaiman Teaches The Art of Storytelling: Course Review
If you’re looking for the main part of the review on Neil’s MasterClass course, this section is where you’ll find it. I’ve broken the review down into four different categories: the instructor, the content of the course, how well the course is organized, and the production quality of the course.
MasterClass’ advantage over other course platform websites is their high-profile instructors. But, just because you’re a high-profile professional in a particular area, does not mean that you can teach that area well.
That isn’t the case for Neil Gaiman, though, who does an excellent job as an instructor for this course. There is a lot of depth in everything Neil says and he really helps you feel the artistic side of writing and creating stories.
I thought Neil as an instructor was a good contrast to James Patterson as an instructor.
Both do an excellent job and really make their courses valuable. However, both have completely different personalities.
James is fun to listen to and he offers a ton of insight into the process of writing a novel. Neil is more eccentric and he brings a ton of weight to everything he says.
It’s funny, because you can see a similar difference between their works as well. James writes fast-paced novels that keep you hooked all the way through, whereas Neil writes novels that have a lot of deeper meaning behind them.
But, the bottom line is that, in this course, you can’t really ask much more out of an instructor than what Neil delivers. In a lot of ways, just the experience of listening to Neil talk about creating stories and sharing his wisdom with you is worth the cost of the course alone.
The course content is the course material, the assignments, and the content available outside of the video lessons (workbook, community, Q & A, etc.).
— Video Lessons
Just like in the James Patterson course, in Neil’s course, the video lessons aren’t really a run-through of the step-by-step process that needs to be taken to create a story or become a better writer. And, while I’ve never written a novel, I’m assuming you can’t really teach novel writing or storytelling in that manner anyways.
Rather, the video lessons consist of Neil sharing his insight on relevant topics. Neil touches on subjects like, where to get inspiration, how to develop your story, finding your unique “voice,” creating dialogue and characters, worldbuilding, etc.
There’s also a couple of case study videos where Neil takes you a bit through his thought process behind a few of his stories.
In comparison to the James Patterson course, Neil’s videos are quite a bit longer. In the James Patterson Teaches Writing MasterClass, you get 22 video lessons, each about ~11-12 minutes long, whereas with Neil’s course you get 19 video lessons, each about ~14-15 minutes long (with one as long as 24 minutes.)
Though, it should be noted that, while you do get more total video in Neil’s course, there is a slower pace to Neil’s videos than to James’ videos—so, all-in-all, there’s probably about the same amount of content in the video lessons between the two courses.
— Workbook, Assignments, and Q & A
One thing that I really liked about the James Patterson course was the Q & A section where James answered student questions and provided critiques students’ assignment submissions.
Unfortunately, there is no Q & A content on Neil’s course and I’m not sure if that’s because it is one of the newer MasterClass courses, or if it’s just not a feature of his course.
However, the workbook that comes with Neil’s course is a lot more in depth than the workbook that came with James’ course.
The workbook is broken into sections, with each section relating to the same video lesson. It has a good rundown of what was taught in the video lesson along with some additional insight as well.
The workbook provides a ton of book recommendations as well, including books about the writing process and recommended fiction for reading and studying, too.
There are also a ton of assignments in the workbook. The assignments are broken down into both writing and reading assignments.
A lot of the writing assignments assume that you have already started writing a novel, but there are also quite a few that are just general writing prompts.
As an example, one of earlier writing exercises asks you to choose a folk/fairy tale that you know well, take a character from it, and write a few pages based on a few different prompts (one of the prompts is to write a scene where you’re a therapist and you’re talking to the character about their problems.)
Each section of the workbook has at least one exercise associated with it and most of the sections have multiple exercises to do.
Overall, there’s a lot of content in the workbook and there are plenty of assignments to help you drive Neil’s insights home. It would have been fun to see Neil critique student assignments in the Q & A section, just to get some specific advice from him, but the course still has a ton of good content without it.
— The Community
Like the dedicated subforum for James Patterson’s course, the subforum for Neil’s course isn’t very active.
There have been a few new posts in the last couple of days, so it is a little bit more active than the James Patterson course.
However, James’ course is a couple of months old, whereas Neil’s is just a couple of months old.
It looks like there was more activity after the course launched and I’m assuming that’s just how the MasterClass courses go: there’s probably a lot of action in the subforum for a couple of weeks after a new course is launched, and then not much after that.
You can submit your writing exercises in the subforum, though, and you might get some feedback. There are a lot of other students who have posted their writing exercises in the threads already, too, so you can spend some time reading through them to see how others have approached the exercises.
Ultimately, after taking two MasterClass courses, I think MasterClass needs to reconsider their Community section. At the very least, a redesign might be helpful. It’s tough to follow replies within a thread and that makes them feel a bit chaotic.
I’m not sure what they can do to get more people participating in the forums, though. Perhaps as MasterClass grows and gets more students the forums will be more active.
But, as of right now, if you aren’t in on a course when it first launches, the Community section seems to only serve as an archive to read other students’ questions and responses.
Another area where Neil’s course and James’ course differ is in how they are organized. Whereas the James Patterson course is more geared towards the process of writing a novel, and, as a result, is structured in an order that mimics the order of writing a novel, Neil’s course is more geared towards storytelling—mainly in novels, but across other mediums as well, including comics and short stories—and so doesn’t follow as strict of an order.
That doesn’t hurt the course in any way, though, and the progression through the videos still feels natural.
As for the organization of the course in terms of the website’s layout, it’s fine.
I mentioned in my James Patterson MasterClass review that it isn’t clear how to get to the related community forums from the main course page. That still is true.
From the main courses page, you have to click on the community tab, which takes you to MasterClass’ main community page, then you have to find the writing sub forum, and from there, the Neil Gaiman sub forum.
So, it’s not like you can just click from a video lesson directly to the relevant topic in the Neil Gaiman sub forum.
Other than that, though, the video lessons and the course workbook are easy to navigate through.
Along with Neil himself, the next best thing about the course is the production quality and presentation of the course. The James Patterson course was the same way. And, as I mentioned in my last review, I think that’s just one of the perks of MasterClass courses.
You’re not going to be able to find other course platforms that can produce courses with as high of production quality.
So, it might even be pointless for me to even include a section of production quality and presentation on future MasterClass courses, because I;’ll probably just keep repeating how well done they are.
The one thing I will say about Neil’s course, though, is how well the music matched Neil’s personality. You can tell that whoever chose the music put some thought into it.
I didn’t write about the music in my review on the James Patterson course because I didn’t have any other course to compare it to. But, now after taking both courses, I can see that MasterClass is really thinking about the mood behind the content that the instructor is delivering.
Where the music in James’ course was more upbeat and inspiring, the music behind Neil’s course is a bit slower and more dramatic—which helps you feel the weight of what he is saying.
So, I thought that was another cool thing about the production quality of MasterClass courses and I’m excited to see what kind of background music is chosen for other courses.
Is the Neil Gaiman MasterClass Course Worth It?
At the end of my James Patterson MasterClass review, I came to the conclusion that, for the $90 that it cost to buy the course on its own, it was, in my opinion, well worth it.
And, for $90, I’d say Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass course is just as good of a value.
Since I purchased the MasterClass subscription for $180, that means I’ve already got my money’s worth out of the year subscription in these first two classes.
And, I’m less than a month into that subscription and there are over 50 other courses (which doesn’t include the new courses that will launch before my subscription expires) that I can still take.
So, not only has the Neil Gaiman MasterClass been worth it on its own, but the MasterClass yearly subscription—which unlocks all classess–has been worth it as well.
Is the Neil Gaiman MasterClass worth it for you, though? That’s tough to say. Are you looking to write a novel? Start a comic? Get into short fiction? Or, even pursue a career as a screenwriter?
If so, I believe the insight that Neil offers on the art of storytelling in this course will be well worth the cost of admission for you.