Why learn from the rest when you can learn from the best? Anyone concerned with the written word–aspiring writer, or pro–can benefit from the practical and inspirational lessons offered by some of the greatest writers of our time with MasterClass. We’ve compiled a list of the 14 best MasterClasses for authors that will enrich a writer’s life at any stage of the game.
R.L. Stine on Writing For Young Audiences
As a member of the Goosebumps generation, I can attest to the power of R.L. Stine’s ability to spark the imagination of young readers and leave them hungry for more. My first “choose your own adventure” journey was with an R.L. Stine book, and I sometimes reflect on the ways in which that experience positively affected my decision making as an adult. By making some of the scariest decisions of my young life in the safety of a Goosebumps story I learned tough choices can be made with a degree of separation and playfulness, and that life is simply a choose your own adventure story. Dissociation, anyone? Thankfully I quit therapy years ago.
In this MasterClass, R.L. Stine shares his gift for writing with young audiences in mind–an invaluable resource for authors interested in one of the most popular and potentially lucrative genres today–Young Adult. Some of the most successful book-to-film adaptations are rooted in YA novels, (heard of Harry Potter or Twilight?) and many of the most-viewed book trailers Film 14 has featured in the past are for YA novels. If you’re already writing with the youth in mind or just looking to expand your skills to a new genre, the R.L. Stine MasterClass is for writers interested in growing.
Bob Woodward on Investigative Journalism
Author of famed non-fiction book-to-film adaptation All The Presidents Men, Bob Woodward, is the authority on investigative journalism. This MasterClass is endlessly beneficial to any author interested in writing compelling non-fiction with journalistic integrity, and this man’s resume speaks for itself. As a reporter for The Washington Post in the early ‘70s, Bob Woodard and fellow reporter Carl Bernstein broke the Watergate Scandal to the public in a series of articles based on information from the confidential informant known as “Deep Throat” that eventually led to Nixon’s resignation. Woodward has published several important books on sitting presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump, as well as a bestselling biography of John Belushi. When it comes to writing non-fiction this guy has the goods and he’s very generous with them in this MasterClass. In a series of 24 videos (roughly 10 minutes each), Woodward shares his guiding journalistic principles, how to “find the story” and build trust with your sources, conduct interviews, and so much more.
Billy Collins on Poetry
Billy Collins serves as your guide through the poetry universe in this MasterClass. In a series of 20 videos, Collins explains his techniques for reading and writing poetry with practical exercises for getting the words out of the head and onto the page. As the United States Poet Laurette from 2001-2003, author of 18 poetry collections, and award recipient from the likes of The American Academy of Arts and Letters, Billy Collins knows a thing or two on the subject of understanding and writing poetry.
David Sedaris on Storytelling and Humor
Isn’t humor a trait we’re either born with or doomed to live an empty grey life as the awkward dullard at parties without? How does one teach humor? Watch this MasterClass from the master of cynical hilarity himself, David Sedaris, and find out! In 13 entertaining videos, Sedaris shares his wealth of knowledge, including how to “break into a story” and spin a compelling yarn, connect with the reader, write a good ending, his personal influences, and a whole lot more. Learn how to “turn everyday moments into seriously funny stories that connect with audiences” from this New York Times bestselling author, essayist, and humorist. This class also includes a bonus live reading of Sedaris’s essay, “The Spirit World” as a cherry on top.
David Mamet on Dramatic Writing
Woah, here’s one from a heavy hitter. Acclaimed living-legend and authority on Drama with a capital “D,” David Mamet offers up the secrets of his craft and gets surprisingly vulnerable when sharing his experience walking through the self-doubt that all writers suffer from, including the greats. “You’ve got to stand being bad because if you don’t, you’ll never get good…I’m not any less confused than you are, I just got in the habit of doing it.” Is the fire under your ass not lit yet? Here’s a complete tool-kit that comes with “the rules” for writing compelling drama. Mamet teaches about building interesting characters and plot, spotting and nurturing great actors, the importance of telling the truth, all the while bringing inspiration galore. This MasterClass is a must for playwrights, screenwriters, and directors of stage and screen alike–26 videos at roughly 10 minutes apiece that will change the life of any dramatist for the better.
Joyce Carol Oates on the Art of the Short Story
Joyce Carol Oates echos the sentiment of David Mamet on the necessity of finishing stories, putting them out into the world, sucking at it, and getting better through perseverance and love of the craft in this MasterClass on short-form writing. This literary icon shares her tips on writing short stories for budding writers in need of a push so that they might learn to enjoy the satisfaction that comes from completing a written work and getting it out into the world–the process that keeps any writer going and improving. Learn how to turn your instincts into a craft, straight from the horse’s mouth, with Joyce Carol Oates.
Dan Brown on Writing Thrillers
You’ll be thrilled by this MasterClass from Dan Brown, author of such film-adapted novels as The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons, and Inferno. “Writing a novel is a process, it’s not all about inspiration and craft. This class provides practical tools–a roadmap–to turn your idea into a story.” That’s a promise this bestselling author keeps in his MasterClass on writing thrillers. Learn how to write a villain who will define your hero and get a kick in the pants to start that damn novel from a man who’s sold millions of them.
James Patterson on Writing
Did you know that every short story James Patterson ever wrote was rejected? Neither did I, until I caught this MasterClass. If there’s a running theme among the 14 best MasterClasses for authors, it’s that a writer just has to keep on going through the discomfort, self-doubt, and embarrassment, until the truth is on the page. Only then can you have the experience of being rejected dozens of times, surviving, growing, savoring ecstatic moments clutched from the grips of despair, and doing it over and over again until you’ve made a career. From choosing a story, making outlines, digging up agents’ info, and query tips from the “acknowledgments” section in books by authors you admire, Patterson lays it all out in stark, straightforward detail in this MasterClass from a true master of commercially-viable fiction.
Neil Gaiman on the Art of Storytelling
Ladies and gents, Neil Gaiman knows a little bit about the art of storytelling and he gives it all away in this MasterClass. This writer’s work has been adapted for the big screen time and time again, and his stories have taken every shape, from conventional novels to comic books and screenplays. Gaiman has done it all. Here he shows us how to devise a good plot and outline it, “play god” with world-building, overcome writer’s block, and possibly touch humankind through the act of unleashing individual artistic expression, without apologies.
Margaret Atwood on Creative Writing
From the creator of runaway film-adapted success, The Handmaiden’s Tale comes a MasterClass deep dive into the nuts and bolts of fiction writing. Atwood shares plenty of insightful tips about developing style, creating a multi-layered plot, the importance of finding the right narrative point of view for your story, crafting dialogue, and the business side of being a writer. This successful author has been living the writers’ life for many decades, and here she offers up a lifetime of experience, from her library straight to your desktop.
Judy Blume on Writing
A MasterClass for those who feel compelled to write–because why else would you want to be a writer? Judy Blume cuts the crap and gets down to brass tacks in this honest and straightforward class on taming the mind-mess and whittling that first draft into a beautiful sculpture worthy of its world debut. As one of the most banned authors in the US, you can count on Blume to bring the realness in this 24 chapter class on writing.
Shonda Rhimes on Writing for Television
Welcome to Shondaland. Rhimes definitely does not disappoint in this MasterClass on writing for the small screen. For those who don’t know, Shonda Rhimes is the creator of Grey’s Anatomy, so she’s overqualified to give advice about writing dialogue, the in’s and out’s of a TV writer’s room, and all the nitty-gritty nuggets of gold one can only obtain by living the life of a successful TV writer…until now. If you’re interested in writing for television, watch Shonda’s MasterClass and find out why the next generation of TV writers are eagerly seeking her mentorship.
David Baldacci on Mystery and Thriller Writing
It’s no mystery why bestselling author David Baldacci is teaching a MasterClass on writing thrillers…and mysteries. This guy has published 38 of them and sold millions of copies worldwide. Learn about pacing, tension, and suspense with the man who has made it his life’s mission to thrill and excite readers with the written word. Baldacci also talks about creative scheduling and the importance of carving out the time to write every day. When he began writing his first novel, Baldacci was working as a lawyer. Every night, for years, Baldacci would say goodnight to his family at 10 P.M. and head downstairs to write until 2 A.M. What’s your excuse?
Aaron Sorkin on Screenwriting
Sometimes the hardest part of beginning a new writing project is weeding out the endless possibilities and distilling a story idea down to its simplest and most potent form. In this MasterClass, Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin teaches how to do that, then test the idea to see if it will work best for TV or film. Some of the coolest tips in this class are Sorkin’s “tricks for justifying improbable events” in 1 of 5 “group workshops,” where he helps dissect and refine the work of up-and-coming scriptwriters. For guidance on getting the best story possible from the page to the silver screen, check out Aaron Sorkin’s MasterClass on screenwriting.
Patrick Salway is a writer, musician, and actor living in Los Angeles. Follow him on social media @blone_noble and @veneer_publications. Listen to VENEER.
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