From Neil Gaiman's MasterClass

Finding Your Voice

Your writer’s voice is what makes it possible for someone to pick up a page of text and recognize that you wrote it. Learn how to develop your voice and how to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

Topics include: Start With Imitation · Get the Bad Words Out · Finish Things · Finding the Voice of a Story

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Your writer’s voice is what makes it possible for someone to pick up a page of text and recognize that you wrote it. Learn how to develop your voice and how to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

Topics include: Start With Imitation · Get the Bad Words Out · Finish Things · Finding the Voice of a Story

Neil Gaiman

Teaches the Art of Storytelling

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When you're a writer, starting out, the idea of your voice, of your style is huge. You want to know what your voice is. You don't really know. I once, years ago, ran into a quote from Jerry Garcia where he said, "style is the stuff that you get wrong. If you were actually playing the guitar perfectly-- if you were making music perfectly, there would be no style." And I thought this was such a great quote and remembered it, and years later, went to find it on the internet. And the only place I could ever find it was me saying it in interviews. So maybe he never said it at all. But I do think that a writer's voice, which is huge, which is important, which is actually the thing that the reader responds to more than anything else-- the end of the day, is a result of getting to the point where you discover this is what you sound like. And the problem, I think, that a lot of young writers have is they don't sound like anybody yet. I know when I was a young writer, I didn't really sound like anybody. What I did was sounded like everybody else. And it's what you do when you're starting out. You imitate. You find voices that you like. You go, "this person is doing something great." I would look at writers like Ari Lafferty or Harlan Ellison, Roger Zelazny, Ursula Le Guin. I go, "I love this thing that they do. I'll try and do that." It was very strange. I wrote a children's book when I was, what, 22? It was the first thing I ever wrote. It exists only in my attic and in manuscript. And it's not very good. But after "Coraline" came out, I thought, "hang on. I have that children's book in my attic. I wonder if it's any good?" And I went off. I found it. I read it to my daughter, Maddie, who at that point was six or seven. And at the end of the day, I sent it back up to the attic where it resides and will reside until the crack of doom. What really fascinated me about it was there was about a page and a half somewhere toward the end that read like me. It read like-- the rest of it, it read like Noel Langley and Roald Dahl. It read like every children's author I'd ever read. And it's all coming back out again. There's nothing really original. I haven't figured out how to do anything. And that's great. And that's absolutely fine, because you don't have to get it right at the beginning. You start out by making mistakes. You start out by getting it wrong. The most important thing you do is just write. But there was just a page. And I looked at it. I thought, "that's me. That actually reads like me." And seeing that felt wonderful, because it was the idea that, yeah, 22-year-old Neil-- actually, the voice was there. I just had to do a whole lot more writing. [MUSIC PLAYING] I think mistakes may be the most important thing for a writer. The question of how do you find your mistakes is very easy. You do stuff. The process of living, the process of trying to create, the process of getting out there and doing something is always a ...

Unleash your imagination

Award-winning author Neil Gaiman has spent more than a quarter of a century crafting vivid, absorbing fiction. Now, the author of Stardust, Coraline, and The Sandman teaches his approach to imaginative storytelling in his online writing class. Learn how to find your unique voice, develop original ideas, and breathe life into your characters. Discover Neil’s philosophy on what drives a story—and open new windows to the stories inside you.

Reviews

4.7
Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Neil Gaiman reenforced things I was already doing, put words to them. Reminded me that a life lived is a life worth writing about even if it's total fiction. Finishing and beginning, repeat, go on, and don't be afraid to start over. Rejection is fuel not the extinguisher of great ideas. Thank you Masterclass and Neil Gaiman.

Really good classes, I learned I should start write, to finish it. with all the very inspiring stories, I will watch it again to get more idea from those lectures.

Master Gaiman is an excellent, if not the most important, authority on creative writing for me because he speaks to me as both a struggling writer and human. He gives me the tools to navigate my internal obstacles, where my passion would rather have its way. I'm very grateful to have had this experience, and will take all that I've learned and invest it into my passion. Thank you.

Neil's honesty is priceless wisdom. Thanks Neil!

Comments

Paulina B.

Not everybody is a young writer and aged 16. Not the same thing for you g writers aged 40+

Melissa O.

This lesson was extremely interesting and did make me question my own writing style and if it varied or if it was consistent with my "voice" or if my voice was something that could evolve with different influences and time. I did find it kind of shocking that the irl that tells you what famous writer your writing is similar to procured writers who I never would have thought myself similar to. I did it multiple times with multiple pieces, and got authors that while I am aware of would have never thought to identify with. I'm now interested in reading some of their works and seeing if this analysis had any merit. Wish me luck! And good luck to you fellow classmates!

Patricia F.

I love his humble, encouraging, authentic nature. Biggest reveal for me was that even he , early on, had fits and starts and didn't finish projects. So important not to feel so alone in that, like it was always a dirty, shameful secret that meant maybe I'm not a "real" writer. This was incredibly liberating. Thank you, Neil. So grateful for your honesty.

Clara F.

Very helpful. As a new writer, looking through my own works to analyze "voice" is fascinating. It seems my characters have more consistent perspectives than I do. Perhaps that's because I have more experience with dialogue than narration.

John M.

My thought was to read an author I admire, before trying to in his voice. It instantly read like a bad Christopher Moore first draft. I would say that is a great thing, but it also sounded like me. It makes me wonder where the Venn diagram of "adopting a voice" and outright mimicry overlap.

Alanna

I think trying out different voices is the most fun I've had so fun! Being a Ravenclaw I naturally made the homework three times longer and tried out re-writing a passage of an abandoned story of mine as Salinger, Austen and Hemingway. So much fun to pull their styles apart and see what makes them tick, and compare them to my style and each other. Also interesting for me that I found Salinger's style really easy to slip into, whereas Austen and Hemingway took a lot more thought to imitate. Really enjoying these lessons!

Sarah S.

This lesson is brilliant. I took a bit writing it, realizing how little writing I actually do outside of my novel. Consider myself woken up.

A fellow student

I love this lesson. I think it's so true in the way that we learn anything in life, it starts out as imitation and then eventually generalizes and gathers it's own attributes or attitude. I love this because I can hear the words in my head of some of my favorite scenes and pin point that moment of imitation in my own writing. I feel that my voice changes depending on what type of writing I'm doing: Fiction, short story, creative non-fiction, etc.

A fellow student

I feel like he's touching viewers' soul, I started his lesson a little worried of being too shallow for general audiences but now completely convinced he's teaching us how his soul endured his career and guiding us in finding our own path.

Patti H.

I love how Neil always makes me feel better about myself. Where I saw failure I'm now seeing growth and lessons learned. It's so refreshing.