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.

I've done quite a few Masterclasses on writing. Neil was great. I think sometimes as a writer we need to be told over and over again that it's okay to just let yourself write as much or as little as you want. Describe as much or as little in a scene. And to keep exploring and asking questions. And most of all, to keep writing and keeping finishing what you write.

Very excellent delivery and so interesting! Love this writer and his wisdom!! THanks so very much!

I took this class, as an artist, who might lend words to my paintings in the future. What I found is it actually helping me as a painter. I wish I could include photos of the paintings I've done in this class, because it was so inspiring.

most of the lessons are quite generic, please have an advance class, like instructors really going into details on how you can write

Comments

Justin

Been through, probably 12 plot versions of my work in progress book and written well over 10,000 words worth of dialogue and such for each but the first chapters of my first plot have stuck and I use them as a reference. This lesson helped me see one of my shortcomings as an new author. I don't normally use the world around me as inspiration for my story. It's almost exclusively based on fantasies that I watch/read.

Andrea C.

The I Write Like website is interesting. I wish it told you why it thinks you write like a specific author, but it's just for fun. I also like the Watson Personality and Tone Analyzers. I believe they are a little more advanced. The tone analyzer is useful for writing because it can show you what emotions you are conveying (intentionally and unintentionally) with your writing. Here's the demo (https://personality-insights-demo.ng.bluemix.net/)

A fellow student

This is where I'm stuck. Then I remember during my childhood (from 6-12 year old), whenever there's no electricity (which was quite often), my father, who was then in his late 30s, would gather us kids around a candle light and told some of the most fantastic stories I've ever heard like how his school mate drowned after following a lake siren deep into a dark hole and how the spell which bound my father broke because he suddenly remembered that he had to deliver some tofu to his customers and that his mother would skin him alive if the customers complained about another late delivery. Thus he was saved. I remember listening to his ghost stories, scared and excited but I trusted my father. I trusted my father would get us out of the ghost stories safely. This lesson brought back those memories. Thanks, Neil.

Loup De L.

Loved it. Finding my voice was a key anxiety of mine. Niel showed me that its something I can't help but do but only if I do.

Jim S.

Writing Exercise #02 (Pg. 2 of 2): The dentist was an hour late in calling me on back to the chair, allowing me more than enough time to complete the tale. Afterward, hoped up on painkillers, I e-mailed the rough tale to my editors at Fainting Goat Games and, within a few minutes, they were clamoring to publish it as backmatter for the soon-to-be-released adventure. This tale would not have existed had I not be challenged to write a story in one sitting.

Jim S.

Writing Exercise #02 (Pg. 1 of 2): I wrote this tale Friday morning as I waited for, of all things, a root canal. In addition to writing prose, I also write RPG adventures, mainly of the D&D variety. These are essentially epic stories lacking a protagonist. For one such adventure, I created the tobihaze, a race of people-sized mudskippers, as a throwaway foe for the opening encounter. I decided I wanted to showcase them. I came across the term mudlark in Gaiman's "Down to a Sunless Sea," and instantly fell in love with both the term and the occupation. Now, my fantasy yarn had a middle-aged, blue-collar protagonist with an aching back and an unrequited love.

Jerry R.

A remarkable journey into the "voice" of the character as well as the writer. Just thinking about the 3 movies I watched, basically on the same subject, I realize that I liked the last one the best, and it was written from a different viewpoint, that of one of the hunted, one on the side of the hunted. The first movie was more a "cop" story, of both the hunters and the hunted. The second was of a victim as much as the creature. If these were novelized, and probably they have been, we would have followed different viewpoints, thus getting a different story.

Wendy W.

I agree that finishing is the best teacher. How to finish, what that looks like, how you struggle, or make changes. As I read other posts, I see an echoed sentiment--- finish assignments before moving on. I was ready to abandon the last writing exercise when I got stuck in the story. Then I reread something in one of Neil's chapters in View From the Cheap Seats, and in this lesson as well, when he mentions how we learn when those difficulties come. Changing the point of view. Changing how the story is told. Working through the part that is difficult teaches more than just abandoning or in the case of rewriting a fairytale, not just copying or retelling. I like how he said that you are finding the STORY'S voice, the attitude or soul of that story. Finishing, not just starting, is part of that process. I will finish that writing exercise before attempting this one.

joyce (moms) F.

I really must finish whatever reading or writing assignment I might've chosen to do for each lesson, before I move on to the next lesson. Because, in all honesty, if I just keep moving along, I'll never go back, and nothing will be finished. I know that's one of the reasons why I've always been such a sluggish student. That, and the fact that I'm also a hopeless procrastinator... something I confessed in my profile bio. ......... I ordered 'The Ocean at the End of the Lane' on Feb. 8th, after I'd finished the third session. The package arrived on Feb. 11th and has been sitting on the end table in my living room, ever since. (Today is April 9th!) For almost two months, I have dusted around it, and over it, and even picked it up a couple of times to dust underneath it. I've thought about it, then forgot about it.. until this morning, when for some unknown reason, instead of picking up my feather duster, I went straight for the package, which had become some odd sorta nick-knack, and cut it open. Then, I slowly pulled the little paperback from it's plastic womb, plopped down in the recliner, and started to read. It's lunchtime now, so I figured I might as well drop this comment, while I slurp my soup. I've also figured that if I have a pizza delivered, instead of making meatloaf and potatoes like I'd planned, I can finish reading 'The Ocean at the End of the Lane' by dinnertime. :-)

Jim S.

Writing Exercise #01: I thought I would struggle with this exercise, but I was surprised with how easily this paragraph came together actually.