She is also one of the authors invited to share her wisdom on writing and storytelling in her own MasterClass. I’m in the process of soaking up all of the classes on writing that the platform has to offer and Margaret Atwood’s MasterClass on creative writing is one of the ones I’ve been most excited to take.
Here’s my full review of the class, which I hope you find helpful if you are considering taking it yourself.
Margaret Atwood Teaches Creative Writing
First of all, what is MasterClass?
MasterClass is an online course platform featuring a wide range of classes from 80+ of the world’s most famous in their industries, such as acting, filmmaking, writing, music, business, cooking, and more.
You’re probably wondering, is it worth it?
Absolutely. I’m a serial learner so personally, I was over the moon when MasterClass launched a few years ago. It’s like getting the opportunity to sit down with some of the world’s best in their field, have a conversation, and gain insight into their process on every aspect of their craft in order to enrich your own. To me, that’s invaluable. I’ve picked up so much wisdom over the years of having a membership.
With their All-Access Pass (annual subscription), you get unlimited access to every class in their catalog for the cost of 3 Starbucks drinks a month. It’s a steal, especially when you compare the price to many other online courses. And you’re learning from the best. Many of the classes are only 2-3 hours long so you can get through them in a day or two.
Who Margaret Atwood’s Class Is For
Margaret’s class focuses specifically on writing fiction (particularly, novels). All of the MasterClass courses are designed to be beginner-friendly, but so far, I’ve found the ones on writing to be great for advanced writers, too. It’s the opportunity to hear some of the most acclaimed authors share their thoughts on all aspects of storytelling and absorb their wisdom. I always pick up something from their lessons and Margaret’s was no different.
Her lectures apply to all genres of fiction, though she does have a couple of lessons focused on speculative fiction. I don’t personally write in this genre but I found those lessons to be fascinating anyway. Learning about other genres can be really helpful in adding layers to your work, so these lessons are worth watching regardless of your preferred genres.
Her Teaching Style
Margaret is a delight to listen to. She peppers the lessons with a wonderfully dry sense of humor and fascinating anecdotes, including tidbits from the extensive historical research she’s done throughout her career. However, I never felt like she veered off the topic or packed them with unnecessary fluff. Her lessons are very straight-forward and she’s generous with her knowledge, offering very thought-provoking suggestions and commentary on the writing process.
For the most part, her lessons focus on the technical and structural side of creative writing. It’s a different approach from Neil Gaiman’s class on storytelling, who focused more on the heart and soul behind the choices you make as a storyteller. Neither approach is better, just different.
While it definitely wasn’t lacking passion for the artistry of storytelling, as I said in the teaching style section she is very straight-forward and focused on the craft of bringing a story to life on the page. Personally, I loved this about the class, because I’m always interested in strengthening those skills and trying new techniques.
Here’s the curriculum:
- Getting Started as a Writer
- Story and Plot
- Structuring Your Novel: Layered Narratives and Other Variations
- Who Tells the Story: Narrative Point of View
- Point of View Case Studies
- Bringing Characters to Life Through Detail
- Creating Compelling Characters
- Writing Through Roadblocks
- Crafting Dialogue
- Revealing the World Through Sensory Imagery
- Prose Style and Texture
- Working with Time in Fiction
- The Door to Your Book: The Importance of the First Five Pages
- Writing the Middle and Ending
- Revision: Seeing Your Work Anew
- The Novel and the Shifting Sands of Genre
- Speculative Fiction
- Speculative Fiction Case Study: The Handmaid’s Tale
- Research and Historical Accuracy
- The Writer’s Path
- The Business of Being a Writer
- Parting Words
The class also comes with a 92-page workbook with the most notable lessons from the class, memorable quotes, and helpful worksheets, including Margaret Atwood’s character questionnaire.
A Preview of the Class
Here is the trailer for the class that will give you an idea of what you can expect. You can also watch a clip from one of the classes on the MasterClass website.
Definitely worth it if you are interested in the insight of how other authors approach the craft, and Margaret is one of the greats. I wish I could sit and talk to her for hours. It’s a short class at less than 3 hours long, so you can easily watch it in one day.
I recommend going for the All-Access Pass which costs less than two classes combined and gains you access to all 14 of the classes on writing (such as Neil Gaiman, Shonda Rhimes, Aaron Sorkin, James Patterson, and Dan Brown), as well as every other class in the MasterClass catalog.
Margaret Atwood Quotes on Writing
Here are some of my favorite quotes from the class:
“Creativity is one of the essential things about being human. So you don’t have to apologize for it. It’s something human beings do.”
“If you really do want to write, and you’re struggling to get started, you’re afraid of something. What is that fear?”
“The wastepaper basket if your friend. It was invented for you, by God.”
“There’s no shame in backtracking, there’s no shame in revision.”
“You become a writer by writing. There is no other way.”