Why Learn from Margaret Atwood?
Margaret Atwood, in every sense of the word, is nothing but prolific.
She's published 16 novels, 17 books of poetry, 10 non-fiction books and 8 short story collections... not to mention one of those books being The Handmaid's Tale, which is a literary dystopian masterpiece.
That wealth of experience is wildly apparent in her Masterclass
She breaks down the fundamentals of writing into building blocks, then encourages you to piece together those blocks as you see fit. One thing I enjoyed was her continual reminders that, since you choose the building blocks of your writing, your writing path will be unique!
If you’re thinking about purchasing MasterClass to help your writing, at all, I'd say Margaret Atwood’s (Dan Brown’s is a close second) class should be the one you watch first.
Her course is beautifully structured, there's information for beginners and pros alike, she has the most prolific career of the teachers, and she also manages to be funny and encouraging.
How Her Course is Similar to Other MasterClasses:
A quick note: after watching a few MasterClasses on writing, you start to get a sense that there is a universal writing process that either (A) exists in the realm / ether of writing or that (B) MasterClass simply pushes a uniform process of writing via the questions they ask the instructors.
That said, most MasterClass writing instructors start by giving their two cents on creating ideas.
Then, they talk about plotting, which usually centers around creating a strong opening to your story. They’ll go on to mention the hurdles of writing the middle of your story, and how to wrap it all up with a satisfying ending.
Everyone then gives a word to revisions, and maybe a word or two about nailing down your writing routine. Some teachers, not all of them, even give a little insight into the business side of writing.
Atwood’s sticks to that same structure pretty closely.
She goes from idea to plotting, to character work, to writing the bulk of your story, to revisions and so on. Here’s the course syllabus:
As with every MasterClass, you get a nice workbook and/or pdf handouts that recap each section.
Some course workbooks are larger than others and Atwood’s is jam packed.
It’s about 100 pages and is a good read on its own. They do a nice job of both recapping what she covered in the lecture as well as giving some extra examples or different takes on the same information.
There are also suggested assignments at the end of each section. Most of which, are very worth doing.
Where Her Course Differs:
Right out the gates of her class, she brings up something very profound. Not only does she mention that you should study literature, but also how you should study literature. This is worth its weight in gold (except that an idea doesn't have weight (so I guess it's worthless (...?))).
Fables and Greek Myths and things of that sort are all, she says, the foundation to the stories we create now. Every current idea is really a spin on, or a combination of, something that’s been done before. Because of that, she recommends using historic literature as "Lego" blocks that you can combine to create your own castle (or whatever you prefer to build with legos. Maybe a race car).
Every instructor — though they talk about similar things, like plotting or crafting dialogue — gives you their unique perspective on the craft of writing.
Margaret Atwood’s MasterClass attacks writing through the lens of speculative fiction. Coming from the woman who wrote the dystopian masterpiece, The Handmaid’s Tale, this is some of the most valuable information you’ll receive.
Even though her class leans toward speculative fiction, she does a great job conveying how genre-specific elements work in all types of fiction.
Concerning speculative fiction directly, she talks about things like: how to make a fictional world’s timeline benefit your plot and how to use it to speculate things. She discusses historical accuracy; how to use different styles of prose to aid your story.
Along the way, she maintains the attitude that every writer’s journey is their own. With that, she explains the finer points of what defines genres.
Margaret Atwood is an undisputed master in her craft. The tools she discusses and, more importantly, the way she discusses them are the most invaluable things I’ve learned in my journey as a writer. If you are thinking about buying an individual MasterClass on writing, I recommend you start with Margaret Atwoods.
I’ve watched a weird amount of MasterClass since I signed up for it a couple years ago. So now, I've gone pretty far out of my way to get approved as a MasterClass Affiliate because I love it so much!
Please know that any link you follow from this site allows me a commission if you purchase a course or the All-Access Pass within the next few months.
Even though I think everyone in the world should pay yearly for the All-Access Pass, I understand not all people are learning junkies like me and I still fully believe the one-off courses are worth the money. Especially because they never expire.
Post by Dayton O'Donnell
Dayton is an Author and founder of Write the Goodest from Denver, CO