What stands in your way, writer?
Writer’s block makes it tough to know sometimes. Is it just fear? Or is there some writing skill left to uncover before you can move your story forward? I love me some writing courses, in case it’s ever the latter 😉
That’s why I was already a fan of the writing courses over at MasterClass. (Then we met, and one thing led to another until we were affiliate partners, and now it’s a match made in heaven.)
So when MasterClass offered me a free seat in one of their writing courses for review, I chose David Mamet Teaches Dramatic Writing (affiliate link announcement to the sound of wedding bells) inside a hot second.
So, is the course worth the time and cost?
The short answer: Yep, and then some.
Considering how much I’ve paid for writing courses both on and offline with lower production value, fewer lessons, and less engaging or knowledgable instructors, Mamet’s course is a steal at just 90 bucks.
The course offers a number of winning tips and encouraging tidbits that alone are worth the price of entry.
On top of those, you get a full breadth of course lessons on writing basics like character, dialogue, and dramatic rules—all from a Pulitzer-winning master of the writing field in an intimate, high production value setting.
There is one drawback I note below. But overall, I’d take the course again (and plan to).
David draws examples from the winning scripts that earned him a master’s reputation in the writing field. These examples make it easier to understand how to use his tips in your own writing.
It’s easy to find time for the lessons. Watch one or two during those moments spent waiting on the microwave to beep or for that guy to finish your oil change. The bite-size format makes the coursework quick and easy to absorb. But David’s intimate, clear teaching style will make you wish the course was longer.
Course title: David Mamet Teaches Dramatic Writing.
Who the course is for: beginning and intermediate writers—short story writers, novelists, screenwriters, dramatists.
Format: 26 short video lessons, ranging 7-21 minutes each.
Course materials and resources: Downloadable pdf workbook (59 pages). Access to student forums. And office hours with David.
Curriculum: Covers writing basics like character, scenes, dialogue, plot and structure, dramatic rules, case studies using David’s scripts, and more.
Total runtime: 4:52.
Price: $90 (or get access to all MasterClass courses for just $180).
Pro #1 David’s Teaching Style and Expertise Simplify Complex Writing Skills: The guy is the perfect mix of educated and approachable. The combo makes for a phenomenal teacher. He’ll take you on a tour of English lit, religious philosophy, pscyhological theory, and classic Greek theater—all in practical terms that are easy to understand.
Even after decades of writing, it’s clear David is still in love with the craft. That means you and I get the practical lessons and the inspiration that makes you want to write, write, write after every lesson.
David is friendly, reverent of the craft, inspiring, encouraging, thoughtful, somehow humble, sometimes philosophical, and always highly informative.
The way he redefines some common storytelling terms (I’ll let you find out from him. He does a better job of explaining them.) encapsulate their purpose from the writer’s perspective. The effect makes it infinitely easier for beginning and intermediate writers to use the core writing skills David shares in each lesson.
Pro #2 The Curriculum Covers The Writing Basics All Fiction Writers Need to Know: The course isn’t just for dramatists and theater writers. If you’re a beginning or intermediate short story writer, screenwriter, novelist, or even essayist you’ll find David Mamet’s Masterclass writing course invaluable.
It covers the basics—like character, dialogue, plot and structure, the rules of drama, narration & exposition, scenes, the writing process, David’s philosophy on writing, story ideas, and various case studies using David’s award-winning plays.
There are a few lessons that apply to theater and screenwriting specifically, like working with actors. But the majority of the lessons apply to all writers.
Pro #3 The Set and Production Quality Are Gorgeous: The setting is intimate (no small feat given the usual coldness of the online course medium). It’s just you and David and the camera.
The set and production quality is high, especially compared to many online courses. This isn’t always important, since what we’re looking for in a writing course is skills, inspiration, and information. But it’s nice.
Pro #4 Lifetime Access to the Course Means You Can Revisit the Lessons Anytime: I can already see myself revisiting the course lessons for their definitions, practical tips, and simple encouragement. So the permanent access to the video lessons and course materials are definitely a plus.
Pro #5 The Inspiration in David’s Stories Makes You Want to Write Every Effing Day or Die Trying: Everything David Mamet says in this course will inspire you to pursue your writing dreams relentlessly. But the last story he tells 🔥🔥🔥.
I won’t ruin it by sharing the specifics. But I will say, Did you hear him, writer? 🤯💥
Pro #6 David’s Straightforward Tips and Simple Encouragement Alleviate Writer Anxiety: What other writers romanticize, David explains as simple skills you can learn (soulmates!). He acknowledges that there are some writers who seem to have a channel to the divine since they’re so talented. But he points to the highly successful writers out there who are simply good at and enjoy what they do.
It doesn’t matter which one you are. David says you can write. And his lessons show you how.
Con #1 The Assignments and Student Interactions Aren’t Exactly as Advertised: It feels almost dumb to complain about this given the high quality of the course and its small $90 course fee. Buuuuuuut they do advertise the assignments and student interaction/feedback as part of the sales pitch. And those aspects are minimal and minimally supported.
Practice is always a great idea. And the two assignments in the course are little more than reminders to get some.
Specifically, lessons 8 (Plot) and 16 (Scenes) invite you to write practice scenes based on the course lessons, upload them, and then review the work of three other students. But from the comments in Lesson 16, it seems everyone gets the same three submissions to review. That may be because so few students submit work, which isn’t MasterClass’s fault.
But there’s also no option to offer written feedback on the student submissions (which means your submissions won’t receive any either). Instead, you can rate the work on three elements—how interesting the student writer’s scene is, how clear the character’s goal is, and whether the goal in the scene felt urgent.
Other than these somewhat limited assignment and feedback opportunities, each video page offers a comments section. And MasterClass offers a general forum called The Hub where students can post topics and get responses. That’s a big perk if you’re looking for peer interaction or networking.
The Office Hours section, where Mamet answers student questions, appeared to be empty when I took the course. This could be a plus for you if it’s due to lack of student participation. You’re more likely to get personalized attention if yours is the only question posted.
The lesson workbook offers more opportunities for self-directed study and skills development. And the forums offer interaction with other writers if that’s useful to you.
Every lesson has something that will build your writing confidence and/or skills. Even the closing lesson is less of an End of Class formality and more of a You’re Never Going to Forget David Mamet’s Parting Words for The Rest of Your Life kind of thing.
Depending on your writing background, preferred genre, and current skill level you’re likely to find different lessons more helpful than others. But I found the Scenes, Characters, and Structuring the Plot lessons to be particularly…well, kind of writing world-changing.
Mamet redefines and simplifies concepts that elude many new writers (me included). After the course, so much that’s confusing about writing is more approachable.
The Bottom Line
If you have any anxiety about your writing. If you’re struggling at all with a story right now or one you put into a drawer because you just couldn’t figure out how to move it forward—take David Mamet’s MasterClass writing course.
I feel lucky that I stumbled upon it. It opened up entire new insights into the craft and ways through my current short story that I may not have been able to get through if not for this course. In short, I highly recommend it.
I’ll be taking R.L. Stine Teaches Writing for Young Audiences next just for fun.
See you there? Say hi if you see me. 📓