N.K. Jemisin is a hard-working and innovative writer, for sure, and I was intrigued to know more about her writing process and approach to the genre. I ended up not learning that much about the way she shapes her sentences, but I learned something else – perhaps something more important than that.
So, what exactly did I learn, and how much has this class benefited me as a writer?
We’ll get there in a bit.
Table of Contents
What is N.K. Jemisin's MasterClass?
“N.K. Jemisin Teaches Fantasy and Science Fiction Writing” is a course provided by MasterClass, an online learning platform offering video-based classes taught by experts in their respective fields.
The course is taught by Nora Keita Jemisin, an American award-winning science fiction and fantasy writer. She is best known for her Broken Earth series, which made her the first author to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel in three consecutive years.
N.K. Jemisin is a seasoned and talented writer, but she is also an amazing storyteller and a good teacher. She has experience teaching other writers at workshops, so she knows how to convey knowledge in an effective way.
Jemisin’s MasterClass revolves around worldbuilding, the development of characters, inventing magic and science, and choosing a POV (point of view). In short, it covers everything you need to know to get things started. This is not a course for absolute beginners, though.
The course features 16 lessons with a duration of 4 hours and 2 minutes in total. This is a bit longer than the average MasterClass, and while it’s not particularly extensive, it covers all the relevant topics and allows you to dig deeper into worldbuilding and characterization techniques.
Who is N.K. Jemisin?
Nora Keita Jemisin is an American science fiction and fantasy writer known for writing impactful fiction that includes themes such as oppression and cultural conflict. Thanks to her Broken Earth series, she won the Hugo Award three years in a row. She also wrote the Inheritance trilogy, The City We Became, The Killing Moon, Emergency Skin, and numerous short stories.
N.K. Jemisin worked as a psychologist before she became a professional writer, which helped her approach the characterization process in a deeper way. She is also known for her exceptional world-building skills, portrayal of marginalized groups, and a rather unique writing style.
What is the target audience for N.K. Jemisin’s MasterClass?
In her MasterClass, N.K. Jemisin covers a wide range of topics related to SF and fantasy writing. She teaches how to approach character work, worldbuilding, POV, and all the elements a novel is made of. That said, this is a fantastic course for young writers and writers with some experience who want to hone their skills and bring their vision to reality.
On the other hand, Jemisin also talks at some length about getting published and finding her place in the literary market. So, this is also a great course for those who have a finished novel in a drawer waiting to be published.
Finally, this MasterClass provides an exciting learning experience to admirers of N.K. Jemisin’s novels. Although she refers to other literature and films as well, Jemisin uses many examples from her own novels to break down a certain concept, process, or technique.
To make things clearer, here are some of the people who might benefit from this course:
- Aspiring writers who want to improve their skills
- Experienced writers looking for a publisher
- Admirers of N.K. Jemisin’s work
- Fans of SF
What does N.K. Jemisin’s MasterClass cover?
As the name suggests, “N.K. Jemisin Teaches Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing” is based on the techniques and tools you use to successfully write an SF or fantasy novel.
The first part of the course revolves around writing: worldbuilding (on macro and micro levels), worldbuilding exercises, research, characterization, the psychology of characters, the hierarchy of characterization, and so on. In these lessons, Nora talks about her own writing process and reveals what helped her get where she is now, emphasizing the importance of research and avoidance of stereotypes.
In the last part of the course, Nora gives an overview of the publishing process. She also talks about the author-agent relationship and the difficulties you can encounter as a published author. These are very useful lessons for anyone who is struggling to find a publisher or agent.
However, you should keep in mind that her advice might be the most relevant to those working and writing in America. The publishing process might be more or less the same in all parts of the world, but some countries don’t have the same circumstances regarding literary agents, writing in this particular niche, and so on.
To sum things up, here is a brief overview of what N.K. Jemisin’s MasterClass includes:
- Lesson 1 is a brief introduction to the instructor and the course.
- Lessons 2–5 are based on worldbuilding and ways you can build a rich, believable world on a macro and micro level.
- Lessons 6-7 also revolve around the worldbuilding. Jemisin talks about the importance of research and effective ways you can construct magic or science.
- Lessons 8-12 are focused on characterization. Jemisin explains why it’s important to create realistic, layered characters and avoid rugged individual archetypes.
- Lessons 13-15 break down the publishing process and all its challenges.
- Lesson 16 is the final lesson where Jemisin opens up about the difficulties she encounters as a Black woman who writes SF and fantasy.
My favorite lessons from N.K. Jemisin’s MasterClass
Generally, I really enjoyed this course – it was interesting, versatile, and easy to follow.
Some of the parts I enjoyed the most are related to the writing itself. But it was also interesting to hear Nora’s advice on how to ‘survive’ the literary market.
So here are some of my top lessons from the course:
Worldbuilding: Inventing Science and Magic
In this insightful lesson about worldbuilding, Nora suggests that it’s important to see magic as science. She also talks about her trip to Hawaii, where she visited a volcano and collected valuable (and necessary) experiences for her novel.
Forget the Rugged Individual Archetype
One of the best things about N.K. Jemisin as a teacher is her honesty. She was especially straightforward when talking about characterization and writing a stereotypical, rugged individualist.
She suggests that if you want to create relevant and believable characters, you need to be able to step out of the box and avoid rugged individualism. In order to achieve this, as she puts it, you need to become aware of the difference between how people really are and what people are framed to be.
Surviving the Literary Marketplace
This lesson is beneficial to anyone who wants to enter (or has just entered) the literary marketplace. Nora talks about the reality of being a published author and all the challenges that entails. She also talks about accepting rejections and the significance of writing short fiction as a way of honing your skills.
How much does N.K. Jemisin’s MasterClass cost?
MasterClass is a subscription-based learning platform, and there’s no possibility to purchase courses individually. So, if you want to take N.K. Jemisin’s writing course, you have to subscribe to MasterClass.
The annual subscription to Masterclass costs $120 per year (down from the previous $180) or $10 per month. With the MasterClass subscription, you gain unlimited access to a catalog of 180+ classes. So, if you want to take multiple classes, a MasterClass subscription is certainly worth it; it ends up being somewhat expensive otherwise.
Also the platform also offers a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, so if you’re not happy with the platform and your learning experience, you can request a full refund.
What I liked about N.K. Jemisin’s MasterClass
Overall, I found this course very informative and encouraging. As a published fantasy author, I am already familiar with many of the things Nora talked about in her lessons, but it’s always good to be reminded of the fundamentals. I’m not saying this is an entry-level writing course, though – it deals with some more advanced techniques and concepts – but there are some beginner-friendly lessons as well.
Either way, I think the course is very informative and useful. It gave me a chance to get fresh perspectives on writing and take a look behind the scenes of N.K. Jemisin’s writing process.
Here are the main reasons I would recommend this course to fellow writers:
Certainly, N.K. Jemisin is one of the best in the field – a recipient of multiple awards, an author of bestsellers, and, importantly, a creator of magnificent new worlds.
Jemisin is also an experienced educator, and you can feel that throughout the course. She is relaxed and confident, and she knows how to portray her ideas and simplify them if needed. On the other hand, she uses a lot of terminology, and that’s one of the reasons I wouldn’t recommend this course to absolute beginners.
This course is also rather versatile and covers a wide range of topics. Nora talks about her experiences as a writer (and as a Black writer in SF and fantasy) and opens up about her struggles and challenges she needed to overcome.
There’s also plenty of technical writing stuff in the course, such as characterization and step-by-step worldbuilding guidelines, research advice, and an immersion pyramid that can help your reader learn about your world.
Finally, you can learn a lot regarding publishing your novel in this course; Jemisin covers everything from the tax benefits of publishing to common publishing myths.
As mentioned before, N.K. Jemisin is very open and honest. She also has a strong, confident attitude, and she knows what she stands for. Consequently, she gives honest advice and very specific tips. For instance, she delves deeper into the psychology of characters and talks about the way you can portray your character’s trauma.
Visually beautiful videos
MasterClass did it again – N.K. Jemisin’s class is visually stunning. The whole setting looks magical, so you can be even more encouraged and inspired to create your own world full of wonder.
Disadvantages of N.K. Jemisin’s MasterClass
As you see, N.K. Jemisin’s course is very nuanced, efficient, and straightforward. The target audience is also quite easy to spot – science and fantasy writers who want to finish or improve their novels and seek a publisher.
A lot of ground is covered here. As someone who is at the very beginning of a writer’s journey, I enjoyed it thoroughly. However, there is something I believe would make this course even more well-rounded and beneficial to young writers…
Lack of language-related lessons
I noticed there aren’t any, for lack of a better word, language-related lessons. Finding a voice and developing writing skills in terms of shaping your own writing style and choosing a specific type of language is essential for every writer. The language you use is also related to the genre, and that’s why I think it’s especially important to tackle here.
There are some moments where she mentions this, though – for instance, when she suggests you can come up with your own curse words – but I wanted more.
This doesn’t necessarily have to be a disadvantage, as there’s plenty to learn even without this part. Nevertheless, it would be nice to hear how Jemisin developed her very unique writing style.
Review conclusion: Is N.K. Jemisin’s MasterClass worth it?
In her well-rounded writing course, N.K. Jemisin teaches how to build a world from scratch. She talks about the elements of worldbuilding, characterization, and ways you can create a believable magic system.
Jemisin is a great instructor, and she covers all the basics here, although you do need to know a thing or two about writing and the genre to really benefit from this course. She uses more advanced terminology on multiple occasions and digs deeper into certain techniques and concepts related to worldbuilding and characterization.
Although I didn’t hear much about her approach to language and the development of her writing style, Jemisin taught me a lot. She reminded me of some rules of worldbuilding and helped me understand her approach to crafting cultures and people, especially marginalized characters.
All things considered, I would recommend this course to anyone who wants to build an immersive SF or fantasy world or simply adopt a fresher perspective on their stories and characters, polish their novel, and eventually get into a literary market.