Whether you want to write for fun or as a profession, R.L. Stine’s advice is priceless. In this Masterclass, he demystifies the art of writing. Anyone can follow this brilliant course and get started.
Go to the idea store
Like every other writer on Masterclass.com, Robert Lawrence (R.L) Stine starts his course by explaining where to get ideas for your books. But, refreshingly he has something very different to say on the subject.
Worryingly, he starts out by saying he cannot tell you how to come up with ideas. That aspect of his creative process is something that he finds hard to put into words.
However, despite this, he does not leave you hanging. He tells you about something called the idea store. A place that you can go to that has 3 main departments. They are:
- Your experiences
- Your memories
- Your imagination
Tapping into these 3 things will lead to dozens of ideas.
He goes on to provide you with several examples of ideas he has come up with from these 3 sources. Providing you with a remarkable insight into his amazing mind. But, he also makes it clear that anyone has the potential to do the same.
Later in the course, he gives you 20 quick fire story ideas. So, if you want to, you can choose a couple and come up with an outline for each of them. You never know one of those outlines might turn out to be your first successful kid’s novel.
You just need to open your mind and pay attention to those little thoughts that pop into your head.
Places to get writing ideas
However, Bob Stine does not leave it at that. He also shares with you four more sources and techniques you can use to help you to generate a story idea. Some sources are obvious, for example, TV and films. Others are less so.
I can personally vouch for the fact that you can come up with lots of ideas simply be pausing when you see a catchy title and seeing what ideas they spark. Newspaper and magazine headlines do it for me.
Or you could do what Robert does and indulge in a little wordplay. For example, turning The Little Shop of Horrors into The Little Shop of Hampsters led Bob to write a great Goosebumps story.
You only need one good idea.
R.L. Stine How to Write for Young People Masterclass Course
My favorite example is his 12-year-old Scrooge, in his book Young Scrooge: A Very Scary Christmas Story. In that video, he also tells you about some of the authors that have inspired him.
How to create a plot outline
Bob Stine likes to get the hard work out of the way. So, he forces himself to put together a proper plot outline, before he sits down to write.
Even if you do not plan to write in this way, I would still advice you to go through this section of the course. Doing so will help you to ask yourself the right questions and work out the elements you need to build into each story.
Interestingly, Robert Stine always starts putting together his outline by coming up with the ending. That sounds counter-intuitive. But, you will understand the wisdom of that approach, when you listen to this part of the course.
The other point he makes about putting together an outline is that it is a great way to avoid writer’s block. I can vouch for that. If I have a ton of articles to write, I do the research, come up with the titles and subheadings. This approach enables me to just sit down and write without breaking my rhythm. Writing like this helps me to avoid writer’s block.
Putting together your first draft
This lesson teaches you to have fun when writing your first draft. It explains how to plow through when you think things are not going right.
You have to remember that this is only your first draft. It does not have to be perfect. Everything can be corrected at the revision stage.
Revising and getting feedback
This part of the course was particularly interesting to me. I write quite a bit because I run several websites. One of the things I really struggle with is proofreading. For some reason, no matter how hard I try, I miss things when reviewing my own writing. Give me someone else’s manuscript and I will spot a missing semi-colon a mile away. So, I learned a lot from this video.
Two things struck me as I was going through it. Firstly, I can’t tell you how pleased I was to learn that Bob still made mistakes, even after decades of writing. The second thing was that he reads and re-reads his documents numerous times.
I really liked the way he breaks the revising process down. He starts by reading through the document looking for inconsistencies. For example, if, at the beginning of the chapter, he says it was a cloudy day. Then, later says the sun was burning the skin of his character, he will make the appropriate changes. Only later, does he go through and correct his typos.
The section on how to get and use feedback was very useful too.
Developing a book series
There is no doubt that R.L. Stine knows how to create and develop a book series. He has created several of them for different age groups.
It is a very lucrative way of writing. So, learning how to write books that enable you to revisit characters or worlds again and again. Delighting your readers and making yourself a good living at the same time.
This is yet another subject you rarely see covered in writing courses. So, once again Bob provides his students with something a little extra.
How to write an interesting ending and cliffhangers
If you want to keep your readers turning the pages, Stine’s advice is to put a cliffhanger at the end of each chapter. He comes up with a few examples but unfortunately does not go further than that. But, you get enough of an idea of what makes a good cliffhanger to be able to come up with some really good ones yourself.
How to come up with plot twists
The other element every book needs is plot twists. Keeping the audience guessing, keeps them coming back for more. They get hooked on your books and will read every new one you publish.
Coming up with plot twists is not easy. Very few courses cover this skill set, but this one does. Another reason why R.L. Stine’s masterclass gets a thumbs up from me.
How to turn kids into voracious writers
Next, R.L. Stine explains how to write in a way that appeals to children of various ages. One of his best tips is making the characters a few years older than your target audience. He also shares different ways to tune yourself into a young audience and get to know them. Some things like listening to the same music as they do, are obvious. But, most of his other tips are more innovative.
At this stage in this masterclass, he also explains how to write an age-appropriate book.
Bob mainly writes horror books for kids and young adults. His aim is to make his readers shudder without giving then nightmares. A balancing act that he explains in a fair amount of detail.
The section on how to handle violence, when writing for young audiences, was a real revelation. As was, how he handles sex when he writes his books for young adults.
Why you need to write in the first person when writing horror
I had never noticed this before, but books that are mainly written from the Point of View (POV) of the main character move very fast. When it comes to horror, first-person books are also somehow scarier.
But, writing in the first person is not easy. So, I was pleased to hear Robert explain exactly how to tackle this style of writing. Later in the course, he dedicates a whole video to show you how to scare your audience.
How to hook your readers right away
Grabbing your readers attention is essential. It certainly is if you are trying to sell a book to me. I am one of those people who will only buy a book if the first two paragraphs capture my imagination. R.L. provides you with several tips and tricks to help you to hook your readers, from the first page
How to create monsters and develop your characters
This is probably my favorite section of the site. I love the way he can take anything, even an inanimate object, and turn it into something sinister and scary. He gave a couple of fantastic examples of how he has done this, in the past.
Tapping into common fears people have is another way you can create monsters. For example, clowns and dolls that come alive. In fact, one of his most successful characters is a ventriloquist dummy called Slappy.
Tips for using dialogue and prose
Dialogue is a lot easier to read than descriptive text. When you use it in the right way, you keep people reading. It is also how you develop your characters and help your readers to understand who they are. So, getting good at dialogue is an essential skill. One that Bob Stine covers in a fair amount of detail.
Injecting humour into your writing
A lot of people forget that R.L. Stine started his career writing humorous books and magazines. While at OSU, he was the editor of the OSU humor magazine. Weirdly, he also wrote the jokes for the Bazooka Joe chewing gum wrappers.
His first book was “How to Be Funny”. He knows a thing or two about humor. One of the nice things about his Goosebumps series is that those books make kids giggle, as well as scare them a little.
Again, injecting humor into your writing is not a subject you see covered very often in writing courses. So, I was very pleased to see it included in Bob’s masterclass.
As you go through the course, you will be treated to Bob’s sense of humour and enjoy some of his quirky thoughts, facts and points. For example, almost unbelievably he only types with one finger. I kid you not, he has written hundreds of books using the time honoured one-fingered typing method. This course is full of funny little moments, which keeps things moving along nicely.
Anyone can be a good writer, I think. People are natural storytellers. Everyone wants to know what happens next.Bob Stine – Masterclass.com Writing for a Young Audience Course
Becoming a professional writer and promoting your books
This part of the course was a bit of a mixed bag. Bob explained the route he took to becoming a professional writer. But, I am not sure how valid it would be as a route for modern writers. I think there are more options available than the ones Bob covered. But, to his credit, he shared what he knows works and left it at that.
But, his video about promoting your books was excellent. He covers everything from social media to book festivals. Plus, of course, if your audience is kids, school appearances are invaluable, especially in the early days.
He also pointed out the importance of promoting your kid’s books to adults. They are the ones that buy them, so you need to reach them as well as your target audience.
R.L Stine’s masterclass workbook and more helpful material
All masterclass courses come with a workbook of some kind. Some are good, others are ….not so good. But, I liked the one you get with R.L. Stine’s course. His are fairly short but in a good way.
He gets to the point and summarises all of the important points in a format that is really easy to search through. All of the videos are properly bookmarked too, which is also very helpful.
For a change, the exercises are short enough to be practical for you to actually do. So, you can very quickly put into action what you learn. There is also an excellent short video, at the end of the course, with several additional exercises for you to try.
If you want to find out more about the extras you get when you take any masterclass.com course, you can do so by clicking here.
Case studies by R.L. Stine
One of the nice things about this course is the fact that there are plenty of case studies. They are usually at the end of each section. If you are already a fairly good writer you could potentially get away with only watching these videos. If there is a case study that is hard to follow or one that you want to know more about, you can easily double back and go through the relevant videos.
Why I can recommend this course
As you can see from this site I have already completed several of the masterclass.com writing classes. You can click through and read the reviews for each of the courses I have completed, so far.
They are all good, but, this is my new favorite. It is fun and taught me several skills that I had never had a chance to learn before. So, if you take only one masterclass.com writing course, make it this one.
But, if at all possible, buy the all-access pass. This will enable you to take as many of the 50+ courses as you want. As soon as you complete 2 courses, your pass will have paid for itself. Every course you take after that is basically 100% free.