25 best online writing courses for authors you can’t afford to miss

25 best online writing courses for authors you can’t afford to miss

There are basically two challenges with writing. 

The first is knowledge.

I see new authors post stuff online like “I’ve decided to write a book, but I don’t write or read books… how do I get started?”

The common advice is to start writing; so first time authors just write a book with no guidance and end up with something they are very proud of but nobody enjoys reading. Luckily there are consistent, practical ways to improve your writing quickly; mostly just by avoiding all the common mistakes everybody makes left to their own devices.

Only a few authors (out of thousands) get to this level – the level of basic competency – through a combination of persistence, passion and patience.

The second is motivation.

I was *very* excited to *finally* finish a series this spring, but didn’t, which led to six months of apathy and procrastination. Maybe you know what I’m talking about.

Even (or especially) if you know what you’re doing, it doesn’t really get easier, and the middle of every book feels like an impossible mess that will never come together.

Online Creative Writing Courses

Let’s embark on a literary quest to discover the best online creative writing courses that can help to transform you from a scribbling rookie into a wordsmithing wizard.

  1. How to write a novel – Join a community of writers all striving toward a common goal: a completed first draft. This online writing course is from Reedsy. Enroll here
  2. CreativeWriting Now – has courses on poetry and short stories, dialogue and characterization, and a course on becoming a writer. Enroll here
  3. MasterClass – Neil Gaiman Teaches the Art of Storytelling: Step into the fantastical world of Neil Gaiman, renowned author of Stardust, Coraline, and The Sandman series. This course will take you on a magical journey through the realms of storytelling, teaching you how to create compelling characters and immersive worlds. Enroll here
  4. The Novelry – Creative Writing Course: The Novelry offers a raft of creative writing courses, but their 90-day Novel Writing Course is the pièce de résistance. Tailored for both beginners and seasoned writers, this course helps you to develop a writing habit, create an intriguing plot, and craft vivid characters. Enroll here
  5. Coursera – Writing in the Sciences: This is an absolute gem for science lovers. Taught by the esteemed Stanford University, this course guides you to write clear, concise, and focused scientific papers, perfect for budding researchers. Enroll here
  6. Udemy – Secret Sauce of Great Writing: For those on a tight budget, this free course by Udemy is your golden ticket. Shani Raja, a former Wall Street Journal editor, shares the “secret sauce” to make your writing stand out. Enroll here
  7. Gotham Writers Workshop – Creative Writing 101: From fiction to memoir, this course covers a broad range of genres. It’s a perfect launchpad for those eager to dip their toes into the ocean of creative writing. Enroll here
  8. Wesleyan University – Creative Writing Specialization (Coursera): This comprehensive course will take you through the paces of character development, story design, and narrative style. Get ready to write a story that could be the next big hit! Enroll here
  9. LinkedIn Learning – Writing with Impact: Taught by journalist and former Guardian editor, Tom Geller, this course helps you make an impact with your words. It’s excellent for anyone looking to write influential reports, emails, or blog posts. Enroll here
  10. Writers.com – Various Courses: From poetry to fiction, Writers.com offers a smorgasbord of courses for all kinds of writers. You can choose to learn about specific styles, genres, or skills. Enroll here
  11. The Open University – Start Writing Fiction: This free course is an excellent starting point for aspiring novelists. It helps you to develop characters, plots, and settings that will captivate readers. Enroll here
  12. FutureLearn – How To Make A Poem: Want to express your thoughts in verse? This course takes you through the art of writing poetry, from exploring sounds and rhythm to crafting powerful imagery. Enroll here
  1. The Writers Studio – Online Level I: This course introduces you to The Writers Studio’s unique method of creative writing, which helps writers to understand and develop their own voice. Enroll here
  2. MasterClass – Margaret Atwood Teaches Creative Writing: Learn from the master herself, Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale. She shares her secrets to creating compelling dystopian novels and crafting believable characters. Enroll here
  3. Scribble: Writing for New Writers: This free course focuses on paragraph writing and simple essay writing. It’s a fantastic place for new writers to start. Enroll here
  4. James Patterson Teaches Writing (MasterClass): From idea generation to publishing, James Patterson, the author of the Alex Cross series, guides you through every step of writing a best-selling novel. Enroll here
  5. Wesleyan University – Memoir and Personal Essay: Write About Yourself (Coursera): Unleash the power of personal narrative with this course. It’s perfect for writers looking to explore memoir and personal essay formats. Enroll here

Alright, all you eager beavers ready to embark on your literary journeys, this is your treasure map. Pick a course, any course, and let the adventure begin!

16. UCLA Extension Writers’ Program: Known as the largest open-enrollment creative writing and screenwriting program in the nation, UCLA Extension Writers’ Program offers more than 400 annual open-enrollment courses both online and in the classroom. From short fiction to feature film writing, they have it all. Enroll here

17. Writing What You Know (Open University): This course is designed to help you improve your skills at writing based on personal experiences – good for creative writing, a personal essay, or a memoir. Enroll here

18. Ninja Writing: The Four Levels Of Writing Mastery (Udemy): This course transforms you into a master of syntax, style, and storytelling. It’s time to unleash your inner writing ninja. Enroll here

19. The Non-Sexy Business of Writing Nonfiction (Coursera): This course navigates you through the nitty-gritty of writing excellent nonfiction work. It’s time to strip your writing down to its bare essentials. Enroll here

20. The Crafty Writer’s Creative Writing Course: A self-paced, informal online course that introduces you to key aspects of creative writing. Ideal for beginners looking to learn in a relaxed, unpressured environment. Enroll here

21. Gotham Writers Workshop: Offers a wide variety of creative writing classes and workshops. From fiction to screenplays, they provide a community for writers in all genres. Enroll here

22. The Novelry: This UK-based online course provider offers a fabulous “Writing Book Course” to guide aspiring authors through the novel-writing process. Step by step, from the first word to the final full stop. Enroll here

23. Skillshare – Writing Character-Driven Short Stories: Learn how to craft compelling, character-driven short stories with this course. It’s perfect for writers looking to explore the short story format. Enroll here

24. The Break Into Travel Writing (Udemy): Dreaming of being a travel writer? This course gives you practical strategies for breaking into the travel writing industry. Enroll here

25. Australian Writers’ Centre: Offers a range of courses for business and creative writers. You can take online courses in creative writing, freelance writing, blogging, screenwriting, and more. Enroll here

26. The Novelry has some good creative writing courses so you can start there, but they seem to skew trad-published with agents and editors who have been insiders in the book biz.

27. The Book Fox also has a bunch of great writing courses:

Is an MFA in creative writing worth it?

Almost never, and I’ve written several articles about it. Mostly because they’ll focus on creativity and expression and literary fiction. They won’t teach you the basics on writing and selling commercial fiction (and virtually all bestsellers are commercial, even the literary ones).

My PhD in literature hasn’t actually helped much; I still had to learn the craft of writing from scratch, it’s a hugely messy process for everyone and there *are shortcuts* to make it easier, as long as you’re intending to learn how to write books that sell (are read and enjoyed by actual readers happy to pay for them). If that is not your goal, and you *only* want to break rules, express yourself and maybe get lucky… very little will assist you because you can just do it that way instead of learning anything.

But since, even most traditionally published books don’t ever earn money (seriously, we have a ton of data on this, 95% of tradpublished books lose money!) the chance that your book somehow will, is a lottery ticket, and you should absolutely not invest a ton of time into publishing books; if you want to learn how to WRITE better though, guidance can help… though I have mountains of free resources on this site to help you.

Myself, I’m a little more drawn to the outsiders who are selling tons of books self-published, and have had to do everything the hard way. I’m more drawn to indie authors who are using hacks and formulas to write books readers love and boost online conversions rather than count on favorable bookstore placement. That’s what I’m trying to do, with moderate success.

Marketing and publishing books is something else entirely, but I do have resources for that you can find in the above menu, including some free books and high-level marketing videos for authors.

Writing course or writing workshop?

An online course is usually self-paced; you pay to access information and hopefully when you go through it, you’ll learn. But it’s hard to actually implement writing advice. Personally, the things I need are probably the same things I would avoid: accountability; weekly checkins or zoom meetings; assignments and deadlines; the social aspect of writing among peers.

A good writing workshop would give you critical feedback on YOUR writing, which some writing courses do offer – from an expert in your genre or type of writing. But it’s also super useful to learn how to critique other people’s work as well; often the best way to get better is to read bad writing and identify things to avoid, but you may need someone to point out to you exactly why something isn’t working. Guided group feedback can be great… unless it’s a bunch of amateur writers giving each other advice and criticism (they’ll often focus on the wrong things, or be too defensive, or focus on their passion projects – “being creative” – without learning how and why to make something objectively good… and yes there definitely is such as thing as good writing and bad writing).

That said, courses tend to be cheap, a few hundred dollars, and workshops can be expensive, unless it’s just a one day workshop (more like a presentation or webinar) without ongoing coaching and feedback. But if you were to hire a real “writing coach” to read your whole book, you’d probably have to pay about as much as you’d expect to pay for developmental editing, unless they are just an accountability coach to help you finish your work, and not someone who is going to help you make it better – those can be different things.

FAQ about Online Writing Courses

Q: Are online creative writing courses worth it?

A: Absolutely! They provide flexibility and allow you to learn at your own pace. Plus, you get to learn from experts in the field.

Q: How do I choose the right creative writing course?

A: Consider your specific goals and interests. Are you looking to improve your general writing skills, or are you interested in a specific genre like fiction or travel writing? The answer will guide you to the right course.

Q: Are these courses suitable for beginners?

A: Yes, many of these courses are tailored to suit beginners, but they also offer advanced classes for more seasoned writers looking to hone their skills. Always check the course description to see the recommended level.

Q: Do these courses provide certificates upon completion?

A: Some of them do. If certification is important to you, make sure to check whether the course offers it before you enroll.

Q: Are there free writing courses available?

A: Yes, some platforms like Coursera and Open University offer free courses. However, for more comprehensive and specialized courses, there might be a fee involved.

Things to Watch Out for When Choosing an Online Writing Course

  1. Quality of the Course Content: Make sure the course covers all the key areas you want to learn about.
  2. Instructor’s Reputation: Look at the instructor’s background, qualifications, and student reviews.
  3. Course Duration and Flexibility: Check if the course duration fits into your schedule and if you can learn at your own pace.
  4. Price vs. Value: Just because a course is expensive doesn’t mean it’s the best. Likewise, a cheap course isn’t necessarily low quality. Look at what the course offers and decide if it’s worth the investment.
  5. Certification: If you need proof of learning, ensure the course offers a certificate upon completion.
  6. Interactive Elements: Courses with interactive elements like quizzes, assignments, and forums can enhance your learning experience.
  7. Real-life Applications: Look for courses that allow you to apply what you learn to real-life scenarios, like writing a short story or a blog post.

So there you have it, fellow wordsmiths – a laundry list of the best online writing courses to suit every style, genre, and level. Whether you’re a novice writer looking to pen your first masterpiece, or a seasoned scribe looking to sharpen your quill, there’s a course out there for you. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to dive in, start learning, and let your story unfold! Remember, every great writer was once an amateur who didn’t quit. Keep writing, keep dreaming!

Should you buy an online writing course?

Real talk: What most authors will do, is immediately hire an editor for thousands of dollars; and the editor will waste time with simple stuff like tenses and typos, and rarely fix the critical, core, story details that would make a big difference. Developmental editors are expensive and you *could* learn how to structure or self-edit your story by yourself, even though it will take time and effort.

So there’s not really a clear answer. Unless you’re still posting for feedback online, or signing up for expensive manuscript critique workshops or writing courses. Most of these will focus on the writing and not the story. 

So they’ll either give you a false sense of confidence (my writing is GREAT!) or a false sense of incompetence (this sucks!) when most likely, neither is true.

I think my writing resources are helpful and unique, but since I don’t promote much or use affiliates, fewer authors discover them. I’d like to fix that… As a comparison (because I like to keep my eye on the competition), one course by a famous NYT bestselling author is $1997 and comes with critique and feedback on 5 pages.

My “Bestseller Blueprint” writing course
 is $197 and also comes with some personal feedback. It’s impossible to compare prices, because the courses are different. Some people will always be attracted to premium offerings; some will seek deals and bargains.

However recently someone pointed out that my cheap bundles and discounts made them more skeptical, and they aren’t wrong. I love writing and working with authors to develop their story, but it’ll be the first thing I turn off once my writing income grows a little more stable. 

By *turn off* I just mean, I’ll raise the prices, remove the discounts or the personal feedback. I much prefer to create resources and disappear into my writing cave, which is why the majority of my content is free. 

Here’s what I can tell you (and I know from experience) – even if paying for a course feels uncomfortable, excessive, outlandish, even foolhardy (after all you *can* try to learn everything yourself, even though it’s nearly impossible to judge your own work) it forces you to be accountable, to show up and do the work, and practice in public. Writing is a very difficult skill to master, and you can shave years of struggle off your learning curve, if you can afford it. So you could argue it’s almost always better to invest in yourself.

online writing courses learn from home

Best book writing courses for authors

I’d *love* to know what resources, books and courses have helped you – feel free to post links in the comments and I’ll research the best to include up here in the main post! (oops, I had a big list of comments but they disappeared… I’ll revise this post with a list of recommended courses soon).

The other comment I got recently was that someone searched for my courses but couldn’t find honest 3rd party reviews – I have hundreds on social media that I’ve added to my own pages, but if any of my resources have helped you, I’d love to see a review or post on your own blog or website as well (if you’re already a student, I can even make an affiliate link for you so you earn some $ every time someone buys a course on your recommendation).

PS. My own writing course bundle is still at the ridiculous price of $47 with this coupon link. It has more content and advanced book writing tips than most others online, and once I get organized I’ll raise the base price to $297.

Or if you join Mark Dawson’s selfpublishing 101 course (opens once per year), I’ll give you access to all my resources. There’s a *lot*. For a super long post, here are all the steps you need to write a book.