Are you interested in improving your writing skills but don’t have the time to commit to a workshop or classroom setting? Do you want to find a stellar online writing community? Not sure where to start? Look no further—we have compiled a list of the 30 Best Online Courses for Writing!
Depending on your needs or preferences, an entire degree in writing might be worthwhile. However, if you are simply hoping to improve a certain writing skill set, there is undoubtedly a writing course that would help you learn the valuable process of drafting, revising, and editing.
Writing can be extremely difficult, and oftentimes, we don’t know where to begin when it comes to the writing process. While many popular writers, such as Anne Lammott, tote that drafting is the only way to become a better writer, it can be difficult to get started. Though writing is a solitary activity, it is also very much a community-oriented one; we need feedback and guidance for growth.
Whether you want to write poetry, nonfiction, or fiction, hopefully this list of online writing programs will get you moving in the right direction! If you need to learn how to set aside time to write, or to work through the revision process, this list of 30 of the best online writing programs is sure to help you find a great fit.
Writing genres each have different requirements and expectations, and without proper instruction, it is easy to unintentionally overlook or dismiss particular writing rules. When compiling this list, it was important to consider what schools or programs had the most acclaimed instructors and curriculum. Affordability and time-commitment were also an important factor. The 30 best online writing programs listed below incorporate various genres, techniques, and pedagogical styles; the list is diverse, versatile, and multifaceted, providing an array of options.
For those who want to work on memoirs or those who want to write young adult fiction, there is a writing class for anyone and everyone!
#1. Writing Poetry by Oxford University
With the rise of slam poetry, the genre of poetry has become more and more popular. This class—along with the next three classes—is offered through Oxford University in England. Fancy, huh? Oxford University has an excellent continuing education department, offering hundreds of courses from various disciplines in online and intensive classroom settings.
This poetry course is #1 simply because of its content, instructor, and precedence. Let me repeat: Oxford University. However, regardless of the school’s prestige, the class itself is approximately $500, which is relatively inexpensive for this six-week course.
The course traces the history of poetic form all while challenging students to follow basic poetic composition structure. Students will gain writing experience in rhyme, blank verse, free verse, and lyric poetry—just to name a few!
This is the last Oxford University suggestion. However, this is once again another phenomenal course from Oxford, because it’s almost impossible for these courses to be a miss. This course not only focuses on the craft of writing, but the ten-week curriculum also spends an extensive amount of time demystifying the difficult and elusive “writing process.”
Beyond that, this course really looks at the heart of writing—what it means to really craft a story and how the inner-workings of a text come together. The course is led by an experienced professor and his assistant, a well-versed author. The combination of these two instructors is surely to make for a great intellectual experience!
#3. Creative Writing: The Craft of Plot by Wesleyan University
For those who are slowly beginning their writing journey, this is a great introductory course on Creative Writing from Wesleyan University. The course predominantly focuses on plot, which is a great starting point for writers. This allows writers to engage with the creation of plot and storytelling before they move into character development.
This course will allow for practice in short story writing and fiction writing. If you need help understanding pacing or timing in terms of plot, this course can help explain the best way to construct a solid plot outline. Most importantly, Creative Writing: The Craft of Plot is a four-week course to prepare you to carefully structure a plot and remove the pieces that don’t work.
#4. Writing Lives by Oxford University
Writing Lives is a ten-week course with a similar price tag to Writing Poetry. This course primarily focuses on how to capture lived experience and memory, translating those moments into the various facets of a text: characterization, plot, dialogue, and conflict, for example. If you are looking to gain experience in personal narrative, Writing Lives can help provide that framework.
In addition to the course’s writing components, which are broken down into a ten-week scaffolded curriculum, Writing Lives also has an extensive reading list on memoir, memories, and writing autobiography. If you’re looking to make a shift into nonfiction writing, this is a great introductory course to learn and engage with the basics.
#5. Academic English: Writing Specialization The University of California Irvine
Academic research writing is hard. There are so many moving pieces to consider, and at times, writing a novel can feel easier than writing a research article. Rest assured, though. The University of California Irvine’s Department of Continuing Education is dedicated to teaching the genre of academic research.
In this course, students will first learn grammatical and technical basics. From there, students will be asked to find an area of interest which will potentially lead them to productive research and a cohesive argument. Overall, this course is to help ease the anxiety associated with research writing by providing a cogent overview of what research writing looks like.
#6. Writing Dialogue by Oxford University
Writing Dialogue, which is also offered from Oxford University, is less intensive than the previous, however, the course is certainly more of a niche class. The course focuses explicitly on how to write dialogue, considering how dialogue functions in various genres—plays, TV, novels, and radio.
This course is excellent for novice and experienced writers, but it is a great course simply because it breaks down how to write dialogue and conversation for women, men, and children. If you enjoy eavesdropping, this might be the course for you! You will gain a great deal of practice listening and learning about communication. The course lasts approximately six weeks and costs around $300.
#7. Memoir and Personal Essay: Write About Yourself by Wesleyan University
The memoir has become an exceedingly popular and beloved genre, and with that, there has become an increased interest in the personal narrative. Pacing and structure ultimately affect the coherency of a personal narrative, and it is important to understand what is important to include and omit when writing a personal essay.
Memoir and Personal Essay is offered by Wesleyan University and is solely dedicated to helping students craft a compelling and engaging piece of writing. The course begins by laying out the relationship between author and reader, which assists the author in understanding how to create a unique writing style.
#8. English Composition 1 by Duke University
Duke University is a beautiful, expansive, and highly intellectual university. The researchers, professors, and scholars are all advanced and well-versed in their field. If you’re going to take a basic english composition course, why shouldn’t it be from one of the best institutions in the country?
English Composition 1 is a basic general education requirement for university students; however, if you are looking to deepen your understanding of writing prose, citing evidence, or responding to peer writing, this is a great place to start. The course is broken into two components: 1) critiquing and analyzing content; and 2) drafting and revising research content.
#9. Take Your English Communication Skills to the Next Level by Georgia Teach
Basic communications skills span beyond paper writing. We use communication in a number of formats and genres on a regular basis. This course from Georgia Tech provides writing experience for those planning to venture into marketing, advertising, and business. In general, this is a great course for anyone who needs to develop their technical communication skills.
This course not only allows for writing practice in various genres, it also encourages interpersonal communication skills and group work. This is the ultimate course for those interested in pursuing professional careers and would like a crash course in email correspondence, advertisements, and sales pitches.
#10. Business Writing by the University of Colorado Boulder
Business Writing from the University of Colorado Boulder is similar to the technical communication offered from Georgia Tech. This four-week course emphasizes business writing and communication and helps students find their voice in the professional industry. With the influx of marketing and industry jobs, technical and business writing are vital in the professional workforce.
Business Writing provides step-by-step instructions on memos and emails, and also offers a brief introduction on graphic design and effective work-place presentations. This course is a great option for anyone looking to improve their professional identity, or for anyone who just wants to brush up on how to write a work-friendly email.
#11. Reality Bites: Writing Sci-Fi and Fantasy by Stanford University
Although fiction writing involves creativity and innovation, sci-fi and fantasy take that creativity a step further. With this genre, not only is plot and character development key, but oftentimes, the author develops a new world. If you’re interested in branching out into sci-fi/fantasy writing, this course is a great way to get started!
Taught by Lauren Kate, a bestselling author whose books have sold over ten million copies, the class is structured to include the analysis of popular science fiction as well as extensive drafting. By the end of this ten-week course, students should have at least 5,000 words (a short story or a portion of a novel) and feel prepared to undertake revisions.
#12. Creating Dynamic Stories Using the Enneagram-Story Connection by Stanford University
If you haven’t heard of the Enneagram, you might actually be completely cut off from popular culture. Professor Jeff Lyons uses the Enneagram, a nine personality type system, to help writers fully develop and cultivate their characters. This course would also be a great crash-course in personal development, too.
Professor Lyons is actually the author of Rapid Story Development: How to Use the Enneagram-Story Connection to Become a Master Storyteller, and firmly believes in how the enneagram can be a fantastic tool for the writing process. Students will practice writing in their desired genre, using the Enneagram as a lens in which to construct their characters and plot development.
#13. Judy Blume Teaches Writing by Masterclass
Judy Blume, the best-selling author and winner of over 100 literary awards, is the instructor of this online writing masterclass. Why not learn from the best? This specific writing course is broken into twenty four lessons at 12 minutes each. With a Masterclass monthly membership, the course is included in the $15/month fee; otherwise, without a membership, the course is $90.
With over fifty years of writing experience, Judy Blume is a great resource and the twenty four lessons are broken down in a very coherent, user-friendly format. While the first few lessons focus predominantly on Blume’s personal experiences and early career, she uses these lessons to set up the writing instruction and drafting sessions.
#14. Advanced Novel Writing by Writer’s Digest University
For $900, you can spend fifteen weeks in an intensive writing bootcamp with instructors Terri Valentine and Mark Spencer. If you need a regimented schedule, a supportive community, and knowledgeable instructors, this is one of the best classes available in the writing world.
The instructors will provide extensive feedback on your work, and the course is designed to solely focus on your novel. There is no reading or smaller writing assignments. Advanced Novel Writing is intended for students who are strong writers and need a schedule and community to propel them forward in the novel writing process.
#15. Fiction Writing I by Gotham Writers
Gotham Writers is a NYC-based writing community, which has recently begun providing online writing instruction. Like most courses, this is a self-paced class, but brings writers together from all around the world. This particular class focuses on fiction writing.
Fiction Writing I is a ten-week writing course with a 16 student limit, which means that this course allows for community-building and extensive peer review feedback. Gotham Writers began as an NYC writing community, and its growth solidifies its achievements. With the small enrollment size and the dedication to writing development, this will be a great course for anyone who wants a solid writing community.
#16. Hit Send: Publishing Short Nonfiction I by Gotham Writers
Hit Send: Publishing Short Nonfiction I is another course offered from Gotham Writers. In this particular course, students will work on “the pitch” and how to secure a job. Though this is a short, four-week intensive course, it provides a great overview on how to excel in the freelance world.
With this brief course, the curriculum is broken down into practical skills and application. The first two lessons focus on cultivating confidence when it comes to the pitch, as well as understanding the best places to submit depending on the writing sample. The other two lessons are targeted toward building confidence and freelance writing work.
#17. Creativity for Poets, Prose Writers, and Songwriters by Stanford University
This 5-week course focuses broadly on creativity—whether that be for poetry, prose, or song-lyrics. Students are encouraged to submit one work per week for professor feedback. Students will also work within groups to workshop each other’s writing. If you want to woo someone over with a beautiful poem or song, this might be the class for you.
Because this course is intentionally broad, it is a great course for beginners and experienced students alike. As this course includes various genres, the workshops will be beneficial to all writers; no matter your area of expertise, you will certainly get excellent feedback from the eclectic group of writers and their backgrounds.
#18. Script Writing: Write a Pilot Episode for a TV or Web Series (Project-Centered Course) by Michigan State University
Television is one of the greatest connectors between strangers, coworkers, families, and friends. In this five-week course, students will create a “series bible,” which will serve as a guide throughout the remainder of the course. Students will also design a pilot episode, and begin making strides toward developing an entire TV series or a movie.
The course is “project-centered,” because it is intended to actually have students write a solid script. Instructor David Wheeler provides 2-5 minute lectures, encouraging students to focus solely on the writing component. The course ends with the writing of a Cold Open. Script Writing is designed for intermediate to advanced writers.
#19. Online Memoir Workshop by Columbia University
Online Memoir Workshop is a great course for students who need an online setting, but prefer to have a consistent meeting time with due dates in place. The course is six weeks and includes reading, analysis, and extensive writing experience.
Michele Herman, the instructor, is an MFA graduate from Columbia University. The course is $325 and is a great option for someone who prefers a set class time with live interaction, yet can’t commit to a regular, brick-and-mortar program or class workshop. For those of you who can’t commit to a standing time, there are plenty of self-paced courses on this list!
#20. This is the Year: A New Writing Habit Starter by Fine Arts Work Center
The throes of life easily distract from any writing intention. In this course, author Sarah Green encourages students to set time aside for the art of writing. The four-week workshop is $500 and provides students with a “Writing road map” at the end of the course. This road map is specific to each student’s strengths and weaknesses.
If you are new to the writing world, or if you simply need the dedication and motivation to maintain a consistent writing practice, This is the Year: A New Writing Habit Starter is certainly a course to jumpstart you in the right direction.
#21. Writing Social Justice in Poetry and Essays by Fine Arts Work Center
If you are passionate about social justice issues and you need help crafting these components into your writing, this is a great class for that. Michael Klein, a professor at Hunter College in NY, encourages students to interweave personal experience and social justice.
It is difficult to craft social justice issues into a narrative without appearing didactic or educational, but Professor Klein is dedicated to making writers’ work appear seamless. Whether you are passionate about climate change, animal rights, or racial equality, this course will offer a great starting point for anyone who is interested in the intricacies of social justice writing.
#22. How to Make a Poem by Future Learn by Manchester University
Maybe poetry is a genre that you want to learn and have yet to master. This course from Manchester University is an introduction to what poetry is and what it takes to create a poem. The course’s description touts a supportive online community and welcomes novices and experienced poets alike.
The course has three primary objectives: to understand what a poem is, to consider the choices available in writing a poem, and to understand the difference between craft and technique. The course is $59, and is a self-paced course. The course can also be purchased through a membership program, which includes access to other courses, too.
#23. Tell Your Story in English: Reading and Writing Skills for Language Learners by University of Oregon
If you are not a native-English speaker, this is an excellent starting point. The instructors are experienced with English Language Learners and they understand the difficulties that come with proficiency. Professor Char Heitman has TESOL experience as well as numerous years of experience in teaching English as a second language while living abroad.
This course is targeted for students ages 17-25 who need additional writing support, and it’s great that this course is offered to a younger demographic. The online environment hopes to bring global English learners together in a supportive online workshop setting. The professor’s background and knowledge are an important asset of this class.
#24. Storytelling: Character, Conflict, Context, and Craft by Skillshare
This is a personalized course that delves into the various components of storytelling. While this course focuses predominantly on writing, the instructor also encourages the knowledge and mastery of oral storytelling by understanding what actually makes up a good story. Storytelling is a great course to transfer speaking into writing.
Character, conflict, context and craft are the primary areas of focus in this course, and they are great starting points for students who are new to storytelling. Focusing on these specific facets of storytelling, the instructor walks you through each individual component before showing you how to combine them appropriately.
#25. Grammar and Punctuation by University of California Irvine
Understanding the technical components of writing is tricky and overwhelming. This course offered through UCI via CourseEra focuses specifically on grammar and punctuation. In this class, the instructor will walk you through the different verb tenses, sentence styles, and effective ways to write in English.
This is a great refresher for any writing student and requires approximately four weeks to complete. If you can’t remember what a comma splice is, or if you need someone to explain how to use a semicolon, Grammar and Punctuation could be a worthwhile class. Four weeks is a short time, but a crash-course is always a great time!
#26. Writing in First Person Point of View by Wesleyan University
Writing in first-person is often overlooked or dismissed outside of personal nonfiction. It can be tricky. However, this course sets out to demystify writing in first person by providing a thorough curriculum with various writing exercises. Forget objectivity and ignore relatability—first person writing is a stronger way to convey information than second or third person.
Writing in First Person Point of View encourages writers to explore their own stories and consider how to engage with reader responsibility. This course emphasizes the author’s need to create sensory, emotional, and intellectual experiences. Writing in First Person Point of View is definitely worth checking out!
#27. Now Novel by Now Novel
This course prioritizes the individual writing process by offering numerous resources—many of which are free. Though this might not work for individuals who prefer a workshop or group setting, for students who simply need to receive more information, this could be a great starting point.
While this course is similar to the other online options, because Now Novel doesn’t have an actual instructor, it is very much self-guided. There are options for professional feedback, but this feedback will come from a variety of writers, instructors, and other writing students. This course might be more useful for someone with good motivation and a keen knack for self-learning.
With a small membership fee, InkedVoices provides access to a writing community, online webinars, one-on-one mentor and group matching, and endless writing resources. The various components of this course make it super versatile for a broad range of experience levels. This site also provides information about local meetups to help with accountability.
This is a great introductory step for a beginning writer, and the ease of finding a community or workshop group to work with is a great help, too! Unlike other online writing courses, InkedVoices bolsters the importance of a face-to-face writing community. If this is your preference, InkedVoices might be the place for you!
#29. Scribophile by Scribophile
This might not be the best option for every writer, but if you are on a budget, this is a free writing workshop. For those who need some accountability and community, but can’t afford an online class/workshop, this is a good first step. While, in theory, you get what you pay for, Scribophile is an excellent way to put your writing out there.
The writing community has thousands of writers, which means more exposure and feedback. The site also has a number of free writing resources. While all of these facets are convenient and affordable, the site isn’t ideal for everyone. However, it is a great starting point for beginning writers.
#30. The Online Essay Generator: 12 Months to a Full Collection by Catapult
Catapult is a great online resource, but it is coming in at the bottom of the list simply because of the price. This 54-week course is $6,250, which for the purpose of the program, might be a great investment. The course is divided into phases which include reading essay collections and writing essay collections.
The 12-month program is a bit expensive, but it is guaranteed to help you produce a full collection. If you are able to invest this kind of money, and you want the publication, Catapult might be your thing. However, if you are able to pay this total, you should really just think about an MFA, to be honest.
What kind of background experience do you need to take a particular writing course?
None. Usually. More often than not, when it comes to writing, eagerness and dedication is really the only mandatory background or necessary requirement. Writing is a skill that can be developed with practice and consistency. It is a learned skill, and the process of drafting, editing, and revising is really the primary focus when it comes to writing.
Although having a basic understanding of syntax rules and grammar does help, it is not definitive. Any of these classes would welcome a novice writer who is intrigued and motivated to create a solid final product. While some classes do have a specific objective goal at the end of the course, a willingness to partake in the writing journey is always a welcome factor.
Where should I start as a writer?
Writing is inherently subjective. It is easiest to write what we know, what we have experienced. With that being said, creative nonfiction is often a good starting place, because it allows you to begin putting life to a memory. You can begin writing by something that you are familiar with, bringing a familiar story to life.
It is often easier to begin the writing process by practicing descriptive language and learning how to develop an idea that you have experienced. Start with basic details, and then fill in the gaps. Sometimes people are unable to write about themselves and feel starting with poetry or fiction is easier, but more often than not, writing about a personal connection is usually the best place to start.
How do you create a consistent writing practice?
Like anything, writing becomes easier and less intimidating the more you practice it. However, cultivating a consistent practice is easier said than done. But with anything, dedication and a strict schedule ensures that it gets finished.
If you treat writing like your job, you will often show up and work at it. While that transactional component might sometimes be defeating, it is a good mindset to initially work toward. If you don’t show up to write, nothing gets written, and subsequently, nothing gets published. Time and effort is required.
Carve out time. Stick to that time. Set your intentions. Write.
What makes a good writer?
Good readers make good writers. Many of the classes on this list begin with a reading component. Studying craft allows a writer to engage with various styles and techniques. It is nearly impossible to be a strong writer without engaging with language and words. Reading is the greatest resource in helping burgeoning writers grow and develop.
However, reading is useless without the writing component. By engaging with various techniques in terms of craft, writers can adapt practices as their own.
A good writer can be made by sheer talent, but more often than not, a good writer is more readily developed through reading and a willing acceptance of the drafting and revision process. You must be willing to write, allow your work to be critiqued, and then be brave enough to read the comments and apply the feedback.
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