There are two types of online creative writing courses.
1. First, self-guided courses, where you watch a video of the instructor and do your own work at your own pace. The first half of this posts gives you links to the best ones.
2. The second type of online writing course is an instructor-led course. You meet with other writers, submit your writing, and get feedback on your work.
The second type is more personable, but also more expensive. If you’re looking for this type of course, skip to the second half of this post (they start at #18).
Whichever course type you choose, know that you’re making the right decision to invest in your writing career.
Instead of floundering for years, writing bad books and getting rejected, you can glean wisdom from the best writers on the planet and accelerate toward publication. Don’t delay — the info in these courses will radically improve your skills as a writer. Finally, some of these links are affiliate links, so thank you for financially supporting my mission to empower writers!
I’ve spent years in the writing community as a journalist, writer, and editor, and gone to more conferences than you can imagine. The courses below are mostly ones I know personally, and can vouch for.
1. Best Overall Courses
MasterClass showcases the most famous authors in the world talking about writing. If that’s your priority, these are the right courses for you. It’s $15 per month for a subscription (paid annually), and they’re always adding new authors.
- James Patterson will teach you his secret techniques for writing fast-paced and gripping fiction.
- Neil Gaiman, the master of sci-fi and fantasy, has an excellent practical writing course.
- Dan Brown teaches you plotting. Seriously, that’s the main thing he teaches. How to create a rip-roaring plot.
- Margaret Atwood offers a unique view into dystopian and speculative fiction.
- R.L. Stine will teach you how to write for younger audiences, such as MG and YA (remember Goosebumps? I do).
- David Mamet teaches dramatic writing, with whip-smart advice on how to write dialogue.
- Aaron Sorkin (Social Network, West Wing, Moneyball) will teach you how to write screenplays that get buzz, nominations, and fresh tomatoes.
- Malcolm Gladwell will teach you how to write nonfiction that people can’t stop talking about.
- Bob Woodward will give you everything you need to become an investigative journalist (yes, this is the guy who toppled a U.S. President).
- Judy Blume teaches you how to hold the reader’s attention. After all, she is one of the bestselling authors of all time, and YA readers everywhere love her.
Get access to advice from the best authors in the world: Learn More about Masterclass
2. Best Course for Sentences
Want to know how to write a better sentence? Check out this 28-video course that takes you step by step through the process of writing strong, more robust sentences.
Learn these things and more:
- 2/3/1 trick
- the standalone/leaning technique
- how to break every rule you’ve ever learned, and break it beautifully
- study the 100 most beautiful sentences
- Get challenged with the 100 Sentence Challenges (can you pull them off?)
The course includes quizzes and PDFs to test your knowledge of what you’ve learned, and gives you writing assignments to help you improve your sentence skills.
3. Best Course for a Memoir
The best course offered on CreativeLive is by Joyce Maynard, who teaches “Writing Your Story” a 26-lesson video course on writing memoir.
If you feel like you have a crazy life story that you want to share with others, please take this course. With the wisdom of a celebrated memoirist, she draws from the art of nonfiction and the substance of real life to show writers the magic of a true life story.
She teaches you how to defeat fear and silence, and tell your story.
4. Best Course to Write a Bestseller
Joanna Penn’s How to Write a Novel
Want to learn how to write a bestselling novel? You should learn from the best — Joanna Penn, writing as J.F.Penn, has hit the New York Times and USA Today Bestseller lists, selling more than half a million books in 153+ countries.
Testimonial after testimonial waxes on about how Penn gave them the road map they needed to write their book and accomplish their dream of publication.
In these videos, she gives beginning writers the step-by-step wisdom they need to take their story from their imagination and get it down on the page.
- 40 Videos
- Topics covered: research, character, plot, setting, dialogue, theme
5. Best Course for Writing Your Novel
The best course available here is the Ninety Day Novel — that’s right, you can write your entire novel in three months.
I’ve gone through all 100 video lessons and loved it — and you can get extra personalized feedback from Louise Dean herself (both over Skype and through written feedback).
If you’ve already written your novel, then I would recommend the “Editing Your Novel” course — really fantastic material there. This one’s a bit shorter — 30 video lessons.
6. Best Course for Writing Your Children’s Book
In this 30-video course, learn how to write, edit, and publish your children’s book.
You can take the course at any time and you have lifetime access, and you also get downloadable PDFs with additional information and quizzes that test your knowledge.
Learn how to work with an illustrator, improve your storytelling, and use humor to make children love your book.
7. Best Course for Writing Short Stories
Character-Driven Short Stories with Yiyun Li
The difference between a good short story and a prize-winning short story is all about characters. Do we care about them? Are they believable? Are they just like us, and nothing like us all at once?
Yiyun Li will be the first person to admit that characters can be challenging to work with sometimes (imaginary friends can have bad days too). Yet, after writing two novels and two short story collections herself, she’s learned a thing or two about crafting characters that will make your short fiction stronger and more compelling.
Yiyun Li’s class focuses on how to condense situations into stories. This includes finding hidden motives in your characters and opportunities for dynamic change in your settings. All in all, her class is a recipe for flavorful stories with lasting impacts on your readers.
- $99 annually
- 8 videos, 47 minutes total
- 336 reviews
8. Best Screenwriting Course
One of the most famous screenwriters in the world dishes on dialogue, creating characters, and how to write a damn good script.
Along with these 35 videos, you’ll also receive a workbook and get access to office hours where class members critique each other’s work.
The best thing about this course is that he’s wildly entertaining and rather funny, which is a huge benefit because it’s actually a pretty lengthy class.
9. Best Course For Starting Your Book
Writing Stand-Out Opening Scenes with Daniel José Older
New York Times Bestselling Author Daniel José Older helps you create an opening scene that will capture readers’ attention and keep them pinned to the page.
As a middle grade and YA author, Daniel José Older is well acquainted with the challenges of keeping a reader’s interest.
Your opening scene is a big deal. If it’s not, you have a problem. Older’s breakdown for beginning stories with a bang is loaded with easy-to-digest advice.
In this class, you’ll learn how to build narrative momentum from the first line of your story onward. This means using concise verb choice, to “show not tell,” and getting to the meat of your story without giving too much away too soon.
You want readers to keep turning those pages, right?
- $99 for a year of access
- 8 videos, total of 45 minutes
- 201 reviews
10. Best Course for Nonfiction Books
How to Write a Nonfiction Book by Joanna Penn
Writing non-fiction is a considerable investment of your time and resources. Because of this it can be nerve-wracking to even think about starting a book when you’re unsure where to begin.
Joanna Penn, also known as J.F. Penn, is a bestselling non-fiction author and the award-winning creator of podcasts weekly at The Creative Penn. Her goal is to help writers like you get into the mindset of a non-fiction writer. This includes thinking about research, editing, dictation, and staying on track.
This class is great for authors of all levels. Joanna Penn goes into detail about each part of the book creation process, from brainstorming ideas to marketing yourself and your book baby. Think of this class as a roadmap regarding the non-fiction book process. Follow the map and you’ll receive an equivalent to the hitchhiker’s guide to the book universe.
- 70 videos, 16 hours of material
- Private Facebook Community
11. Best Course for Writing Suspense Books
Writing Suspense in Any Genre with Ben Percy
Nobody is more entertaining than Benjamin Percy. When you read his books, it’s like getting schooled in plotting: you’re in awe but at the same time you just want to keep turning the page.
I know him because I’ve read most of his novels and short stories (and met him in person at a few conferences — yes, he’s cool). I’ve also read his excellent book about writing, Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction.
Plus, you’re going to be astonished by his deep voice. Not that a super deep voice makes him a great teacher, but it sure makes it fun to listen.
In this course, you’ll learn how to pace your books to maximum impact on the reader, and how to create plots that will keep them hungry for more.
Seriously, if you want to write a story that grabs the reader by the throat and doesn’t let go, you should definitely take his course.
12. Best Course for Creative Nonfiction Writers
Creative Non-Fiction with Susan Orlean
In Susan Orlean’s creative non-fiction course “Write Truth with Style,” she invites you to be curious about the world around you, letting your fascinations drive your stories.
Susan Orlean is a staff writer for The New Yorker (need I say more) and the author of eight non-fiction novels, including The Orchid Thief. The Orchid Thief was later adapted into a film, and Meryl Streep played Orlean! But back to talking about the class…
In a beautifully filmed two hour course, Susan Orlean will help you recognize the stories that surround us and how to catch them down on paper in a manner that will captivate readers. The class focuses on finding refreshing angles and insightful cues that are easy to miss if you aren’t looking for them.
This is a more advanced class that would be best suited for writers that have achieved some success but want to grow in their craft.
- $99 for annual access
- 15 videos, 1 hour 49 minutes total
- 562 reviews
13. Best Writing Craft Course
Triangle Method of Character Creation
As opposed to all of the general courses on this page, this course concentrates on a single element in writing: Characterization.
If you want to concentrate deeply on making a character come alive on the page, you should take this course. By the time you finish, you will have developed an addicting character, one that readers want to return to again and again.
In 12 videos with stunning graphics, John Matthew Fox guides you through such topics as:
- The Art of Minor Characters
- 5 Tips for Complex Characters
- The Likability Factor
- Dynamic First Actions
14. Best Course for Writing Graphic Novels
A Comprehensive Guide to Comics From the Mind of Stefan Petrucha
Stefan Petrucha is a cool dude and a huge deal in the comic world. He’s written hundreds of graphic novels for readers of all ages, and he doesn’t intend to stop anytime soon.
In his first course, he provides a comprehensive guide on how to write a fun, engaging comic.
He goes into depth about the basics of comic-writing, making this class beginner-friendly. Yet, he also packs in layers of knowledge about pitching comics and polishing your final product to make this class worth the investment for writers of all levels. Stefan Petrucha spends a great deal of time explaining how to write active dialogue, a skill that can assist writings of every genre.
Want to have fun with writing? Learn from a comic.
- $15 monthly
- 11 videos, 2 hours and 49 minutes
15. Best Course for Marketing Your Book
John Matthew Fox has taken this journey with authors multiple times and lived to tell the tale! Now he has culminated this wealth of knowledge into his course “Your First Bestseller.”
This course will walk you through the basics of successful marketing and help you develop your marketing plan regardless of if your book is traditionally or self-published.
It’s loaded with insider tricks and tips to troubleshoot common issues you might run into during the process. John Matthew Fox also provides his invaluable advice when it comes to creating a website that sells something that will make you stand out from the competition.
- 45 videos
16. Best Course for Getting a Literary Agent
How to Land a Literary Agent with Jennie Nash
If you’ve chosen to seek traditional publication and you know you need an agent, you need a place to start searching.
Jennie Nash’s course on finding a literary agent aims to help you see that discovering a literary agent is less witchcraft and more writing strategic queries in the coffee shop of your choice.
Jennie Nash is an accomplished book coach who has helped dozens of authors find their path to success. For many of her clients, this meant finding an agent with the connections needed to bring their book to a bigger audience.
Her goal in this class is to help you identify agents who might be interested in your work, define your criteria for an agent, and write killer queries.
While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach for finding your perfect agent, knowing whom to approach, how to set terms, and what you want to get out of a partnership is paramount to the publication of your book.
- 6 videos, 1 hour and 20 minutes total
17. Best Courses for Fun Genre Writing
Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers with Cat Rambo
If you’re looking for inexpensive courses with a dose of genre and irreverence, Cat Rambo has made the courses for you.
Currently, Cat Rambo has 15 courses available, half taught by her and half by other teachers. All of them are pretty short with brief videos under 5 minutes long. If you like fantasy or sci-fi, there are some great offerings here as well.
Here are four general writing courses:
- Flash Fiction ($9)
- Detail Creation ($19)
- Rewriting and Revising ($19)
- Character Building Workshop ($29)
Here are three of the genre-based courses:
- Steampunk/Weird Western ($19)
- Space Opera ($29)
- Fairy Tales ($29)
18. Best Course to Learn Ghostwriting
Learning to be a Ghostwriter with Roz Morris
Ghost-writers exist simultaneously on the fringe of the writing world and all around us. They are somewhat of a secret weapon, and you could be one of them. Roz Morris is a professional ghost-writer. You’ve seen her books in popular bookstores and topping the New York Times Bestseller list, but you’d never know it.
In two hours, Roz Morris shares her experience as a ghost-writer, including the good, the bad, and the straight-up weird. You’ll learn how to negotiate with clients and guide the writing process in a direction that benefits everyone involved.
By the end of this course, you will be able to navigate the ghost-writing realm with confidence. Ghost-writing doesn’t need to be scary.
- 11 videos, 2 hours total
Part II: Courses with Teacher Feedback
I know Blake Kimzey personally, and watched him build this organization from the ground up. What he offers is nothing short of astonishing.
He has gathered a list of superstar writers eager to teach you everything they know.
Whether you want to learn how to write your memoir, novel, poetry collection, or how to get an agent, they have classes for all of the above and more.
Plus, they often host 1-hour Ask-Me-Anything video chats on topics like novel planning and selling your novel. Get wind of these by following the Twitter feed, @dallaswriters.
If you want online courses that have gotten effusive praise from such bigwig publications as Poets & Writers, Forbes, and the San Francisco Chronicle, this is the organization for you.
- Online Courses
- Mentorship and private consultations
- About $3,000
Back in the day, Andy Hunter founded Electric Literature, which was a lit mag that paid $1000 for each short story. It didn’t last, but it gave way into Catapult, a literary magazine, publisher, and community of writers.
I’ve met with the head honchos several times at AWP and other literary conferences, and I’ve always been impressed with their professionalism and network of accomplished authors.
Note well: Catapult focuses on literary writing, rather than genre writing. If you’re in academia, or pre-MFA or post-MFA, you should take a course with these folks.
From an all-star list of writers on the Masthead, to glowing mentions in Publishers Weekly and the Wall Street Journal, these people have the ability to accelerate your writing career.
- Self Guided Video courses with no Teacher Feedback: $15
- 1 Day Seminars: $75 – $99
- 6 Week Classes: $400 – $500
- Novel Editorial Review: $1000 – $2000
- 4-Week Writing Coaching: $200
21. UCLA Extension
A baker’s dozen of my writing friends have taught here, including Mark Sarvas and Tod Goldberg, because it’s a Southern California powerhouse with 400 classes annually.
Of all the course sites that I’ve recommended on this page, UCLA extension is the most comprehensive.
You want to write Middle Grade or YA? They’ve got a class for that. Want to write Sci-fi or LGBT+ fiction or journalism or erotica or television pilots? Yeah, they have all that — and hundreds more classes.
You can take these courses for college credit, but you don’t have to (it’s more expensive if you do).
- $800 for a 10-week class.
- $1000 and up: manuscript consultations (requires enrollment)
- $1700 writing retreats.
22. One Story
You might know One Story because of their famous literary magazine, which promises to publish each writer only once. It was formed on a wave of backlash against an industry which played favorites and kept publishing the same small group of writers.
So now that you know One Story champions fledgling writers, how can they help you?
Well, they offer courses that start every other month, both online and in-person courses (in-person available if you live in New York).
You do have to apply to get into some of these courses, so make sure you have a sample piece that you can send to the instructor.
Most of these courses are one week long. That means they are very intensive, requiring daily attendance, critiquing and writing. But if you have a week free, this is an excellent way to spend it.
- Write a Short Story with Hannah Tinti
- Lost & Found: A New Way of Looking at Plot
- Write a Great Beginning
- Endings with Patrick Ryan
Gotham Writers Workshops has the longest legacy of any course on this page — they’ve been around since 1993, and I’ve spoken with them at writing conferences and can certify that they’re a great resource for the writing community.
It’s no surprise that this is yet another New York City based writing workshop, since New York is the hub of the writing world, but they have tons of online courses.
In addition to the normal classes of novel, poetry, and short stories, they also have courses I haven’t seen offered elsewhere, like Comedic Writing and Songwriting.
Most classes are 10 weeks long and limited to about 15 people to make sure each student gets personal attention from the instructor. There are weekly writing assignments, and the instructor and your colleagues give you feedback on it.
They offer two types of courses:
- Online Courses: where you don’t have to check in at a certain time each week — you can do the course whenever you have time
- Zoom Courses: everyone video conferences in together at a set time and day
The average price for most courses is about $400.
Personal consultations start at $300.
Leisel Angwin, who took a fiction writing course with Gotham, gave this high praise:
“This course was undoubtedly the best creative writing workshop I have ever taken.”
24. Lit Reactor
Lit Reactor has four classes that start every month — a chance for you to study with an instructor and get feedback from colleagues.
Plus, they’ve gotten fantastic reviews from authors like Chuck Palahniuk, Neil Gaiman, and Irvine Welsh.
Most courses range from $300 – $400, and they mostly last 4 weeks (except for some online courses that last one year).
Sample Writing Courses:
- Writing the Weird
- The First Five Pages
- Writing about Relationships
- Lean Mean Writing Machine
Here’s a review by Jennifer Shelby, who took a course with Richard Thomas:
“Richard picked out my weaknesses and addressed them. He pointed out my strengths and built upon them. At multiple points in his lectures I had a ‘eureka!’ moment where I figured out what was making some of my stories fall short (and how to fix them).”
25. Grub Street
Grub Street is located in Boston, and while they do have local, in-person classes, they also have a sizable offering of online classes.
Prices are pretty standard for courses where you get access to a community and an instructor to give you feedback, ranging from $250 – $600.
- 4 Week Classes: $250
- 6 Week Classes: $350
- 10 Week Classes: $600
One of the best things about them is that they divide up writers by their experience. They offer classes for teens, as well as classes for beginning writers and seasoned writers (check out the “Advanced” courses).
If you’re looking to outline your novel, revise your short story, or write your screenplay, they’ve got you covered.
The Writers Studio is a community-based effort to share knowledge about our field through readings, classes, and other literary events.
This organization has basecamps in cities ranging from NYC to San Francisco, each full of vibrant writers who are eager to grow as professionals.
Courses are taught online and in-person. They are broken up into five levels, and students must progress through lower-level classes to access higher-level ones. Classes focus on writing techniques and skillsets with examples from course readings.
If you’re looking for a place dedicated to exploring the written word, the Writers Studio might be for you!
- On-site and online classes
- Ranging from $300-600
- Readings and community events
The Memoir Writing Club is a place dedicated to bringing personal narratives to life. Irene Graham runs the club. She is a memoirist herself, with almost three decades of experience teaching this genre to writers of all backgrounds.
The organization hosts online courses, private workshops, networking events, retreats, and more. George Mason University in Virginia also accredits classes taught by Irene Graham at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
If you are a memoir writer of any level, the Memoir Writing Club has opportunities for you to grow as an author.
- 12-week courses with rolling admission
- International retreats with rolling admission
- Personal coaching and private sessions
- Pricing varies
Short on time? Just consult this bullet point list:
- Best Course to Write a Bestseller – – – Joanna Penn’s How to Write a Novel
- Best Overall Writing Course – – – Masterclass
- Best Course for Writing Craft – – – Triangle Method of Character Creation
- Best Course on how to write a Memoir – – – Writing Your Story
- Best Course to Help You Write Your Novel – – – The 90 Day Novel
- Best Course for Children’s Book Writing – – – Two Weeks To Your Best Children’s Book
- Best Course for Editing Your Novel – – – The Novelry
- Best Screenwriting Course – – – Aaron Sorkin’s “Your Script Starts Here”