30+ Creative Writing Courses: Free, Paid & Special

Posted on Feb 22, 2024

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Nobody is born with all the skills they need to write. Even people with natural inclinations for writing still have to learn how to craft their work in a way that creates the desired outcome of their medium. Writing a book, for example, is not intuitive. But that’s why creative writing courses exist.

If you know you want to write, but aren’t sure how to learn it, it might be time to consider a course. We’re not really taught all that much about writing in school. Basic grammar? Sure. How to structure a novel in a way that keeps readers reading? How to show character while also progressing the conflict? How to take a metaphor and transform a scene?

Not really.

These are specialized skills that often require more education. Traditionally, a creative writing degree is what most would pursue to learn these skills. But even that doesn’t always help a writer do what they want to do most.

With creative writing courses, there are more opportunities to get the specific teaching for your specific challenge in writing, in addition to generalized knowledge….and they don’t cost as much as a college degree either.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. There’s a lot to learn.

So here’s what you’ll learn about creative writing courses:

  1. Why they’re valuable
  2. Are they worth it?
  3. How much are they?
  4. Free Creative Writing Courses
  5. Paid Creative Writing Courses
  6. College Courses
  7. Specialized Writing Courses

What specifically makes creative writing classes valuable?

There is only so much anyone can teach themselves or learn from peers on the internet. Most writers fall into this camp, especially if they don’t go to college for creative writing. Instead, they write, edit their writing, Google how to change something, and get feedback online.

But even that free material online isn’t always the best way to learn, because it’s created by people who don’t usually have credentials or experience in teaching.

Peers, for example, can only teach to their own level of knowledge. So if your critique partner is helping you, that’s certainly better than nothing, but it’s not concrete aid in a specific area they have experience and expertise in teaching.

That’s the value of creative writing courses.

They’re made by experts and usually have the involvement of those experienced in teaching to help craft the material. You get a lot more out of a course than doing it by yourself.

Are creative writing courses worth it?

You will get what you put in, and I’m not talking about monetary gains.

Usually, this question of worth refers to the price, even if that’s not voiced. Are creative writing courses worth the price? This has a few different interpretations, too. Based on how many authors we work with every year, so many of them come to us and want to know “What’s the ROI?” (the return on investment). But they’re only looking for a monetary number. Will they make as much from book sales as they paid for the course.

This way of thinking is very harmful because it places no value on the education itself.

This way of thinking says, “If I make back all the money I spent, it was worth it, because the value of the material is financial gains.” What about knowledge? Skill? A deep understanding of the craft that you will carry with you not just in the current book you write, but forever?

Everybody has their own idea of whether or not creative writing courses are worth the money. Some will say no if they didn’t learn the exact method they were hoping. Others say yes because any amount of education toward their dream is worth it to them. Do some of our authors make as much or more than they spent on our creative writing courses? Yes. Do all? No.

Where the difference truly lies, and what you should use to decide whether or not creative writing courses are worth it for you, is to put the material to the test. Use what you learn. Don’t just make a judgment based on education that you haven’t put into action.

That’s not where the true value lies, after all.

A creative writing course will absolutely be worth it if you put the education to use.

How much are creative writing courses?

The cost of creative writing courses varies considerably, due to broadness of “creative writing” in general. Courses can be about a very specific part of the creative writing process, like idea generation or character development, but they can also be all-encompassing classes that include all of these parts in one.

Therefore, the pricing will vary.

If you’re talking about online creative writing courses, these can range from cheaper subscription based models like Masterclass, where you pay $10 a month to full-scope, all-inclusive courses that range $5,000-$8,000 and include the book production process as well.

It just depends on what you’re looking for, but you will typically get what you pay for (and what you put in).

If you’re not quite sure what you’re looking for, I’ll help by breaking down creative writing courses with specific criteria, starting with free.

Free or Low-Cost Creative Writing Courses & Online Education

New to writing? If so, browsing some free creative writing courses is the way to go. You’ll gain an understanding of what truly goes into the writing process.

1. Brandon Sanderson’s BYU Lectures

In addition to being one of the best fantasy authors in our current time, Brandon Sanderson also teaches a science fiction and fantasy course at BYU and has posted these classes online. For free. Yes, it’s sort of crazy that he does this and you get a college-level create writing course for free. The only thing missing, though, is the hands-on feedback from peers and Brandon Sanderson’s direction expertise himself, which would obviously be very valuable.

Now, I don’t want you to think that just because it says science fiction and fantasy that this can’t apply to other genres. Many of his videos are about individual aspects of the craft, like character, prose, viewpoint, plot, and more. Yes, he does have videos specific to world-building and magic systems, but you can just skip those if they’re not for you.

Click here to check out a playlist of these lectures, and you can also go to Youtube and type “Brandon Sanderson Lecture” and many will pop up. You can also just start watching here, to see if this is something you want to bookmark later.

I would actually start with the newer ones, being at video #80 in this playlist. While all the videos have great information, the more recent ones have better video and mic quality, and the books/movies he references are more recent, so you’re more likely to have seen them.

Here’s what that looks like:

Free Creative Writing Courses Brandon Sanderson Lectures

2. Blogs, Videos & Podcasts

Again, while technically these aren’t “writing courses” they might as well be. There are so many blogs and videos that teach creative writing techniques that you can build your own library if you want. By this I mean you can pick and choose which sites or individual teaching methods apply to you and your writing, and organize their content into sections that build your own internal creative writing course.

Some websites even help do this for you with their filtering or search functions.

Taking these functions, do a search for the specific element of writing you’d like to learn and filter them into categories in a spreadsheet. I’ll create visual examples of this process below, using the elements of fiction from this blog post.

Step 1: Make your list of creative writing elements

Step 2: Do a search on a website you trust for one element

Step 3: Copy & paste the links and titles to your spreadsheet in the right place

Step 4: Repeat until you have a sheet of resources, aka, creative writing courses for each element.

Make-Free-Creative-Writing-Courses-From-Blog-Posts

Here are other well-regarded blogs and videos teaching creative writing:

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3. Digital Downloads

This might take more work on your end, but there are thousands of free resources online you can download that are similar to writing courses. It’s not a full course, no, but if you get enough and arrange them in your own library, you can essentially create your own creative writing course.

These are some high-value free creative writing downloads:

4. Books

Most books are very cheap, and you can even find them at your library if you don’t want to buy them yourself. Also keep an eye on if they ever go for sale on Kindle so you can consume them at that time. While these aren’t specifically creative writing courses, they’re in line with them, and serve much of the same purpose.

Here are highly rated books about the creative writing process:

5. Subscription-Model Courses

There’s a specific business model for learning that’s been growing over the years, and not just with creative writing courses. It’s where websites charge a monthly rate for access to their library of material, often created by experts in their fields. It’s on the lower end of cost, and you’ll end up paying a couple hundred dollars if you do a whole year of these.

Here are a few subscription model websites that feature creative writing material.

MasterClass:

This website is known for having celebrities or highly successful people in their fields come in to create a course. Authors like Neil Gaiman and Robert Patterson. You can learn a variety of writing methods, including:

  • Screenplays
  • Novels & Short Stories
  • Poetry
  • Nonfiction & Journalism

Here’s an example of what you might find doing a search on Masterclass:

Creative Writing Courses Masterclass Example

I’m important to note that while these are highly successful authors teaching their craft, many of the course material is highly specific to their own process and methods. You may find some information works great for you, while others isn’t very helpful.

Meaning, it’s not quite as beginner friendly, but can offer a wide range of techniques for you to pick and choose.

MasterClass charges $10-$20 a month, but it’s billed annually, so you pay it all at once, so it’s actually $120-$240 upfront depending on which tier you choose.

Skillshare:

Skillshare is very similar to MasterClass in that it has an entire library of content you can learn, and you pay monthly to access all of it. The way it’s different is that instead of celebrities or highly known people, there are successful individuals—normal people—teaching their skills.

Anyone can really make a class on Skillshare and upload it. The categories for this site are typically in the camp of creative and center on digital arts as well. Here are the categories available in Skillshare:

Course Options On Skillshare

Each main category also has subcategories you can choose from as well. For creative writing, you can narrow your search with the following categories: Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, Fiction Writing, Novel Writing, Poetry, Publishing, Screenwriting, Storytelling, Writing, Writing & Publishing.

The price of Skillshare varies widely, and they significantly incentivize you to pay in full for the yearly price. You’ll pay either $29 per month when billed monthly or $99 upfront. Just note that the 40% off may not roll over to the next year, in which case you’ll pay $165 for the second year.

Cost Of Skillshare Creative Writing Courses
Udemy:

This one is a bit different in its pricing and breakdown structure. While you can pay monthly, this only allows you access to some of the courses, and you’ll have to pay a higher tier to access all of them.

It’s best to first discover which courses you want to take before choosing your plan option.

To do this for creative writing, you’ll have to utilize the search function. In the example below, I used “creative writing” to look for those courses, but you may want to search for something more specific to what you want to learn within writing.

Here’s an example of what you might find for the price point:

Creative Writing Courses Udemy

To learn more about the pricing structure of Udemy and what you get with each, click here to visit their plan page.

If you’re serious about writing and want to earn a living from it one day, investing is important. Just like many people spend money on college, this is the same as furthering your education and setting aside budget in order to do so.

Let’s look at some creative writing courses you can pay for and the various options available.

1. Individual Courses

If you want highly specific advice on something, individual courses could be your best bet. This is also a great way to “build” your own education. Essentially, learning character development in one course and then prose writing in another can help you put the many pieces of writing a novel into perspective.

Keep in mind, though, that this method can be difficult because various teachers have different methods of teaching, and you might end up spending more in an effort to learn all the pieces as opposed to a course model that includes it all in one (which I’ll cover below).

Novel Writing:

If you want to search for your own creative writing courses to get a comprehensive understanding, search for these elements:

  1. Plotting / Structure
  2. Characters
  3. Prose
  4. Chapters / Scenes
  5. Descriptions
  6. Dialogue
  7. Viewpoint / Point of View
Nonfiction Writing:

2. Local Classes

Signing up for a local class is also an option. The perks of this form of creative writing courses is that you can build real life connections, swap stories, and create a support system in your physical life. It’s often more effective than a digital accountability system, though those can still serve a purpose.

Whether or not you have writing courses near you just depends on where you’re located. You can do a quick Google search for “creative writing courses [your town]” to see if there are any around.

Here’s what that might look like, and the result you could find:

Local Creative Writing Courses Example

There isn’t a list to post here, because this is localized. Search in the way I showed you above, and you’ll find something! If you don’t, try to broaden your search and type in a town that is within a reasonable driving distance for you.

3. Coaching Courses

If you want someone to talk to, meet with, and work closely with to develop your book, then a creative writing coach might be better than a course for you. Many of these often come with creative writing courses to help you along the way, but they specifically have coaches to aid in your progress.

There are a ton of “book coaches” out there, which is what you’ll want to search for. If you also want course material to go with the coaching, be sure to research and discover which coaches have these additions.

You can even visit this site to be matched with a book coach!

4. Coaching, Course, Book Production Services

These are the next-level courses you’ll find that are the “all inclusive” version. You get education, coaching, as well as services that help you with your book. Obviously, these are specific to full-length books, but can vary from nonfiction to fiction, depending on what you write.

selfpublishing.com

As of right now, this is the only education program that also develops your book and publishes it for you and under your own account, without taking any royalties and while allowing you to maintain complete ownership. This is not a hybrid publishing company because of these things.

selfpublishing.com takes an upfront payment, which covers coaching, help crafting your book, support while you write, course material to educate you on the process, as well as book cover design, formatting, and self-publishing it under your information. It goes beyond creative writing courses this way.

Here’s a peek at the fiction program they have, which is just the online portion of all the features:

Creative Writing Courses At Selfpublishing.com

If you’re the type who just wants everything taken care of for you, you can apply to work with them here.

Creative Writing Courses in College & Further Education

College is not completely pointless. Says the person who chose not to go. But there are real benefits to what you might get from one of the creative writing courses offered at a school, or even pursuing a degree in creative writing.

Since the specific courses completely depend on the school you choose to attend, I can’t really link up good ones to take. But what I can do is point out the pros and cons of creative writing courses offered by universities. You might decide that college and a degree is for you, based on these.

Pros:

Well-rounded experience:

Most creative writing courses in college make you read a lot. You read from different time periods, different points of view, and the like. This gives a writer a broad understanding of the history of writing, which can help you identify the styles you might like to write yourself.

Peer review & feedback:

It’s incredibly valuable to have writing groups as a part of the college course. When you try to find these on the internet, you may get a few people, but not many stick around. They’re inconsistent. They decide they don’t want to write anymore and so they bail out and you’re left without anyone to help you understand your own writing so you can do better.

When you’re assigned a group in college, it’s part of the class. People have to participate, which means you’ll get feedback that’s much needed to improve your craft.

Giving feedback:

It’s not just important to get feedback, but also to give it. Being able to identify and articulate something lacking or a strength in another’s writing also helps you observe it in your own. Your self-editing will be stronger, but so will your knowledge with the craft. Creative writing courses give you a lot of knowledge, and teaching others by way of giving feedback helps you retain that knowledge.

Professor guidance:

It’s especially helpful to have someone skilled with many years of experience to take a look at your writing and provide guidance. They can more articulately point out your strengths and weaknesses, and provide direction for improving those areas.

Cons:

Expensive:

College is a lot of money, and many don’t have the means to spend just for creative writing courses. While it might help learn the craft, there are free or inexpensive options to improve over time. Many are voicing their opinions in a creative writing degree not being worth the expense anymore.

Subjective teachings:

Your professor has opinions. They’ll give you suggestions based on what they think is good creative writing. While this is certainly helpful, it’s important to note that your profession might not like your style or certain ways you write. As much as teachers try to be objective, it’s only natural that personal taste would get in the way.

Doesn’t prepare you for authorhood:

Creative writing courses are not the same as preparing you for a career as an author. They give you a baseline to work with, but unless you also major in marketing or business, you won’t gain the experience necessary to become an author. So if that’s your main goal and some of these other cons are too much for you, it might be more worth it to pay for a program that’ll help you achieve that goal.

Of course, if you want to work in the traditional publishing field as an editor or agent, a creative writing degree might be great.

Unspecified teachings:

You’re not likely to find “writing dialogue” classes when you get your degree. This doesn’t mean that you won’t cover dialogue in the creative writing courses offered by colleges, but you probably won’t spend a lot of time there. This can mean you’ll walk away understanding creative writing, but might still need more specialized classes.

Specialty Creative Writing Courses for Advanced Understanding

Creative writing courses sometimes talk broadly about novels or longer works of fiction. But what about other types of creative writing? Here are a few segments of specialized creative writing courses you can learn from.

1. Short stories

Writing short stories is much different than writing novels. While there are plenty of elements of fiction you’ll utilize in them, the construction of a short story differs, and you’ll want specified help.

Here you’ll find the course material for one about Writing Flash Fiction:

Special Creative Writing Courses Short Stories

2. Poetry

Poetry is a skill all on its own, and it’s quite different than narrative fiction. There are different skills and a whole other layer of style to apply. For that reason, it makes sense to take some creative writing courses to help you write poetry.

Go ahead and do a search for yourself on some of the individual course platforms to find one that will work for what you’re looking for.

3. Genre-Specific

Understanding genre is really important if you want to sell books. Reader expectations are a thing, and have to do with what’s the norm or expected within any given genre. Of course, you want to make it your own, but venture too far outside of these conventions, and a reader might be upset that they bought one thing when they were expecting another.

As with all of these, make sure to do your own research to get a course within the book genre you’re writing.

Creative writing courses are highly valuable. The process of writing a book and even writing creatively is not intuitive, and it’s important to seek knowledge to improve your craft.

If you want to start right now and take a 1-hour class that’ll help you with the steps to start writing a novel, sign up right here:

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Disclosure: Some of the links above may contain affiliate partnerships, meaning, at no additional cost to you, Self-Publishing School may earn a commission if you click through to make a purchase.
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