Online classes teach you how to write. In a previous post I talked about how MOOCs make it possible for any aspiring writer to learn the basics of fiction. This week I’m sharing some more places writers can get help. These online classes are either free or cheap. In the classes that do charge a modest fee, you can apply for financial aid. All you have to do is fit the assignments into your life. That’s pretty hard, sometimes, so even if the classes sound like a good deal, you still have to think about whether you can hold up your end of the bargain.
Of course, it’s always possible to teach yourself how to write by trying fan fiction, joining online writing communities like Wattpad, or taking classes at a community college. However, if you’ve got the discipline to study in online classes, you’ll be far ahead of the pack.
In this post, I’m going to share information about classes starting this fall. I’ll cover classes in novel writing, poetry, children’s books, and screenplays.
Online Classes Offered by edX
The University of British Columbia has two great novel writing classes, one on how to structure a novel, starting September 6, and the other on how to draft a novel, starting October 24.
In my previous post, I mentioned that Anant Agarwal, one of the leaders in the field of online learning, heads up edX, a nonprofit that’s a partnership between MIT and Harvard. Well, edX, in addition to offering a ton of courses in the business and computer science realm, also offers highly ranked classes on “How to Write a Novel: Structure and Outline.”
The faculty members are not famous writers, but they obviously know their stuff. Students rave about these classes, and to me the content seems comparable to the novel writing certificate program offered through Stanford’s School of Continuing Education. That course ends up costing in the $1,000s.
Of course, you’d get more individual attention, but Stanford’s class is taught online, so why not try this first? The class begins September 6, 2017 and lasts 6 weeks, 4-6 hours per week. The website has posted sample course material online, and the content looks great.
After you’ve finished the first class, you could follow up with their second class, “How to Write A Novel: Writing the Draft.” That one begins Oct 24, 2017, and it’s 6 weeks, 4-6 hours/week. There is a cost for each class, a modest $295. If that fee sounds too high, all you have to do is apply for financial aid.
How to Write a Novel: Structure and Outline – offered through Univ. of British Columbia
September 6, 2017
6 weeks, 4-6 hours per week
How to Write A Novel: Writing the Draft
Oct 24, 2017
6 weeks, 4-6 hours/week
Watch the interview with Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train.
Online Classes for English Grammar and Style
This summer I’ve been teaching classes for the City of Mesa Public Library, and I’ve seen many folks whose writing would be stronger if they had a better grip on grammar. Learning grammar sounds tedious, but the University of Queensland (through eX) offers a class that gets rave reviews. Here’s what the syllabus promises:
“Learn key concepts and strategies in grammar and style to help enhance your writing and confidently respond to the demand of high levels of literacy in the 21st century.”
That class lasts 8 weeks, and the instructors expect you to put in 4 hours per week. It started July 24, but they will undoubtedly offer it again.
Online Classes in Writing for Young Readers
In partnership with Commonwealth Education Trust, Coursera offers workshops that might interest those who are writing for young readers.
Writing for Young Readers: Opening the Treasure Chest (Offered by Commonwealth Education Trust)
Here’s what they say about the course. https://www.coursera.org/learn/writing-for-children
“About this course: This course is for curious students and aspiring authors with a passion for writing for young readers. Participate in a dynamic online community of writers as you experiment with your own writing and develop your voice. This course will guide you with a combination of video lectures, online readings, peer reviews, and guest appearances from world-renowned children’s authors. As you work through the writing exercises, you will give and receive feedback from your peers and gain tools and techniques for improving your writing.
During this course you will identify stories that matter to you, explore cultural significance and boundaries, and shape your identity as a writer; become familiar with standard elements of narrative (character, setting, plot, theme, language, dialogue, point of view); reflect on your own work and practice essential self-editing skills; see the different ways in which words and art interact, and the possibilities of longer narrative forms; come away with practical insights into publishing options; and create a plan for pursuing your enthusiasm for writing. By the end of the course, you will have ten to twelve extracts of writing that you can develop into a portfolio.
Join a dynamic community of many voices from around the world. Find inspiration in your own voice, heart, and place so that you can tell the stories for young readers you’ve always wanted to tell.
Sounds like so much fun I might sign up myself!
Three Other Online Classes Offered by Coursera
Script Writing: Write a Pilot Episode for a TV or Web Series (Project Centered Course) offered through Michigan State University
30 hours of work
Sharpened Visions: A Poetry Workshop
Sharpened Visions: A Poetry Workshop taught through California Institute for the Arts
Grammar and Punctuation
Grammar and Punctuation
The free version of this class gives you access to all of the instructional videos and handouts. The peer feedback and quizzes are only available in the paid version. Users recommend this class highly.
For more on the topic of online learning, read this post about MOOCs.
Marylee MacDonald is the author of MONTPELIER TOMORROW, a novel, BONDS OF LOVE & BLOOD, a short story collection, and THE RUG BAZAAR, a chapbook. Her books and stories have won the Barry Hannah Prize, the Jeanne M. Leiby Memorial Chapbook Award, a Readers’ Favorites Gold Medal for Drama, the American Literary Review Fiction Prize, and many others. She holds an M.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State, and when not reading or writing books, she loves to walk on the beach and explore National Parks.