While the world bustles around us, we writers tend to have our heads down in our notebooks and laptops, listening for a voice inside that only we can hear. And then we have to trust that voice is saying something worth listening to. One wants a cheerleading squad in a time like this, urging us onward, inspiring ideas, setting deadlines, and promising to read every little bit of progress we’re making and let us know how it’s going. Fortunately, the internet has made it easier than ever to access this kind of support and motivation, no matter where you live, what you’re writing--or not writing--and what level you’re at. Lonesome no more! as Kurt Vonnegut said.
Most online classes and workshops let you work at your own pace, on your schedule. Here are a few of my personal favorites:
Creative Non-Fiction: The prestigious magazine devoted to memoir and essay constantly offers online classes whose names and descriptions—Writing the Tough Stuff, Spiritual Writing, Flash Memoir About Wonder and the Unexplained, for example—make me giddy. In fact, I couldn’t resist enrolling in the latter while writing this, much to the woe of my budget. (On that note, if you need to be inspired and motivated for less money, there are some invaluable essays about craft on the site.) In class, you are encouraged to introduce yourself, share work, and read and comment (constructively and kindly) on each other’s submissions, so it’s wonderful for building community.
Sample price: $260-310 for a 5-week course; $435-85 for a 10-week workshop
One Story: In addition to publishing one excellent piece of short fiction monthly, the magazine offers one online class at a time, focused on a specific aspect of writing. Examples include techniques for submitting to magazines and how to draw from soap operas for plot and character inspiration. I got more out of editor Hannah Tinti’s class on structuring the short story than I did from many of my grad school workshops. These tend to be intensive, one-week or shorter courses, often with charts and worksheets (I go nuts for a good chart).
Sample price: $90 for a 5-day course
Catapult: This little powerhouse publisher came on the scene in 2015 and quickly racked up acclaim for both the work it produces and the resources it offers writers. There’s a robust list of courses at any given time, taught by emerging and established writers, editors, and agents. Classes encompass broader subjects like getting started as a writer or jumpstarting your novel, as well as more specific courses on writing a sense of place or querying agents. You can also find a range of formats, from one-and-done seminars to completely self-guided curricula to live, virtual meetings. And hey, if you haven’t got the moolah, you can still hear and join the dialogue about writing.
Sample price: $395 for a 6-week course
LitReactor: These guys are solely dedicated to writing courses and resources, so you’ll find a constant and wide range of offerings from published, yet approachable writers. You can find courses on writing flash essays, short stories or understanding grammar, and specific craft-honing classes on writing violent scenes, dialogue, or humor. Community is a big part of LitReactor, and students tend to be repeat visitors and stay in touch with each other. And look: free craft essays!
Sample price: $350 for a 4-week course
The Writer’s Studio: This venerated Greenwich Village institution developed a six-level method for teaching writing that involves reading and copying the voice, structure, and approach of literary masters. As you level up, you are weaned off the imitation game and guided toward finding your own voice as it emerges from the work. This structure translates well online and classes are smaller in size so it’s easier to develop a community. Terrific for beginners, as well as more advanced writers wanting to break a block: I walked away from my relatively tyro-level, 8-week class with four great beginnings for short stories.
Sample price: $410 for an 8-week course
Do you recommend an online writing classes not listed here? Let us know in the comments!