best free online writing courses

All of us want to improve our writing skills, hone our craft, and get ahead in our writing careers.

Not all of us can go back to school and get our MFA in writing—heck, not all of us want to!

Thankfully, the internet makes it possible to take great writing courses no matter where you live, what your circumstances, or your budget!

Taking a writing course can help you polish your writing to be the best it can be—a critical step before either self-publishing or submitting your manuscript to publishers.

Through a course, you’ll gain practical tips and strategies to help you improve your writing—both for your current manuscript and for future projects.

The more you learn and practice, the easier writing will become and the better your books will be. And that’s key to attracting and growing a devoted audience and becoming a full-time author!

How to Choose an Online Writing Course

You’ll want to choose a course that meets your needs, which means you need to know your needs first.

Identify Your Goals

When picking a course, ask yourself what specific areas you’re looking to improve:

  • Do you want to pick up basic writing skills, like improving your grammar?
  • Do you want to learn more about how to create gripping plots?
  • Do you want to learn to create realistic, vivid characters?
  • Do you want to learn how to add value to your nonfiction writing?
  • Do you want to turn your life experiences into a book that has meaning for a broad audience?
  • Do you want to learn how to earn a living off a specific kind of writing?
  • Do you want to dive deep into a specific area of craft, like dialogue construction?

All of these goals—and many more—make good reasons to choose an online writing course!

Set Your Budget

Next, you’ll want to ask yourself what you’re willing to commit to a course, both in terms of time and money. There are some great free courses out there, as well as other courses that charge a fee. You might consider starting with a free class to make sure that you can handle the online learning format, then stepping up to a more advanced paid class later.

Pick a Commitment Level

Any course or class, no matter whether it’s online or not, requires dedication to actually make a difference in your life. You’ll need to be ready to listen to lectures, read papers and presentations, follow through on assignments, and engage with your classmates.

Some online courses are completely self-paced, which means you work through the material on your own, taking as long as you like. This is great for people with busy lives, jobs, and family commitments—but it also means you have to take responsibility for structuring your time and doing the work.

Other courses have weekly assignments, sometimes even monitored or graded by an instructor, along with class chat sessions, feedback opportunities, and other ways to have a full classroom experience without actually going to a university.

These types of courses are less flexible, as they often require you to log in at certain times, and they demand that you do your work on time! But they also offer a lot of benefits in terms of helping you manage your time and devote energy to improving your writing and to working with other writers to start forming a community.

Once you’ve figured out what you’re looking to learn, what you’re willing to commit (in terms of time, energy, dedication, and money), and how you think you’ll learn best, you can get started with your writing course!

Of course, you might not be quite ready to take the plunge into paying for an online writing class just yet. Will you be able to keep up with the assignments? How do online lectures work, anyway?

To help you get started in the world of online learning, we’ve rounded up some of the best free online writing courses out there, regardless of your focus: creative writing, fiction, and nonfiction.

Ready to find the right course for you? Let’s check them out!

Creative Writing Courses

Creative writing courses are amazing because they can be applied to just about anything you want to write, from memoirs to novels…even nonfiction!

These classes teach you the basic skills you need to write fluidly, fluently, and with style—essential no matter what your genre or field.

More advanced classes help you find your writing voice, learn the secrets of creating an author brand and ecosystem, and improve your technique.

free english composition class

English Composition

About the Course

In order to be a great writer, you have to have solid basic writing skills!

Arizona State University’s introduction to English Composition class will help you master the basics so that you can improve every aspect of your writing, no matter what your focus is.

Over the eight-week intensive course, you’ll learn a variety of useful skills that can serve as the building blocks of your future writing career, helping you gain mastery over the English language and learn to write in a way that others respect and admire.

You’ll be asked to complete several writing assignments, as well as writing a reflection piece on each of them. You’ll also have the opportunity to engage with other learners and get feedback on your work as you develop your skills.

In this course, you’ll learn:

  • How to target your writing to your audience’s needs
  • How to think critically about reading and writing
  • How to use style conventions and techniques to improve your writing
  • How to use technology to write more effectively and efficiently
  • How to unlock your creativity
  • How to develop good writing habits

This is really a class on building the fundamental skills you’ll need to be a successful professional writer—it’s a fantastic resource for anyone, no matter where they are in their writing journey.

Instructor

Adam Pacton holds a PhD in Rhetoric and Composition and is a lecturer on creative writing, English, and composition techniques at Arizona State University.

Price

Free! You can also pay $49 to add a “verified certificate” if you want to show the course as a credential on a resume or to an employer, but most writers will do great with the free version.

The Crafty Writer’s Creative Writing Course

About the Course

The Crafty Writer is a service started by fiction author Fiona Veitch Smith to help teach aspiring and current writers how to master their craft and publish better books that get better results in the market.

As part of that mission, they’ve developed The Crafty Writer’s Creative Writing Course, a self-paced introduction to creative writing. The class walks you through the basics of becoming a dedicated creative writer, including looks at several different styles and genres.

In this course, you’ll learn:

  • How to uncover your personal writing style and voice
  • The basics of writing a short story
  • How to choose an effective point of view
  • How to use vivid imagery to bring your ideas to life
  • How to find and use writers’ groups, competitions, and communities of writers
  • The basics of publishing and marketing your work

There are set assignments and tasks to complete, but you don’t need to attend any live chats or sessions. There’s no individual feedback from instructors or coaches, and you won’t get feedback from other people taking the class, but you’re encouraged to ask questions if there’s anything you’re struggling with. Mostly, you’re given the tools and resources to begin finding and building your own community of support and to assess and revise your own work.

If you’ve always wanted to dip a toe into the writing world, but weren’t quite sure where to begin, this could be the ideal online option for you!

Instructor

Fiona Veitch Smith is a prolific author whose work includes several novels, a biography, a children’s book series, and more than 100 articles published in magazines as diverse as Sports Illustrated and Plain Truth, where she is the New Writing editor. She holds BA and MA degrees in writing and is pursuing her PhD while also teaching creative writing both online and off.

Price

Free! The class suggests recommended reading that you can buy or borrow from your library.

free online creative writing class diy mfa

DIY MFA

About the Course

DIY MFA does exactly what it promises—it helps you learn the skills taught in a formal MFA program at home on your own!

The course walks you through the three major areas that big-name master’s programs focus on: writing, reading, and building a community of fellow authors, mentors, and devoted readers.

Along the way, you learn how to select and read books that can help you improve your own writing, whether because they act as source material, give you an idea of the state of your genre, or help you broaden your horizons and learn from great writers.

You’ll also get practical tips for writing better, including strategies for outlining, hints for how to pace the flow of your book, and ideas for creating memorable phrases in both fiction and nonfiction that will hook your reader instantly.

Instructor

Founder Gabriela Pereira created DIY MFA after she graduated with her master’s in writing and saw all the other writers struggling to feel like pros without that experience…and realized that she still didn’t feel quite like a pro even with it! Gabriela teaches at conferences and online, and she’s helped hundreds of writers get the MFA experience without having to go to an expensive school.

Price

Free! Just sign up at https://diymfa.com/join to get the free starter pack and begin your online MFA journey. You can also check out great tips and tricks on the site’s blog for more in-depth looks into how to improve your writing starting today.

Fiction Writing Courses

If you’ve already started on your career as a novelist and are looking to take your skills to the next level, a fiction-specific writing course might be best for you!

free online fiction writing class

Start Writing Fiction

About the Course

Looking to start your career as a novelist the right way? This may be the class for you!

Offered through The Open University, a world leader in distance learning, Start Writing Fiction takes you from zero to novelist in eight weeks.

You’ll listen to lectures from renowned novelists, develop your skills through writing prompts and assignments, and get personalized feedback from your classmates and instructor during the class.

In this course, you’ll learn:

  • How and why to keep a writing journal
  • How to write better dialogue
  • How to do better research
  • How to structure a plot
  • Why reading matters as a writer
  • How to self-edit your work

Instructor

The course is taught by Dr. Derek Neale, an award-winning short story author and novelist whose works include The Book of Guardians. Dr. Neale is the Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at The Open University and splits his time between teaching, supervising PhD students, developing new courses, and working on his own fiction projects.

Price

Free! However, you can pay a small fee (£39, or about $50) to upgrade to a version of the course that gives you unlimited access to the lectures and materials after the eight-week session ends.

free class on how to write a novel

How to Write a Novel

About the Course

Ready to write your first novel? Consider taking this class first!

How to Write a Novel will give you the tools you need to actually finish that first draft—and go on to revise it and publish it successfully!

You’ll learn:

  • How to keep track of your fiction ideas
  • How (and why) to outline your novel
  • Basic worldbuilding techniques
  • Character development tips and tricks
  • How to create a daily writing habit

By the end of the 10 daily lessons, you’ll be ready to roll with your first novel, crafting worlds and characters that set the stage for your career as a successful fiction author.

Instructor

Ben Galley is a bestselling fantasy author and self-publishing consultant who helps authors create amazing stories and then sell their books around the world.

Price

Free! Just sign up with your email to start the 10-day class.

free class on writing short stories

How to Craft a Killer Short Story

About the Course

Whether you’re an established fiction author or just getting started, short stories are a fantastic tool to have in your arsenal as a writer. But they involve some very different skills than writing longer fiction.

That’s where How to Craft a Killer Short Story comes in!

This 10-day email course will show you what you need to know in order to create tight, gripping stories, like:

  • How to pick a great short story topic
  • How to trim the fat from your writing
  • How to edit short stories
  • How to sell your stories to literary journals, anthologies, and magazines

Follow along every day and within two weeks, you’ll be ready to tackle the short story in all its glory!

Instructor

Laura Mae Isaacman is a full-time editor; she’s worked with major authors, including Joyce Carol Oates, T.C. Boyle and Noam Chomsky. She has also lectured on the topics of writing and publishing and is the co-founder of Tweed’s Magazine of Literature & Art.

Nonfiction Writing Courses

Ready to hone your skills at turning real-life information, tips, techniques, and situations into enthralling prose that changes your readers’ lives?

Take one of these free nonfiction writing courses!

free class on writing a nonfiction book

The Non-Sexy Business of Writing Nonfiction

About the Course

Writing nonfiction can be very rewarding, but it doesn’t necessarily have the same glow around it as being a novelist.

Still, the skills you’ll learn as a nonfiction author can help you no matter what you write or what you want to do with your career.

The Non-Sexy Business of Writing Nonfiction walks you through the good, the bad, and the ugly of writing, publishing, and marketing nonfiction books.

In this 10-day course, you’ll get an email each day walking you through some critical aspect of writing and publishing nonfiction, covering topics like:

  • How to get started on your book
  • How to do targeted market research
  • Tools and strategies to maximize your productivity
  • Tips for outlining

By the end of the class, you’ll have a toolbox to help you write and publish your first nonfiction book!

Instructor

Publishing coach Azul Terronez is the founder of Author’s Writing Academy and has helped dozens of authors make their books a reality. He has also coached seasoned writers like Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income, and Dana Malstaff of Boss-Mom.com.

Price

Free! Just sign up with your email.

how to write what you know

Writing What You Know

About the Course

Writing a nonfiction book is all about translating the real world to the page, bringing readers with you as you explore a topic, event, or strategy.

Writing What You Know is an amazing introduction to the power of words to translate your experience to something that other people can learn and grow from.

This eight-hour course covers topics including:

  • Using life experiences in your writing
  • Creating vivid imagery
  • Constructing and pacing scenes
  • Using memories to structure narrative
  • Turning the everyday into the memorable

By the end of the class, you’ll be able to craft engaging narratives capable of transporting your readers to another time, place, or situation—using the power of what you observe every day.

Instructor

The Open University doesn’t reveal who developed its courses, but their content is on par with the best massively open online courses (MOOCs) in the world. You’ll learn techniques and skills that bestselling nonfiction authors have used to advance their careers and be able to quickly start improving your own writing.

Price

Free! You can even download the course materials in the format of your choice to refer to later.

learn how to write a business book

How to Write a Business Book

About the Course

If you’ve ever wanted to write a business book, share your journey as an entrepreneur, or help others make money doing what they love, then How to Write a Business Book may be the class you’re looking for!

This 10-day email course will teach you the fundamentals of business writing, including how to make sure that your book resonates with your audience and helps add value to their business or life. This course will help you make your book more than just a business card—it will help you write in a way that changes your readers lives while enhancing your own career. Topics covered during the class include:

  • Important questions to ask before writing your book
  • How to outline and structure
  • How to set manageable goals
  • How to build your audience

Instructor

Alison Jones is a publishing partner for businesses and organizations. She provides executive coaching, consultancy, and training services to publishers and regularly speaks and blogs on the publishing industry.

Price

Free! Just sign up with your email.

What To Do Next

No matter where you are on your writing journey, there’s always something new to learn. That’s the great thing about this path—we can learn, grow, and stretch ourselves in new and different ways every day!

One or more of the online writing courses we’ve covered here is sure to help you develop your skills and move to the next level as a writer, regardless of what genre you’re focused on or what your goals are.

Pick a class or two, sign up, and try it out! Apply the new techniques and strategies you’ve learned to your next writing project and see what a difference practice and development can make for you.

Then pick another class and keep on going!

 

Want to learn more about honing your craft as a writer? Check out these great resources:

 

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