Writing conferences offer the aspiring or published writer a wealth of needed input, from writing craft instruction, marketing tidbits, and manuscript critiques, to editor and/or agent contacts. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, some writers may not be able to attend a conference. Whether the obstacle is money, time, or location, a good alternative to consider is online instruction.
In the last decade, as you might expect, online writing courses have proliferated. Now someone looking for beginning how-to information to advanced hands-on help can find reputable instruction.
For some, the best place to look is at writing courses offered by universities. You can find individual classes or degree programs, depending on what you’re interested in. Notable universities offering writing programs include UCLA, Purdue, University of Washington, Harvard, Stanford, New York University, and the University of Phoenix.
Notable is the University of Michigan because they include classes that are free. But they’re not alone. Diploma Guide has a wonderful listing of free writing courses, and an equally impressive list of links to schools offering degree programs in writing.
For those looking for a less academic approach, with interaction with an agent or editor or experience writer, there are any number of other options, depending on how much money you are willing to pay. Classes run from those in the free range on up to $500.
Length of courses vary as well. Some are short workshops, others two week classes, a month, or longer.
Another consideration when looking at online classes is the feedback a student might expect, whether critiques by other students or by the instructor. Writing, after all, depends on the response from those reading the work. Many writers have no opportunity for feedback from writing professionals. Some may wish to find online classes emphasizing their small size which enable students to have more interact with the instructor. Someone ready to look for an agent may wish to look specifically for a course taught by an industry insider.
Below is a list of online classes I either am familiar with or have discovered in doing research for this article. I wish I could offer a first hand endorsement, but since I haven’t taken any online classes, I’ll have to present this list and let you decide which you think might bear consideration.
- WOW (Women On Writing). Classes are offered every month. “WOW! handpicks qualified instructors and targeted classes that women writers will benefit from. The instructors are women we’ve worked with on a professional level, and these ladies offer high quality courses on various topics.” (Never fear, not all the courses listed are gender specific).
I do know one of the instructors for their June line-up: agent Sally Apokedak. She’s teaching FOUR FIRST-CHAPTER ESSENTIALS FOR NOVELS which starts June 2. “You will come away from the class with four hour-long taped lectures, with an in-depth critique of your first chapter, and with an understanding of how to carry what you’ve learned, from the first chapter on to the rest of the book.”
- The Writer’s Workshop. Introduction, intermediate, and advanced levels of instruction are offered. “These fiction writing classes will help you develop your own habit of art, mastering the craft of fiction writing essential to creating compelling stories. The Writer’s Workshop’s online fiction writing classes will give you the skills and techniques to take your fiction writing to the next level.”
- Elizabeth Ayers Center for Creative Writing. “Our online writing courses are small, intimate … and lots of fun. The nurturing atmosphere means your creativity can flourish in safety, no matter how intimidated you may feel.”
- Writers.com. “We can help you improve your skills, explore new directions, ready your work for publication, or simply provide a community, inspiration and deadlines to start you writing and keep you writing.”
- Gotham Writers. Specializes in creative writing. “We focus on teaching you the fundamental principles such as plot, structure, character, voice, dialogue, description, and point of view. These principles are taught through lectures, class discussions, writing exercises, and in-depth critiques of your writing.”
- Writer’s Digest University. Offers courses on a wide variety of writing: copywriting, essays, blogging, basics of novel writing, and more. “Whether you’re writing for publication, extra money, or to tell personal stories, Writer’s Digest University can help you get your writing career underway. Our expert instructors will provide advice, specific instruction, real-world experience, expertise, and the motivation and drive to help you achieve your goals.”
- LitReactor. Covers a variety of genres—from New Adult to horror and fantasy. Also offers courses dealing with specific aspects of writing such as writing query letters and crafting characters. “LitReactor offers a unique approach to a writing education: You study what you want, when you want, at your own pace. We bring in veteran authors and industry professionals to host classes covering a wide range of topics in an online environment that’s interactive and flexible.”
There are any number of other writing courses, some offered to members of writer organizations, others provided by individual instructors. This list will hopefully provide hope to those looking for instruction but unable to attend a conference. Online help is available, and there’s a good chance you can find something at your level of expertise, in your area of writing, and at a price that meets your budget.