The Best Writing Courses for Beginners in 2021

The Best Writing Courses for Beginners in 2021

Have you been wanting to sit down and write the next great American novel, or perhaps even start chronicling the memoir of your wild and crazy life? But are you also worried that your writing skills need some help before you commit pen to paper?

Well, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we’re going to look at a few solid reasons why you might want to invest in a high-quality online writing course that’s tailored to a beginner. After that, we’ll feature some reviews on what we think are the best writing courses that money can buy. Finally, we’ll go over some tips in order to smooth your way into your newfound writing passion.

So, without further ado, make sure you’re stocked up with notebooks, pens, and maybe a few sticky notes to boot. Let’s begin!

Orientation: Why Pursue Online Beginner Writing Courses?

If you’ve got a burning interest in becoming an author of any caliber, you might be wondering two things. Do you need to go down a more traditional educational route? Or should you just consider teaching yourself through online-based courses? While formal education is valuable, it’s got some pretty huge downsides as well.

With this in mind, we’re going to go over a few key elements in this section that you need to know to start your writing journey as quickly as possible. This way, you can better choose an online course that suits your artistic desires appropriately.

Why Should You Invest in a Writing Course for a Beginner?

There are many good reasons to invest in a beginner’s writing course beyond just mere curiosity. Here are a few key points we think are worth considering.

College Is Expensive, and Time-Consuming

Formal education—that is, going to a higher education institution—is extremely pricey. While getting a B.A. in creative writing can be valuable for bragging rights, it doesn’t nearly translate as well into getting a career in the industry.

Many famous writers don’t have a background in higher education whatsoever. By investing in a high-quality online writing course that is focused on the beginner level, you can bypass the need for the college experience.

There’s no need to deal with administration fees, expensive textbooks, and ornery professors when you go down the modern digital route of online learning.

Take Your Learning Everywhere

All of the courses we list in this article are provided by educational platforms that allow for multiple means of streaming. So, it doesn’t matter whether you’re in your favorite coffee house, at home, or even on the beach.

If you have a stable internet or data connection, you’re going to be able to learn at your comfort and leisure. Some instructors even allow for individual downloads of each lecture, allowing you to study the video lectures in areas less conducive to quality wireless signals.

Work by Day, Write by Night

Very few of us are financially set since birth. We’ve got to work day jobs in order to pay the bills and keep food on the table.

Online courses are great for people that have steady careers that they need to attend on the regular. You can work these kinds of courses at your own pace, allowing you to keep a steady day job while you moonlight on bettering your craft.

Things You Should Look For in a Writing Course for a Beginner

Here are a few things that are going to steer you in the right direction when it comes to choosing the best beginner online writing course for your various artistic and expressive needs.

Do Some Research on the Teacher

It’s a good idea to get a little background on whoever is teaching the course you are interested in. Usually, this sort of information is displayed within the landing page of the course itself.

However, it’s still beneficial for you to take the time to go on the teacher’s professional website or even check out some of their writing to see if their style gels with your overall goals and artistic vision.

Course Interactivity and Timeline

This depends best on how you like to learn. Some individuals prefer a more “lone wolf” learning experience where they move through a course on their own timeline without worrying about things like shared projects and other forms of coursework.

These kinds of courses can be especially useful to people with intense careers or time crunches due to other daily matters. Others might like a more structured learning environment where there are some expectations when it comes to participation.

Your mileage may vary on this, so be sure to check out course specifications in order to get the best course to accommodate your personality or lifestyle.

Cost

Some courses are more expensive than others. More expensive courses sometimes come with perks like verifiable college credit or even a digital certificate of completion that can be displayed on business-related social media (such as LinkedIn).

It’s important to know that lower-cost courses, however, do not necessarily mean lower quality at all, contrary to popular opinion. Be sure to check out each course in detail in order to see if the investment is justified for your wants and needs.

Cheat Sheet

We chose a varied amount of beginner-level writing courses, and you might only be looking for a very specific genre of writing. Here’s a small breakdown of each of the courses we review below so that you can find which ones pertain the most to you and your writing goals.

TitlePlatformCourse LengthStyleRating
Wesleyan University: Creative Writing SpecializationCoursera6 MonthsCreative Writing Track5.0
Creative Nonfiction: Write Truth with StyleSkillshare1hr 49Nonfiction4.5
Creative Writing: Crafting Personal Essays with ImpactSkillshare1hr 1minPersonal Essay4.5
James Patterson MasterClassMasterClass3hr 31minFiction4.5
Writing With Flair: How To Become an Exceptional WriterUdemy7hrsWriting Skills4.5
Storytelling 101: Character, Conflict, Context & CraftSkillshare42minCrafting a Story4.5
R.L. Stine MasterClassMasterClass3hr 53minYoung Adult Fiction4.0
Writing Your Life Story: Turning Memories Into MemoirUdemy9.5hrsMemoir4.0
Creative Writing for All: A 10-Day Journaling ChallengeSkillshare26minCreative Writing4.0
Poetry I: Introduction to Making PoemsSkillshare27minPoetry3.5

We’ve compiled what we think are some of the very best beginner writing courses here for you to check out. If you want more useful tips on becoming a new author, be sure to stay for our Extra Credit section after the course reviews.

Top 10 Best Writing Courses for Beginners 2021


1. Wesleyan University: Creative Writing Specialization

  • Around 6 months $49 per month Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Focus: Creative Writing Track
  • Teacher: Brando Skyhorse, Amity Gaige, Amy Bloom, Salvatore Scibona
  • Complete primer to creative writing

Why we like it

This complete course on creative writing will teach you everything you need to know to get started in creative writing.

What You'll Learn

Coursera Specialization courses are a list of courses that are specifically put together for skilly mastery. In this huge specialization course from Wesleyan University, you will learn the skills necessary to concoct your own creative writing masterworks.

In this set of courses, you will learn three different genres of writing. These include the short story, narrative essay, and memoir. The entire specialization culminates in a section known as the Capstone. This is where everything you have learned in the previous sections gets put into play. This particular Capstone requires each student to write, edit, and complete a body of work in whatever genre suits them best.

This specialization gets a prospective student from someone who merely wants to be a writer to a level where they are a professional author. To sweeten the deal, this course also comes complete with an 80% discount from Write-Bros and a 30% discount on Scrivner, two pieces of writing software.

Verdict

This is the ultimate course on this list. Technically it's four courses in one. If you're serious about the art and craft of writing and want a full immersion course, you need this as soon as possible. Just be aware that this will require at least six months of your time in order to complete the certification—if you’re not ready to take the plunge, try a quick overview first.

Pros

  • A full writing track from a well-known academic university
  • Gives you the tools you need to become a complete author in 6 months
  • Learn three different genres of creative writing in and out

Cons

  • The specialization courses take up to six months.


2. Creative Nonfiction: Write Truth With Style

  • 1hr 49min $19 per month or $99 per year Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Focus: Creative Nonfiction
  • Teacher: Susan Orlean
  • Teaches the art of storytelling

Why we like it

Susan Orlean, a renowned American journalist, teaches how to turn simple, mundane experiences into fascinating and memorable nonfiction stories.

What You'll Learn

Creative nonfiction is an often misunderstood subgenre of writing, but it's far more common than one thinks. Susan Orlean has been writing in this manner for several decades now and is ready to explain her craft to the world at large.

In this course, you will learn how to choose a story topic on a subject matter that is seemingly quite normal at first. Susan wants you to write about the most mysterious person you know, and generate a 3 page, full-edited piece by the end of the course. She will provide a full outline of the order of operations that one should take in order to write this hypothetical piece.

By the time you finish up your creative nonfiction work of art, you should have a piece that is fully revised and ready for publishing to any number of respected outlets that crave this sort of content.

Along with this dynamic instructional course, Susan also provides you with her acclaimed Esquire magazine story "The American Male at Age 10" in digital format in order to showcase her unique approach to the art and craft of nonfiction writing. She also provides an extensive reading list in case you want to dive even further into this exciting subgenre of writing.

Verdict

If you’ve ever wanted to write creative nonfiction, but didn’t really know how to approach it, then Susan Orlean has you covered in this short-but-sweet writing course. The only real downsides we could find were that it could have used a bit more detail in some of the sections, especially when it comes to editing. Otherwise, this is a lean and mean course that will have you crafting compelling stories in no time.

Pros

  • Engaging teacher
  • Teaches an often misunderstood subgenre of writing
  • Class project prompts you to write a nonfiction story from the ground up
  • Teaches you how to take something mundane and turn it into art
  • Easy to understand instruction and outline

Cons

  • Class might be too short in terms of in-depth detail


3. Creative Writing: Crafting Personal Essays With Impact

  • 1hr 1min $19 per month or $99 per year Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Focus: Essay Writing/Creative Nonfiction
  • Teacher: Roxane Gay
  • Strong focus on impactful writing

Why we like it

Can you change the world with one essay at a time? Roxane Gay certainly thinks so! Join her in this very special course on compelling essay writing in order to win hearts and change minds.

What You'll Learn

Roxane Gay is a force to be reckoned with in the modern writing world. She strongly believes that a well-written essay that is full of honesty, and perhaps even a little bit of vulnerability, can keep people fully engaged. She also carries a core belief that one person's viewpoint can make a difference and change the opinions of others if the writing is convincing and well-crafted.

In this short one-hour class, Roxane Gay lectures on her methodology when it comes to crafting personal essays. She'll teach you how to not only believe in yourself and your right as a human to write a personal essay, but she will also instruct you on how to cultivate a strong sense of purpose as well. Roxane will also go over how to make your writing personal while at the same time relatable to all people, who may not share your exact opinions on topics.

One of the most crucial elements of this course is that it is stresses that everyone has something to say, no matter how seemingly small or meaningless it might seem to you. This is a course for anyone that may have self-esteem issues with expressing their voice as a writer.

Verdict

If you are interested in penning a memoir or you simply want to voice your issues in a convincing yet highly readable manner, then Roxane's class is a perfect fit for your goals. The only real downside to the course is that there's no direct feedback offered by the instructor herself.

However, this is more of a Skillshare platform-related issue and not simply due to the instructor's lack of concern. There is, however, a highly interactive community that can help provide you with feedback. Still, if you need a bit more guidance you might prefer a course that allows you to interact with the teacher.

Pros

  • Direct yet encouraging instructor
  • Teaches on how to make the personal essay a catalyst for change
  • Interactive project community
  • PDF slides and worksheets provided

Cons

  • No feedback from the instructor themselves


4. James Patterson MasterClass

  • 3hr 31min $180 annual subscription Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Focus: Fiction Writing
  • Teacher: James Patterson
  • Comprehensive expert-lead class

Why we like it

James Patterson teaches his craft in one of the most complete fiction writing courses on the market today. He is best known for his Alex Cross series of books.

What You'll Learn

In this course, James Patterson will teach you everything you need to know to form a complete book idea from scratch. He starts you at the idea phase, and soon will have you learning how to outline your book as you write, which is one of his secrets to success.

James is quite the workhorse and is highly prolific in the writing world. This course has a heavily commercialized element, and is designed to turn you into a writing powerhouse and mold you into a writer that crafts stories that sell.

Another great aspect of this course is James actually goes into detail about how to market your book once it’s fully edited and complete. This sort of advice is crucial to the aspiring writer. Patterson makes it very clear that he’s been through the wringer and can help to lead you from some of the pitfalls he’s personally dealt with in the industry.

Verdict

This is a fantastic course that is full of information. It runs a bit more on the commercial side of storytelling, so if you’re of a more avant-garde mindset, look elsewhere.

Pros

  • James is one of the most acclaimed mainstream fiction writers
  • All aspects of the book-writing process are covered here
  • Provides an outline of his book Honeymoon
  • Shows you how to market your book once it's completed

Cons

  • Might be too focused on commercial writing for the mass market.


5. Writing With Flair: How to Become an Exceptional Writer

  • 7 hours $89.99 Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Focus: Writing Skills
  • Teacher: Shani Raja
  • Helpful for mastering business writing

Why we like it

In this Udemy for Business showcase, Shani Raja, a former Wall Street Journal editor, will show you the ins and outs of competent writing of all kinds.

What You'll Learn

This course is less about writing genres of books and more about the craft of writing itself. In this whopping 7 hour course, you will learn how to write with clarity and beauty that will rival the top journalists in the field today.

Shani will even go into some of the major issues that a lot of writers face, including passive voice and not being direct enough in one's writing.

Once you are finished with this course, Shani assures you will be an elite writer well worth their salt. So, if you require a literal masterclass in writing excellence, this is your ticket.

Verdict

If you need to sharpen up your skills, this is the course to take. While it’s not specific to one genre, it will make you a better writer overall.

Pros

  • Learn elite-level writing skills
  • Vast detail in the course
  • Write as well as the pros

Cons

  • Not focused on any one genre


6. Storytelling 101: Character, Conflict, Context & Craft

  • 42 min $19 per month or $99 per year Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Focus: Crafting a Story
  • Teacher: Daniel José Older
  • Strong literary focus

Why we like it

Let a crisis moment guide you to writing powerfully in this short course brought to you by Skillshare.

What You'll Learn

In this course, Daniel José Older utilizes moments of crisis to inspire the reader to sit down and write a story. That may seem like a strange way of doing things, but Daniel stresses that a crisis itself can be a positive turning point in one’s life. Therefore, these moments can make powerful stories of all varieties, from tragic to compassionate.

This course's project involves writing about an event of some sort that happened a block from your home. It could be tragic, or comedic, or perhaps all of the above. The important thing here, Daniel stresses, is to simply write—everything else will fall into place.

Ideally, this project should be completed within one hour. This course stresses that there is power in merely writing in the first place, even sloppily or imperfectly. Sitting down and initiating a writing session can break writing blocks of all kinds—all it takes is that first step.

Verdict

If you’re looking for a foolproof way of getting down to the nitty-gritty and producing a short story in no time flat, this is the course for you. It runs a little on the short side, but its compact nature gives it a powerful impact when it comes to how it instructs on writing. That said, you’ll probably want something more comprehensive after—it’s not really a complete guide to writing.

Pros

  • Learn how crisis can conjure effective stories
  • Crush writing blocks with Daniel’s mentality of “sit down and write”
  • Class project allows you to create a short story in under an hour

Cons

  • The course runs a bit short.


7. R.L. Stine MasterClass

  • 3 hr 53 min $180 annual subscription Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Focus: Young Adult Fiction
  • Teacher: R.L. Stine
  • Taught by one of the best-selling writers of all time

Why we like it

With his vast knowledge of having written for young people the past several decades, R.L. Stine teaches you how to write for the young adult market with a special focus on horror.

What You'll Learn

R.L. Stine is well known for his Goosebumps series of books for young children. In this class, he goes over the tips and tricks of his methodology of crafting scary stories for younger audiences.

While this class is focused on writing horror that is within the parameters of young adult fiction, its information can be used in a non-horror context. One can easily use many of the concepts Stine lectures on for various genres of young adult fiction, such as fantasy and even sci-fi.

One of the best things he does in this class teaches you how to get inside the hearts and minds of young people in order to craft compelling (and spooky) stories around their sensibilities. This information alone makes it one of the best young adult writing courses on the market today.

Verdict

Like all Masterclass courses, the production values and information are all high-quality. This course loses some points due to its explicit focus on horror and not the young adult writing as a whole. However, there's a lot of value to be taken from Stine's lectures if you're interested in writing anything else, all the same.

Pros

  • It’s a top-level young adult fiction writing course
  • Learn how to get into the minds of young adults to effectively write horror for them
  • Information can be useful in a non-horror context.

Cons

  • The course is still heavily weighted towards horror writing and not young adult fiction at large


8. Writing Your Life Story: Turning Memories Into Memoir

  • 9.5 hours $94.99 Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Focus: Memoir Writing
  • Teacher: Dale Darley
  • Helpful in learning how to draw from your life in your writing

Why we like it

This excellent course will teach you how to turn your life into an exciting and compelling memoir.

What You'll Learn

Do you have what you consider to be a mesmerizing life story that you want others to know about? Don't make the mistake of thinking that your life doesn't have merit and meaning. Let Dale Darley show you how to get your ideas down on paper and form into a convincing memoir that will be the talk of the town.

Dale Darley is an author and intuitive life coach that believes in the healing power of journaling and writing. She believes that the activity of writing can lead us down roads that can help us to understand our inner selves more effectively.

In this bestselling Udemy course, Dale Darley shows you how to go back fully into your past and unearth the aspects of it that truly shine and make for a great story. Dale thinks that this action is both cathartic as well as extremely practical when it comes to writing a great memoir.

In many ways, though, this course is focused on a greater topic. Healing of traumas accumulated in the past is a big aspect of this author's work, and in the process, each student will have to dig deep no matter what dimension their life has taken up until now.

Verdict

As mentioned before, this course is predicated a lot on searching the self and can be very intense for some students if they've dealt with considerable life trauma. Additionally, the course moves at a fairly slow pace, which might not be to the liking of some. However, if you can persevere through the whole course, you will have a fully functional memoir that will be publisher-ready.

Pros

  • Forces you to dig deep in order to find amazing life stories
  • Empathetic and kind instructor
  • Goes over the full memoir writing process

Cons

  • The course can be emotionally intense for some students
  • The course might move too slowly for some


9. Creative Writing for All: A 10-Day Journaling Challenge

  • 26 m $19 per month or $99 per year Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Focus: Creative Writing
  • Teacher: Emily Gould
  • Learn the art and discipline of keeping a journal for creative writing purposes.

Why we like it

In this very short course, writer Emily Gould teaches you how to destroy writers’ blocks through the process of journaling.

What You'll Learn

The entire concept behind this course is to get students writing and creating as quickly as possible. Emily does this by prompting the student with writing for ten minutes straight on whatever paper or digital device they may have nearby at hand. She only gives one single writing prompt for this endeavor, and that is to start the piece with "Today I noticed." Everything else that comes after that is up to the individual writer and where their muse takes them.

Once the ten days are over, Emily will go over some light revision techniques in order to shape up this unique journaling approach into a fully-formed creative piece.

This is a fantastic course if you are new to writing, as well as if you have some serious issues with inner blockages. The blank page can be quite imposing as a writer, and it even trips up some more seasoned authors as well. Bypass that negative inner voice by taking Emily's course and learning how to write no matter how confused you might feel at the time.

Verdict

While this course will get you out of your comfort zone and start to create on a regular basis, we still think it could use a little more detail. Overall, this is a fine course to take if you’re experiencing some stagnant creativity in your writing regimen.

Pros

  • Forces the student to actively write every single day
  • Helps the writer to develop discipline
  • The student will have a completed essay after ten days

Cons

  • The course is far too short, and could use more fleshing out


10. Poetry I: Introduction to Making Poems

  • 27 min $19 per month or $99 per year Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Focus: Poetry Writing
  • Teacher: Cameron Conaway
  • Helpful not only for poetry but poetic prose

Why we like it

Take a plunge into the wide world of poetry in this short but sweet introductory course.

What You'll Learn

This is a short course meant to introduce a prospective student to the art and craft of poetry. By the end you will have written at least five poems that are all different from each other yet still linked by a similar theme. This is all uploadable in an interactive project gallery where you can get criticisms of your work via the embedded community.

This is an excellent course to pursue if you’ve always wanted to look at poetry more in order to spice up your writing with a more rich, creative language. Poetry is known for its inherent power in saying a lot by saying little. This would be a fantastic skill to put in the writer’s toolbox, and this course will certainly set you on your way towards that.

Verdict

Poetry is still a somewhat common form of writing, though certainly not nearly as popular as the fiction and nonfiction markets. This is a short but to-the-point class to whet your appetite for more poetry instruction down the line if you take an interest in it, but we felt like the course could have benefitted from a bit more content.

Pros

  • Learn how to start writing poetry
  • Complete five poems by the end of the course
  • Interactive community

Cons

  • The course is high-quality, but too short.


Writing for Beginners FAQ

Absolutely. Like many things, writing can be improved via repetition and analysis of other writers and their craft. The saying “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” has some merit here. If we can take the time to understand why an author wrote something a certain way, we can come to understand our artistic process by proxy.

If you’ve never written creatively before, a comprehensive course is the best place to build the fundamentals required to go as far as your potential will carry you.

It depends on whether or not you want to go down the traditional publishing route or not. If your dream is to see your labor of love displayed proudly in bookstores nationwide, then traditional publishing is your best bet. If you are a natural marketer, highly organized, and like doing everything yourself, then self-publishing is the way to go.

If you’re looking to see what it takes to become a bestseller, James Patterson’s MasterClass is going to be well worth your time.

If you are interested in these matters of traditional vs. self-publishing, please take a look at this article from The Write Life.



Extra Credit: An Extended Look at Writing Courses for Beginners

bearded man writing at table

Here’s a short guide on some of the tools as well as the best practices you should take on in order to become a more efficient writer. Attaining discipline now will pay dividends down the road.

The Bare Necessities of Writing

Here are a few things you should have at the ready when considering going down the route of becoming a professional (or hobbyist) writer.

Hardware

Many individuals, when they first start on their writing journey, think they need the most recent gadgets and software at their disposal. The truth of the matter is that most entry-level desktops and laptops are quite suitable for lower-end processes such as writing. Higher-end computers are only used for things that require more advanced computation, such as computer games and artificial intelligence.

Many tablets on the market also have keyboard peripherals that can help you to convert your device into a hardcore typing machine in no time flat. Some aspiring authors even go so far as to type out small bits of their manuscript per day on their smartphones while sitting on the subway or bus. With advances in wireless internet services cloud-based systems nowadays one can practically always be working on their writing even in the oddest of places.

Software

Microsoft Word has been a professional standby for quite a while now. However, if you’re not interested in buying a license from Microsoft, then consider going in a more open-source direction. There are many great free options for word processing, including LibreOffice as well as OpenOffice.

If you’re looking for even simpler word processing tools whose design makes them lightweight, minimalistic, and focus-centric, then consider looking at Poe or FocusWriter.

Workspace

Last but certainly not least, you’re going to want to have a place of your own to be able work distraction-free. For some people this is going to be their home office. For others, it’s going to the cozy coffee shop at the end of the street.

One thing to be absolutely sure about is to make sure it’s somewhere you can visit consistently. After all, a writer needs to be able to cultivate some sort of discipline in order to hit personal deadlines and to get things done.

Cultivating Discipline

Don’t be the writer that refuses to work only until their muse strikes them. This is a cop-out and not conducive to becoming a professional, well-organized writing machine. Here are a few tips and tricks in order to increase discipline if you’re a writer that struggles with production.

Find an Accountability Partner

While we should always be self-accountable, sometimes the struggle is real. Find another person who can keep you on your toes as far as hitting your writing goals. This should be another writer, that way you can keep each other motivated appropriately.

Don’t Neglect Your Health

Accountability and poor health seldom make for a good team. Be sure to get plenty of exercise and bed rest and stay healthy. Exercise, walking in particular, is a great way to clear the cobwebs in the head and get some much-needed vitamin D in the process.

As far as sleep goes, we’ve all heard the adage of eight hours, but some can subsist on even as low as six hours (if they are used to it). Listen to your body and its needs.

Reward Yourself Occasionally

Did you hit that 50-page milestone? Or perhaps did you write 5000 words every day all month long without fail? Treat yourself to something that motivates or excites you. This can be anything from a short weekend getaway or something as simple as purchasing that hot new PlayStation title you’ve been eyeing for a while now.

As with health, if you treat yourself right, you’ll create a positive feedback loop that will encourage you to smash your goals consistently.

Unleash Your Inner Author: A Conclusion

woman in field taking notes
As you can see, there’s a lot of fantastic courses from a varied amount of instructors out there for the writing style you are interested in. Let some of these guys digitally hold your hand and show you the ropes on how best to express inner creativity. Not only do we think it will be enjoyable on an educational level, but it could also be that push you need to take your writing career to the next level.

Until next time, dust off those notebooks you’ve got stacked up on the desk, fire up the laptop, and get to writing!