Exploring the art of prose


Online Writing Classes

One of the best ways to work on your craft is to participate in a writing class. Depending on where you live, though, it may be hard to find a good in-person workshop or class. Luckily, there are many good online resources.

We’ve pulled together a list of some of the best ones that we know. Each program is set up differently: some provide ways to share work online but the group never actually meets face-to-face (or video-to-video!) Others create active online discussion boards which can be a terrific way to find a small group of people with whom to share work in the future. Some classes require an application; others are open to all. These online classes are a great way to meet and work with people from varied communities around the world.

Because course offerings are always being added, it’s a good idea to follow these organizations on Facebook or Twitter so that you stay abreast of new opportunities.

Catapult: Catapult has an extensive selection of online classes, led by some of the top new writers working today. In Catapult’s custom-built program, workshop participants text chat with each other at a designated time. Craft materials—video lectures from the instructor, readings, writing prompts—are all available online prior to the workshop.

Catapult has 18 online courses still to come this fall, with start dates from October 11 through January 11. There are a number of four to eight week workshops, with instructors such as Rebecca Schiff, Clare Beams, and Lily Brooks-Dalton. Each workshop has a particular focus, ranging from revision to magical realism to building character. In addition, Catapult offers coaching workshops, which are either individual or very small groups, and provide a great deal of direct contact with the instructor.

In Zulema Renee Summerfield’s six-week workshop entitled The Earned Surprise, students will study work by the masters, in order to understand “the ‘earned surprise’—unexpected narrative turns, descriptions that leap off the page, dialogue that is natural to its world and yet entirely unforeseen.” The course is meant for writers who feel stuck with a particular story or two. One of the unique bits of feedback that students will receive are creative prompts for your work, developed by the instructor and the other students.

Curtis Brown: Curtis Brown is a literary agency based in London. They run both in-person and online classes, taught by published novelists with teaching experience. Each course also brings in speakers, which include agents, authors and publishers. Out of all the options we’ve presented here, this is the most focused on the publishing side of the business, for obvious reasons.

Because the courses are run out of a literary agency, it’s no surprise that the focus here is on the novel. This fall, there are online courses in Starting to Write Your Novel; Edit and Pitch Your Novel; Write to the End of Your Novel; Writing YA and Children’s Fiction; and a Three-Month Novel Writing Course. (If you’re lucky enough to live in London, you can take advantage of their in-person six-month novel writing course!)

Curtis Brown has built their own learning platform, and they use teaching videos, weekly assignments, and an online forum. All of the courses provide exposure to the Curtis Brown agents; some of the courses allow for the opportunity to pitch the agents or to be selected as “most promising” and win a one-on-one consultation.

Gotham Writers: Gotham was founded in 1993 by two young writers in New York who wanted to teach creative writing. They slowly expanded their offerings in New York and then through online courses and books; now, over half of their workshops are conducted online. Because of the volume of classes that Gotham offers and because of their openness to hiring writers who are at the start of their careers, many up-and-coming writers serve as instructors at Gotham. It’s a great place to discover and work with the next great writers.

Gotham’s offerings are vast: as of this writing, 44 online courses were offered. These vary from traditional fiction, non-fiction and poetry workshops to specific craft topics like dialogue and character development. They also offer classes in screenwriting, playwriting, and songwriting, to name just a few. Gotham offers different levels of the classes as well, so you can stay in one track, but progress alongside fellow writers. Often, students develop close relationships in the online classes and branch off to form their own writing groups.

Gotham also offers one-on-one sessions, if you’d like to work privately with a member of their faculty. There are many options here, including book doctoring and MFA application assistance. You can also take a mini 3 hour course, or a six-to-eight week class, and it would just be you and the instructor.

GrubStreet:  The main creative writing school in Boston, GrubStreet also offers a wide array of online classes for those of us not fortunate enough to live in Beantown. Although some of their courses feature live meetings, many of them do not, so you don’t have to meet at a designated time. Scholarships are also available, so be sure to check out the scholarships page.

Like Gotham, GrubStreet has a deep roster of classes, with new classes starting continuously. Courses this fall include Novel Revision: A Crash Course; Intro to Fiction; Novel Builder; and 6 Weeks, 6 Stories. Most of Grub’s online classes last for six weeks, and courses are clearly identified by level. Each course description also includes comments from former students so you can get a sense of the strengths of each class and whether it will work for you.

Over the past twenty years, GrubStreet has built a strong community in Boston; their Muse & the Marketplace conference, held each spring, features sessions taught by writers as well as meetings with agents and editors. Their emphasis is on the practical and their belief in each student is high. As their mission statement says, “GrubStreet was founded on the core belief that everyone with a desire to write should be taken seriously, taught the craft at a high level, and pushed to produce their best work.”

One Story: One Story, the venerable literary magazine that publishes One Story and One Teen Story, also runs in-person and online writing classes. Workshops are run out of their Brooklyn office space; the courses available online cover different craft and publishing topics.

Recent online classes have included a dialogue class with editor Will Allison and a plot class with editor Ann Napolitano. One Story has also held online classes that focus on recent books by One Story editors. Examples include classes on Hannah Tinti’s recent novel The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley and Patrick Ryan’s short story collection The Dream Life of Astronauts.

This fall, One Story will offer “Hit Submit: Sending Your Work to Residencies, Agents, and Literary Magazines” on October 19–21 with Managing Editor Lena Valencia.

The online classes feature daily lectures, posted by the instructor, often with downloadable worksheets and exercises. The discussion boards are lively and well-attended; the instructors are also very present on the discussion boards, happy to answer questions and be part of the dialogue.

Sackett Street: Sackett was founded by the writer Julia Fierro, who began running workshops out of her kitchen over a decade ago. Sackett has grown tremendously and now runs workshops in New York and Los Angeles, as well as providing a robust online schedule throughout the year. Students come from all over the world, including New Zealand, Dubai, and Siberia.

Sackett’s online workshops allow students to submit work and receive critiques from others. One of the helpful benefits of the system that they use is that all student and instructor comments are collated, so the student receives one manuscript with all comments. Workshops meet once a week via Google Hangouts, and Sackett staff is always available for technical issues. Classes are kept small so that a virtual conversation is easy and beneficial to all.

This fall, Sackett has seven online classes still to start including two generative workshops: an eight-week session entitled “What Do I Have to Say?” led by Rachel Lyon and a 20-week Manuscript Generator led by Heather Aimee O’Neill. Generally, new classes begin every two months.