Never stop learning. This is as true for writers as it is in every discipline in life. Make sure that your calendar includes scheduled learning and growth time. This does not need to be costly. There are now so many great free resources on the Internet – including for education.
We found nine awesome courses to get you started, covering everything from generating story ideas, plotting your novel, creating unforgettable characters, and editing your manuscript. Dig in.
Write Your First Novel
– Michigan State University
This four-week course, run by Michigan State University on the Coursera platform, was voted one of Inc.com’s 30 Most Popular Online Courses of 2020. Over 80,000 people have enrolled for it since its inception. In week one, you will look at creating the idea for your novel and get feedback on your idea from five of your peers. In the second week, you will create your character profiles and write an outline for the first chapter. Week three is where the rubber actually hits the road and you write your first chapter. By the end of week four, the idea is to have the second chapter complete as well.
Creative Writing: The Craft of Plot
– Wesleyan University
Wealeyan University runs this course also on the Coursera platform. It has had over 200,000 people signing up for it online and has a 4.7 average rating (out of 5) from over 4,000 ratings. “In this course aspiring writers will be introduced to perhaps the most elemental and often the most challenging element of story: plot. We will learn what keeps it moving, how it manipulates our feelings, expectations, and desires. We will examine the choices storytellers make to snag our imaginations, drag them into a fictional world, and keep them there. We will learn how to outline and structure a plot, discuss narrative arc, pacing and reversals and reveal the inevitable surprise: connecting the beginning, middle and end.”
Creative Writing: The Craft of Character
– Wesleyan University
Good characters carry a story to places that plot and structure alone cannot. How do you build multi-dimensional, vivid, and unforgettable characters? This course studies the choices a writer makes to bring all characters to life on the page. You will carry out written exercises to develop a variety of writing and pre-writing techniques and to create a variety of characters. You will learn how to use your own life experiences, and the people you know. You will develop inner (thoughts and feelings) and outer (appearance, habits, behavior) lives for your characters and see how that can lead to richer and more interesting stories.
How to Plot a Novel Using the 3-Act Story Structure
In ten short lessons, Kristen Kieffer, author of Build Your Best Writing Life, takes you through the foundation of every good story; solid structure. In this course, Kristen first teaches you how to identify the parts of the 3-Act Story Structure. You’ll then go through: How to use the 3-act story structure to build to an effective climax, pacing your story correctly, setting up internal shifts, and creating conflict organically using the 3-act story structure.
Writing What you Know
– Open University
How do you turn every day occurrences and the seemingly mundane details of life into compelling narrative? This free course will help you to develop your perception of the world about you and enable you to see the familiar things in everyday life in a new light. You will also learn how authors use their own personal histories to form the basis of their work.
Endless Story Ideas
– Creative Writing Now
Where do story ideas come from? How do some people seem to have an endless firehose of ideas? In this course, you’ll you’ll have those questions answered as you learn how to generate new writing ideas whenever you need them. You’ll also generate lots of story ideas during the course that you can go on to develop in the weeks and months ahead.
How to Write a Novel: Edit & Revise
– Edx University of British Columbia
This course, offered by the Edx University of British Columbia on Coursesity, is part of a series on writing a novel and looks at an often ignored part of the process – editing and revising your work. Some of the areas covered include how to identify and resolve common issues, how to select your most dependable readers, how to deal with negative feedback, how to get ready for agency and editor submissions, what agents look for in a manuscript and creating a synopsis.
Writing and Editing: Drafting
– University of Michigan
The blank page. How to face it with courage. This third course in the “Good with Words: Writing and Editing” series will give you a number of strategies to help with what is often the most intimidating, even paralyzing part of the writing process: getting started. You’ll learn about the “planning fallacy” and “temptation bundling.” You’ll get a chance to experiment with “freewriting” and “writing before you are ready.” You will also get access to a wide range of books and other resources you can use even after you finish the course.
The Mechanics of Writing Dialogue
What makes dialogue magical? How do you convey the chemistry between two people using conversation that seems natural and unforced? In this course, editor Tracy Gold will teach you everything you need to know about writing dialogue. You’ll learn how best to punctuate dialogue and use quotations marks correctly, how to mix dialogue up using action beats and tags, how to correctly indicate interrupted dialogue, how to make speech sound more natural and distinct, and the differences between style guides with a focus on the Chicago Manual of Style.