With the kids going back to school, you might be thinking of hitting the books yourself and brushing up on your writing skills. The ideal writing class would teach you important skills to help you hone your craft, inspire you to keep on writing, offer feedback and interaction with both instructor and fellow students (often it’s easier to learn when looking at others’ writing vs our own) and not break the bank.
A tall order? Nah, it’s much easier to find than you’d think.
I’m here to tell you about the best kept secret of the writing world: there are tons of amazing, high quality online writing workshops offered by small writing groups that you’ve never heard of
How does $35 for a month long writing workshop that you can take from the comfort of your home with lots of individual instructor feedback sound? There are workshops exactly like that happening right now all over the web but you’ve never heard of them because they are run by smaller writing groups and local chapters. Ever since I found out about this secret world of inexpensive, high quality writing workshops, I’ve become a serial class taker, soaking up as much writing knowledge as I can. And I speak fully from experience when I assure you that I have taken $25 month long online courses through these smaller sites that were just as good if not MUCH better than classes I pain $200 to $500 dollars for at places like Writer’s Digest University, Gotham Writer’s Workshop and even the Dramatists Guild.
How does it work?
Workshops are open to anyone with an internet connection. They happen over easily available platforms like Zoom, Groups.io email lists or simple web forums so you can take them from anywhere or catch up at any time of day. Most venues offer classes a la carte but also offer a yearly membership fee where you pay a single fee and get all the classes that they offer that year either for free or at a discounted rate. (For example, a single month long writing workshop at Romance Writers Online is $30 for non-members. But membership for the entire year is only $59.99 and you’d get all twelve workshops they offer for the year for that one price. As long as you were going to take more than two anyway, it’s a huge savings and STILL much cheaper than even a single class elsewhere!)
I have taken over two dozen of these workshops since I found out about this world and, while some instructors are better than others, I have taken some really amazing classes, ones so good I felt downright guilty for how little I paid for it. Lots of individual attention from the instructors, feedback from my fellow writers and great info to keep me in a writing mood. (I especially love Linnea Sinclair’s classes and ended up finding out about half these places because I was following her workshops around from venue to venue because they are That Good.)
What’s the trick? Why don’t more people know about these great cheap classes if they are so great, huh?
Honestly? I suspect it’s because of two big reasons.
The first is that a lot of these are offered by groups that are tied to a specific genre: crime, paranormal, and lots of romance groups, including some affiliated with RWA. If you aren’t writing something in one of those genres or not part of those professional organizations, I could see someone thinking that those classes aren’t for them. But the workshops themselves are almost entirely timeless writing craft info that applies to any genre and non-members are welcome. Things like tension, character creation, crafting dialog and understanding conflict are all lessons that apply not matter what you’re writing. And having taken a lot of these workshops personally, just because the host venue is themed around a certain genre doesn’t mean everyone taking the class is. You’ll find a good mix of people writing all sorts of stuff because craft is craft, no matter what you’re writing. So you’ll be able to workshop your MG fantasy in a class hosted by a RWA chapter just as easily as a fantasy novel in a workshop hosted by the thriller writers.
The other reason I think more people don’t know about these classes?
Because they are very hard to find. Unfortunately, there is no good centralized list of places that offer these classes. OnlineWritingWorkshops.com collects upcoming events but only if the teachers or venue submits them so it’s often not complete. Most sites have their own mailing list where they will notify you of upcoming classes but that doesn’t really help if you don’t know how to find their site in the first place.
To that end, I thought it would be worth it to compile a master list of places that offer inexpensive online writing workshops. I’ll get us started below with every place I know about but, if you know of more, please let me know in the comments and I will update accordingly! Visit the sites, see what’s available (though note that it’s near the end of the year so not everywhere will have their 2024 schedule up yet). Consider joining their mailing lists or checking back to see what classes they are offering in the future.
Most of all, check out the wide variety of past workshops to get a sense of all the good stuff you’ve been missing out on and bookmark these sites to check out for the future!
Inexpensive (usually well under $50 per workshop)
These are in no particular order.
Contemporary Romance Writers (has a TON of classes in different tracks)
Savvy Authors.com (also hosts their own yearly conference)
Inclusive Romance Project (replays are often free)
NJ Romance Writers (classes are only $10 each, $35 for the entire year)
The College of Felony and Intrigue (COFFIN) offers two tracks of monthly online workshops: Killer Instincts is taught by writing craft experts, and Murder One is taught by experts in the various fields pertinent to the writing of mystery, thriller, and suspense novels (police, intelligence, forensics, first responders, military, etc.)
When I started making this list, https://www.heartsthroughhistory.com/ was still hosting workshops but their site appears to be down at the moment I’m posting this? Also OKRWG does events but they are not currently listed on their website.
Mid-level (from $50 to $300 per workshop)
Your local community college probably offers a writing class or two with the benefit of direct instructor feedback, but they are usually pretty expensive and you don’t really know what you’re getting when it comes to the teacher. (Even if your local college doesn’t offer one, someone else’s local college may have one listed on Coursera if you want to see what’s out there.)
Then there are monthly membership sites like Masterclass and The Great Courses that have big name teachers and can be a little more affordable… depending on how many months of paying it takes you to make it through all the classes. The price for those is more nebulous since it’s time based. But those are mostly pre-recorded lessons with minimal interaction with either the instructor or fellow students. Not great when it’s that give and take that’s half the value of a writing class.
So let’s look instead at some mid-range places with classes that are more expensive than the ones above but still not that expensive but do have the other things we are looking for.
Writers Digest University https://www.writersonlineworkshops.com/ (Some classes under $100, has some big name teachers)
Whew. I’m stopping here because WordPress is choking on this post. What places would you add?