Free Online Writing Courses

Whether you’re currently writing professionally or still hoping to break into the field, formal writing courses can help you hone your skills. If money is an issue for you, or you don’t have the time for campus-based courses, there are plenty of experts in the field that offer free online writing courses.  Here’s some information about resources for free online writing courses.

Steven Barnes UCLA Writing Course

Steven Barnes, an award-winning science fiction writer and screen writer, has made his UCLA Introduction to Screenwriting class available to the public.  While the course is labeled Introduction to Screenwriting, Barnes makes the distinction in his open remarks, his belief that “..in general, writing is writing. In fact, in order to understand how to write for the screen–large or small–one must first have an intimate understanding of the structure and function of story.”  In addition to being a writer, Barnes is a martial-arts and yoga instructor, a creative consultant and a human performance technician.  He incorporates several self-help concepts from his other courses into the UCLA writing course.  This is an interesting and challenging approach to writing, and comes highly recommended.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Writing and Reading Short Stories includes detailed course note from the instructor, available online or for download.  Class topics include Developing Story From Incident and Life, Exercises in Character Creation, and What Is A Plot and How Can It Be Constructed.  The course comes in 16 different sections, and can be taken at the student’s pace. While only course notes are available through MIT, several different exercises are offered that will be useful to writers. Note: The reading material for this course, The Art of the Short Story, by Dana Gioia and R.S. Gwynn will need to be purchased.

The Open University Openlearn Learning Space

The Open University, a leading distance learning source in England, has two good basic free online writing courses for the creative writer:  Start Writing Fiction, and Write What You Know.  Both courses provide good basic tools for the budding writer. The Openlearn Learning Space provides a basic course outline and exercises for each course topic. Start Writing Fiction provides a basic primer on creating characters, settings and using different genres.  Writing What You Know provides a primer for using life experiences in fiction, building a believable world, and using senses and memory in the creative process.  While both courses are self-taught, the exercises provided should help sharpen a writer’s basic creative skills.  Both classes are also available as a true online writing course, with feedback and instruction, for a fee.