Free Online Courses for the Aspiring Writer

One of the fortunate aspects of being an aspiring writer today is the amount of free and open resources available to support your writing journey. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are certainly on the rise, and many offer chances to explore the craft of writing in a self-directed way. MOOCs are great for learners who are busy in their professional or personal lives and let aspiring writers explore topics like genre, plot, character development, point of view, perception, and offer opportunities for writing practice and peer feedback.

The following are five courses that are currently available to take:

Writing for Young Readers: Opening the Treasure Chest, Coursera.org, go at your own pace (Commonwealth Education Trust)

Co-facilitated by the Commonwealth Education Trust, this course uses a combination of video lectures, online reading, peer reviews, and video appearances from respected children’s writers. It allows learners to participate in a rich online learning environment with fellow writers, and focus is given to exploring cultural significance and boundaries, shaping writer identity, and receiving constructive feedback from peers for improvement.

Plagues, Witches, and War: The Worlds of Historical Fiction, Coursera.org, go at your own pace (University of Virginia)

This course offers a look at the genre and craft of historical fiction through video lectures, author seminars, and course readings. Though the course doesn’t specifically include writing assignments, it was designed to be useful for aspiring authors of the genre, and allows a global community of interested learners to communicate on active discussion boards.

Write What You Know, The Open University, open access

You don’t have to have lived an extraordinary life to write well, but you do have to develop above average powers of perception. This course offers reading and writing assignments that explore using personal history, memory, observation, and the senses as a way to view the everyday in a new light.

Start Writing Fiction, The Open University, open access

Focusing on character, setting, and genre, this open course is available to study at your own pace. The course uses material from The Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich to teach participants how to develop round characters, a firm sense of place, and how you might use genre to help achieve your story’s goals.

Writing and Reading Short Stories, MIT, open access

Originally taught as a seven-week course in 2012, the class materials, lecture notes, and assignments are now free for all to access. The class teaches story-writing by analyzing short stories and focusing on narrative technique, author notes, and offering suggested writing exercises.

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