An overview of the best writing masterclasses

Embarking on a writing journey is both an art and a skill, and what better way to refine these abilities than through writing masterclasses? Masterclasses are advanced online courses led by accomplished writers, authors and industry experts that delve into the nuances of various writing genres and techniques. To qualify as a writing masterclass, these courses are taught by successful and renowned writing experts and boast high production quality, structured learning and interactive components like assignments and workshops. Beyond the basics, they offer exclusive insights, resources and a platform for networking with like-minded individuals. If you’re seeking skill development, community engagement and flexible learning, writing masterclasses might just be your gateway to honing your craft with experts who prioritise imparting their unique perspectives and experiences.

This post explains what writing masterclasses are and their benefits to the participants. Furthermore, it reviews the writing masterclasses offered by online learning platforms like Coursera, edX, FutureLearn, LinkedIn Learning, Skillshare and Udemy. Next, it analyses the writing masterclasses universities and academic publishers offer, including Springer Nature and the University of Sydney. Finally, it zooms in on the writing masterclasses available at MasterClass.com. So, read on to learn everything you need to know about writing masterclasses.

What is a writing masterclass?

A writing masterclass is an advanced online course that provides in-depth instruction and insights into various aspects of writing. To qualify as a writing masterclass, it should meet the following criteria:

  • Expert instructors: Masterclasses are taught by accomplished writers, authors or experts in writing.
  • Focused topics: Masterclasses often focus on specific writing genres, techniques or aspects, such as fiction writing, screenwriting, character development and memoir writing.
  • High production quality: Masterclasses feature high-quality video production, studio-recorded lessons, interviews and supplementary materials.
  • Assignments and workshops: Writing assignments or workshops are included in the course to apply the concepts learned in the lessons.
  • Exclusive insights and resources: Instructors share personal stories, anecdotes and unique insights into their writing processes. Participants gain access to supplementary materials, recommended readings and resources.
  • Structured learning: The course has a structured curriculum that guides participants through various aspects of writing.
  • Skill development: Participants can target their areas of interest and work on developing particular writing skills relevant to their goals.
  • Community and networking: Many online masterclasses provide a platform for participants to connect with other aspiring writers as an alternative to joining a writers’ group or working with a writing buddy.
  • Flexibility: Online masterclasses offer flexibility regarding when and where participants can access the materials.
  • Feedback and critique: Participants can receive feedback on their work from instructors or peers.
  • Inspiration and motivation: Exposure to successful writers and their insights can be inspiring and motivating.
  • Access to resources: Many writing masterclasses provide supplementary materials, resources and recommended readings that can further enrich a participant’s knowledge.
  • Professional development: A masterclass can serve as a form of professional development for those seeking a writing career.

What is the appeal of writing masterclasses?

Enrolling in an online writing masterclass can be appealing for several reasons. The benefits may include opportunities to learn from experts, develop specific skills, connect with a community, receive feedback and gain inspiration in a flexible and accessible format.

Where to find writing masterclasses online?

Learning platforms

Coursera

Coursera offers both free and paid courses. For paid courses, users can pay per course or subscribe to Coursera Plus for unlimited access to specific classes. As of 2023, Coursera Plus costs $59 per month or $399 per year, with a seven-day free trial. The top courses have thousands of positive reviews and are available in up to nineteen languages.

Importantly, Coursera courses are often more structured and academically oriented. Many are developed by professors from top universities and institutions, offering a more traditional educational experience. Although the Coursera courses are not masterclasses in name, their instructors are closely affiliated with the best universities and usually combine academic and industry expertise. Still, these courses deserve the status of writing masterclasses. For instance, David Wheeler, who worked with CBS and Universal as a director and cinematographer and leads Director of Media Sandbox at Michigan State University, teaches Write A Feature Length Screenplay For Film Or Television

Writing classes and courses from Coursera.com
Coursera writing courses and classes. Source: coursera.com

edX

edX follows a freemium model. Many courses are free, but you usually pay a fee if you want a certificate of completion. Full-degree programs typically have tuition fees associated with them.

edX offers courses, certificates and degree programs across various disciplines in partnership with universities and institutions. The courses cover various subjects, including science, business, technology, humanities and more.

Similarly to Coursera, edX does not offer classes specifically named writing masterclasses, but they meet the criteria of a masterclass. Namely, the edX courses and classes provide high-quality content and resources. Bestselling authors who are also academic instructors teach courses at edX. For instance, edX co-created How to Write a Novel: Structure & Outline with the University of British Columbia (UBC). One of the instructors is Nancy Lee, an Assistant Professor in Creative Writing at UBC and a bestselling author. Her work includes the novel The Age and the award-winning collection of short fiction Dead Girls, which won book of the year awards from multiple newspapers and magazines. 

Writing courses from EdX.com
edX writing courses. Source: edx.org

FutureLearn

Future Learn offers free sample course access and two payment models:

  1. A one-off payment for an individual course or class
  2. A monthly subscription, which, in December 2023, costs $27.99 per month.

The platform partners with universities and institutions globally, offering free and paid courses. Their courses cover diverse topics, including arts, business, health and more.

Future Learn’s writing courses can be considered masterclasses because they feature renowned writers and authors. Instead of one famous and skilled instructor, they include multiple experts. For instance, Start Writing Fiction, co-created with the Open University, features several established writers such as Louis de Bernières, Patricia Duncker, Alex Garland, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Tim Pears, Michèle Roberts and Monique Roffey.

FutureLearn.com courses
FutureLearn writing courses. Source: futurelearn.com

LinkedIn Learning

LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com) is a subscription-based online learning platform. As of December 2023, the platform offers a monthly subscription of £34.99 per month or £14.99 per month, paid annually. There is also a one-month free trial.

It offers a vast library of courses covering business, technology, creative skills and more. Courses on LinkedIn Learning are often short, focused and practical, covering a wide range of professional development topics.

Many writing classes and courses from LinkedIn Learning meet the criteria of a writing masterclass. Writing with Flair: How to Become an Exceptional Writer is a good example. The instructor, Shani Rani, has a proven writing expertise and has written for the Financial Times, the EconomistBloomberg News and the Wall Street Journal. The numbers support the quality of this masterclass — over 200,000 learners completed this course since 2018.

Skillshare

Skillshare operates on a monthly or annually paid subscription model. As of 2023, Skillshare costs $29 per month or $168 per year, with a thirty-day free trial. Content-wise, courses generally focus more on creative and practical skills, including art, design, writing and entrepreneurship. 

Renowned writers teach the most popular Skillshare writing masterclasses, and hundreds of thousands of students have completed them. For instance, Sabaa Tahir, a New York Times-bestselling author of YA fiction, teaches Writing Authentic Fiction: How to Build a Believable Character, a course taken by nearly twelve thousand people. Similarly, Simon Van Booy, a fiction and non-fiction author who has written for the New York Times, Financial Times, Washington Post and BBC, teaches The Writer’s Toolkit: 6 Steps to a Successful Writing Habit. As proof of the value this masterclass provides, almost forty thousand aspiring writers have taken this course so far.

Skillshare.com courses
Some of the most popular Skillshare writing masterclasses. Source: skillshare.com

Udemy

Udemy is an online courses marketplace. The platform often offers courses at a one-time purchase fee. Moreover, courses are frequently discounted, and there are sales promotions. Additionally, the platform offers an option to preview a course for free. 

Anyone can create and publish a course on Udemy, covering a wide range of topics. Therefore, courses vary widely in quality and depth. Industry professionals and experts often create them, but the content may not always be as structured or rigorous as on other platforms.

There are several courses on Udemy advertised as writing masterclasses. However, in contrast to other platforms, it may be sometimes difficult to verify who actually teaches them. For instance, the Technical Writing 101 Masterclass For Beginners course description states that ‘our instructors are experienced technical writers who will guide you through every step of your learning journey’ without further details. Thus, assessing what expertise and experience these masterclass instructors possess and, thus, what level and quality of insight they offer may be challenging. Nonetheless, the course has earned 4.5 out of 5 stars and 136 reviews.

Udemy.com writing courses and masterclasses
Udemy writing courses. Source: udemy.com

Universities and academic publishers

Springer Nature masterclasses

Springer Nature offers several academic writing masterclasses focused on writing and publishing scholarly journal articles. Nature Masterclasses are not available to individual researchers. Instead, scholars can complete the free course offering or try a free sample of any of our paid-for courses. Alternatively, a researcher can recommend these masterclasses to their institution so that Springer can contact them to discuss fees and access.

Springer Nature offers five masterclasses focused on writing. For instance, the Scientific Writing and Publishing Masterclass is for students and researchers in the natural sciences who are new to publishing or wish to refresh their skills. Thirty-six editors from Springer Nature journals teach this masterclass. They are published scientists and experienced editors who show how to:

  • develop academic writing skills
  •  gain an understanding of the editorial process and what journal editors look for
  •  learn best practices for submitting a paper and peer review.
Springer Nature writing masterclasses
Springer Nature writing masterclasses. Source: masterclasses.nature.com

University of Sidney

The University of Sydney offers a week-long online workshop called Creative Writing Course: Masterclass, delivered via Zoom or in-person. It costs A$510, and this course’s instructor is Mark Tredinnick, an award-winning writer and poet who has run a writing program at the University of Sydney for over a decade. Tredinnick’s masterclass promises to teach participants to:

  • grow beginnings towards completed works of literary art
  •  employ more sophisticated understandings of syntax, rhythm, metaphor and prosody
  •  target their writing to meet the demands of different genres and markets
  •  finish pieces of poetry and prose towards a level suitable for publication
  •  develop a sustainable creative writing practice.

University of Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh runs an online one-day Masterclass: Preparing for Publication course. This masterclass costs £80 and is primarily for fiction writers of longer works. Caroline Dunford, a writer published by Hachette and Fledgling Press and a teaching fellow at Edinburgh University, leads this course. Dunford specialises in spy, crime, thriller and YA fiction. In addition, this masterclass also includes a Q&A panel with some informal time for participants to meet with at least two Scottish industry professionals.

MasterClass

Access to MasterClass costs $180 for its annual subscription ($15 per month), which gives you unlimited access to all its classes. MasterClass offers 180+ classes across eleven categories.

Among them, there is a variety of writing masterclasses taught by renowned authors and professionals. The content of these classes covers different aspects of writing, such as storytelling, character development, screenwriting and more. Each class typically includes video lessons, downloadable materials and sometimes interactive assignments. Each masterclass is 2–5 hours, covering a broad range of topics, not just the craft of writing but also practical insights. Several world-renowned writers who do not need an introduction run writing masterclasses on this platform. The most famous names include Margaret Atwood, Dan Brown, James Patterson and Malcolm Gladwell.

Writing masterclasses offered by MasterClass. Source: masterclass.com

What is the next step after taking a writing masterclass?

After completing a writing masterclass, many aspiring authors look towards the next step in their writing journey — getting published. However, before a book can be published, it requires thorough editing to ensure it is polished and ready for readers. This is where editing services come in. Editing services provide a critical eye to help authors refine their work. Furthermore, depending on the type of editing service, they can help authors at different stages of the writing process.

Developmental editing

Developmental editing is the first step towards refining a manuscript. This type of editing focuses on the big-picture elements of the book, such as plot, character development, pacing, argument and overall structure. For instance, developmental editing is ideal for authors who have completed a first draft but need guidance on how to make their story stronger and more engaging.

Line editing

Line editing is the next step towards refining a manuscript. This type of editing focuses on the more minor details of the book, such as sentence structure, word choice, and overall flow. Furthermore, line editing can help bring out the authentic authorial voice and make the text more appealing to the target readers. Thus, line editing is ideal for authors who have a completed manuscript but need help making their writing more polished and professional.

Copyediting

Copyediting is the next step towards refining a manuscript. This type of editing focuses on grammar, punctuation, spelling and consistency. Therefore, this service is ideal for authors who have nearly completed a manuscript but need help ensuring their writing is error-free and consistent.

Proofreading

Proofreading is the final step towards refining a manuscript. It focuses on catching any final errors before the book goes to print. Proofreading is ideal for authors who are ready to publish their book and want to ensure their presentation is spotless.

Overall, editing services are an essential step towards getting published but also towards the book achieving success. For instance, studies show that 96% of Authors who have made $100,000 or more in a single year from book sales choose a professional to edit their books. This is because editors provide a critical eye to help authors refine their work and ensure their writing is polished and ready for readers. Depending on the type of editing service, they can help authors at different stages of the writing process, from developmental editing for first drafts to proofreading for final drafts. Therefore, by utilising editing services, authors can increase their chances of success in the competitive publishing world.

Final thoughts

In summary, finding the right platform for writing masterclasses is crucial in the vast landscape of online education. Platforms like Coursera, edX, FutureLearn, LinkedIn Learning, Skillshare and Udemy provide diverse options catering to different preferences and learning styles. Additionally, academic institutions such as Springer Nature and universities like the University of Sydney and the University of Edinburgh offer specialised masterclasses focused on scientific and creative writing. Therefore, whether you are an aspiring novelist, a scientific researcher or someone eager to refine your creative writing skills, these masterclasses present many growth opportunities. 

If you want to take your book manuscript one step closer towards publishing, contact me and ask me for a free sample edit (and remember to use my early bird discount). I am an experienced editorproofreading and editing non-fiction, academic and business books.

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Magda

I am an editor, indexer and a lifelong lover of literature with a PhD in literary history. I am an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP), a student member of the Society of Indexers and a vetted partner of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi).