Are Writing Courses Really Worth It For Beginners?
You’ve been trying to teach yourself how to write a novel—listening to my podcast, watching YouTube videos, going to conferences, reading craft books, and practicing your skills with your own stories… But now you’re wondering, what’s next? How do I level up and become a better writer?
And while I always say that the best way to grow as an author is to START writing and learn from your own failures and mistakes, taking the time to educate yourself with a writing course (or two!) is a great way to hone your skills and keep those creative juices flowing. But these courses aren’t exactly cheap, and they usually involve a pretty big time commitment.
So when you’re spending both your time AND your money on something, you want to be as sure as you possibly can that you’re getting what you’re paying for, right?
In my opinion, a good fiction writing course should provide you with 5 very important things to be worth your time and money.
#1. A good writing course should provide you with more than just “tactics and templates.”
Yes, I know that everyone wants to get their hands on all the “tactics and templates” that will help them write a novel in the fastest way possible. But if that’s all a writing course offers you, that’s a deal breaker for me!
A good writing course should do more than simply provide you with “tactics and templates.” A good writing course should teach you about story theory, evoking emotions in readers, and the proven writing strategies that are required to write a compelling novel.
Because let’s be honest… All the techniques, templates, and tactics in the world won’t do you any good unless you know how to use your story to connect with your readers on a deeper level.
Tactics and templates won’t help you write a novel that works UNTIL you learn how to properly implement them—and why they’re so dang important in the first place!
They’re useless unless you know who your target reader is, what makes them love certain stories over others, and how to write a story that connects with them… And a good writing course will provide you with all that and more.
#2. A good writing course should provide you with more than just “learning” about writing
Now, hear me out on this. I know you’re looking for a writing course because you want to learn, develop, and hone a new skill. But a good writing course involves more than just learning about writing.
What I mean by this is that you shouldn’t just be bombarded with a bunch of information to read, videos to consume, and fill-in-the-blank templates to print off. You should be provided with a structured course that teaches you one thing at a time and then makes you practice that one thing before moving on to the next thing.
If the course doesn’t give you very clear instructions and prompts on when and what to practice, then you may end up feeling like you’re wasting your time.
The National Training Laboratory developed something called the “learning pyramid” that shows most students only remember 10% of what they read from textbooks but retain 75% of what they learn through practice.
This is why I always say that the best way to learn how to write a novel is by taking action—even if it’s messy action! You should always be applying the things you learn and getting feedback along the way so that you can go back and revise it again and again, as many times as necessary until you nail the concept.
As I tell my Notes to Novel students, the secret to writing a story that works is to 1) write a story that doesn’t work and then 2) fix it.
#3. A good writing course should provide you with a community of like-minded writers who share similar goals.
Most good writing courses will connect you with a community or network of like-minded writers who are pursuing similar goals. This type of insider access can be one of the biggest benefits of an online writing course because it provides you with endless resources!
Besides the obvious value and knowledge you’re gaining from the course itself, with a community, you’re also gaining a group of like-minded peers who are on the same journey as you are. And you should not underestimate the massive value this can add to your growth as a writer!
I see this firsthand every time I lead a new group of writers through my Notes to Novel course. We always have a very active private Facebook community that’s open during the live 8-week experience where members can keep in touch, ask questions, give each other advice, and root for success.
This is an especially valuable thing to consider if you’re considering a self-study program (which is what most writing courses are).
Having a course community allows you to ask questions about lessons you don’t fully understand, post your homework for peer review, get advice on what you’re writing, or just connect with other writers who get you.
And having these people to turn to in times of frustration, stress, and success can be worth the money spent to join the course alone.
#4. A good writing course should provide you with access to a mentor who can support you.
Now, let me start off by saying that the writing coaches, editors, and industry leaders you follow online—they are all people, too, with lives that exist outside of our computer screens. And for me personally, I wish I could support each and every one of you in a personal and direct way, but I simply can’t. It’s impossible, and I’m sure you understand that. That’s why access to me and my team is reserved for my clients and students!
And any good writing course will give you access to a mentor in one way or another. Each course will approach this a little differently… And it will massively vary depending on the teacher, the type of program, and the price point.
As many of you already know, I try to be very active with my podcast community and with the writers who reach out on social media or send me emails… But when you’re a client or a student of mine, that level of access is significantly higher.
In my LIVE coaching program (Notes to Novel), I host live Q&A sessions for 8 weeks as students go through the course material and work on outlining and writing the first drafts. Even in the self-study version of my course, where students take the course at their own pace, I still actively engage with them regularly via email and in the comments underneath each lesson.
I also have a membership for my students who have gone through the Notes to Novel course and need ongoing support. And I am even MORE involved with my students there—I host live events every week, so workshops, group coaching sessions, and Q&As, and things like that.
Plus, ask any of my past clients or students and they’ll tell you we message each other one way or another pretty regularly… even months and months after the program ends.
This level of mentorship is the single biggest reason why you should join any writing program—you’re getting access to the people who can give you a massive leg up and are truly committed to your success.
#5. A good writing course should feel like a “HECK YES!”
Now, even if the writing course you’re considering includes all four of those things—if it’s more than just “trainings and templates,” if it gets you into action (vs. just teaching you things), if it gives you access to a community and a mentor—and you feel super excited to enroll, then go for it! To me, that’s a heck yes.
But if the choice to enroll doesn’t feel that way, then it’s probably a heck no. And that’s okay! It’s super important to trust your gut on these things. And to be respectful of your budget, and things like that.
Now, as you probably already know, writing a novel—or any kind of creative art form—is NOT something you can just learn once and then magically become a forever expert on. It’s not something that happens overnight.
It’s important to actively study and put into practice new techniques and strategies. No matter how long you’ve been doing it.
I also want to say that you can ABSOLUTELY learn how to write a novel by following free tutorials and resources. Many of you, my podcast listeners, have done just that. And I see your messages and emails telling me that you finished your draft or you got an agent or whatever it is, and that’s SO COOL.
But if you are going to go that route, or if a writing course isn’t in the budget for you right now, then you have to also be ready to take MAD action on what you’re learning, too. You can’t just read or listen to the tutorials and resources you find online.
This is another reason why writing courses are a fantastic resource. They can can do is accelerate your path and give you a massive leg up that you wouldn’t otherwise have. So, I think it goes without saying that, YES. A good writing course can be totally worth it!