The Best Online Writing Workshops: How to Succeed in Creative Writing Workshops

Sean Glatch  |  December 20, 2022  | 

Creative writing workshops can take your writing to the next level. The chance to experiment with your writing in a community is invaluable, and getting live feedback on your work will propel you through your writing career.

That said, there are plenty of writing workshops where writers get less than what they bargained for. Finding the right group of writers to workshop with is a slow process—no different than dating or finding a therapist. Where can you find the best online writing workshops for you?

Consider this your go-to guide for navigating the internet of adult writing workshops. We’ll talk about different workshopping models and how they might work for you, and we’ll also look at how to get the most from your fiction, nonfiction, and poetry writing workshops.

But first, we ought to define this particularly nebulous aspect of creative writing education. What is a writing workshop?

Looking for the best online writing workshops?

If you’re looking for the best online writing workshops, look no further. Writers.com has been running online creative writing workshops since 1995. View our upcoming calendar to view the best writing workshops for you!

You can also navigate our courses by category:

What is a Writing Workshop?

People use the phrase “writing workshop” differently in different contexts, although it’s a rather vague term that writers use inconsistently. Here are some common ways you might see the term used:

  • Online, a workshop is a complete writing course, including both lecture materials and opportunities for feedback from fellow students.
  • In universities and MFA programs, a workshop is the aspect of a writing workshop where students give feedback to one another to improve their writing overall.
  • At some online writing schools, a workshop is specifically a single-day Zoom-based workshop.

That said, “writing workshop” is a rather nebulous term that has a lot of applications. A workshop is any space where writers come to grow as writers. In short, a writing workshop is an open-ended term that describes different styles of creative writing education.

What is a writing workshop? An open-ended term that describes different styles of creative writing education.

For the purposes of this article, we are addressing multi-week online writing classes, as well as single-day webinars that have a workshopping component. Basically, we’re looking at any type of online learning space where students share their work, receive feedback, build new craft skills, and engage with a writing community.

Here’s what online writing workshops might look like, as well as tips for finding the best ones!

12 Things to Look For In the Best Online Creative Writing Workshops

Are you thinking about enrolling in a creative writing workshop? The best online writing workshops have these 12 things in common:

1. The Best Online Writing Workshops Have Well Respected Teachers

At most online writing schools, the instructor is the person who sets the syllabus, writes the workshop, and gives feedback to students. As a result, a good writing teacher makes all the difference in online writing workshops.

You want to be excited to learn from an instructor.

In addition to being a great writer and teacher, a great workshop instructor will be community-oriented, empathetic, and capable of tailoring their teaching to your writing needs.

Before you enroll in a writing workshop, do some research on the writer teaching it. Most professional writers and teachers will have a website, where you can peruse their work, degrees, and teaching history.

Some questions you might ask:

  • Does the instructor have a terminal degree? (M.A., M.F.A., Ph.D., etc.)
  • What do prior students say about this instructor?
  • Does the instructor have a significant publication history?

On terminal degrees—they’re not necessary for running good creative writing workshops. But, they do indicate a certain level of craft training and teaching experience. Many terminal degree programs require students to learn how to teach creative writing. While you don’t need an M.F.A or Ph.D. to publish or teach writing, they certainly help.

Most importantly: are you excited about this instructor’s work? Do you like it? Do you connect with it? You want to be excited to learn from an instructor. They’re not just teaching craft, they’re teaching you their approach to crafting good writing.

2. The Best Online Writing Workshops Have a Clear Description

Enrolling in creative writing workshops involves a certain level of trust. If you haven’t taken a class with the organization before, you might not know how they run their classes or what you’ll get out of working with them. Writing programs should honor their side of the bargain by telling you exactly what you’ll get from their writing workshops.

Writing programs should honor their side of the bargain by telling you exactly what you’ll get from their writing workshops.

The descriptions for online writing workshops should tell you the following:

  • What will you learn and write during the workshop?
  • Who’s teaching the workshop, and what have they accomplished?
  • How will your time be spent while taking the workshop?
  • Who is this for? At what stage of your writing should you be in?

It helps to know what you’re looking for from your workshop. If you have certain goals in mind or ways you want to grow as a writer, be clear about these goals, and don’t spend money on workshops that simply won’t fit your needs. (That said, it can also be fun to enroll in random workshops and learn new writing skills—you’d be surprised what you’ll learn from a class that has nothing to do with your projects.)

If the description of the writing workshop aligns with your goals and needs, it should be a good fit. And, if you’re on the fence, it never hurts to ask the program administrators before you enroll. They’ll be glad to hear from you!

3. The Best Online Writing Workshops Prioritize the Student

Creative writing workshops place your experience front and center. The goal of a workshop is to expand your learning, work, and writing journey. If a writing course doesn’t promise to uplift your writing life, why would you take it?

If a writing course doesn’t promise to uplift your writing life, why would you take it?

A good writing school will acknowledge the risk involved in taking an adult writing workshop. Since online schools can’t confer college credit, and since you probably haven’t interacted with the workshop instructor before, you’re spending your time and money on a program that you haven’t used before.

So, why wouldn’t that school prioritize you? You want to be confident that your writing, your creativity, and your time will be valued, otherwise you’re wasting your money on an experience you hardly learned from.

Check to see if the program itself has a student promise before you enroll in their writing workshops. If it doesn’t seem like the school will center your learning and growth as a writer, don’t take the risk—there are plenty of other schools to choose from.

prioritizing the student in adult writing workshops

4. The Best Online Writing Workshops Give Constructive Feedback

The feedback you receive in creative writing workshops will often prove the most valuable aspect of the course. Because most workshops are run by writers with Masters or Doctoral degrees, they’ve spent a fair amount of time giving and receiving feedback in competitive and community settings. As a result, they know a ton about the craft skills that make for good literature, and they know how to transmit those skills to their students.

Most importantly, a good writing instructor will tell you what you’re doing well in your writing.

The feedback you receive in online writing workshops will vary by the scope of the workshops and the backgrounds of the instructors. You might receive feedback on:

  • Where the writing is effective
  • Word choice that isn’t clear to the reader
  • Ideas that can be expanded or shortened
  • Sentences that are too long or too short
  • Corrections in spelling and grammar
  • Opportunities to improve the writing structure
  • Feedback related to the elements of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry

Most importantly, a good writing instructor will tell you what you’re doing well in your writing. When you write a really great simile, have well developed characters, or find a moment of deep insight, your instructor will highlight this.

While it’s good to know what needs to be improved, writers can’t begin to improve until they also know what works in their poems and stories. This is how you build a foundation for good writing: start with what works, and sculpt from there. Writing workshops are the best spaces to build this foundation!

5. The Best Online Writing Workshops Focus on Craft

The best online writing workshops are centered around the craft of writing. Unlike English and composition classes, which focus on grammar, literacy, and the mechanics of language, creative writing workshops look at using these mechanics to write compelling, effective stories. And, in a writing workshop, you don’t just use the rules, you get to break them!

In a writing workshop, you don’t just use the rules, you get to break them.

The craft elements you focus on will vary based on the kind of course you’re in. If you’re taking poetry writing workshops, for example, you’ll focus on employing effective literary devices and studying different forms of poetry.

Likewise, in novel writing workshops, you might study elements like plot, point of view, and the art of storytelling.

Good writing workshops will break down great literature into the components that make it great, allowing you to read like a writer and employ these craft skills in your own work. And, learning the craft of creative writing helps you with everyday tasks, like sending emails or expanding your vocabulary.

6. The Best Online Writing Workshops Respect Your Creativity

The workshop is a space of unfettered creativity. Writers get to share their ideas, their experiences, and their creative, collaborative minds in the same space, making workshops the place to experiment with ideas. Of course, this is only possible if the workshop respects your creative authority.

We don’t “earn” the title of “writer,” we simply are writers, and a good writing course will uphold your integrity and creative vision, no matter where you are in your writing journey.

What does respect for your creative authority mean? It means that no one judges, criticizes, or condemns you for your writing and ideas. The best writing workshops will:

  • Help you explore your ideas, rather than impose ideas upon you.
  • Teach you the ropes of writing craft without telling you what to write.
  • Show you what you’re already doing well in your work.
  • Point out opportunities where the writing can be expanded, restructured, or clarified—in ways that help you carry out your creative vision.

Most importantly, this is true no matter how “new” you are to creative writing workshops. Whether you’ve submitted the first poem you’ve ever written or your thousandth, you deserve the same level of respect as everyone else in the room. We don’t “earn” the title of “writer,” we simply are writers, and a good writing course will uphold your integrity and creative vision, no matter where you are in your writing journey.

In a writing workshop, you may encounter many different ideas, but you also encounter the freedom to accept or reject those ideas. It’s your writing. You get the final say!

7. The Best Online Writing Workshops Create Community

What is a writing workshop without community? Writing can be a lonely practice, but a writing community makes all the difference. The best creative writing workshops foster a sense of community. In fact, many writers have come away from our courses with friends and writing partnerships that last for years and years!

A writing community can give you the motivation to create, the license to experiment, and the potential to learn even more about the craft of writing.

A writing community can give you the motivation to create, the license to experiment, and the potential to learn even more about the craft of writing. Because we all have very different literary backgrounds, we all have studied different authors and elements of the writing craft. When we write in a community, we naturally share what we’ve learned with one another, creating a culture of growth and inspiration.

Additionally, a strong writing community creates valuable feedback. When you write alongside people who know and enjoy your work, it is much easier to give and receive feedback, especially when these writers know what you’re trying to accomplish.

Many well-known authors throughout history have been a part of valuable writing communities, such as The Beat Poets, Stratford-on-Odeon, and these famous writing groups. Writing doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and when you enroll in community-oriented online writing workshops, you foster the kinds of relationships and connections that can sustain your literary career.

community in creative writing workshops

8. The Best Online Writing Workshops Motivate You to Write

Because writing is often solitary, it can be hard to motivate yourself to get work done. Taking online writing workshops pushes you to put words on the page.

Sometimes, the biggest barrier is beginning, but creative writing workshops will spark your writing practice.

For one thing, these classes cost money, and when you’re spending money to write and learn about writing, you’re more likely to actually write and learn about writing.

But, it’s not just the monetary transaction that motivates writers in adult writing workshops. Your course might provide you with:

  • Creative writing prompts
  • Daily journaling assignments
  • Helpful revisions
  • Inspirational readings
  • Ideas to combat writer’s block
  • Different approaches to writing

Some writing workshops are even designed to motivate you, such as our class Write Your Novel! The Workshop With Jack. Sometimes, the biggest barrier is beginning, but creative writing workshops will spark your writing practice.

9. The Best Online Writing Workshops Jumpstart a Writing Habit

Because writing workshops require you to submit work every week, students will have to set up a consistent writing practice in order to meet these deadlines. Not only does this prepare you for your life as a published author (where deadlines are less flexible), but this also helps you master a key aspect of the writing life: a consistent writing habit.

To make the most of creative writing workshops, try to find time to write every day.

Writing every day isn’t just good advice, it’s essential to building a writing life. Writers who want to build careers out of their work, or at the very least publish books some day, will have to dedicate time every day to their work. When you engage with language each day, you build the skills necessary to write good books, and you also keep yourself creatively motivated. This is true especially for the days that are hardest to write on.

Of course, most of us lead very busy lives. How do we steal time as artists? Here are some ideas:

  • Write with your morning coffee.
  • Keep a journal on your phone during work and lunch breaks.
  • Write on your commute to and from work. If you’re driving, keep an audio journal, where you write by speaking into your phone’s recorder.
  • Write on your phone while running on the treadmill.
  • Put pen to paper while taking a bath.
  • Journal for 15 minutes before you go to bed.

These ideas won’t work for everyone, and it all depends on your schedule and lifestyle. Nonetheless, to make the most of creative writing workshops, try to find time to write every day. It’s best to write at the same time every day, but if your schedule doesn’t allow this, sneak time wherever you can. Balancing a career, a family, and a writing life isn’t easy, but when the work calls, you’ll find time to answer!

10. The Best Online Writing Workshops Broaden Your Literary Horizons

As writers, it’s important for us to know our literary history. Now, this doesn’t mean you need to read every piece of classic literature to start writing—in fact, many books published in the 19th century could never be published today.

If you want to publish your own work some day, it’s important to know what else is being published today.

But it does mean knowing the craft skills that went into both classic and contemporary books. It especially means having a sense of the contemporary literary zeitgeist. If you want to publish your own work some day, it’s important to know what else is being published today.

The best creative writing workshops broaden your literary horizons. When you read classic literature, you get a sense of the foundations of contemporary writing, and the ways that writers before us expanded the possibilities of literature as a whole. When you read contemporary literature, you get a sense of today’s publishing landscape and what people are looking for in the writings of today.

(If you plan to publish books by querying literary agents, reading contemporary work is crucial, because you need to have good comps in your query letter. Comps are books that have been published recently and are similar, in some ways, to your own.)

Now, this doesn’t mean you need to write like other authors. In fact, far from it. It’s better that you learn to write like yourself, because your most valuable asset as a writer is your voice. But, when you expand your literary horizons, you engage with literature and make decisions on what you do and don’t want to do in your work.

What do you like to read? What do you want to never read again? The more you read, the more you hone your own voice as a writer. Great writing workshops introduce you to literature that provokes these kinds of questions.

11. The Best Online Writing Workshops Provide a Creative Outlet

One of the best reasons to take online writing workshops is that they give you an outlet for feelings and creativity.

Writing workshops are a great supplement to a healthy writer’s life.

This is the result of the various reasons listed above for taking writing classes. By building community, creating a writing practice, and engaging with literature, you inevitably nourish your creativity. In doing so, you nurture a healthy space to explore your ideas and emotions—an essential aspect of any writer’s life.

Now, even the best online writing workshops can’t replace the benefits of therapy. We’re not saying you should ditch your therapist for a Writers.com class. But we are saying that writing workshops are a great supplement to a healthy writer’s life, because they create safe spaces for you to experiment with your work and explore your emotions freely on the page.

This is true even for writers of genre fiction or persona poetry. It’s true for participants in fiction writing workshops and memoir writing workshops. We gravitate to writing in part for its emotional release, and a great online class in creative writing will nurture this release. Between the prompts, community, and writing habits that a creative writing workshop fosters, you’re sure to come away from your workshop with renewed emotional health.

what is a writing workshop?

12. The Best Online Writing Workshops Provide Next Steps

The best creative writing workshops are the beginning of your writing life, not the end. When your workshop ends, you should come away with new ideas for writing, new publication opportunities to pursue, and new friends and mentors to nurture your writing journey.

The best creative writing workshops are the beginning of your writing life, not the end.

Throughout the workshop, you’ll find new opportunities for continuous growth. You might find a list of literary journals to submit to, new readings to stimulate your writing, further creative writing workshops to attend, or simply the emails and social media accounts of students you really enjoyed working with.

If you’re ready to move on to the next level of your writing, your instructor will provide you with next steps. And, if you want to learn more outside of the classroom, contact the instructor about this. We’re always excited by writers who want to keep learning and learning!

The Best Online Writing Workshops

Of course, we’re partial to our own workshops at Writers.com. Since 1995 we’ve offered the best fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and book writing workshops around the internet, inspiring thousands of writers to embark on their writing journeys, find their voices, and get published.

We offer both single-day webinars and multi-week workshops in all genres, and also offer opportunities for private coaching with our instructors. If you’re looking for the best, you’ve already found it. Drop us a line if you have any questions!

Check out our full schedule of upcoming classes here.

You can also navigate our courses by category:

In addition to Writers.com, here are some online writing workshops that we’ve found offer fantastic creative writing education:

In Creative Writing Workshops…

You get to find great literature, meet fellow scribblers, build a writing habit, and, most importantly, take your writing journey to the next level. Why wait? Enroll in an online writing workshop today!

Posted in:

Sean Glatch

Sean Glatch is a poet, storyteller, and screenwriter based in New York City. His work has appeared in Ninth Letter, Milk Press,8Poems, The Poetry Annals, on local TV, and elsewhere. When he's not writing, which is often, he thinks he should be writing.

2 Comments

  1. Patricia Mabe on December 20, 2022 at 7:55 pm

    Thanks for the information it’s really enlightening

  2. bonnie Markham on April 23, 2023 at 12:30 pm

    So glad I found this writing site. I have more exploring to do. I’m sure I will be back.

Leave a Comment