I’m not a writer by training. I completed my bachelor’s and master’s degrees to become a pediatric speech-language pathologist. Growing up, I wasn’t a fan of my English classes. While I loved reading, learning to diagram a sentence seemed ridiculous. Now that I want to become an author, I need some help developing my writing craft. As a mother of two, the time and cost of going back for an MFA aren’t feasible.
There are numerous craft books, but I learn better in a more active environment. I bought books on writing or plotting with the best intentions, but they would sit on the shelf unopened. If instead, I signed up for a Zoom course or listened to a podcast on a walk, then I was much more likely to take in some useful information.
So, with that in mind, I give you my favorite go-to podcasts, online writing courses, and YouTube videos:
Fiction Writing Made Easy by Savannah Gilbo
If you have fifteen to twenty minutes, you have time for Fiction Writing Made Easy, by Savannah Gilbo. As a developmental editor, book coach, and certified Story Grid Editor, Gilbo has the knowledge and expertise to help beginning writers learn the ropes. She guides the writer through each podcast in a straightforward and organized manner. Topics range from novel basics such as finding the shape of your story and how to create memorable characters, to more genre-specific topics on writing better love triangles and scenes every horror novel needs. Gilbo also provides practical writing exercises and step-by-step instructions on her website, Savannahgilbo.com. Listening to her podcast is like getting an honorary MFA for free.
The Creative Penn Podcast For Writers by Joanna Penn
Are you an overachiever with an hour or so to spare? First, share your secret with the rest of us. Then, dive into The Creative Penn Podcast For Writers. Host, Joanna Penn, covers writing basics, technological advances, and their impact on publishing, pitching, and researching. Every writer will find something useful in her episode library. Take a look at her website for all sorts of writing resources.
Are you looking for a more official learning opportunity but don’t have the time or money for a full-out college course or an MFA program? StoryStudio Chicago is my favorite place to take an in-person class or learn online with other talented authors. This past summer, I was selected to participate in their week-long StoryBoard program. It was a wonderful crash course in novel basics paired with peer review and a workshop of twenty pages of my current work-in-progress.
Our group was led by Julie Iromuanya, Director of Undergraduate Studies for Creative Writing and Assistant Professor at The University of Chicago. This was easily the best money I’ve spent on improving my writing skills. Just last night, I attended a two-hour Zoom course, a Master Class on Structuring Your Story with Julia Philips. StoryStudio offers both ongoing and one-time online courses. I highly encourage you to take a look at their offerings at Storystudiochicago.org.
George Saunders on YouTube
“You don’t have to be perfect right now.” This quote, by 2017 Man Booker Prize author, George Saunders, is my favorite mantra. If you are going to learn, you might as well learn from the best, and Saunders is on the shortlist. You only need seven minutes to watch this captivating YouTube video of him talking about the magic of great writing. When you are finished, go down the YouTube rabbit hole with his other videos on writing and craft. At the very least, you will leave with a new sense of purpose. For print examples of his engaging prose, take a gander at this collection in The New Yorker. Sometimes, the best way to learn is to immerse yourself in the creations of the masters.
If you like the idea of YouTube videos, this list compiled on Sparkpress has their Ten Best YouTube Channels for Writers. My favorite, as a self-proclaimed lover of snarkiness, is the creatively titled Terrible Writing Advice.
Invest in yourself. You’re worth it.
Take a little time to invest in yourself. We all have the capacity to become better writers, no expensive and time-consuming MFA required. All we need is guidance, support, and a little push in the right direction.
About The Writer: Jill Robinson is a wife, mother of two, athlete, speech-language pathologist, and lover of all animals. She loves the outdoors and singing off-key in the car. Writing brings her peace. You can follow Jill on her author blog, Instagram, and Twitter.