Advanced Creative Writing

Read, write, workshop, revise, repeat.

Shmoop's Advanced Creative Writing course has been granted a-g certification, which means it has met the rigorous iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Courses and will now be honored as part of the requirements for admission into the University of California system.

Raise your hand if you want to be the next great American novelist.

Now, raise your hand if you want to be the next J.K. Rowling.

The next Shakespeare?

Nice. We like a student with lofty goals. And while we can't promise we'll secure your place in the writing hall of fame, we can promise we'll equip you with the tools you need to get started. Advanced Creative Writing is a semester-long course that teaches you the ins and outs of writing fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and drama. Yup—drama. Because you so need more of that in your life.

Unlike your average creative writing course, we're incorporating speculative fiction (that's sci-fi, fantasy, and horror) into this Common Core standards-aligned course. Whether you want to pen a personal essay that would inspire Joan Didion or a sci-fi epic that would inspire HBO to scramble for the TV rights, we've got you covered.

By the end of the course, you'll be able to

  • craft believable and compelling characters for any genre.
  • write effective and realistic dialogue for your oh-so-believable characters to say.
  • recognize the differences between fiction and nonfiction.
  • understand what makes poetry a unique art form.
  • understand what makes dramatic writing a genre worth studying—on page and onstage.
  • write your own pieces of short fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama, to be wrapped up in a nice, shiny portfolio at the end.

You'll write. You'll read (to inspire yourself to write). You'll revise. And you'll come out of this course with a better understanding of how to write well, which is a lesson every writer-to-be needs to learn.

You can thank us later. Preferably in the acknowledgements of your first novel.

Unit Breakdown

  1. Advanced Creative Writing - The Big Short

    Since we're not expecting you to write a novel in 90 days, short stories are a common form in this course. Unit 1 gives you a quick run-down on how to write short fiction specifically, with an emphasis on mystery as a genre. You'll read some classic mysteries and try your hand at writing short story sketches, all the while acquainting yourself with methods of characterization, scene setting, and dialogue-smithing. You'll also get acquainted with writers' workshops—two words no creative writer can afford to live without hearing.

  2. Advanced Creative Writing - Move Over, Prose

    Have you ever been so salty about something that you're like, "Man, I wish I could write a poem about this"? We don't blame you. Salt is a powerful motivator. And in Unit 2, you'll learn all the poetic devices you need to put those feelings into words—some rhyming, some not. You'll read a ton of professional poetry (or proetry, as we call it) to inspire poetic writing of your own. From the sonnet to the haiku, you'll have a crash course in a ton of different verses, meters, and rhyme schemes. Basically, you'll get everything you need to become a great poet—minus a beret.

  3. Advanced Creative Writing - Real Life is as Strange as Fiction

    In Unit 3, things get personal as you venture into the world of narrative essay writing. Nonfiction might be a genre you associate with textbooks and articles, but we'll prove to you that the nonfiction narrative is just as creatively inspired as the most fantastic fantasy novel. You'll study essays from greats like Joan Didion and George Orwell, and you'll learn how to sketch your own personal experiences into nonfiction pieces worth reading. Because, despite what Facebook might tell you, it actually does take some skill to make your personal life interesting to others.

  4. Advanced Creative Writing - A Fable, an Allegory, and a Satire Walk Into a Bar

    We're taking a turn for the unusual in Unit 4, where you'll learn how to write fables, allegories, and satire. Yep: You'll be writing with inspiration from Aesop and Amy Sedaris. Sure, fables might be kind of an old-fashioned writing form on the surface, but there's a lot of creative impact in these bite-sized little gems (also a lot of talking animals). You'll learn how to shape ideas into allegories, to make your writing extra deep. And you'll learn how to write satirical pieces without making people feel super bad about themselves.

  5. Advanced Creative Writing - Speculation Nation

    In our speculative fiction unit, you'll try your hand at science fiction, horror, and fantasy stories of your own. You'll learn that there's a lot more to this kind of writing than putting a dragon in the middle of a scene and calling it a day. Speculative fiction writing is often wrapped around a bunch of metaphors and allegories, and you'll learn how to make the most of imagery and figurative language as you write speculative fiction of your own. With greats like Neil Gaiman providing you inspiration, we're sure you'll be up to the task in no time.

  6. Advanced Creative Writing - Please be Dramatic

    We end the course with a dramatic flourish—literally, since this is the drama writing unit. You'll read a bunch of one-act plays and scenes to learn the basics of scriptwriting, with a particular emphasis on theater. Blocking, you'll discover, is more than a function you can use on Instagram when your weird ex annoys you; it's also one of the many essential technical elements that all dramatic writers need to include in their writing. At the end of the unit, you'll do a quick little wrap-up of every kind of writing you learned in the course, by putting your best pieces into a portfolio.

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