Free creative writing course - getting started

Free Beginners Creative Writing Course – The Basics

Creative Writing, Free Writing Course

These are the revised and updated course notes from a free beginners creative writing course I created for adult learning.

The number one skill writers need (and you probably already have)

From the day we are born, we start to learn. Subconsciously we realise that when we cry our mother feeds us. We learn how to manipulate people; when we smile and gurgle we get attention.

As we grow older we start to learn more about social interaction; what makes people listen to us, what makes them happy and what makes them angry.

We learn these skills subconsciously (OK, maybe with a little prompting from our family).

As soon as we start to read we start to learn how to write. That does not mean we are any good at it but we are absorbing the ideas that certain patterns of words stimulate our mind and what makes a good story.

Think about when you learnt to drive. You may think that you started from scratch the first time you sat behind the wheel of a car. Yes, you needed to learn the mechanics of driving but you were probably unaware that a lot of the basic information was already in your head. Cars are driven on the left of the road (well, they are in my country), drivers slow down for corners and stop at junctions and red lights. The instructor teaches us how to make the car do these things.

To have absorbed ideas on how to write writers need to be readers. In my pre-teen years I devoured Anthony Buckeridge’s Jennings books and then progressed to Ian Fleming’s James Bond and onto Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein via numerous other authors including dipping into my mother’s collection of Agatha Christie’s titles.

You do not have to knuckle down and read the classics, although some of them are great reads. Read what you like and what interests you but also read everything you can, the good, the bad, and the awful.

Become a critic. 

Did the book grab your interest? Did you sit up until two in the morning turning the pages or did it languish unread for long periods? Ask yourself why. Is it the writer’s style, their arrangement of words that is jarring or simply that the story is boring?

There is a joke that some writers will read the back of a cornflake packet but there is some sense in this. The words on the packet are not just random jottings. A copyrighter did not simply scribble a few lines; they were drafted, thought about and edited until they expressed what is best about the product and enticed you to buy it.

If you have read a lot you will have subconsciously soaked up different authors’ styles and started to get to know what a reader wants. If you have not read much, start now or go and do something else that interests you.


Keep a reading journal. Did you enjoy the book — why? Make notes of the best phrases, descriptions and styles. Was it awful — why? If you decide a book is bad, become an editor. What makes it bad? As an exercise take a passage and rewrite it — can you improve it?

Using other writers’ work as inspiration, how they described settings and characters, the pace of their writing, is not plagiarism; it is part of the learning process.

I will admit to being a browser of charity shops and car boot sales. Five books for two pounds is not only a bargain but means I can make a random selection of titles away from my normal reading habits. If a book is awful return it to the charity shop or, if you want to save other readers from the pain of reading it, recycle it.

Remember, if you read books by established authors thinking, I’m not that good, I’ll never be that good, then you are on the road to being a writer. If you think, I can write as well as or better than that, then forget writing, take up knitting, golf, origami, anything but writing. Good writers all have their ghosts, their doubts, the voices that say, “Is this really any good?”

Free Creative Writing Course. The Basics. Become a reader

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