The price tag for writing groups and classes
It definitely adds up, but it's also made the biggest impact on my growth as a writer.
I wrote previously about joining paid writing groups and classes but decided to do a more updated one. Today’s newsletter goes over the price and value of these writing classes and groups. Three of the four are paid.
If you’re searching for classes and writing groups to help improve your skills and take part in a community, I hope my experience gives you a better idea of what to expect and how much it costs.
In order to transform myself into a one-day published author, I knew I had to take writing classes. At some point, I knew I’d have to pay, which I was okay with. The problem was, which writing class? What group? And how much?
When I first started my journey, I chose the free or very inexpensive route to learn, such as:
Watching YouTube videos from authors and editors (free)
Signing up for a month of Coursera ($59, half off on Black Friday)
A few one-off webinars and classes (roughly $79 to $99)
Purchasing books about writing a memoir (I probably spent a total of $75-100)
Then, I hit a wall. There was only so much free information I could research before my questions became more technical. I started wondering, how do I structure my book? How do I stitch together disparate parts of my life so they flow seamlessly—for example, skipping large chunks of time but doing it in a way that doesn’t jar the reader?
I also wanted to be part of a writing community—my kumbaya group of fellow comrades to exchange chapters with, get feedback, and knowledge swap. This community would help me learn but also keep me motivated to keep going, since writing can be terribly isolating.
I want to emphasize that for me, I was eager to take classes and pay it. But you do not have to take paid classes if you don’t think it’s right for you or if money is tight. There are plenty of free writing resources too. After hitting that wall, I didn’t feel like continuing the rabbit hole of online research to get my questions answered.
While the classes and groups have been a central part of my journey to reach the finish line for my book, the most important thing I did throughout all of it was to write every single day. Taking classes without a daily (or regular) writing practice is a lost cause. Can I get an amen? 🙂
So I joined the following groups and wanted to share them with you because this is what is making the greatest impact on my writing.
1. First Draft and Second Draft writing groups
First Draft: $35 a month (meets 2x a week)
Second Draft: $145 a month (meets 1x a week)
Upcoming writing retreat: Feb. 18-23, 2023 in Key Largo—spots are still available. Enjoy yoga, amazing meals, and lots of writing time!
Through the Writing Class Radio podcast I wrote about last week, I found out about their weekly writing group on Zoom. I hadn’t encountered any other podcasts that also offered a unique opportunity to meet each week. (And trust me, I looked.) The beauty of a podcast is that you get to know the hosts and what aspects of writing and story they focus on, so after binging the podcast, I was all in.
I joined First Draft last year and after a few months, upgraded to Second Draft. I did this for two reasons—one, I had such a positive experience with First Draft. Two, I knew that Second Draft has a limited number of seats (I think it’s 6?) and specifically designed for writers who are serious about getting their personal essays published.
Second Draft requires writers to come prepared with an already-written essay. You read your essay based on a rotating schedule. Then, everyone else comments and gives feedback.
In First Draft, you write during class based on a prompt you’re given. I can tell I’ve grown as a writer from just the two or three months I’ve been with this group. It’s taught me to think on my toes and just go with ideas, even if it doesn’t quite flow or make sense.
So far, Second Draft is exactly what I thought it would be, but better. I like how people aren’t afraid to be a bit critical. The feedback from others (and giving feedback) is showing me what I need to think about more in my own writing (including scenes from my memoir), like:
What do people want to know more about?
What made sense and what didn’t?
What could be cut?
I enjoy this process of learning about what resonates with people. It’s also making me a stronger listener and editor.
Final thoughts: I find the value to be tremendous—$145 for Second Draft four times a month, then First Draft twice a week. That’s up to 12 times I can meet with this writing group each month.
2. Memoir Writing for Geniuses
Cost: ~ $800 for 8 weeks
Frequency: 1x a week for 2 hours on Zoom
What you learn: Structure and layout of your memoir and story
What appealed to me: The small group (6 people) and by the 8 weeks, I had the outline for my memoir in way better shape than before I took the class.
I wrote about taking Memoir Writing for Geniuses in this newsletter. I first found the teacher, Wendy Dale, through her YouTube channel.
Wendy’s videos were the opposite of the vague, high-level stuff I kept seeing from other authors about how to write a memoir. After watching all of her free videos, I decided to take her class on structuring my memoir.
I signed up because I needed to understand the nuts and bolts of structure. This class taught me how to lay out my book in a way that made sense with the story I wanted to convey.
Of course, my manuscript still has a long way to go, but after taking her class, I feel more confident about the process. I now have a roadmap of how to connect disparate events that happened in my life, even though it wasn’t in chronological order. Now, I’m not afraid to skip around while writing, add chapters, remove them, and deal with the transitions later.
Final thoughts: If you struggle with structure, I highly recommend starting with Wendy’s free YouTube videos and taking her free course. She offers such insightful ways to structure your book, how to properly insert dialogue, create meaningful scenes, and how to write better prose.
3. Write Your Memoir in 6 Months
Cost: ~ $2,200 for 6 months
Frequency: Meets every other week for 1 hour 15 mins on Zoom
What you learn: The elements of writing focused on craft. (More below.)
What appealed to me: The class aims to give you feedback (from the teachers) for roughly half of your manuscript. Students are required to turn in 2,500 words for each class for 6 months.
This is the class I’m taking in the first half of 2023. It’s called Write Your Memoir in 6 Months with Brooke Warner and Linda Joy. I discovered this class through Brooke’s podcast, Write-Minded. (I wrote about it previously in a newsletter about NaNoWriMo and about writing uselessly.)
I decided to sign up because I am a big fan of the podcast, plus I liked the syllabus of what the class teaches—including how to outline properly, develop characters, and how to think about reflection so that it satisfies your reader. It was clearly posted on the website.
I just started class this month and already submitted a 2,500-word part of my memoir to Brooke. I was surprised by her detailed edits, which were extremely helpful for me to see in the tracked edits mode in Word.
The edits ranged from grammar and simple copy changes to thinking through the meaning of what the chapter entailed. Just from Brooke’s feedback, I can already tell this class is different from Wendy’s class. Different in a good way. You’re also given a writing buddy for accountability and for swapping assignments.
Final thoughts: It’s too soon to make a detailed assessment, but so far so good. I’m excited to see how this unfolds and so glad I signed up.
4. Shut Up & Write
What: Shut Up & Write is a nonprofit that gathers writers together simply for the sake of writing for an hour.
This is a group I found on Meetup. I first joined Shut Up & Write because I wanted more of an in-person connection with other writers in my town. At the time, I needed a way to boost my energy and focus around my book. Plus, I was curious about what other people were working on and wanted to know what got their creative juices flowing.
The idea behind it is simple, you meet somewhere, say hello, write intensely for an hour, and then chit-chat afterwards about how it went. I like how there’s no pressure to talk about what you’re working on or to share at all if you don’t feel like it. I recall one meetup when a guy walked in late, typed away on his laptop, and then left before the hour was over. So basically, no one had a chance to even say hi or get his name. Afterwards, the group gave him a nickname: the Ninja Writer.
I ended up meeting some really amazing people. You don’t even have to be a writer to join, just go and work on something. I also liked how people were so willing to share tips and resources they used for writing, like whether to sign up for Scrivener or what their self-publishing experience was like.
They have various locations around the U.S. in major cities so there’s a good chance there’s one in your area.
Final thoughts: It’s totally worth it if you’re tired of Zoom and just want to connect with other local writers.
In the future, I may hire a book coach to help get my manuscript in a good place before I either self-publish or go the traditional route (still undecided). Later in the year, I’d love to participate in a writing retreat. For now, I’m plenty busy with Brooke’s class and the writing groups.
Leave a comment if you’ve had similar or different experiences with writing classes and groups.
Thanks! I find your desire to learn beautiful and refreshing because I’ve read memoirs that are not like a story or memoir, but more like one long vent. To use memoir as an art form is fun!
Thank you for sharing great resources!
I’ve written one memoir and am getting a second one nearly written. I did not pay for any classes, but I studied everything written by K.M. Wyland.
She teaches writing for free at Helping Writers Become Authors. I’ve got her books too. The thing I’ve benefitted the most from is her podcast or rather the audio of her blogs.
While she teaches how to write novels, much of the elements of story are similar and can be modified for memoir. I believe she has an online community too. I just prefer to work alone until I’m ready to share with my beta readers.
I hope this is helpful. If not just remove it.
I look forward to reading your memoir.