I nearly had a heart attack yesterday when I saw that the price for an online self-publishing course was nearly seven thousand dollars. Even in euros, that’s a ridiculous amount of money.

The online course business practically exploded during the pandemic and is still blossoming; all those people staying home and sitting in front of their computers, wanting to learn a new skill or sharpen and hone some existing ones.

I love a good writing course. I signed up to loads during the pandemic. Some of them were free- FUTURELEARN- and some were as cheap as a tenner- UDEMY. I’m not a millionaire, and, even if I were, there’s probably no way I’d pay seven grand for a course in self-publishing or creative writing.

Everyone is hustling nowadays. I sign up to a lot of writing emails and writing blogs because I’m a compulsive signer-upper, lol, and, plus, you never know what little gems of advice or pearls of literary wisdom you might come across in one of them.

Nearly every single one of those emails from bloggers is trying to sell me something. The ‘secret’ to being a successful self-publisher or creative writer, mainly. They want me to book a place on their live ‘training’ class or masterclass, and then buy a super-expensive course or ‘package’ containing all kinds of online writing-related doo-hickeys, some of which might be useful, others less so.

They want me to pay for an ‘in’ to an exclusive online writing community that will supposedly support my writing efforts and make the solitary business of writing a little less lonely. These are often held on Zoom, but I also know of a particular ‘exclusive’ writing group on Facebook that requires you to pay thirty-five quid a month to be in their snobby group.

 I’ve been offered the chance to join and ‘find my tribe,’ but I’m not paying thirty-five quid a month to be in a Facebook group, I don’t care how supportive the other members are! If I have thirty-five quid a month to spare, there’s always a gas bill or a lecky bill it can go towards.

And let’s not forget the books. Everyone’s flogging a book, and the book, like the masterclasses and ‘training’ videos and ‘bundles’ of writing aids which would normally cost thousands of dollars but are now going for a song at a mere fifty bucks, claims to reveal the ‘secret’ you’ve been waiting your whole life to hear.

The ‘secret’ to good writing, the ‘secret’ to keeping your readers engaged from the get-go, the ‘secret’ to selling a million books a year on Amazon, the ‘secret’ to being more successful than Stephen King mashed together with Hilary Mantel, even the ‘secret’ to writing a book without typing a single word, a new one I came across lately that just boggles my mind.

I’ve got news for you guys, though, and it might seem disheartening at first, but it’s actually good news. There is no ‘secret,’ no magic wand, no magic spell, no silver bullet, no special key that will unlock all the success and acclaim you’ve ever dreamed of.

And that’s good news, because it means that you’ve already got the power within you to be a good writer, and it lies in your own mind and your own hands. You don’t need ruby slippers to get there, because you’re already there. Well, nearly.

I’ve been writing for twelve years now myself and I’ve discovered that there really is only one way to do it. You have to sit down at your computer every single day, or as many days a week as you can manage it, and write stuff, and then you just have to keep doing that exact thing, year in, year out.

The more you write, the better at it you’ll get. That’s pretty much guaranteed. When I first started out, I joined a writers’ group and wrote a little something every week along the lines of the prompt they’d given us.

Physical writers’ groups might be thin on the ground at the moment due to Covid, but you can keep in touch with all your own writer friends on Facebook like I do (writing is a lonely business; that’s just the way it is), and I still maintain you don’t need to pay thirty-five quid a month to do it…!

You can also follow book bloggers and writers on social media, and read their posts exhaustively to find out how they do things. I do this, and I learn a lot about writing and books this way.

Books are an invaluable source of information. Not only is reading the number one way, next to practising, to improve your writing, but you can actually buy books- or borrow them from the library- that give you tips on writing and how to maintain good writing practices and a meaningful writing life.

My two favourites, ON WRITING by Stephen King and Anne Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD, are frequently at the top of most peoples’ ‘Best Writing Books’ list, so you won’t go far wrong with them. You can also buy books of writing prompts, if you feel like you’re stuck and need a bit of a leg-up, or get them for free online.

You can also buy books filled with creative writing exercises, which will give you the feeling that you’re doing a self-guided course for next to nothing. Trust me, you don’t need to spend nearly seven grand on a writing course to improve your writing. (Unless you’re doing an actual degree course; that’s different.)

All you need is your writing space and laptop, a few notebooks, pens and how-to books, and, of course, access to the Internet and a positive wealth of free information on everything from good grammar to how to self-publish a book on Amazon for free with Kindle Direct Publishing.

Those are the actual physical, tangible things that you need. You’ll need other things too, like grit and courage and an absolute determination to keep going no matter how shit things get, and they can get quite shit, believe me. But you already have all those things within you, which is how I have a pretty good feeling that you’re going to be okay.


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: