The Story Course

The Story Course

You love writing. You’ve loved it forever. Why do you resist it?
Find your way back to what you love.

Creative writing requires curiosity, presence, and technique. Writers not only need to study craft, they also need to know how to take care of their creative spirit.

The Story Course teaches you how to override your resistance and begin writing in a new way, with curiosity, compassion and courage.

Craft-based exercises will show you how to access your creative energy at any time.

Are you ready to make a promise to your writing? If so, this program is for you.

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About The Story Course:

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What is The Story Course?

The Story Course is a 10-week online creative writing program that transforms your relationship with writing.

The focus is on short fiction, but the techniques you’ll learn will help you write in any genre.

It’s a powerful, challenging, and compassionate program that teaches you how to make your writing extraordinary.

Our writing school started in 2011 with this one course. It holds the heart of what I teach. It’s exactly like nothing else.

Write something that makes you feel proud and amazed.

Registration for the Story Course is always open and you can begin anytime from anywhere. The Story Course is done at your own pace. You can do it as part of a month-long writing retreat, a seven day writing intensive, or your weekly writing workshop. Do it over the course of a year, if that’s right for you.

As soon as you sign up you’ll receive instant access to our online classroom, where you can access all the materials. You can then either stream or download everything and work from your computer or smartphone. Or you can print out the materials and work offline.

There’s also an optional members-only, global Facebook group where you can post craft and process questions and insights, and discuss the readings and lessons with a community of like-minded writers.

Who is The Story Course for?

It’s for people who want to feel confident and alive when they’re writing.

It’s for free-thinkers who don’t want to follow writing formulas.

It’s for writers who want to push themselves to their creative edge.

Beginners and experienced writers are welcome. The techniques are both straightforward and challenging enough to inspire and improve writers at all levels. That’s part of the magic.

The Story Course is intended for those who are ready to commit to writing.

Work with your creative mind, not against it.

This program will change your habits and your perspective when you follow through with each lesson. It’s experiential: you will learn by doing.

Just remember, this program is self-directed and there’s no workshop/critique component. If you want a support network, deadlines, and feedback, consider joining The Story Intensive.

We do not offer accreditation. In the Story Course, learning the craft of writing becomes part of who you are, and it is no longer separate from you.

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“For those asking about writing, motivation, blocks: check out The Story Course. Smart, encouraging, practical.”

– Margaret Atwood, Guest Contributor

The Story Course brings sparkle to your prose.

But more than that, it trains you for the long term by changing the way you think when you write creatively. You’ll learn to recognize and respect a state of mind that doesn’t get a lot of attention in your daily life.

The Story Course teaches you how to still your mind and write with fresh energy.

At the same time, you’ll learn and practice techniques that will make you a much better writer. And to make your writing technique feel real, you’ll learn to write with your entire heart.

The Story Course teaches you how to get out of your own way.

It trains you to feel alive when you are uncertain, and helps you trust your own intuitive process.

Eudora Welty said, “Write what you don’t know about what you know.” The Story Course teaches you how to do that. You’ll experience a new level of clarity, eloquence, and productivity when you write.

There’s so much more to good writing than just plot and character and dialogue. That’s all crucial for good writing—of course it is—but there’s a deeper level that you must access when you write, if you want your work to be surprising.

If you want to write fiction that is so honest it becomes real, the Story Course is for you.

You’ll learn how to:

  • make something out of nothing
  • write to feel like you’re getting away with it
  • create subtext and drama immediately
  • feel the world the way your character feels it
  • quiet your inner critic, and feel at peace
  • feel enchanted by the mystery of creative work
  • write your first drafts better—the first time
  • make a story feel like it existed even before you wrote it.

You’ll finish the program with:

  • a dynamite first draft of a brand new short story
  • techniques that you’ll use in your writing forever
  • a respect for mystery and the creative source
  • a feeling of transformation.
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“It changed how I approach writing completely. It made me braver, freer and perhaps, better. It certainly got me out of my head and onto the page in ways I never thought possible. I still miss it.”

—Leslie Davidson

Each lesson begins with an audio recording that features focused instruction and luminous inspiration. The lessons are accompanied by class notes that you can download as PDFs or print.

Lessons include readings chosen for technical brilliance, which you can learn, and uniqueness, which will inspire you to be yourself in your own work. You can read them as PDFs, on your eReader, or printed out. I talk you through the readings via audio recordings, helping you dig deeper into each story’s craft.

Video tutorials from me throughout the course will give you further instruction and energy.

There are also three in-depth writing exercises for each lesson. I guide you through these exercises via audio recordings. This is where your relationship with writing will really start to evolve.

Each assignment will help you write a short story so by the end of the course you have a finished draft.

When you complete the program, a personalized writing style diagnosis will help you take your craft to the next level. This will tell you who you should be reading next, and why.

Want to see exactly what you’ll be learning? Take a look at the Table of Contents here.

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“The course is brilliantly constructed, interesting, and varied. I loved the writing exercises and,what’s more, I actually did them. Even though I was super busy with work, I was writing and I felt challenged and alive. Happy.”

—Monna McDiarmid, alumnus

The online classroom is straightforward, elegant, and beautiful.

A beautiful environment makes all the difference when you’re doing creative work. So our online creative writing school was designed for usability, comfort, and elegance.

If you ever run into trouble, there are explanatory videos to help you. And you can always contact us.

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You can enroll anytime and get instant access to The Story Course. Enrollment is quick and easy and there are no pre-requisites.

Once again, you’ll get:

  • 21 instructive practice writing exercises, including audio prompts
  • 7 powerful larger writing assignments, including audio prompts
  • 4 inspirational videos: pep talks that guide through the rough spots
  • 7 Reading Debriefs: podcasts that examine the craft of short fiction
  • writing style diagnosis and prescription: personalized
  • a community of like-minded writers in the private, members-only group
  • video tutorials that explain how to use the program
  • video transcripts
  • audio transcripts
  • audiobook of the entire program
  • a beautifully-designed book on the writing life: method, inspiration, and instruction
  • a fiction anthology companion: 40 short stories, including both excerpts and full-length stories, carefully selected by me.


The entire program costs $275 USD (including lifetime access).

We wanted to keep the cost to you as low as possible. Permissions have been secured for everything that’s reprinted in the readings, so you can read and consult excellent stories throughout the course without having to source and buy extra books (or pirate copyrighted material).

Think about how much you want to be writing. Does it feel like you’re being called to adventure?

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Refund Policy:
We have a no-refund policy on The Story Course. Click here to find out why.
“This transformed how I approach writing. I love where it takes me. You encourage individual creativity and offer the tools to go forward.”

—Naomi Adelson

FAQs About The Story Course

What is the difference between Story Is a State of Mind and The Story Course?

They’re the same thing! Our writing school started in 2011 with one downloadable course called Story Is a State of Mind. This program holds the heart of what I teach. Story Is a State of Mind has now evolved into a larger community—Sarah Selecky Writing School—and writers can advance their study by taking two more writing programs (The Story Intensive and The Story Workshop). All three programs are guided by the same foundation course. That foundation course is now called The Story Course.

This looks like a short story course, but I am writing a memoir (or novel, or poetry, or creative non-fiction). Will this still work for me?

I am especially passionate about reading, writing and teaching short fiction, and I created The Story Course with that focus, it’s true. But this program will teach you how to write with immediacy, mindfulness, specificity, and integrity. You will learn how to be present as you write, how to be intimate with writing itself. You’re going to learn how to transfer an experience to a reader—and this is important for writers working in all genres. I’m working on a novel now, and I’m still using all of these techniques.

When does this course start?

This is not a typical online writing course: it is an über-flexible, all-inclusive digital writing experience. That means you get to make your own schedule. As soon as you register and pay for the program, all of the video lectures, audio lessons, readings, exercises, and assignments will be made available to you right away. At that point you will also be given access to the online classroom and the private discussion group, where conversations about the lessons are happening in real time. I will not be presenting live weekly lectures. That’s how I can make this program so affordable and make it available to so many writers around the world at once. I wanted to create the most inspired, valuable, powerful writing course I could imagine, so I recorded my lectures and made my lessons as digitally interactive as I could. And I made sure that you could access them anytime, anywhere.You will have lifelong access to these lessons. There is no expiration date. The classroom is running 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

This sounds great! But I know myself—I have so much resistance, I probably won’t finish the self-paced program. I wish this exact class was offered as a live workshop, with other writers. I want deadlines, discussion groups, and feedback on my assignments. Do you ever offer something like that?

Yes! Twice a year, I offer The Story Intensive—this is a guided semester that takes you through The Story Course with a small group of writers. You get individual attention, deadlines, discussion, and feedback—plus master classes with guest contributors. Space is limited for this program, but you can get on the wait list now—I’ll send you an email when registration opens (that is if registration is currently closed).

But how much time will this program take? When will I be finished?

The Story Course is broken into seven modules. I designed each module to approach the depth and breadth of a three-hour weekly lecture and workshop, plus an hour or two of homework each week. I wanted it to approximate an eight-week writing course (including a reading week). But this is only a rough guide. One of the major benefits of this course is that you drive it. You set your own deadlines. You can nibble at these lessons a little at a time. You can take a month or two with each lesson. You can even work on the assignments more than once to challenge yourself at different levels as you progress. Or you might decide to block time off in your calendar for a writing retreat, download the whole thing at once, and turn the course into a one or two week writing intensive. It’s all up to you. I would not recommend doing the whole course in less than a week, though. That would probably be too intense, and you want time to practice.

Can I email you for support if I have questions about the lessons?

If you experience some technical difficulties with the downloads, the MP3s, or the video, please contact us for tech support.Because this is a self-directed program, I won’t be available for solo support when questions come up for you about your work. I’m not doing much one-on-one coaching anymore—for now, I am focused on writing my new book. However, if you’re looking for more support while you work on The Story Course, consider taking The Story Intensive. You can also consider inviting a writing partner to do it with you. Or you can purchase multiple copies of the program as a writing group, and then share your writing assignments with each other each week. (See next question.)

Is there any way to share my ideas with other people who are taking this course?

Why yes! When you register and pay for The Story Course, you’ll be given a password and login so you can access the private web pages for each of the seven course modules. That’s where you will download all of your course materials, listen to the audio instruction, and watch the video lectures. There’s also a private discussion group on Facebook where you can post your comments and share your thoughts and questions about each lesson. You’ll be invited to interact with everyone else who is in the program right now, and join the online discussion.

There’s just a password protecting those pages? So what happens if I just share that password with my friends?

Well, I’d rather you didn’t. I love this program, and I’ve done everything in my power to make sure it is just right for writers who need support and inspiration. I created it using massive amounts of my heart and energy and life, and I think that’s part of what makes it so special. The thing is, I have faith in integrity and fairness. I generally trust people. So I made The Story Course a price that is accessible and an incredible value. I also pay authors their copyright fee every time someone buys their work, so I ask that you don’t distribute this without paying for it.

How is this different from other creative writing courses?

In some ways, it isn’t: you will learn and practice the fundamentals of writing scene, dialogue, character, and plot, just like you would in a creative writing MFA or continuing education program at a good college or university. You will also learn how to stay present and focused, and how to write from your heart and not just your head—just like you would learn at a yoga, meditation and writing workshop. The Story Course is like other writing courses in these ways, but not only is it much less expensive than other writing workshops, it’s infinitely more flexible. Once you download it, it becomes your own course. You direct your own study: you can choose when and where you will read and write, and you can choose who to write with (if anyone). I’ve taken the most powerful things I’ve learned from all of the best writing programs I’ve attended—meditation and writing with Natalie Goldberg, one-on-one mentorship at The Banff Centre for the Arts, a full creative writing MFA at the University of British Columbia—and I’ve built an experience that I sincerely hope will transcend what you would find in any writing course elsewhere.

I’m not great with computers. Is it going to be hard to figure out all the technology?

I know. There is nothing more frustrating than fighting with technology. Despite what it might look like, I am not a techy person either. Because I built this program myself, I had to make sure that I understood exactly how it all worked. I’ve made it as simple and straightforward and intuitive as possible, for all users. I even tested it on my mom, who is “not at one with the computer” (her words), to make sure that it’s a smooth, easy process. As long as you have a good high-speed connection, this will work on your computer. You click on the links marked audio to listen, you click on the links that look like videos to watch. You click on the links that say download when you want to download lessons to your computer. I also recommend printing out the lessons so you don’t have to read from the computer screen. The lessons look very pretty, even if you don’t print them in colour. And you should do all of your writing by hand, in a notebook.It all sounds easy because it really is easy! Promise.

Is there a guarantee or refund policy, in case I don’t like the lessons?

First of all, I really don’t think that’s going to happen. I think you’re going to love these lessons, and I think the work you do in this program will revitalize your relationship to writing. If you commit yourself to put your full heart and mind into these assignments, it’s going to change the way you think about your work as a writer. It might even change your life. I mean that. This is a non-refundable investment in your writing. When you make this purchase, you are promising to explore and practice. You’ll be paying for it the way you would pay for a degree, an all-inclusive retreat, a counselling session, an art show, or a ticket on an overnight train. I know that online sales expectations are distinctly pro-refund, and I understand the reason for that. I considered it for this program. But after some thought, I realized that I didn’t feel right about offering a money back guarantee on a creative experience.

Can I buy this as a gift for someone else, like my mom, my best friend, or my boyfriend/girlfriend?

Now, that is a sweet question. That person is lucky to have you. Yes, of course. Here is the order form. Simply click the checkbox next to "This product is for someone else" and the system will guide you through the process.

I love the story course and I think it’s outstanding! I want to spread the word. Can I post a link on my site?

Thank you! Nothing would make me happier! Word of mouth is the way I have always promoted my writing classes, and I would be honoured to have you post a link. Email us for information about the Sarah Selecky Writing School Ambassador Program, so I can thank you for spreading the word.

Still have a question? Email us at: [email protected].
Or get in touch with us through our Facebook page.
”There is no course like this in university, I’m certain; it’s priceless. Every time I work on it, I’m so grateful that I have it.”

—Steph VanderMeulen

Table of Contents

  • How To Prepare: notes and thoughts on the readings, videos, audio files, timing, supplies, how to set up your space, and the importance of accountability
  • How are you and writing doing these days?
  • Take a look at your relationship.
  • Language: can’t live with it, can’t live without it.
  • Or, why is writing so difficult?
  • How to Freewrite: the rules of the practice, from Natalie Goldberg
  • Start here: get your words on the page with a fresh state of mind
  • A word about showing vs. telling
  • Write without judgment
  • Use your pen like a divining rod
  • The subtle art of moment to moment awareness
  • 3 practice exercises: non-sequiturs, the Ouija board, and digging in memory
  • 2 stories to study: the flow state
  • Reading Debrief podcast: find the energy and hold
  • Assignment: writing without borders
  • Intermission: What do you do if you feel overwhelmed?
Lesson Two: What Starts A Story?
  • A word on notebooks and the best way to use them
  • Beginnings: anxiety-producing or thrilling?
  • Learn from other authors: how to begin
  • What makes an idea worth following?
  • Don’t start at the beginning
  • The firecrackers that are first sentences
  • 3 practice exercises: power + simplicity, portraits + ambiguity, discovery
  • 7 readings to study: what sparkles, astounds
  • 1 story to study: starting with the heart: give access to your emotions
  • Reading Debrief podcast: humour + sorrow, the magic combination
  • Assignment: Five foolproof ways to start a story
  • Video: On Memory and Imagination
  • Intermission: The answer is maddeningly ambiguous and incredibly liberating.
Lesson Three: Character
  • The infinite depth of character work + how to open yourself up to it
  • What a privilege it is, to create a person!
  • Your story can only move the reader’s heart if you move your own heart first
  • Write composite characters, unlikeable characters, characters who are alive
  • How to observe + listen, get out of the way + invite humility
  • Essential Questions for Character 1: The Basics
  • Essential Questions for Character 2: Go Deep
  • Essential Questions for Character 3: Find the Truth
  • 3 practice exercises (including fieldwork): eavesdropping, interviews + talismans
  • 2 stories to study: how to write with empathy
  • Reading Debrief podcast: what the character doesn’t remember + when two become one
  • Assignment: all you need for story is character: I promise
  • Video: On Feeling Interested in What You’re Writing About
  • Intermission: What I wish someone told me about writing years ago.
Lesson Four: Dialogue
  • Why it’s the best part of anything we read
  • The two levels of subtext you must know and understand
  • Write your characters into corners
  • Turn eavesdropping into an art form
  • A note on punctuation: whatever you do, get this right
  • The Dialogue Manifesto: the guide that will crack your story open
  • 3 practice exercises: being “on point,” dropped hints, and the under-layer
  • 4 readings to study: sculpting conversation in 4 different ways
  • 3 stories to study: voice, intimacy, subtext
  • Reading Debrief podcast: a crucial interrogation of scene + subtext
  • Assignment: find the balance between dialogue + exposition
  • Video: How to Make Your First Drafts Better the First Time
  • Intermission: Go slow. Write your dialogue with love.
Lesson Five: Plot and Drift
  • Become familiar with uncertainty
  • The art happens when you go off track
  • Metaphor: it’s not what you think
  • Trust the illogical, train yourself to trust what you don’t understand
  • Your story is always smarter than you are
  • Work lily pad to lily pad—let the meaning of your work shift as you write it
  • 3 practice exercises (including special worksheet and 2 audio guides): trust uncertainty + first thoughts, interconnectedness + how celery is just like a staircase
  • 2 stories to study: when digressing turns into the plot
  • Reading Debrief podcast: muscles, faith + image-confidence
  • Assignment: an idea is not necessary – go for the unpredictable
  • Intermission: Stay present on the page as you write.
Lesson Six: Consciousness
  • A Point of View Primer: Technical Jargon + examples
  • Why POV is the most important decision you make when you write
  • Notice things the way your character would notice them
  • Get into the minds of your characters so their actions are saturated with truth + power
  • 3 practice exercises: style as template, 3 ways into a gallery opening, wedding or crime, the guided non-sequitur as story generator
  • 10 readings to study: what you can do with a strong point of view
  • 1 story to study: the unreliable narrator
  • Reading Debrief podcast: it can’t be easy, and yet, he does it
  • Assignment: turn 100 sentences into a short story (it’s easier than it sounds)
  • Intermission: You can’t cheat point of view.
Lesson Seven: Influence
  • The literary chain-letter
  • Writing from the Discomfort Zone
  • You will write with distinction when you read with it
  • When something comes alive to you, notice why it does
  • How to develop your unique style + voice
  • Style Diagnosis Quiz: find out who you should be reading right now
  • How to read your style prescription
  • Articulate your deep inspection of the work: this is why you write
  • 3 practice exercises: Mad Libs, the 180, and the essay
  • 9 stories to study: influential pairings through time and space
  • Reading Debrief podcast: the DNA of fiction
  • Assignment: protect one full week for your writing
  • Video: Now, Write the Story.
  • Intermission: You cannot know your story until it has been told.

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