I'd like to take a writing course, and I'm just a little lost on what course to take and need some guidance. Is a creative writing course worth taking before taking a fiction writing course? I have experience with writing, but I've never taken any courses, I've only just written for fun. Can anyone offer some advice?
It will depend on what you personally need, but I'd say the teacher and class organization may be more important than the subject.
Let's say one course is set up to foster your growth as a writer through peer-led exercises, solo and group projects, presentation of work, and taught by a supportive teacher. Let's say the second course is more dry, a tired instructor, a few homework assignments - exams - even surveys of literature -
Then I'd suggest the first, interactive course, regardless of whether it is creative writing or fiction writing.
Take a look at the course listings. See if there are prerequisites for either of them. See who teaches the courses and the class size. Get a sense of each teacher (and class management styles, etc) on any of the online rating sites that look at this sort of thing. these things might help you decide. Your choice might even boil down to the time of day that a course is taught.
All else being equal? In that case, it truly will depend on your heart. You might be able to find students who have taken each course you are looking at to give you some feedback about them.
Take them all, even if they are the same course if they are taught by different teachers you'll learn different things from each experience. For example, the community college I finished my associates of arts degree offered three creative writing classes but each teacher took it in a different direction. I have 'creative non-fiction' 'micro-fiction' and 'creative writing.' All were listed in the catalog as just creative writing classes. In the first I learned how to write biographies the way people actually write them (who knew you could change so much and still call it non-fiction?). The second was how to write complete stories in 500-1000 words. The third had some poetry in it. When I went to the university to complete my bachelor's degree, the classes again were all called creative writing but were in sequence and though they were supposed to follow a trend overall, each teacher made it their own and so the first and second class in sequence felt identical but for the specific works we read and the third was completely different.
I learned important things from each.
If you can afford the courses, take them both, but to really further your writing tuition, I would try to find courses that are classroom based.
The reason I say that is because studying creative writing or fiction writing one-to-one is nowhere near as effective as studying as part of a group. There is little an online course can teach you that you will not be able to learn from books. And a tutor who feeds back on your work is only one person. Writing is very subjective and the point of view of one person is going to be very limited.
The other BIG advantage to classroom-based courses is that you will meet other writers and you’ll probably find that the formation of relationships with other writers will be far more beneficial to your long-term success than anything you study alone online.
I’m not saying don’t take them. But I can tell you from experience that I learned far more from actually writing and submitting my first novel (while reading dozens and dozens of books on the craft) than I learned from three years of classroom study at university. However, what I did get from the classroom was a group of dedicated writers who are now my beta readers and who also offer emotional support when things get tough (which they inevitably do in this business).
So, I would say, if funds are limited, invest them in classes where you get to meet other writers, not online.