Classic Writing Westerns

All the Ins and Outs of Writing Westerns


This genre has been around since before 1850. It started off as frontier fiction and most consider James Fenimore Cooper’s five novels of the Leatherstocking Tales the real start.

From there in flourished in the Penny Dreadfuls and Dime Novels from the 1860s. Those were short novels (actually around 15,000 to 20,000 words) often based on real people like Billy the Kid, Jessie James and so on. It was in this period that the western novels became popular in Europe as well.

In the Pulp era, westerns as a genre took off, just as science fiction, mystery, and romance did. Owen Wister’s novel The Virginian published in 1902 set the stage and Zane Gray followed. Hopalong Cassidy first appeared in 1904. From there it was Max Brand and hundreds of other writers filling the pulp magazines into the 1950s.

Westerns are, and always have been, an umbrella genre, which means you can combine other genres with it. Science fiction, fantasy, romance, horror, mystery, all can fit in westerns. In fact, the longest running pulp magazine of all time was Ranch Romances.

In traditional publishing today, the western died down to next to nothing outside of the bestsellers like Louis L’Amour, Larry McMurty, and Cormac McCarthy. But the growth of the freedom of the indie publishing world has brought the readers and writers back. And once again the western genre is growing.

This workshop is about writing westerns, some of the focuses and the many types and subgenres and how to use the tropes of westerns in your other genre fiction. It’s a lot to cover and a lot of fun.

Depth Workshop is required to take this course because if you can't do basic depth, you can't pull a reader along with you into the wild west.

Your Instructor

Dean Wesley Smith
Dean Wesley Smith

With over twenty-three million copies of his books in print, USA Today bestselling writer Dean Wesley Smith now brings you original fiction every month for the past three years in his own magazine, Smith’s Monthly.

Dean wrote over twenty-five original Star Trek novels, the only two original Men in Black novels, plus Spider-Man, X-Men, Iron Man novels, and others. He wrote many gaming novels including Final Fantasy.

He wrote novels and stories under almost fifty pen names and did scripts for Hollywood as well as being an editor for various magazines. He lives in Las Vegas with his wife, writer Kristine Kathryn Rusch. You can follow his writing life at

Course Curriculum

  Introduction Classic Workshops
Available in days
days after you enroll

Frequently Asked Questions

When does the course start and finish?
For lectures and classic workshops, the course starts now and stays on your dashboard for as long as you like! They are completely self-paced online course - you decide when you start and when you finish. For the monthly regular workshops, each has a start date and each week's lectures will appear on the same day. After the course is finished it will remain on your dashboard for as long as you like.
How long do I have access to the course?
How does lifetime access sound? After enrolling, you have unlimited access to this course for as long as you like - across any and all devices you own.
How do I get in contact with someone about the course?
If you have any questions at all about anything in a course, simply email Dean with the word "workshop" in the subject line. His email is [email protected]

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