Since its inception in 1996, the Odyssey Writing Workshop has become one of the most highly respected programs for writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror in the world. Through an advanced curriculum, intensive focus, directed study, and detailed feedback, students gain a much deeper understanding of the elements of fiction writing and make major improvements in their work.
In 2010, to further our mission of helping developing writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror, we have taken the techniques that are so effective at the workshop and adapted them to create online classes. We've worked very hard to ensure that our online classes are of the same quality and caliber as our in-person workshop and that they deserve to carry the name of Odyssey.
Odyssey's online classes are rigorous and demanding, giving you the most for your time and effort. You should not apply unless you are ready to learn and practice new techniques, hear about the weaknesses in your writing, and work to overcome those weaknesses. Classes provide a supportive yet challenging, energizing atmosphere. Taking one of our online classes is a great way to focus on your writing, giving it the time and attention it needs. Each class is focused on a particular element of fiction writing and is designed for writers at a particular skill level.
Taking one of Odyssey's online classes is not equivalent to attending the Odyssey workshop. There is no substitute for devoting yourself solely to your writing for six weeks, with the focus, intensity, group bonding, and extended, directed study such an in-person experience involves.
But writers can improve through many different experiences. Odyssey's online classes will provide you with valuable tools and techniques and will guide you as you practice using them. We'll study some of the most beautiful and powerful writing in the field to gain understanding of what these tools can do when wielded with skill. We'll also discuss the common failings of developing writers and explain how to avoid those pitfalls. Classes will also provide you with new insights into the writing process and into your writing in particular, through detailed feedback.
We offer just three online courses each winter and focus them on some of the biggest challenges writers face. For most writers, crafting strong, effective description is a major struggle. Some avoid description, fearing they'll lose the reader's attention, and instead they leave the reader lost in a vast, white nothingness. Some embrace description, drowning the reader in details so important ones are lost and unimportant ones create expectations that will never be fulfilled. Some use a hit or miss approach, throwing in a detail here or there and hoping they've magically made the right choices.
You don't need to guess or struggle anymore. Award-winning fiction writer, poet, and editor Lucy A. Snyder will guide you through this critical and often-avoided subject. In Riveting Descriptions: Bringing Your Story to Life in the Reader's Mind, you'll learn how to identify the key details that will immerse readers in your world, allow them to feel they know your characters, and put them in the middle of the action. Lucy will explain the qualities of strong description, how to know how much description is enough, which details to include, and where in the scene to include them. You'll also learn how to use subtext so your description suggests deeper meanings, and how to write description with emotional impact.
More than that, this course will explore the role of point of view in description. Those descriptive details aren't coming from some objective observer. They're coming from a character who is deeply invested in events. How a character sees and describes his world can reveal personality, convey motivation, increase tension, and drive plot. Strong description, then, also means strong voice, and a strong voice can keep readers turning the pages. Lucy will also discuss how to use poetic techniques in your description, and how to avoid common descriptive pitfalls. You'll finish this course feeling much more assured about your description and knowing how to use description to make your story more powerful and impactful.
We're bringing back one of our most highly rated courses, Getting the Big Picture: The Key to Revising Your Novel. There are few things more difficult than revising a novel. You've worked on it for months, or years, and you're so immersed in it you can't step back and see the big picture. You might polish the draft and make minor changes, but you don't really know what to change to turn that rough draft into a powerful, unified novel. And chances are, major changes are necessary. In this course, award-winning novelist Barbara Ashford, one of our most popular instructors, will guide you in a deep examination of the "big picture" elements of your novel--premise, promise, theme, world, character, plot. Analyzing each of these building blocks and how well they are working together can give you new perspective on your novel, reveal weaknesses, and provide direction for major changes that will help you to maximize your novel's potential.
Whether you've already completed your first draft, are still working on it, or are struggling with revisions, this course will provide invaluable insights into your novel through the lectures, assignments, and critiques. Barbara's feedback on assignments has been widely praised for its depth and helpfulness. A previous student said, "Barbara is an incredibly knowledgeable and effective instructor who completely blew away all my expectations for the course. . . . I learned more about theme, story structure, characterization, and world building than I'd thought possible. Her analysis of my novel excerpts has helped me redirect my wandering plot issues, and every critique I received has been detailed, analytical and thought provoking. This course over-delivered and will be something I refer back to for many works to come."
Barbara's course will be longer than the standard Odyssey online class, with four class meetings rather than our usual three, so you'll be able to fully process and incorporate the important concepts discussed. If you've taken the course before and want to take it again to work on a new novel, you'd be welcome to apply.
Last year, we were fortunate to have Scott H. Andrews, editor-in-chief and publisher of the fantasy magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies, a six-time Hugo Award finalist, teach a course for Odyssey Online. Students loved the class, so I asked Scott if he would teach a new class for us this year. When I asked him the most common weakness in the submissions he receives, he said that most writers fail to convey character emotions in a powerful way. So Scott will be teaching Emotional Truth: Making Character Emotions Real, Powerful, and Immediate.
How do you convey a character's emotion? You might just tell readers what the character is feeling ("He was afraid"), which can convey that information clearly but fail to make the emotion real and immediate. You might try an internal life sign ("His heart pounded"), which can be more immediate but often feels clichéd, not real. Or you might try an external action ("His eyes widened"), but this can sometimes feel like overacting, or if we're in the character's point of view, it can feel like we've jumped to a point of view outside the character.
Scott will explain the most effective techniques to convey character emotions realistically and powerfully on the page, so that moment by moment, you can create an authentic and evocative experience. He'll show you which techniques work best for point-of-view characters, and which work best for non-point-of-view characters. He'll also discuss how to handle multiple emotions, conflicting emotions, and complex emotions, because that's when stories get really interesting.
More than that, the course will cover strategies for developing situations and stories with strong potential for emotional resonance, and how to use character emotions to make every page a gripping read. You'll dig deep into your own emotional reservoir to find that emotional truth that will make readers deeply involved with your characters. The character's emotions may draw readers to the character or repel readers from him, but either way, line by line and scene by scene, you'll be able to give readers an authentic, powerful, involving experience.
Odyssey's online classes operate through five components:
- Lectures and discussions: Lectures and discussions are scheduled for particular times, and students are expected to attend all of them at the scheduled times. Students receive access to these sessions through GoToMeeting.com. At class time, you call the class phone number or plug in your USB headset and go to the appropriate Web site (no GoToMeeting account is required). You will see and hear the instructor live, giving the lecture, and your computer screen will become the instructor's blackboard, where various examples and notes will be displayed.
By clicking on the appropriate icon, you can raise your hand. You can also verbally ask a question and listen to the questions of other students.
Some sessions will involve more discussion, with students commenting on their experiences with the assigned work. You can get to know your classmates and form supportive friendships.
- Class materials: Supporting materials are posted on a class discussion group, which you will be asked to join when you enroll in the class. You will be required to print out some materials, so you can refer to them during lectures.
- Writing exercises and assignments: Homework will be assigned at each class meeting and must be completed by the due date. In most courses, you will also offer feedback on some of your classmates' work, and they will provide feedback on your work.
- Communication with the instructor: Since class sizes are small, you'll have plenty of opportunity to ask questions and discuss issues with the instructor. The instructor will be providing in-depth feedback on your work and offering suggestions and advice. The instructor will also have a one-on-one meeting with each student.
- Communication with me: I will not be teaching this winter, but I will still be sitting in on each class to provide technical support to the instructor. I will be reading the applications and making admissions decisions, coordinating the dissemination of advance materials, setting up the discussion group, providing support if you have technical problems, and making myself available by email and phone if you have questions or problems of any kind during the course.
Our classes are for writers serious about improving their writing. Whether you're a beginner or a published writer, you'll be able to find an Odyssey Online Class to help you attack your weak areas and and level up your writing.
Here are some other details about the courses:
- Class size: Limited to 14 students, unless otherwise announced.
- Instructors: Top authors, editors, and agents who are also great teachers serve as instructors for Odyssey's online classes. You can find information about the instructor of each course on the specific class page.
- Time requirements: Make sure you check the specific class page to find out when lectures will be held. You need to attend class at those times.
An estimate of the amount of time homework assignments will take is also provided on the specific class page.
- Work requirements: Assignments may include readings, writing exercises, critiquing, and writing and revising your fiction. See the specific class page for more details.
- Technological requirements: The computer specifications below may look a bit intimidating, if you're not a technical person. Chances are, if you've bought your computer in the last 5 years,Chances are, if you've bought your computer in the last 5 years, it will fulfill the requirements. So don't panic; just go through them one at a time and make sure you are covered.
- A USB headset (made up of headphones and microphone) that you can plug into your computer is the best option for listening and speaking in class, because it minimizes the chance of echo and feedback. But you can also use a telephone or computer speakers and microphone. If you use a phone, your phone will be charged for a standard long-distance call during the lectures and discussions.
- Assignments must be turned in as MS Word files or rich text files.
- Class materials will be distributed in MS Word files. You must be able to read such files.
- Computer requirements:
GoToMeeting will check your computer here and allow you to try a test session here.
- On a PC, Windows 2007 or later. On a Mac, Mac OS X 10.9 (Mavericks) or later.
- 2GB or more of RAM
- Cable modem, DSL, or better Internet connection (broadband strongly recommended)
- To see the instructor via webcam, 1 Mbps or more bandwidth (you can check your bandwidth here). If you don't have this much bandwidth, you can still participate but will probably need to close the small window showing the instructor
You can also join your class meetings from any Windows, Apple, or Android device, such as a tablet or smartphone. This is not recommended, since your options will be limited, but if this is your only option, it is possible. The system requirements for such systems are available here.
- Cost: Class tuition varies depending on the course. See the specific class page for more information. The tuition costs quoted are the discounted rates for US students paying by check or money order, and for international students paying by bank draft in US dollars.
Students have the additional option of paying tuition through PayPal which allows you to charge the costs on a credit card. Those using PayPal need to pay the full rates, which are about 4% higher.
- How to apply: All prospective students must fill out an Odyssey Online Application and include a 1,000-word writing sample. There is a $10 application fee. If you are admitted to the course, $10 will be deducted from the tuition. If you are not admitted, you will receive feedback on your writing sample. See the specific class page or the top of this page for the application deadlines.
- Refunds: All tuition payments are non-refundable.
The Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to help developing writers realize their potential and make their work the best it can be. My experiences over Odyssey's 23 years have been incredible. Talented writers of all ages, from all over the world, have given their all, improved their writing, and made exciting breakthroughs.
If you're willing to dedicate your time and energy in that quest, if you're willing to hear about the weaknesses in your writing and work to improve them, then I hope you'll apply for one of our online classes.
You can find comments from graduates of Odyssey's Online Classes here.
Please check out the
Odyssey Online Frequently Asked Questions page. If you have any additional questions, feel free to
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If you want help improving your writing but can't make the scheduled times for the classes, or you feel the classes aren't the right option for you, you may want to check out our Odyssey Webinars! If you have completed work, you may find the Odyssey Critique Service helpful. It allows you to receive professional-level feedback on your writing. We also offer consultations, in which you can talk out a writing problem with me, and coaching, which can help you overcome whatever is holding you back in your writing.
In the meantime, I hope you'll find this site a useful resource for your writing.
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