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. One major struggle for writers is having their work stand out from the hundreds of submissions editors and agents receive. Every day, writers submit well-crafted, engaging stories and novels only to have them rejected. Scott H. Andrews, editor-in-chief and publisher of the fantasy magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies, a five-time Hugo Award finalist, discussed this at the Odyssey workshop last summer, and his insights were so fascinating I asked him to teach an online course for us. Scott receives far too many well-crafted, engaging stories each month to publish. For him to publish a story, it needs to be special; it needs to have that crucial spark. What exactly is a "spark"? In Standing Out: Creating Short Stories with That Crucial Spark, Scott will describe various ways to create a spark--with a fascinating concept or thematic impact or emotional resonance or potent voice. Students will study examples and then work to add a spark to their own work. For intermediate to advanced authors, having that spark can make the difference between personalized rejections and sales. If you want to write works that are more than competent, that captivate or enthrall or delight, this course is for you.
The most common request made by Odyssey Online students has been for a course on subtext. One of the most interesting approaches to subtext I've read is by author Donna Glee Williams. I've been hearing about Donna Glee's incredible writing seminars for years, so I'm thrilled that she has agreed to teach Saying the Unsayable: Building Meaning and Resonance Through Subtext. Writers spend most of their time focused on the text, the words on the page. But often the part of the story that most engages readers is the subtext, the layer of meaning below the surface of the words. Readers respond strongly to what is not on the page, elements that are implied, evoked, suggested, but unsaid. For a story to engage and move readers, the author must create both text and subtext. Donna Glee will explain how subtext can be generated in almost any part of a story using three key strategies, and students will study these strategies and work to incorporate them into their own work. For intermediate to advanced writers, this course will offer invaluable techniques to engage readers in the line-by-line flow of the story and make them deeply invested in the characters and outcomes.
I'm very happy that one of our most highly rated instructors, award-winning novelist Barbara Ashford, has agreed to bring back her course One Brick at a Time: Crafting Compelling Scenes. Stories and novels are made up of scenes, so if your scenes are weak, your story has little chance of success. I often work with writers who have strong ideas, fresh worlds, and interesting characters, but their scenes do not do justice to these elements. A compelling scene engages readers intellectually and emotionally, changes something of significance to the story, and leaves readers eager to turn the page to find out what happens next. Barbara will explain how to design your scenes, how to track and develop the emotional beats in a scene to create strong impact, and how to diagnose and fix problems in scenes. Students will study effective scenes and weak scenes, discover the special needs of opening and ending scenes, and learn how to make sure all the scenes work together to create a powerful story or novel. These skills are invaluable for intermediate students seeking to take their work to the next level, so we're offering it again for those who were unable to take the course in 2015. Students of Barbara's classes regularly praise her insightful lectures, her effective instruction, and her incredible, in-depth critiques. You can find comments from her previous students on the class page. This course will help you shape each scene into a powerful, memorable experience for the reader.
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 Yahoo 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 Yahoo 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 2007-2010. On a Mac, Mac OS X 10.9 (Mavericks)-10.12 (Sierra)
- 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 22 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.
In the meantime, I hope you'll find this site a useful resource for your writing.
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