Odyssey Online Classes

Since its inception in 1996, the Odyssey Writing Workshop has become one of the most highly respected organizations in the world offering educational programs for writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror.

Odyssey's online classes combine deep focus, directed study, intensive practice, and detailed feedback to help students learn how to best use the concepts, tools and techniques covered to make major improvements in their work.

Woman in HeadphonesOdyssey'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 Odyssey's 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.

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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 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. Below are descriptions of our Winter 2023 classes.

Is your writing process--from idea to finished story or novel—maximizing the quality of the final result?  Do you get stuck while developing a story idea or find yourself uncertain about the next step to take? Or do you know which element of the story you need to work on, but you don’t have the tools? Bestselling author and Odyssey graduate Gregory Ashe has been a highly rated instructor for Odyssey Online for the last two years. This year, he’s teaching an invaluable new course, Writer’s Toolkit: Taking Your Story from Idea to Manuscript. Having a toolkit filled with a robust variety of tools can help you to write the stories you want to write. In this course, you’ll learn techniques to identify and develop story ideas, to build those nascent stories into drafts, and to revise your work for publication.

Developing a writing process that works for the way you think and the stories you want to tell involves trying many different tools, in different sequences, and seeing what leads to the best results. You’ll learn methods of generating ideas and evaluating them. You’ll practice prewriting strategies to build on your ideas, constructing characters, plots, premises, settings, and more. You’ll experiment with different tips and tools to turn your prewriting into a draft with goals, obstacles, story questions, story turns, plot points, and other elements of fiction. Finally, you’ll learn techniques to help you make major improvements in revision, to work with editors and beta readers, to create a realistic project schedule, and keep your creative well filled.  

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One of Greg's students, Debra Sutton, said, "Greg is passionate about writing and teaching, and it shows. The combination of class lectures, homework, getting and giving critiques, and the instructor’s feedback helped me figure out how I could use the concepts I learned in this course to improve my dialogue and my writing. I’ve read a multitude of craft books and writing blogs. Nothing compares to having someone knowledgeable guide you through the process. I highly recommend Odyssey Online Workshops if you want to improve your writing."

I’m very excited that Odyssey is offering a class on voice this year.  For most writers, voice is one of the most mysterious and elusive elements of fiction.  When we read a story with a strong voice, we are transported into a unique world, a unique character, a unique way of seeing and being. A distinctive voice can be especially important in fantasy, science fiction, and horror, when our stories may revolve around other worlds and non-human characters.  How do authors create their unique voices?  Many sources describe voice as the interaction of style and viewpoint. But that doesn’t really express the depth and breadth of voice. Voice reflects the personality of the narrator or viewpoint character, their way of thinking, feeling, and being in the world, which is influenced by their background, experiences, and opinions. This is expressed, in part, through stylistic choices, such as lengths of sentences, selection of details, diction, rhythm, syntax, and more. Voice also involves the subject matter you choose, the philosophy or theme inherent in the story, and the emotional tone. Without a strong voice, your story may be competent but forgettable.

online studentIn Odyssey’s new course, Right Voice for the Right Story: Discover the Variety of Voices Inside You and How to Use Them, instructor Jason Ridler will guide you through the process of discovering and developing your voice by exploring the subject matter that speaks to you, what you have to say about it, what you want readers to feel about it, and the combination of style and viewpoint that will best bring out those qualities. Then you’ll explore the range of your voice, how you can adapt your voice to reflect different narrators or viewpoint characters and to convey a variety of emotional tones.  Finally, you’ll learn how stretching your voice in unconventional ways can generate exciting possibilities. Jason Ridler, Ph.D., is a published novelist and highly praised instructor who has taught creative writing for Google and various conferences and programs. 

Our final course this season will be taught by award-winning novelist Barbara Ashford.  Barbara has been an outstanding, top-rated instructor for Odyssey Online for 14 years, sharing her wide-ranging knowledge and providing deep feedback to students that has helped them make major improvements in their writing. I’m thrilled that Barbara will be teaching The Heart of the Matter: Bringing Emotional Resonance to Your Storytelling. Writers are constantly frustrated to discover that the characters and situations that seem so moving and powerful to them leave readers shrugging and saying, "Meh." If you want your work to be imbued with emotion, if you want your readers to care as much about your characters as you do, this is the course for you. The Heart of the Matter will not only show you how to get character emotions on the page in a powerful and affecting way; it will explain how to infuse each element of your story--setting, description, character, plot, point of view--with emotion, so emotion resonates through your story with great impact. 

One key to creating a powerful emotional experience for readers is understanding the heart of your story. You’ll learn how to identify and strengthen that heart to build an emotional connection with readers. You’ll practice methods of maximizing reader emotions such as curiosity, anticipation, anxiety, and surprise. You’ll explore techniques that will not only show the emotions of your characters but evoke the intended emotional response from your readers. And you’ll learn how to create an emotionally satisfying ending.  Putting all these skills together will allow you to orchestrate the overall emotional experience of readers.

When Barbara last offered this class in 2020, one of her students, Rebecca Roland, said this: "I signed up for The Heart of the Matter because I was receiving feedback that people felt distant from my characters, or they wouldn’t feel what I was hoping they would experience from my story. I want to create compelling characters and situations that take readers on an emotional roller coaster and leave them wanting more. In The Heart of the Matter, I learned how to analyze my work for emotion, how to zero in on the right details at the right times, and how to set up my story from the very beginning to carry the right emotional tone through to the end. Barbara Ashford is a knowledgeable instructor who is able to take a complex concept like emotion and break it down in order to apply techniques to storytelling. I would recommend this class, and Barbara, without any reservation." 

Please click on the other tabs at the top of this column of text for additional information on the "Components," "Specifics," and "Cost" of Odyssey's online classes.  

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 Zoom. At class time, plug in your USB headset and click the link to go to the Zoom meeting. 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.  

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 may 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.

The instructor will also require you to respond to discussion questions on the class group, which will encourage you to explore ideas and get to know your classmates.

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 Odyssey Director Jeanne Cavelos:

Jeanne will not be teaching this winter, but she will be reading the applications and making admissions decisions, coordinating the dissemination of advance materials, setting up the class groups, and making herself available by email and phone if you have problems of any kind during a course. Feel free to contact her with any questions.

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.


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, responding to discussion questions, critiquing, and writing and revising your fiction. See the specific class page for more details.

Technological requirements:

The computer specifications 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, it will fulfill the requirements. So don’t panic; just go through them one at a time and make sure you are covered.

-Computer: Make sure your computer fulfills the Zoom requirements.  You can find them here:  https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/201362023-System-requirements-for-Windows-macOS-and-Linux.  While you can join the class meetings from supported tablets and mobile devices, Odyssey recommends you use a desktop or laptop computer for full functionality.

-Headset with earphones and microphone: Odyssey strongly recommends participants use a USB headset made up of headphones and microphone. Using speakers and microphone instead of a headset can lead to feedback or echo, disrupting the class. You can also use a telephone, though the sound quality may not be as good.

-Internet: Broadband wired or wireless (3G or 4G/LTE). Make sure your internet is up to speed (1.5 Mbps download/1.5Mbps upload). You can check your bandwidth here.

-Assignments: Assignments must be turned in as MS Word files or rich text files.

-Class materials: Materials will be distributed in MS Word files or pdf files. You must be able to read such files.

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.

Refunds: All tuition payments are non-refundable.