Odyssey Online Classes

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.

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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 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.

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 an extended period, with the focus, intensity, and extended, directed study such an experience involves.Man with Three Screens

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. Below are descriptions of our Winter 2022 classes.

At last summer's Odyssey workshop, guest lecturer Gregory Ashe blew us away with his lecture on scene and sequel. Most of the class already had someStudent Typing with Earbuds understanding of the difference between scene and sequel, but Greg presented these concepts with such insight and depth that it felt as if we were hearing about something entirely new and extremely valuable. More than that, Greg explained how the skillful use of scenes and sequels can strengthen almost every aspect of your story. They can help you make sure your protagonist has a strong goal that moves the story forward. They can help you convey the impact of events on your protagonist and bring more emotion into your story. They can help you structure your story, manipulate pacing, and keep readers turning the pages. This was such a fascinating lecture that several students immediately requested that Greg be invited to teach an online class on the subject, where he could expand on these concepts. So this winter, Greg will be teaching Scene and Sequel: How to Generate Character-Driven Momentum, Control Pacing, and Write a Page-Turning Story. Students will study the use of scenes and sequels in the works of professional writers, will explore what makes scenes and sequels effective or weak, will write their own scenes and sequels, and will learn how to make the most of scenes and sequels in every story or novel. These skills are invaluable for beginner to intermediate students seeking to take their work to the next level.

Greg is a bestselling author and an outstanding instructor with unique insights on this subject. We're very excited to be able to offer this course.

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 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.

When I asked Scott H. Andrews, editor-in-chief and publisher of the eight-time Hugo Award finalist and World Fantasy Award-winning online fantasy magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies, the most common weakness in the submissions he receives, he said that most writers fail to convey character emotions in a powerful way.  To help writers develop this skill, Scott will be teaching Emotional Truth: Making Character Emotions Real, Powerful, and Immediate to Readers.  Scott taught this class last year, and the reactions were so enthusiastic, we wanted to offer it again. 

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.  online student

One of Scott's students, Elle Van Hensbergen, said, "Previously I felt that an emotionally rich story just came out that way, more attributable to inspiration than to technique. But Scott’s detailed breakdown made it clear to me that one can write in an emotionally rich way with an eye to craft, not just 'moved by the spirit,' so to speak. Which was immensely valuable to me and has changed the way I approach my writing. I found Scott Andrew's enthusiasm and interest in the topic to be contagious. His (meticulous!) feedback was invaluable."

Please click on the other tabs at the top for additional information on 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.

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, 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, 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. You can find more details about Zoom system requirements here. 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.