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.

Bestselling author and Odyssey graduate Gregory Ashe taught for Odyssey Online for the first time last year, and the ratings for his course on Scene and Sequel were among the highest any class has received. I'm thrilled that he has agreed to offer a new class this year. Angled Dialogue: Crafting Authentic-Sounding Dialogue to Convey Information, Escalate Conflict, and Advance Character-Driven Stories focuses on one of the most important components of story. Dialogue can reveal character, build relationships, advance conflicts, create subtext, and much more. Memorable dialogue that carries tension and propels the story forward can make a huge difference in a story.

The class will start with the basics of dialogue and build upon those strategies for writing dialogue to serve various purposes. Greg will explain how to evaluate and revise your dialogue to make it as strong as possible. At the heart of the class is the concept of angled dialogue. Dialogue can be angled toward action, or conflict, or a character's intention, or meaning. Greg will show you how to angle your dialogue to make it the most effective for any situation. You'll then learn advanced techniques for dialogue that can help you achieve multiple purposes simultaneously. Greg will also discuss the role of genre in writing dialogue. We're very excited to be able to offer this course. Greg is an outstanding instructor with unique insights to share.

One of Greg's students, Caroline Lee, said, "The Odyssey Online course Scene and Sequel taught by Gregory Ashe was a great experience. I especially appreciated Greg's enthusiasm, his willingness to share and discuss techniques both in and out of class, and the insights he gave me into using scene and sequel to hone my pacing. It was also a pleasure and a privilege to be in class with such dedicated, serious and imaginative fellow writers. Well worth the time and the hard work!"

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We have only once offered the same class two years in a row, and that class was Emotional Truth: Making Character Emotions Real, Powerful, and Immediate, taught by 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 interest in this class has been so high that we offered it for the last two years to give more writers the chance to take it. Since there are still so many writers who would like to take the class, we're breaking our record once again and offering the class three years in a row!

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.

One of Scott's students, Peter Zuckerman, said, "It's hard to be a successful writer unless you can get readers to care about what you write. That's what this class is all about, and I think it will level up my ability to tell a good story. I especially appreciated how this class focused on what's useful to writers, not just theoretical concepts. I learned specific sentence level, paragraph-level, scene-level, and story-level techniques to make my stories more emotionally resonant. I practiced these techniques and got feedback on them so that I can effectively layer them into the stories I write. I doubt I would have learned these techniques anywhere else, because I've never seen a book, lecture, class, or seminar that covers the same material, even though such material is foundational to storytelling. Scott was a phenomenal teacher who gave me a new framework for writing, and I found this class inspiring."

Award-winning author Barbara Ashford has been an outstanding, top-rated instructor for Odyssey Online for 13 years, sharing her wide-ranging knowledge and providing deep feedback to students that has helped them make major improvements in their writing. We're very excited to have Barbara teaching One Brick at a Time: Crafting Compelling Scenes. While writers often focus on their characters, plot, and setting, they seldom put as much attention on each scene--whether it is fulfilling its purpose in the story and whether it's as strong as possible. Stories and novels are made up of scenes, so if your scenes are weak, your piece has little chance of success. If you've ever felt it impossible to stop reading in the middle of a scene, or you've felt compelled to keep reading even after a scene ends, you were in the hands of a writer who knew how to craft compelling scenes. Writers may have strong ideas, fresh worlds, and interesting characters, but often their scenes often 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 beats in a scene to create strong impact, and how to diagnose and fix problems in scenes. You'll 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 writers seeking to take their work to the next level. Barbara is truly an incredible resource for writers. Her students regularly praise the depth of her knowledge, the useful tools and techniques she provides, and her insightful, in-depth critiques.

One of Barbara's students, Elaine Roth, said, I cannot recommend this course enough. The lectures and study materials were eye-opening in ways I didn't expect. I learned more about scene structure and plot than I could have thought possible in just three lectures. Barbara, the instructor, was thoughtful in her critiques and went above and beyond what I expected in terms of course material. I can feel the difference in my writing already and am looking forward to integrating her lessons into my writing even more as I continue to review her notes.

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, 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.