Odyssey Online Classes FAQ

A number of key elements set Odyssey’s Online Classes apart from other online classes.

Most online classes don’t have live lectures or meetings, as Odyssey classes do. Instead, you receive material to read, either by email or on a Web site. Reading advice on how to improve your writing can certainly be helpful, but it’s no substitute for a live experience, in which you can interact with the instructor and other students, ask questions, discuss the material, and discuss your experiences with the homework assignments.

Most online classes simply allow writers to enroll, rather than requiring them to apply, as we do for Odyssey’s Online Classes. This means that people may sign up for classes that are inappropriate for their level of skill. Beginners may enroll in an advanced class, or vice versa. This makes it difficult for the class to remain focused and effective. Instant enrollment also means that some people sign up for a class on the spur of the moment, without taking the associated responsibilities seriously. This leads to students dropping out of the class or failing to complete assigned work. That disrupts the class and hurts all of the students.

Many online classes impose no penalties when students fail to complete assigned work. This is not fair to the student who fails to complete work or to his classmates. Practicing the techniques taught in class is key to internalizing those techniques; a student who doesn’t do the assignments simply isn’t getting the education promised by the course. An instructor who behaves as if this doesn’t matter is misleading the student.In Odyssey’s Online Classes, assignments are often studied and discussed by the class, so everyone can learn from them. Any student who doesn’t complete the assignment is diminishing the experience for the entire class. This is especially true when the assignment involves critiquing classmates’ work. Thus, a student who does not complete assigned work by the due date may be expelled from the class. This ensures that you will be in a class of dedicated, hard-working writers who will enhance your learning experience.

Many online classes provide very basic writing advice and very simple assignments. Odyssey’s Online Classes are rigorous and demanding, packing valuable content into each session and providing assignments that will challenge you to take your writing to the next level. The classes provide you with the tools and techniques you need to improve your writing, along with feedback on your work that reveals whether you are successfully using those tools and techniques.

Odyssey’s Online Classes are based on the teaching techniques that have proven successful at the Odyssey Writing Workshop, which attracts writers from all over the world. Fifty-nine percent of workshop graduates have gone on to be professionally published.

A challenging yet supportive atmosphere helps you to improve as much as possible in six weeks.

Odyssey provides a wide focus encompassing all fantastic fiction—fantasy, science fiction, horror, magical realism, and anything in between.

The critiquing process, in which you receive feedback from the instructor and your classmates, is designed to maximize its usefulness. You will not be coddled, and you will not be attacked. Critiques are unflinchingly honest, concrete, and detailed.

All classes are designed for writers of the fantastic and include issues specific to the writing of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. That doesn’t mean that you must write only genre fiction while in the class or that you must be a writer of fantasy, science fiction, or horror to take the class. Many classes focus on elements of fiction writing that are important no matter what kind of fiction you are writing. A class on Creating Strong Protagonists, for example, could be useful to all fiction writers. Other classes have a more specific genre focus and may be of minimal help to writers of other genres. A class on Innovation in Horror, for example, may not be very useful for a writer of romances.

In general, writers of all types of fiction are welcome to apply. You should check the specific class page to find out whether the content will be useful to you.

Writers of middle-grade and young-adult fiction are welcome to apply to Odyssey. There’s no requirement that you have to write for adults.

Tuition is nonrefundable. We want to encourage writers to make a serious commitment when they enroll in an Odyssey Online Class. Making that commitment to attend each class and complete each assignment will help you get the most out of the class. It will also prevent the disruption that occurs every time a student drops out of a class.

Classes are limited to 14 students, unless otherwise announced.

Tuition can be paid via personal check (if you are in the US), international bank draft in US dollars, or PayPal in US dollars. PayPal is an Internet service that allows you to charge expenses to your credit card. It’s easy to set up an account with PayPal; it takes about five minutes

Most Odyssey Online Classes are designed for adults. When we offer a class for younger writers, that information will be specified on the class page.

But even if a class is designed for adults, you are welcome to apply if you are under eighteen, and if your skills are at an appropriate level, you may be admitted. At the Odyssey Writing Workshop, we have admitted a number of students who were under 18, and in every case they have performed admirably, keeping up with their older classmates and turning in some strong fiction.

To successfully complete a class, you need to be mature enough to handle honest feedback on your work.

Some classes will involve the critiquing of entire stories or novel chapters. Other classes, which focus on particular elements of writing or particular writing techniques, will involve the critiquing of writing exercises or excerpts from longer pieces.

Either way, the philosophy by which we operate is that all feedback given on students’ work must be truthful and helpful. This may seem obvious, but many writing classes don’t operate on these principles.

What this means is that everything you or your fellow students say about a piece of writing should be true. You shouldn’t say “I liked it” if you didn’t like it. Similarly, you shouldn’t say something bad about a piece just to make yourself sound clever, if you don’t really believe what you say.

Also, everything you say should be helpful. Saying “This sucked” is not helpful. The author has no idea what’s wrong or how to fix it. This doesn’t mean critiques have to be gentle and “nice.” You’re not doing an author any favors by telling him his work is great when it’s not. You’re actually doing him a serious disservice. But your criticisms must give the author some idea what’s wrong and how he might begin to fix the problem. So you might say, “Your character is flat. I didn’t believe for a moment that he was a real human being with a real history and real problems and desires.” That criticism may be difficult for the author to hear, but it is truthful and helpful, and absolutely critical to any writer wanting to improve.

The references should be people who are familiar with your writing. The ideal reference would be an expert of some type—a published writer, a writing teacher, an editor. If there is no expert who is familiar with your work, then the next best choice would be a peer, someone who has about the same level of writing knowledge as you—a fellow member of a writers’ group, someone with whom you’ve exchanged manuscripts. If no one has seen your work except for friends or family members, then list them as references.

You should, of course, ask these people for permission to use them as references before putting their names on the application.

We look for a number of different qualities in the writing samples submitted with the applications. Perhaps the most important is originality—the sense that the author is trying to say something that only he can say, and he’s trying to say it in his own unique way. Also important are strong stylistic skills—clear and powerful sentences, vivid sensory details, an engaging, consistent voice, proper grammar and punctuation, and strong word choice. And, of course, we look for strong story elements—a vivid setting, a clear and consistent point of view, a believable character with a goal and an internal conflict, and compelling movement in the plot.

Most applicants who are accepted have one element that really stands out as exceptional, while the other elements may have flaws but do show the skill level necessary.

All applicants to a class will find out their status within 2 weeks after the application deadline. We wait until all applications are in before making any decisions. Shortly after the deadline, you’ll receive an email from us, letting you know whether we can offer you a spot in the class. If you’ve been admitted, there will be instructions for paying the tuition and preparing for the class. If we’re unable to offer you a spot, you will receive some feedback on your writing sample. A few people will be put on a waiting list in case a spot opens up in the class.

There is a $10 application fee. If you are admitted to the class, you can deduct $10 from the cost of your tuition.

To attend class sessions, you will need either a USB headset (made up of headphones and microphone) that you can plug into your computer, or a telephone. If you use a telephone, you will need to call a long distance number to participate in class. Your phone will be charged for a standard long-distance call during those sessions.

Some courses require that you purchase a textbook or other supporting material. That information will be listed on the specific class page.

We have had a few students take more than one course in a single season, with the terms of those courses overlapping. If you are considering this, please make sure that you have time to complete all the required work, and take into account how much time it usually takes you to write new material. While we provide estimates of the time required, the actual time used by students often varies widely.

Yes, you will need to create a Zoom account to attend class sessions. You can create one for free here. At class time, plug in your USB headset and click the link to go to the Zoom meeting.

Go here to find the latest requirements for Zoom.  Then, if you have a PC, click on CONTROL PANEL, then SYSTEM & SECURITY, then SYSTEM. You will see descriptions of your processor (CPU) and installed memory (RAM).

If you have a Mac, click on ‘About This Mac’ under the Apple menu, and a window will pop up with that information.

For more information, go to our main Odyssey Online page, click on the “Specifics” tab, and look under “Technological requirements.”

Taking one of Odyssey’s Online Classes is not equivalent to attending the workshop, and should not in any way be considered a substitute. 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 how to avoid those pitfalls. The class will provide you with new insights into the writing process and into your writing in particular, through a rigorous curriculum and detailed feedback.

Some writers who have taken both the in-person workshop and Odyssey’s online classes have said the narrower focus of the classes and assignments helped them gain a deeper understanding of the material covered.

Class expectations are discussed on the specific class page. Policies regarding student behavior are explained in the Handbook for Students of Online Classes.

The easiest way to receive information about future classes is to sign up for our free e-newsletter.