2020 – Instructor Jeanne Cavelos
“I used to think outlining would kill my creativity and make the writing process boring. It turns out, I just didn’t know how to outline.
“In Three-Act Structure with Jeanne Cavelos, I studied and outlined numerous stories, discovering what made a strong story and what didn’t. I learned how to tie a character’s inner conflict with the outer conflict. I learned how to solve the problem of the “muddy middle,” which is where I often struggle in longer pieces. I learned how to tie in theme, raise the stakes for my characters, and make the reader care about them and about what was happening. I found that writing from an outline boosted my productivity, and I more than doubled my daily word count! But most importantly, I discovered that writing from an outline didn’t kill my creativity; instead, it opened the possibilities for me to add a lot of little details that made the story sing, whereas when I was writing by the seat of my pants, I was too busy thinking of the story itself to add those details.
“I’ve been trying to find the best way to ‘level up’ in my writing, and this class definitely pushed me to the next level. Jeanne is an extremely knowledgeable instructor, and she truly cares about sharing her insight with others and inspiring writers to push themselves and improve their craft. I cannot recommend this class enough!”
“Odyssey Online’s course on Three-Act Structure elevated my understanding of plot and helped jump-start my writing after being stuck in the doldrums last year. Before taking this class, many of my stories languished in unfinished states because I didn’t know how to fix them structurally. Worse, I’d send out finished works only to receive “We liked this, but the ending didn’t quite come together” rejections. My writing process was in a shambles and I’d lost my confidence in my ability to tell stories. I realized I needed a better understanding of structure if I was going to write better stories.
“The coursework for Three-Act Structure was engaging, intense, and illuminating. Jeanne Cavelos is an excellent writing teacher. I’ve taken other classes in the past that have covered similar concepts, such as why endings should feel surprising and inevitable, but they’ve never actually explained how to do that. Jeanne, on the other hand, explained how to create a satisfying plot brick by brick that built towards a satisfying ending. She explained essentials that are often glossed over in craft books, such as the definition of an act, which helped unlock other concepts. The numerous examples we saw in class crystallized difficult concepts, such as identifying inciting events and when they should appear in the plot, goal formation, how to assess whether a character’s goal is active, reactive, or passive, among many others. The homework brought all the concepts we learned in the lectures together and allowed us to practice them deeply. Jeanne’s critiques were thorough and insightful and helped me fix stories that I once thought were unfixable.
“I also, for the first time, learned how to outline effectively. This is no small feat for a lifelong pantser who loves discovery writing. In the past I resisted outlining unless I was pressed for time, but I never stuck to them and I found they impeded my creativity. But when I practiced a new style of outlining, I realized that creating the structure upfront meant I can really focus on the areas I truly enjoy writing. And, because I didn’t have to struggle with structure while pantsing, I could create the best story possible before drafting. I’m definitely incorporating outlining into my writing toolbox moving forward.
After taking this class, I feel more confident in my understanding of structure, and I’m eager to apply what I’ve learned to existing drafts so I can make them even stronger. I’m also excited that I can outline new stories from beginning to end without taking months to write a rough draft.
“I highly recommend this class to anyone who’s looking to take their understanding of plot and structure to the next level.”
“I was in the doldrums with my writing, overwhelmed with the many stories I had let stall in various stages of progress, when I came across a testimonial for the Odyssey online course Three-Act Structure in Fantastic Fiction. I submitted an application thinking it couldn’t hurt. Now, having just completed the class, I can honestly say it’s the most valuable investment I’ve ever made in my writing.
“Completing the assignments on time every week was a challenge (they aren’t exaggerating with regard to how much time you need to dedicate to homework) but the knowledge and experience gained with regard to structure and plot are invaluable–as are the relationships established with my classmates. Jeanne knows her craft and has a keen sense of a writer’s individual strengths and weaknesses. Beyond this, her passion for sharing her knowledge and equipping writers with the tools to succeed shines through in every lesson and critique.
“I highly recommend Three-Act Structure in Fantastic Fiction for anyone who is serious about investing the time and energy to improve their craft.”
“I have been trying for more than a year to find a way to level up in my writing, and with Three-Act Structure in Fantastic Fiction with Jeanne Cavelos, I found it.
“Jeanne is an incredibly gifted teacher with knowledge I have not come across in any craft book I’ve read or conference I’ve attended. I’ve taken other online writing classes before and gained a few useful insights here and there, but this class does more than just lecture–it gives you tools and forces you to practice using those tools. Then it shows you how to incorporate those tools into writing an actual story. I’ve always loved outlining, but found myself veering off-course two-thirds of the way through the story and I didn’t know why and didn’t know how to account for it. I know why now, and better yet, I know how to write an outline that WORKS and, consequently, one that I’ll stick to, saving me a lot of revision time. The techniques taught in this class have allowed me to shift my focus from what I am putting on the page to how I am putting it on the page. It makes for a much cleaner, stronger first draft, and for a funner writing experience!
“Jeanne creates an inviting and encouraging learning environment. I felt welcome and supported in every stage of the class and am thrilled at how my writing network has expanded from this class. I was astounded at the amount and quality of the critiques I received from the instructor and my classmates on assignments I turned in. I learned so much from them! And I was just as astounded at the amount and quality of critique I was giving to other students–I’d been giving critiques for years, but this class taught me how to look at the big picture and spot problems in an outline before a draft is even written.
“I cannot recommend this class enough–it is vital for anyone looking to create fiction that WORKS.”
“Odyssey’s Three Act Structure course with Jeanne Cavelos is a “must take” course for anyone serious about long form fantasy writing. The course was a mix of deep philosophical insight into craft; veteran tools of the trade; and rigorous practice of principles. The students were a solid community of top-notch fellow writers, as well. This is a boot camp not to be missed for writers serious about their success.”
“When I applied for the Odyssey Workshop on Three-Act Structure in Fantastic Fiction, I knew it would be helpful, but I had no idea how much the class would impact my writing process and my understanding of plot. I started the class, knowing I would always be writing and knowing that my stories were not as strong as I wanted them to be, but without a clear understanding of how to fix them. I left the class with a solid understanding of three-act structure, a new appreciation for outlining at different stages of my writing process, and a plan for writing and revising moving forward. I feel motivated about writing in a way that I haven’t felt for quite some time.
“I can honestly say this is the best writing course I have ever completed. I highly recommend this workshop to anyone who wants to learn how to write the best possible version of their stories.”
“This workshop has been amazing. The learning process is akin to being immersed in a foreign language. From this immersion, I have gained a new process for outlining that will streamline my writing, making it easier and faster for me to write. No more meandering muddy middles!
“I also gained a deeper understanding of and appreciation for structure. I can tell before I tackle a possible scene whether it actually fits into my novel, and whether I need to eliminate it or revise my idea for that scene, as well as how to revise it. (Do I need tougher obstacles? Does this portray my theme? Does something important to my protagonist change in this scene?)
“Critiques from our instructor (Jeanne Cavelos) and fellow students showed me structural flaws in my novel-in-progress. I also discovered that I really can conceive, outline, and write a short story within one week, something I would have thought impossible before taking this course. (Sure, this story had flaws too, but one more week would fix those!)
“We analyzed nearly 20 stories, ranging from shorts to longer works—a novel and a movie—to “just the bare bones” outlines. That’s roughly 4-5 stories per week. And details! From turns (a new direction for the plot based on changes in goals) that establish the three acts, to inciting incidents, obstacles, conflict, stakes, escalations, mirror moments, darkest hours, climaxes, denouements and epiphanies, our analyses addressed 85 questions about structure clustered into 19 discrete groups. Whew!
“I am awed, humbled and grateful. Thank you, Jeanne!”
“Odyssey’s 3-Act Structure is by far the best, most comprehensive course with the most responsive instructor that I’ve ever encountered. I’ve taken maybe 3 to 5 other online courses, and a number of in-person ones.
“I was absolutely blown away by Jeanne Cavelos’s absolute excellence as an instructor. And I’ve worked with her before, yet even with my strongly positive memories of her teaching ability and her strong drive to serve as a mentor in the classroom, I was once again absolutely blown away by her diligence, enthusiasm, and responsiveness to her students.
“I am absolutely a better writer than when I began the course! I have a much, much better understanding of three-act structure. I have also learned how powerful an outline is for building on top of, and how quickly that gets my creative mind going. I had no idea that finding ways to improve already-existing work could help me understand my own work so much better, and help jumpstart my process so well as it did.
“I found that my stories were already better structured, after even just the first class section. I have a contest that I participate in yearly, just for fun, in a writers’ group, and I found it was both a) easier to produce a structured story for the contest, instead of the shapeless blobs I tended to output in the past, and b) that I got better scores from fellow writers in the group when I did so! So I got immediate feedback that I was improving, which was very nice!
“And, on top of all this, my confidence that I can write a well-structured story has improved—and honestly, so much of writing is based on just that, the confidence that one can create what one imagines on the page. Without that confidence, how can one even sit down to create?
“I’m so grateful to have these new skills in my toolbox. I have been struggling to master three-act structure on a more useful, more intuitive level for years, and that is the gift that this course has given me. Thank you, Jeanne Cavelos!!”
–Elle Van Hensbergen
“In Odyssey Online’s Three-Act Structure course, Jeanne Cavelos taught me more than I expected I to learn about plot and structure, character development, causal chain… about everything, really! This course has had more of a positive impact on my writing, hands down, than any other undertaking (outside of the six-week summer Odyssey Workshop).
“As a lifelong “discovery writer” and a card-carrying “pantser” it is no small thing when I tell you that I now believe in the power of outlining. I now plot. I truly never believed I would say that, but it’s true! This change is due in large part to Jeanne’s amazing talents as an instructor. Her knowledge is unparalleled.
“Jeanne has an amazing ability to bring to life concepts that in my mind were stodgy, monolithic, and overburdened (namely, plot). I also have a better understanding and clarity regarding the complex interactions between structure and characterization, structure and theme. I’m glad to say that plot is not the four-letter word I thought it was. It carries and enables much more depth and intricate nuance to writing than I’d given it credit for. I’m quite happy to have been so wrong!
“Jeanne’s classes are always fun, interesting, and full of great insights and breakthroughs. Community follows because sincerity, passion, and respect naturally translate into a welcoming environment where people will share and help one another. Which is why wherever Jeanne is, there you will find a strong community.”
“It is not often I have a hallelujah moment in a course, online or otherwise. The Odyssey online course for Three-Act Structure, which I took in January of 2020, was an incredible amount of studying, outlining, writing, and critiquing, which brought me nose to nose with some of my most persistent problems with structure. The homework forced me to grapple with such things as annotated outlines, act divisions and causal chains in the works of well-known sci-fi and fantasy authors and then apply what I learned from that and the classes to my own work and that of my fellow classmates, an outstanding group of engaged and dedicated fellow learners. The hands-on approach in Odyssey courses is demanding, the workload daunting, but the payoff is extraordinary. For the very first time I was able to outline a story, write the story in record time and get immersed in a forward-moving creative flow while doing it. For a pokey pantser that’s quite a feat. I think I actually said “hallelujah” while writing it.”
2016 – Instructor Jeanne Cavelos
“Whether you are a beginner at the craft of writing or a published professional you will benefit from an Odyssey Online Writing Course. I have taken other online courses and the two with Odyssey felt like I was in a physical college classroom. The teachers read my homework carefully and their evaluations motivated me to finish revising my novel. This course is for serious writers who want to improve their craft in a supportive environment. Worth every penny. (They should charge more!)”
“Thanks, so much, Jeanne. You’re truly doing a great job with this class, both in providing us with direct feedback and with the detailed design of the homework.
“Earlier, I mentioned that I want to work hard at improving my writing, but I was uncertain what kind of activities would be productive in that direction. I have no doubt that the work I’ve done this week in applying the class Critiquing Worksheet to four other stories has taught me a huge amount. Two particularly useful aspects were the structure of the Critiquing Worksheet and the fact that I was working with other students’ outlines. It took me a while to realize the importance of paying attention to every question in that worksheet, but I think that if I can ask each of those questions about my own work, then I’ll be surprised and delighted at my own progress. The fact that I was working with outlines instead of full stories had two positive consequences for me: First of all, it meant that I could learn from doing four stories in a concentrated way that I believe is reinforcing my learning. Second, it has made me rethink the value of an outline. In the past, I occasionally would write an outline before diving into writing the story, but I never analyzed the outline in the depth that’s suggested by the Critiquing Worksheet. After I’d written a whole story, I might have asked some of those questions, but by then I was often too invested in the story to make significant improvements.
“Finally, I want to reemphasize how the work that you put into this class, including individual feedback, is incomparable to any other online class that I’ve ever seen. Of course, I knew of your consummate dedication in the summer workshop, but I didn’t think it was possible for you to carry it over to an online class in a way that would inspire me so much. In the winter of 2014, I took an online class from elsewhere which promised some individual feedback and interaction. It was more expensive than the Odyssey Online classes, and knowing the amount of dedication that it takes to provide any individual feedback, I didn’t expect much. Even so, I was disappointed when it turned out that everything including the ‘feedback’ was totally recorded from previous years.
“You are doing a wonderful job, and I know that your efforts get multiplied many times over through your many students.”
“Odyssey Online’s class on Three Act Structure is a delight, a reminder of the challenge and the thrill of learning with Jeanne Cavelos. If you haven’t attended Odyssey yet, try one of Odyssey’s online classes—you won’t be disappointed with what you learn, and you’ll get a taste of what the intensive summer workshop is like. I found this online format more effective in several ways, actually. Rather than being overwhelmed with a packed schedule of daily lectures, homework assignments, journal writing, stories to read, stories to write, and stories to critique, I was able to focus on a single subject while maintaining my daily routine. This class was on Three-Act Structure, and while Jeanne discussed three-act structure in detail at the summer workshop, this course was an invaluable review. Plus, there’s something wonderful about being at your day job and secretly plotting things that probably aren’t going to get you in trouble. The online class went further, expanding my understanding of story structure, in large part because I had the time to engage in deep practice through the well-chosen stories we read, the well-considered homework questions, and the outline writing exercises. If you’re serious about writing speculative fiction, I highly recommend you try out Odyssey Online.”
“In a four-week course on structure, Odyssey solved problems I had struggled with for decades. My abilities expanded again with Odyssey’s next course on Point of View: The intersection of Plot and Character. These are not just for fantasy or science fiction authors. Anyone who has ever felt like they are going in circles will find Odyssey offers practical, clear lessons from a passionate, experienced editor who knows how to teach.”
“Even in my residential time at the full Odyssey workshop, I didn’t successfully create a three-act structure. This area was a weakness for me. It made a difference to have a sustained focus over several weeks. I achieved that three-act goal in two separate stories during this workshop, so I consider another tool to be added to my kit. Of course it will take additional practice to master.”
“Jeanne’s care and passion for her work were not only evident even before the course had begun: in her initial rejection/wait-list notice, in which she offered a response to my application excerpt. When a space opened up, I jumped on it!
“I’ve come away (from Three-Act Structure) with a pair of X-ray goggles, which I can use to study the skeletons of successful and unsuccessful fiction: an invaluable tool.”
“I took the Three-Act Structure in Fantastic Fiction course and learned an (almost) entirely new language: the vocabulary of captivating storytelling. Despite my experience as an author/editor, thanks to Odyssey and our supportive, expert instructor (Jeanne Cavelos), I realized how much I didn’t know about the craft and skill in building the foundation of a solid story. Nothing is so humbling as recognizing one’s own ignorance! But that’s the first step toward greater knowledge, and with the information-rich lectures, challenging homework, story analyses, group critiques and one-on-one time with Ms. Cavelos, I’m now fired up and ready to take on my works-in-progress . . . this time, able to understand what works, what doesn’t . . . and what will let my plots and characters transcend any clichés or easy paths. Thank you, Odyssey!”
2013 – Instructor Jeanne Cavelos
“I came away from this course with increased confidence in my ability to see a story as a whole. It was an enriching experience.”
“Although I have taken online classes and workshops before, I have not worked so hard on class assignments since I was in college. This class will not only make you work, it will make you into a critical reader and a better writer.”
“This is the second Odyssey online course I have done, and it was every bit as good as the first. Highly recommended. Short, but like an Italian espresso, sweet—and charges up your creative brain.”
“This class has made a big difference in the way I write. After the first lecture itself, I had an ‘Aha!’ moment. I now look at movies, novels and short stories in a fundamentally different way. Not only has my writing improved, the way I analyze and critique stories has undergone a positive change too. I am able to identify possible weaknesses in a plot and I am able to structure my stories better.
“The lectures notes, recordings and the group message board helped me learn at my pace. Jeanne’s thorough evaluation of the assignments was very insightful.”
2011 – Instructor Jeanne Cavelos
“Most fantastic (and other) fiction follows the three-act structure. Thanks to the Odyssey Online Course, the nature of three-act structure has become much clearer to me, which will be a great help for my future writing.”
“I was wonderfully surprised by how much I could learn in such a compact course. I feel like a key element of writing has been forever inscribed in my mind, in my writing process. This may prove to be the single most important learning moment in my development as a writer.”
“WOW! This course was incredible. Jeanne Cavelos is not only an expert in her field but also a wonderful teacher, a truly rare combination! I learnt so much. I can’t recommend this course highly enough.”
“This class has changed the way I write. Before, the words ‘plot and structure’ would make me recoil in anxiety and frustration. Now, I see plot and structure as exciting tools to help me create the kind of stories I want to write.”
—Tom L. Waters
“It was somewhere in the pre-class assignment that I felt the onset of a purposeful build up of skills, skills that developed into the ability to analyze the artistic yet mathematical structure behind stories. Understanding strengths and weaknesses of structures including my own; a new way of reading stories to learn from them; resources to improve my writing; a new group of people to belong to, one that shares the same passion yet provides different strengths; viewpoint and expert advice of a great teacher on my work; all do their part in making this experience a huge leap forward in my writing. I am looking forward to being in future Odyssey classes.”