Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust



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Odyssey Online Writing Classes

Course Offerings for Winter 2016:
Three-Act Structure in Fantastic Fiction
  Course Meets: January 4 - February 2, 2016
Instructor: Jeanne Cavelos
Application Deadline: December 7, 2015
Getting the Big Picture: The Key to Revising Your Novel
Course Meets: January 5 - February 16, 2016
Instructor: Barbara Ashford
Application Deadline: December 9, 2015
Point of View: The Intersection of Character and Plot
  Course Meets: January 21 - February 18, 2016
Instructor: David B. Coe
Application Deadline: December 26, 2015
And check out our very first Webinar!

A Message from Jeanne Cavelos, Director, about the 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.

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.

Woman in Headphones 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 hear about the weaknesses in your writing and ready to work to overcome them. Classes provide a supportive yet challenging, energizing atmosphere. Taking one of our 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, 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.

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're offering a terrific lineup of classes this winter. I'm very excited that author David B. Coe (also known as D.B. Jackson) has agreed to teach for us. Students who have learned from him—whether at When Worlds Collide or Antioch Writer's Workshop or elsewhere—have been praising his teaching ability and telling me that I must get David to offer a class for Odyssey. David's course, Point of View: The Intersection of Character and Plot, will provide some great insights into the power of POV to make or break a story; what makes strong POV; how to choose and establish POV characters; how POV influences character arc, plot, setting, and pacing; and how POV can be used to address many common problems. In my experience, most writers don't pay enough attention to POV, and weaknesses there often undermine the entire story. I think this will be a very helpful class for any writer.

One of our most highly rated instructors, Barbara Ashford, is offering a revised and expanded version of her most highly rated class: Getting the Big Picture: The Key to Revising Your Novel. If you have a novel-in-progress, this is the course for you. Writers tend to get so immersed in their novels, they can't step back and see the big picture. They might polish their drafts and make minor changes, but they don't really know what to change to turn that rough draft into a powerful, unified novel. Barbara will guide you in a deep examination of the "big picture" elements of your novel—premise, promise, theme, world, character, plot—so that you can make the major changes you need 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. Since we last offered it three years ago, I've been bombarded with requests to bring it back. A student who took the course last time we offered it said this:

"I am in the outlining stages of a novel. The Odyssey online class Getting the Big Picture helped me focus in on the true nature of my story, what lies at its heart. The class has given me the tools to improve both plot and characters and tie the two more strongly into the theme. These are the most useful three class sessions I have ever attended."
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. Barbara will also be adding new content and examples. 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.

Finally, since the biggest struggles for most writers involve plot and structure, I'm bringing back my popular Three-Act Structure class, so more writers have the chance to improve their plotting skills. Does your story or novel take too long to "get going"? Does it lack momentum, suspense, and escalation? Do you feel you're making plot decisions randomly? Are you missing crisis points of impact and emotion? Do readers say "ho hum" or "hunh?" to your climax? Key to strong plotting is understanding the act structure of your story or novel and developing it to its greatest effect. While writing books and blogs periodically discuss acts, few clearly define what truly comprises an act or explain how plotting in acts can create a more suspenseful, unpredictable, and emotionally satisfying experience for the reader. With a strong act structure, your protagonist will face challenges that will put him, and the reader, through an experience they will never forget. One of my students commented,

"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."
Students have found this course extremely helpful. This time around, I'll be expanding the course to two hours per class meeting rather than our usual ninety minutes, so we can cover all the content with plenty of time for discussion and questions.

Odyssey's online classes operate through five components:

  • 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 GoToMeeting.com. At class time, you call the class phone number or plug in your USB headset and go to the appropriate Web site (no GoToMeeting account is required). 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.

    By clicking on the appropriate icon, you can raise your hand. You can also verbally ask a question and listen to the questions of other students.

    Some sessions will involve more discussion, with students commenting on their experiences with the assigned work. You can get to know your classmates and form supportive friendships.

  • Class materials: Supporting materials are posted on a Yahoo Group, which you will be asked to join when you enroll in the class. You will 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.

  • 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 me: If I am not the instructor of the class, I will still be sitting in on the class to provide technical support to the instructor. I will be reading the applications and making admissions decisions, coordinating the dissemination of advance materials, setting up the Yahoo Group, providing support if you have technical problems, and making myself available by email and phone if you have questions or problems of any kind during the course.

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 take your writing to the next level.

Here are some other details about the courses:

  • Class size: Limited to 14 students, unless otherwise announced.

  • Instructors: Top authors, editors, and agents serve as instructors for Odyssey's online classes. You can find information about the instructor of each course on the specific class page. I teach one course per year.

  • 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, critiquing, and writing and revising your fiction. See the specific class page for more details.

  • Technological requirements: The computer specifications below 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.

    • A telephone or a USB headset (made up of headphones and microphone) that you can plug into your computer. If you use a phone, your phone will be charged for a standard long-distance call during the lectures and discussions.

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

    • Class materials will be distributed in MS Word files. You must be able to read such files.

    If you have a PC, the following is required:

    • Internet Explorer v9 or later, Mozilla Firefox v34 or later, or Google Chrome v39 or later; in any of these, JavaScript must be enabled

    • Windows XP or later, or Windows Server 2008 and 2008 RT or later

    • 2GB or more of RAM

    • Cable modem, DSL, or better Internet connection (broadband strongly recommended)

    • To see the instructor via webcam, 1 Mbps or more bandwidth (you can check your bandwidth here). If you don't have this much bandwidth, you can still participate but will probably need to close the small window showing the instructor

    If you have a Mac, the following is required:

    • Apple Safari v6 or later, Mozilla Firefox v34 or later, or Google Chrome v39 or later; in any of these, JavaScript must be enabled

    • Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) or later

    • 2 GB or more of RAM

    • Cable modem, DSL, or better Internet connection (broadband strongly recommended)

    • To see the instructor via webcam, 1 Mbps or more bandwidth (you can check your bandwidth here). If you don't have this much bandwidth, you can still participate but will probably need to close the small window showing the instructor

    You can also join your class meetings from any Windows, Apple, or Android device, such as a tablet or smartphone. This is not recommended, since your options will be limited, but if this is your only option, it is possible. The system requirements for such systems are available here.

  • Cost: 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.

  • How to apply: All prospective students must fill out an Odyssey Online Application and include a 1,000-word writing sample. There is a $10 application fee. If you are admitted to the course, $10 will be deducted from the tuition. See the specific class page or the top of this page for the application deadlines.

  • Refunds: All tuition payments are non-refundable.

The Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to help developing writers realize their potential and make their work the best it can be. My experiences over Odyssey's twenty years have been incredible. Talented writers of all ages, from all over the world, have given their all, improved their writing, and made exciting breakthroughs.

Hands at Keyboard If you're willing to dedicate your time and energy in that quest, if you're willing to hear about the weaknesses in your writing and work to improve them, then I hope you'll apply for one of our online classes.

You can find comments from graduates of Odyssey's Online Classes here.

Please check out the Odyssey Online Frequently Asked Questions page. If you have any additional questions, feel free to e-mail me.

To receive information about future classes, sign up for our free e-newsletter.

If you want help improving your writing but can't make the scheduled times for the classes, or you feel the classes aren't the right option for you, you may want to check out our very first Odyssey Webinar! If you have completed work, you may find the Odyssey Critique Service helpful. It allows you to receive professional-level feedback on your writing. We also offer consultations, in which you can talk out a writing problem with me.

In the meantime, I hope you'll find this site a useful resource for your writing.

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Updated Oct 23, 2015
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