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.
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 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. 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 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. Patricia C. Wrede, New York Times bestselling author of 24 fantasy and SF novels and creator of the legendary Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions tool for writers, is teaching Worldbuilding in Fantasy and Science Fiction. Odyssey Online students have been requesting this subject for several years, and I'm thrilled to be able to offer it with such a great expert. A well-chosen and effective setting can capture the reader's imagination and enhance every aspect of a story. But worldbuilding carries many difficulties and potential pitfalls, including inconsistencies, overcomplication, oversimplification, confusion, distraction, lack of vividness, and lack of originality. Coming up with the best world for your story, one that works with the characters and plot to create the strongest effect, can be difficult, and then getting that world down on the page can be even more difficult. Patricia will lead writers through that process.
I'm thrilled that award-winning novelist Barbara Ashford, one of our most highly rated instructors, has agreed to bring back her course The Heart of the Matter: Bringing Emotional Resonance to Your Storytelling. The students fortunate enough to take the course in 2014 found it extremely helpful (you can see their comments on the class page), and others who weren't able to get in have been asking us to offer it again. Here's your chance to discover the emotional core of your story and then learn how to get those emotions on the page so readers have an experience they'll never forget. Writers sometimes think only of emotions in the moment rather than orchestrating the overall emotional experience of the reader, and think only of character emotions rather than of the emotion that can be infused into every story element--from setting and description to character development and plot events. Barbara will explain how to make all these elements work together to create greater emotional resonance.
Finally, I'm very excited to be teaching Powerful Dialogue in Fantastic Fiction. When I taught this course before, it received a 100% "excellent" rating on student evaluations. I'm expanding the class meetings to two hours each rather than our usual ninety minutes, so we'll have more time for discussion, and working to make it even better this time! I'm very passionate about dialogue. It's one of the major components of most works of fiction, yet in my experience, few writers give it much thought beyond trying to make it sound realistic and trying to make each character have a distinct manner of speaking. But a writer needs to do much more than that to create powerful dialogue. Memorable dialogue that carries tension and propels the story forward can make a huge difference in a story. One tight, brilliant conversation can do so much to convey character, advance conflict, show a shift in power, and generate subtext by suggesting much more than is actually said. If your method of writing dialogue is mainly to think, "What would he say next?" you are missing most of the potential of dialogue. This course will help students to write layered, powerful dialogue that accomplishes multiple goals and resonates with readers long after they finish the story. You can find comments from previous students on the class page.
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 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 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.
- Computer requirements:
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.
- On a PC, Windows 2007-2010. On a Mac, Mac OS X 10.9 (Mavericks)-10.11 (El Capitan)
- 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
- 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 21 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.
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
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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 Odyssey Webinars! 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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