Odyssey 2006 Syllabus
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Odyssey Workshop Syllabus for Summer 2006

  To show how the workshop has changed: Syllabus for 1996 Workshop

Primary Instructor: Jeanne Cavelos
Office Hours: announced weekly

Class Hours: 9:00am-1:00pm Monday through Friday, June 12-July 21.
Occasional afternoon, evening, and weekend sessions will be scheduled.

  • Texts:

    You will need a spiral notebook to use as a journal, or you can type your journal entries on the computer, if you prefer.

    You are not required to buy the following texts. Parts of these will be assigned as readings and exercises as needed. If you have copies of any of these, it may be helpful to bring them. (FYI, some of these are out of print.)

    Ballenger, Bruce, and Barry Lane. Discovering the Writer Within. Cincinnati: Writer's Digest Books, 1989.

    Bernays, Anne, and Pamela Painter. What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers. New York: HarperCollins, 1995.

    Bova, Ben. The Craft of Writing Science Fiction That Sells. Cincinnati: Writer's Digest Books, 1994.

    Burroway, Janet. Writing Fiction. New York: HarperCollins, 1996.

    Card, Orson Scott. How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. Cincinnati: Writer's Digest Books, 1990.

    Castle, Mort, ed. Writing Horror: A Handbook by the Horror Writers Association. Cincinnati: Writer's Digest Books, 1997.

    Datlow, Ellen, and Terri Windling, eds. The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Fifth Annual Collection. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992.

    Editors of Analog and Asimov's Science Fiction. Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy. New York: Davis Publications, 1991.

    Gardner, John. The Art of Fiction. New York: Vintage Books, 1983.

    Hodges, John C., and Mary E. Whitten. Harbrace College Handbook. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1997.

    James, Edward. Science Fiction in the 20th Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

    Kubis, Pat, and Bob Howland. The Complete Guide to Writing Fiction and Nonfiction and Getting It Published. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1990.

    Le Guin, Ursula K. The Language of the Night. New York: HarperCollins, 1993.

    Lovecraft, H.P. Supernatural Horror in Literature. New York: Dover, 1973.

    Scithers, George H., Darrell Schweitzer, and John M. Ford. On Writing Science Fiction. Philadelphia: Owlswick Press, 1981.

    Stern, Jerome. Making Shapely Fiction. New York: Norton, 1991.

    Tolkien, J.R.R. "On Fairy-Stories." Tree and Leaf. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1965.

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  • Course Description:

    Odyssey is a writing workshop for writers of fantastic fiction, which is an umbrella term I use to cover fantasy, science fiction, horror, magical realism, and anything in between. The main focus of the class will be on critiquing your stories and giving you feedback that is both truthful and helpful. Our goal as a class is to provide a supportive yet challenging, energizing environment that will help you improve your writing and make it the best it can be. We will focus first on how to write well, and second on how to write fantastic fiction well. To help make you more aware of the elements that create strong writing and a strong story, you'll read short stories by some of the top writers in the field; read essays on writing, and on writing fantasy in particular; and read each other's stories and comment on them. You'll also complete daily journal entries, write a lot of new fiction, and revise some of your previous drafts.

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  • Assignments:

    Each student should complete the following tasks:

    • write at least 60 pages of new fiction
    • revise at least 15 pages of fiction at least once
    • read and critique other students' stories
    • complete assigned readings and write reactions in a journal
    • complete assigned writing exercises and journal entries
    • meet with me for at least three private consultations

    Note that some assignments are specific to the individual, focusing on improving weak areas.

    All fiction must be typewritten, double-spaced, in standard manuscript format.

    (A note from the web site developer:
    You will find many words italicized or printed in boldface in these pages. This is due to the HTML convention for many browsers that underlined words specify links. When you write, you should underline those words which you wish to have printed in italics, even if your word processor is capable of producing italicized characters. This is a convention in the publishing industry for manuscripts.)

    Students are expected to spend at least 40 hours per week outside of class writing and working on class assignments.

    A note on novels: You are strongly encouraged to work on short stories while at Odyssey, because most writers improve their skills more quickly when writing short stories. If, however, you aren't passionate about any short story ideas, and you really want to work on a novel, you are allowed to do so. You can submit chapters or scenes for workshopping instead of stories. In your private meetings with me, we should discuss the overall plot of the novel. Ideally, you should give me a synopsis before our meeting, of no more than 2000 words. If you plan to work on a novel, I suggest you discuss this with me before Odyssey begins.

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  • Schedule:

    The course takes place over six weeks. Each week will have the same basic structure. Of 22 hours of class time per week, approximately 8 hours will be lectures, class discussions, and in-class writing exercises; 4 hours guest lectures and question-and-answer sessions with guests; 10 hours workshopping sessions. The following will give you a general idea of the topics covered. Although we'll focus on different topics each week, we'll actually be discussing most of these topics throughout the six weeks.

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    • Pre-Class Assignment:

      By May 26, I need you to send me a story (not your application story) that I can critique before class begins. The story or chapter can be no more than 5000 words. This way, by the time I first see you, I will have already read and critiqued two of your pieces. (If you send a chapter, I strongly suggest you send the first chapter. If you want to send a later chapter, include a brief synopsis of the events up to that point. The total word count of chapter plus synopsis must not exceed 5000 words.) During the first week or so of class, you will turn in a third story to be workshopped by the entire class (this can't be one of the previous two submissions). After we workshop that third submission, you will meet individually with me to review those three pieces and how they reflect where you are as a writer and what you need to focus on during the opening weeks of Odyssey.

      Before the workshop begins, you will also receive several essays to read.

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    • Week 1 (June 12-16, 2006)

      Introduction and orientation. What is fantastic fiction and why do we want to write it? How is writing fantastic fiction different from writing other types of fiction? How is it the same? Discussion of critiquing guidelines.

      How to approach writing a first draft. How to revise.

      Showing versus telling. How to make your fiction vivid and involving. Degrees of showing. Deciding when to show and when to tell.

      Originality in genre fiction. Why is so much F/SF/H so familiar? Developing your own ideas, your own sensibility. What is the "truth" at the center of your story? Working within a genre.

      Workshop student stories (students cannot turn in for workshopping either their application stories or their pre-class assignment stories during this first week). Readings on setting, and reading of a short story by Melissa Scott. Students have their initial private meeting with me during week 1 or week 2.

      June 15, 7-8 pm, reception for Melissa Scott.

      June 16, guest lecture by Melissa Scott on worldbuilding. What makes a setting convincing and real? How do you catch inconsistencies in your world? Finding good research sources. Creating an original, vivid world. Afternoon workshopping session with Melissa, and she will have individual conferences afterward with students whose stories were mailed to her ahead of time.

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    • Week 2 (June 19-23, 2006)

      Developing a setting. The novum. Making your setting an integral part of the story. Creating atmosphere. The connection between setting, plot, and theme. Scientific accuracy in setting. The strangeness budget. Common weaknesses in setting.

      Showing character through action. The importance of habits, gestures, posture. Revealing character through reactions of other characters. Which characters do we love? Which do we hate? Which don't we care about? Common weaknesses in character.

      The advantages and disadvantages of various points of view. The effects point of view can have. The connection between point of view and style. Developing a strong, consistent point of view. Common weaknesses in point of view.

      Workshop new or revised student stories. Readings on character, and reading of a story by Jeff VanderMeer.

      June 22, 7-8 pm, reception for Jeff VanderMeer.

      June 23, guest lecture by Jeff VanderMeer, topic to be announced. Afternoon workshopping session with Jeff, and he will have individual conferences afterward with students whose stories were mailed to him ahead of time.

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    • Week 3 (June 26-30, 2006)

      Building a suspenseful, involving, unpredictable plot. Using the conventions of the genre to lure your readers in and surprise them. Different types of plots. Building suspense, controlling the flow of information. Dealing with exposition. The requirements of story. Making it believable. Beginnings and endings. How can you tell if your climax and denouement are working? Common weaknesses in plot.

      Readings on plot, and reading of a short story by Christopher Golden. Students will have private meetings with me during week 3 or 4 assessing their progress and discussing problems and possible ways of solving them.

      June 29, 7-8 pm, reception for Christopher Golden.

      June 30, guest lecture by Christopher Golden on "setting the scene." How to open a novel, a short story, or a scene. What do you need to put first? How much information do you need to give? Painting the picture to draw the reader more intimately into the moment. How your strategy should change when starting a scene in the middle of the story or near the end of the story. How to create different moods in these critical scene-setting openings. Afternoon workshopping session with Chris, and he will have individual conferences with several students.

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    • Week 4 (July 3-7, 2006)

      Saying what you mean and meaning what you say. The elements of style. Avoiding the phony archaic manner and other common pitfalls in fantastic writing. Writing clear, concise prose and powerful description. Developing a strong style suitable for your story. What makes for a powerful, compelling narrative voice? Finding your own voice. Learning and being inspired by others without copying others. Rhythm, sound, and other stylistic tools. Reading the dictionary. Common weaknesses in style.

      Readings on style, and reading of short stories by Laurie J. Marks and Robert J. Sawyer.

      July 6, 7-8 pm, reception for Laurie J. Marks.

      July 7, guest lecture by Laurie J. Marks on how character is expressed through point of view. What is relationship between a character and the point of view through which we view him? Techniques to make a character's point of view reflect that character. How a characters words reflect that character. Laurie will participate in our afternoon workshopping session, followed by individual conferences with several students.

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    • Week 5 (July 10-14, 2006)

      WEEKEND EVENT: Sunday, July 9, 7-8 pm, reception for Robert J. Sawyer.

      Robert J. Sawyer will lecture this week on techniques he feels are critical for strong writing. He will also participate in all our workshopping sessions and have private meetings with all students.

      Students will have private meetings with me during week 5 or 6 assessing their progress and planning goals and directions for the future.

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    • Week 6 (July 17-21, 2006)

      Reading your own material with a reader's eye. Spotting your own weak areas and correcting them. Controlling your internal editor. Understanding the publishing industry. Submitting your work and surviving in the publishing world. What editors are looking for. Figuring out what a rejection letter really means (also known as "rejectomancy"). Tips and warnings. Assessing your progress over the six weeks and where you go from here.

      Workshop final submissions by students. Readings on publishing, and reading of an article by Shawna McCarthy.

      July 18, 7-9 pm, Odyssey Science Fiction/Fantasy Slam, Barnes & Noble, Nashua, NH.

      July 19, 7-8 pm, reception for Shawna McCarthy.

      July 20, guest lecture by Shawna McCarthy on short fiction publishing. How do you get your short story published? Researching markets, how to present your story, cover letters. Building relationships with magazine editors. What not to do. Shawna will participate in our afternoon workshopping session, followed by individual conferences with several students.

      July 21, 7-10 pm, joint event: graduation party/meet-the-Odyssey-alumni party. Each person will stand up, give an assessment of his progress over the previous year, and announce writing plans for the following year. Then we eat and celebrate!

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    Updated Jan 7, 2007
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